When I Take Mum Out For Lunch, McDonalds Is As Far As We Go

When I take Mum out for lunch, McDonalds is as far as we go. There are a few good reasons why, or so I tell myself. First, she lives in Charnwood and there is a Maccas at the Charnie shops, so we don’t even have to leave the suburb. This is good because sometimes if she gets too far from home she gets even more nutso than normal.

One time I tried to take her to Woden, a 20-minute drive at most, and she just wigged out completely. Half way down the parkway she started screaming something about the neighbour’s cat getting into her vegie patch. The neighbours find it hard enough to support themselves and their habit, let alone a cat. And Mum hasn’t had a vegie patch for 15 years. I couldn’t do a u-bolt fast enough. Now we stay close to home.

Maccas is also cheap, which suits me. I wouldn’t want to spend too much money because I never know whether Mum is going to eat something, or just order and then let the food sit there. This happens about half the time. I find myself in vague, repetitive conversations with the waitress. “No, she still hasn’t finished, thanks.” “No, there’s nothing wrong with the food.” “No, she might have some still.” “No, she still hasn’t finished.” And then Mum will finally spit “take it away”, like she is in a five star joint and the lobster is two days old.

The other benefit of Maccas is that if Mum gets lippy with the staff, or the customers, or the people in the cars in the drive-through line, I can whisk her away pretty quickly. It’s pretty humbling dragging your 70+ mother away from a yelling match with a 6 foot 2 Islander in a flouro worker’s shirt who has taken offence at Mum’s suggestion that maybe he should be cutting back on the burgers because “your arse is so fat it is bursting out the top of your pants.” But it’s less humbling when you’re at a fast food place.

The staff don’t seem to care either. Charnwood being Charnwood, they probably recognise that an old woman with a vocabulary like a Scottish sailor is pretty low on the scale of possible threats. Okay, so there was that one time when she pulled the steak knife from her handbag, but the only one who got cut was me. I don’t think the smart-arse waiter even saw the knife — he was walking away when Mum reached for it. Sure, he was pretty rude, but you don’t stab a spotty 16 year old for having no manners. Not in the back, anyway.

You might be starting to think Mum is as mad as a cut snake. She’s not. Not really. She’s just really, really angry. All the time. Of course, the doctors don’t know what to make of her. One thought it was blood pressure, which I reckon is on the money. I’ve had blood pressure problems myself, and I know if I’ve forgotten to take the tablets I get so cranky I can’t see straight. Another doctor thought it was diabetes. They all have different theories, but none of them have the gumption, or the insurance, to see Mum for more than one or two appointments.

And being a cranky old cow doesn’t mean she can’t look after herself. She’s an okay cook and can stretch a dollar, so she gets by on the pension. I slip her a bit of cash, if I’ve got any spare, and take her out to lunch when I can. For a while, I used to take her home for dinner with the family. But the Minister for Home Affairs put a stop to that when Mum pushed my boy off the chair when he spat some food back onto his plate.

So for now, it’s Maccas. But I make sure to check her handbag for steak knives before we sit down.