After much recent speculation, sources are confirming that Rose Glassman, 71, has recently begun expressing disappointment in her son, Jeremy Glassman, a 38-year-old architect and father of three. The news shot through their tight-knit community, sparking both a furious debate and an outpouring of sympathy.
Jeremy’s first indication that something was amiss came over a recent Friday night dinner, when an innocent story about a family friend took a turn.
“My mother was telling us about her friend Mary, and how her son had bought a house right down the street from his parents, and my mother turned to me and said: ‘I guess being near his mother is a priority for some sons.’
“She stressed that last part – ‘for some sons.’”
Jeremy says he couldn’t escape the feeling that his mother was talking about his own decision to move his family to a house “11 minutes away” from his parents.
“It was almost like she wanted me to feel bad about my decisions. Why else would she put it that way?”
Suddenly, Jeremy says, he realized his mother was expressing disappointment in him. He refused to believe it, but the disbelief on the faces of his own family confirmed his fears.
Rose’s disappointment in her son has shocked friends and neighbours, who describe the Glassmans as friendly and unassuming. Rose’s mental health and emotional stability have become the subject of frequent debate in the community.
Ever since that first incident, Jeremy says it’s as though a “switch has been flipped” in his mother’s mind. Jeremy and his mother have been incapable of having a regular conversation ever since, he says, instead turning to vaguely coded puzzles.
“It’s so strange and inefficient. She’ll insinuate things, hint at her feelings, but she’ll never say what she means. Like she wants me to figure out what she’s thinking. This morning she asked ‘Are you really wearing that sweater?’ She knows I’m wearing it. “
Most frustrating for Jeremy is the way a simple conversation can be twisted. “My wife Sharon got a promotion, and when we told my mother, she got really quiet, until I asked her enough and she told me she was disappointed because Sharon had probably already called her own mother with the news, whereas I waited four hours to tell my mother in person, which I did on purpose so she’d be the last person to know.”
Rose’s alleged criticism tends to focus on Jeremy’s decision to move away from home, the distance between his home and his parents’ place, his choice of career, his choice of spouse, the looks and intelligence of his children, and his occasional failure to fully tuck in his shirt.
Jeremy says he draws strength from the overwhelming support he’s received from friends and strangers who call, write, email, and stop him on the street. Many find it hard to believe Jeremy is still close with his mother, even though her behaviour has not changed.
“Just yesterday she told me her roof is leaking. I asked if she wanted me to call someone. She said she thought I could ‘take a look.’ I’m not a roofer. I told her I don’t have tar or shingles or a ladder, plus it’s raining and also nighttime. She said ‘It’s not important.’ But clearly it is important, or else why mention it?”
Those closest to Jeremy say the toxic exposure is taking a toll on his health and demeanour, but for him, it’s the path of least resistance. “If I stopped calling, stopped visiting, stopped bringing her grandkids over, I’d feel guilty, and I’d be proving my mother right.”
Though no diagnosis has been proposed at the time of publication, experts from around the world have convened to study Mrs. Glassman, and they are confident that hers is an isolated case with no chance of contagion.
Wry Bread is a satire column from A. David Levine. Follow him on Twitter here.