The trip down to Miami only made us more worried. For example, when I was leaving the hotel to go pick Mother Mary up, she called me on the phone. "Help!" she said, her voice trembling.
"What happened, Ma?" My heart started to pound. "What's the matter?"
"I need you!"
I grabbed my purse and headed for the door. "I'm on my way, but what is it? Should I call 911?"
"Don't be silly. I can't change the channel on this damn remote."
So I exhaled.
Until I found out that after we hung up, she left the house, went to the next-door neighbor's, and asked him to come over and change the channel for her. That made me worry even more. I told her, "Mom, why didn't you wait until I got here? You could have fallen on the sidewalk."
"I didn't fall."
"But you could have."
"Oh, shut up."
"But I'm worried about you."
Mother Mary waved me off with a frown. "I don't need you to worry about me."
"I can't help it," I tell her, raising my voice. "I love you!"
I don't add that she's the one who taught me that love and worry are the same thing, and the way you show someone you love them is to yell at them.
The more you love, the louder you yell.
That's why if you drive past any house containing Scottolines, you'll hear screaming.
It's not murder, it's love.
We're going deaf BECAUSE WE LOVE EACH OTHER!
Anyway, to stay on point, the three of us go out to dinner, but the incident with the remote control occasions the umpteenth version of this conversation:
"Mom, why don't you move up north, with me?"
"But I'm home all day. We could be home all day together."
"But, if you had a problem, like with the remote control, you could tell me. You should move up with me."
"Don't tell me what to do." Mother Mary scowls deeply, which is when I realize we're talking about a different kind of remote control.
In fact, we're having remote control issues.
Mother Mary has the control.
I have the remote.
So I let it be, for this round. We talk again about her getting a Life Alert for around her neck, but she says no. She doesn't think she needs it and she hates pendants.
I say, "Who hates pendants?"
I yell, "BUT IT'S NOT ABOUT THE PENDANT!"
"I SAID NO!" Mother Mary yells back.
After our testy dinner, she actually agrees to go to see a movie with Francesca and me, which I suspect is her way of saying I'm sorry for not wanting to live with you.
Works for me.
Francesca reads through the movie listings on her phone, trying to keep the mood light, though I'm cranky and Mother Mary is crankier.
We buy tickets for Les Miserables because we are Les Miserables.
We go to the movie and sit down in a little row, three generations of unhappy Scottolines, now with popcorn and Raisinets.
But in time, my mood improves, and so does Mother Mary's. Rapt and teary, we get swept up in the movie, because it's almost as dramatic as we are.
And at some point, Mother Mary rests her head on my shoulder and falls asleep, like a small child.
I stay as still as possible, so she stays asleep.
The yelling may be over, but the worry abides.
And the love.
Look for Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's latest collection of humor essays, "Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim." Also, look for Lisa's newest novel, "Don't Go," in stores April 9. You can write to Lisa at email@example.com.