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I’ll admit that I’m not the most patient person in the world. Especially first thing in the morning, pre-coffee. And while I’m admitting to being a flawed human being, I might as well be honest that Mom tries my patience sometimes.
There. I said it. It doesn’t make me a horrible person or a terrible daughter. It makes me human. Nonetheless, I still feel the need to ask the universe’s forgiveness, not for my flaw, but for when I have trouble overcoming it.
It’s an onerous thing, not being perfect. I’ve always been incredibly hard on myself. No one has ever judged me more harshly than me. I could do a thing perfectly 99% of the time, but that 1% when I make a mistake, I’m a complete failure. At least that’s what I leap to tell myself.
It’s a factor in my relationship with Mom. I love her. She’s a wonderful mother. I wouldn’t trade her for the world. She’s been my best friend my entire life. But she’s nearly as hard on me as I am.
I’m not talking Tanya Harding’s evil bitch of a mom. Not like that. Mom doesn’t try to be hard on me or push me to do things. It’s just that it’s part of her nature to have a “glass half empty” outlook. I know this about her. Sometimes, she just looks at the world through shit-colored glasses. Always has—not a result of dementia.
But certainly exacerbated by the dementia. And then factor in my lack of patience and innate ability to beat up on myself for stupid shit, like losing my patience, and voila! The perfect storm.
I could do my very best Cinderella impersonation, but the house is never spotless enough for her. (Three cats and a dog, yeah, that ship’s sailed.) And since she never remembers having seen me clean, ergo ipso facto, I never clean. And there’s perpetually a mouse in her pocket. As in, “After we empty that recycling bin, we have to scrub it out!” We? You mean me.
I do all the yard work. All the laundry. All the cat box sifting. All the meal planning. Most of the cooking and cleaning (I have her help but have to supervise her to keep her on track.) Make sure she takes her meds. Chauffeur her to her card games three days a week. Make sure she has her sunglasses, her cell phone, her Mahjong card. Get her out of the house when she’s bored. Play rummy with her when she’s bored. Hunt for whatever she’s misplaced.
But a trashcan needs cleaning, and she goes sub-orbital. And I have to stomp down the dual impulse to be impatient with her and feel like I’m falling down on the job.
This truly is a case of, “It’s not you, it’s me.” I’m well aware of that. Most of the time, I’m pretty good at letting it all roll off my back. I recognize that these feelings of frustration and failure are my imperfect impulses, and not Mom trying to be hurtful or unappreciative. I know she appreciates me. I know she loves me, unconditionally. But she’s an imperfect human being, just like me. Just like all of us.
There are times, however, when my impatience with her is not necessarily a bad thing. I try to resist, for as long as I can, from stepping in when Mom is trying to do something but struggling. It’s important that she feel as independent as possible. And if I constantly rush in to help her, I take away some of that. That’s not easy for me. I’m a perfectionist, after all. If I tell her to slice the garlic and not mince it, once she starts mincing, I cringe. But it’s just garlic, for Christ’s sake. Cool your jets.
This morning, though, my impatience wasn’t a bad thing. Mom managed to get herself totally flummoxed in a failed attempt to make toast. I sat at my desk, which has a commanding view of the kitchen, and watched her for as long as I could before stepping in. Initially through impatience, and only a few sips of coffee. But then thankfully because she was about to electrocute herself.
It went like this.
Mom, “I want toast. Do you want some toast?”
Me, “Uh, sure. But not the seeded Italian. The French baguette.”
Mom, “Where’s the toaster?
“Under the counter in the cupboard. No, Ma. Not that bread. I want the French baguette.”
“The long one. You have to slice it.”
She stood there staring at the French bread like it was something that had fallen off an alien space ship.
“It won’t fit in the toaster.”
“You have to slice it.”
“But it’s too big.”
I got frustrated and got up to find she’d plugged in the toaster with it sitting in a puddle of water on the counter. Now, I doubt she was in any real danger. I’m sure those things are made to not electrocute, and it was plugged into a GFCI. But still.