When I got my first teaching job, I became friends with my teammate. She’s a wonderful woman, retired now, who never ceased to make me laugh. She has an interesting perspective on life which is very different from mine. Being ex-military her outlook is quite unique to me and I enjoy her immensely. I remember when she was going through a rather difficult situation, she managed to find the humor in even the most scary of situations.
Her mother was becoming quite ill as part of the awful aging process and it was time for her to stop driving. This was not something her mother took well. In fact, she refused to stop driving. There was an injury to her mother’s leg, the details of which I cannot remember now, and I remember her saying that finally the driving ordeal was over. She was very relieved, and was mentally preparing herself for whatever challenge was to come next in this process. Then she got a call. Her mother was still driving, despite her injury. She had found a way around things and was fighting to keep her independence every step of the way. The method of the new driving was rather unbelievable. You see, her mother was unable to move her right leg much anymore. So, when she had to stop the car, she would reach down, lift her leg with her hands, move her foot to the brake pedal, and press down to stop. Lord only knows what was happening with the steering wheel. Logically this is a wildly dangerous proposition. No one in her right mind would even attempt such a thing. But her mother did attempt it, and what’s more, she did not see any problem with it. My teammate became furious at first, and then laughed about it, imagining the scenario in her head. I laughed with her. She laughed until she cried. She talked about how her mother was so stubborn and strong, and how she was just like her mother and always would be.
Now that I am in the position with my own mother that she was in with hers, I understand something. I think that she laughed until she cried because she had to shed some sort of tear. I think that when she was home (since she is not someone who shows her vulnerabilities easily) she probably cried big tears of sadness. I know that I do these days. It is terrifying when you see behavior that you would consider the type your child would exhibit coming from a person who was once considered your strength. Maybe she did and maybe she didn’t; I honestly don’t know. What I do know is how she told me that her mother said she knew she was “in trouble” now that my teammate knew about it.
Once long ago Daughter was playing on our porch in a box full of packing material which had been slated for the trash. She was not supposed to be playing in this box, and she knew it. She was trying to get away with something and she had no intention of us finding out. We didn’t think too much about her being on the porch and playing. It was springtime and she was little. She was told not to leave the front porch and we had our eyes on the sidewalk making sure she didn’t roam. We were trying to give her some freedom. When we called her inside, she could not hide the fact that she had been misbehaving. If you don’t believe me that it was quite apparent, you didn’t look at the picture at the top of this post. It was obvious. The thing was, she was terrified of getting in trouble. I have no idea why, really, because at this point in her life she had tried so few things that were not allowed that she had no idea about consequences. Regardless, the idea of being in trouble terrified her. To be honest, it still does.
My mother has started demonstrating this sort of behavior. Apparently she spilled boiling water on her foot a while back. She burned herself rather badly, but wouldn’t tell anyone because, it seems, she didn’t want to get in trouble. It has been discovered, is infected, and is being attended to by wound care people. These sorts of things are happening now, and I am afraid. I am trying to be like my former teammate and find the humor. I am trying to see my mother as a strong, stubborn, aggravating woman. Instead, I am just able to see her as a frail shell of who she once was. She is making decisions that no one in her right mind would do, and her follow up behavior is that of a child who has behaved badly and doesn’t want to get caught. For now the best I can do is be grateful that I had the example of my teammate to see how I can start to handle things better, and hope that I can do half as well as she did.