Monday, April 30, 2018

Recovery Room

Spring Green was in a bad way upon her return from WI last night.

Red Hair Girl and Penny Cooper, who had stayed home, were very worried. They  set up a hospital tent for her, to keep her warm and dark and quiet.

They got the idea for a tent from Many Moons--and just like moons, flowers, and unicorn horns, Spring Green's good health returned. This morning she is sitting up eating breakfast and telling them all about her traumatic trip.

I feel responsible, of course. She is too young and tender to have been exposed to the stress of highway traffic–– 
(the road was filled with such aggressive or inattentive drivers, I kept thinking, "I don't want to die in a car accident", and bink who was driving (I don't drive) came home with painfully cramped forearms from gripping the steering wheel) 
––much less exposed to the stresses of visiting old Sicilian relatives.

I have always sung here the praises of my last relative remaining from my parents' generation. I treasure her lifelong kindnesses to me.
But have I ever mentioned the way she enforces obligatory optimism?
 It's obliterating. 
You're not even allowed to have a bad night's sleep.

"How did you sleep?" she asked the first morning.

"Eh . . . not so great," I said.

"Say, 'pretty good!'" she instructed. "That's what I always say:
How'd you sleep? Pretty good! How're you feeling? Pretty good!"

On one hand, this is an admirable tactic:
life is hard, and a cheerfulness helps, even if you have to fake it. 

On the other hand, this tactic applied not just to aches and pains and inconveniences but to all of life (as she applies it) squashes the juice and joy out of conversation.

Further, my relative has gotten progressively deaf, so the pleasant chats we used to have have been reduced to her talking at me. 
She has often declared that she doesn't want hearing aids. Still, it's gotten so bad I don't even bother to talk much. She doesn't seem to care, but I decided to risk asking her to consider seeing an audiologist.

"I hear pretty good," she said defensively.

I pushed (unwise with Sicilians, as I know full well). 

"I miss being able to chat freely with you," I said. "I can't say what I'm thinking..."


And out came the Positivity Steamroller, flattening me with accusations of meanness and unfairness. Because I want to talk and be heard. 
We've never had such a horrible exchange before, but I was vividly reminded of why I don't miss her brother, my father--this sort of exchange was a regular occurrence between him and me.

When I went upstairs, after having frantically retracted all my ridiculous ideas about the importance of mutual listening, Spring Green was catatonic. The dolls don't necessarily care about human affairs, but they do register the winds of our emotions, and she'd been knocked flat.

Now, I'm grateful for my relative's lifetime of kindnesses, I really am. But I don't feel like risking my life on Death Race Highway to go visit someone to exchange fake pleasantries. 
Probably I will. She's almost 93, after all. 

But next time, all the dolls will stay home. 


Marz said...

Humans are such effective adapters and in some ways we're almost too good. It's a shame when our adaptations confine us to one chord - and thereby confine those around us to that same chord! Noooo! Sorry you had a bad time --- though you said you probably will go back, sometimes it's just nice to hear "YOU NEVER HAVE TO GO BACK THERE AGAIN!"

deanna said...

I agree with Marz. Especially her phrase, "It's a shame...", because it sounds like your dear relative was inadvertently shaming you for not following her prescription for living. It's a cultural thing (not merely ethnic); you know this and rise above it; it is also unhealthy for the soul.

Here's a wish for a good recovery from your experience and wisdom for dealing with it in love, that healing balm.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Marz that we do adapt even to our detriment at times.

My mother had become much the same way although she could hear quite well.I learned to go an entire visit without saying too much in conversations. Her opinion was the only one that counted. I wanted to talk and hear about her life before she died but everything became a diatribe on how the current world was affecting her. I, too, gave up.

I also had a neighbor of 89 years that was unable to hear or so he claimed. He did manage to hear good news but if the news was not what he wanted to hear, he claimed not to hear anything. He had a hearing aide but refused to wear it as he didn't like how it sounded.

Anonymous said...

To follow up on my above comment, I was thinking of how we see older relatives as a connection to our past. I want to be connected to that past but when our older relatives somewhat ignore us or say that our thoughts and feelings don't matter, I think it hurts us as a person.

Sometimes I think it is their way of controlling what is happening to them as they may not be as aware of their behavior or that they are doing it. Perhaps even their older relatives treated them the same way and they see it as how they should act.

My mother used to tell me how some people she worked with had treated her with kindness but yet could not extend the same behavior to her own children.


Fresca said...

Thanks, everyone, for your kindness and insights!

MARZ [Columbo]: It's true, permission (in all-caps!) is nice to hear. Thanks for that.
And I agree, too, that once-helpful adaptations can become cages, once we no longer need them.

DEANNA: Thanks--especially for your wish for "wisdom for dealing with it in love, that healing balm."
Yes please!

You are right, of course--this sort of thing is definitely not specific to any one ethnicity! It's just human. I just feel the Sicilian branch of my family has a different twist on things (which is hard to describe) than my more... polished? Protestant side.
But it all springs from the same root, really--human nature [or original sin, one might say--those things rooted in fear and scarcity...].

KIRSTEN: Sounds like you have humans in your family too!
Ayayay, aren't we a troublesome species?!!
I saw that so much in the nursing homes/senior living places I worked: people being sweeter to every and any one else than their family members!
Sad, really, (though I always reminde myself that there was some back story to every family that I wasn't seeing.)

I think this is key:
" is their way of controlling what is happening to them as they may not be as aware of their behavior..."
Yes. I think as old age and serious illness encroach, the need for control increases.
I TRY to practice understanding and compassion (and to think of what I'll be like at that age, if I make it),
but sometimes... well, sometimes it just gets up my nose, and I can't stop myself sneezing in protest!

Anonymous said...

Oh that picture is so sweet! Reminds me of my mother's cool fingers on the brow when a girl wasn't feeling well or had a fever. --D.