Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I Want Your Help, But Only How I Want It, and When I Want It.

My mother constantly asks me for help.

She asks me to take all her phone calls (she can't hear well on the phone), and place all the calls she needs to place. This includes making hair appointments (an activity that keeps her mighty busy, let me tell you. You'd think a few thin gray hairs would be a simple matter to comb into place. Unh unh.), doctor appointments, podiatrist appointments (for her monthly poodle clipping, as I call it), and on all banking matters.

Somehow, I never please her with the way I help her. This is because of two things:
(1) I want to make the calls when it's convenient for me, often not at the instant she asks me, which 99% of the time is when I'm in the middle of doing something intricate);
(2) I want to make appointments and do things like banking, differently from her. She would have me call on a phone to make all appointments, and set up in-person meetings to do things. I like using email to set things up, and phone or email for things like banking. In person appointments for banking are something I haven't done in a decade, at least.

I've humoured her many times, taking her on tours of several local banks, allowing her to meet and flirt with the male bankers, and making millions of medical-related appointments for her, after which I've taken her to, and retrieved her from, said appointments. Often, I come in with her, because she likes having me there, she says.

But I can't do this all the time. And more-over, I simply don't want to do everything she asks all the time, nor even in the manner in which she wants me to accomplish her ends.

This is simply unacceptable to her.

Apparently I will do it the way she wants and when she wants, or I risk her dismayed, angry, stubborn and frankly hurtful behavior, not to mention that she ends up harassing me relentlessly for months on end.

Let me point out here that everything essential to my mother's health and happiness I give to her without any ado.

It's the optional stuff I linger over. You know, the hair appointment every four weeks, rather than five. She will ask for that appointment just during the week that I'm incredibly busy with, oh, little matters such as my own children's medical appointments, or overwhelmed with serious work matters, or, heaven forbid, with my own medical concerns. And she'll ask right when I'm literally in the middle of something that needs my serious concentration: talking on the phone over a contentious issue, carrying a heavy object down a flight of stairs, perched on a ladder carefully painting a thin line.

All these things my mother expects to pale in light of the fact that she wants a hair cut.

She: "Dear, please make an appointment with Lorandro for my hair. I SO need a cut."

This said with a light laugh, to which I am supposed to respond, nodding like a moron, because of course, ANYONE should know that 4 weeks after a cut, one's hair becomes SIMPLY GROTESQUE and UNMANAGEABLE to the point of being publicly unacceptable. Never mind I'm in the middle of open-heart surgery. I should look over, blood spurting from every open vein of my unfortunate patient, while I laugh lightly back at my mother's delightfully patient acceptance of the fact that her hair has GROWN OUT OF ALL PROPER SHAPE, FOR GOD'S SAKE.

Ok, Ok. The activities she interrupts me at are not quite as important as surgery. But I think you get my drift.

Meanwhile, neither Anthony nor I can tell that her hair has even grown at all since the last cut. It probably hasn't. And she so rarely goes out in public in any event, I doubt that the fashion mavens will be calling her out for her faux pas.

In any event, her approach to life is becoming more than intolerable. She will not bend.

But at 91, when you can't do for yourself, and you have a daughter who's willing to do everything for you, why would you be so hell bent on maintaining control over such tiny details?

Why does she care who cuts her hair, as long as it's properly cut every few weeks or so? Why, why why? Why, when your daughter is almost begging you to just toddle up the street to the nice ladies at the end of the block, would you make such an obscene, childish, vain fuss about seeing Lorandro? My God, it just about makes me weep to write about it.

Why would she care to make my life such a hell, because she wants to go to the bank and mull over some paper for an hour, while the employees get bored and start to glare at her, and then finally she'll point to "3 years" so the GIC will once again be invested? Why, why why? Why, particularly, when I'd already told her the options, told her that I'd checked all the other banks' rates, and told her I could set up a telephone banking agreement so we could just call the bank to let them know what we wanted? Why, my God why?

She: "What is this?" (you have to picture the prune lips she's making while holding the standard phone/fax agreement sheet which the Bank of Montreal has cordially forwarded to us at my request).

Me: "It's the bank document I told you about  (50 times already [muttered under my breath]). So they can call you on the phone and you can tell them how many years to reinvest the GIC."

She: Long silence. Pursing of prune lips. Angrily lowered brow. "I don't know."

This is the part where I'm supposed to cower, then beg her indulgence.

Out of patience at this point in my life, I say: "Well, you better figure it out. I'm not taking you down there."

She: "Doesn't this say that ANYONE can call them and invest my money? Hmmmm???" (more prune lips)

Now picture twin columns of steam coming out of my ears.

Me: "Yes. Mother. That's what it says (it doesn't). ANYONE. CAN just CALL. AND DO STUFF with YOUR money."

I have to leave the room, I'm so apoplectic.

My mother, not an idiot, knows exactly what the document says. It says she and I can call, jointly, to discuss the accounts and investments. This reflects how the accounts and investments are set up, and reflects her direction to the Bank of Montreal. It also assists, may I add, in helping her (as she asks) because she SAYS SHE CAN'T HEAR, SO I NEED TO BE ON EVERY PHONE CALL TO THE BANK WITH HER.

But I am not to be trusted.

Even though she has already trusted me with everything. And, in point of fact, I'm the only one left in this world whom she has to leave trusted things to. No one else cares. No one else will have her.

I do wonder at myself.

Why can she rile me up? She is rude, condescending, hurtful, no, actually, HATEFUL in many things she does to me. But should I care so much?

Well. I think to myself, if my children did these things to me, I'd be hurt and riled up. If Anthony treated me this way, I'd be amazed, angry and hurt. So it shouldn't be surprising that I react this way.

Yet, so many people have told me they are surprised. Anthony, in particular, is constantly amazed (so he professes) that I react to her.

He: "Why do you let her get to you?"

Me: "Because she is unbelievably hurtful? Because her behavior wounds me? Because she's such a bitch?"

He: "Oh, can't you let it go?"

Me: "Well, obviously not. Should I?"

He: "Yes. My mother says equally hurtful things, and I could care less."

Me: (sound of my brain's gears churning, and a bit more steam coming out of my ears). "Oh."

I have thought about this a lot.

Anthony says I should not be upset. Some other people have said the same. Yet whenever my mother treats me like a hired serf, I feel hurt. And when I gently explain to her that I don't want to be a serf, but I'd like to utilize options that reduce my serfdom (like banking telephone agreements), she acts like I'm an outrageously spoiled brat who won't indulge her own mother (a helpless, dying old lady), and, again, I feel hurt.

I continue to think about it all.

Really, at this point, after a lot of thinking, I'm still at point A. I think that anyone I care about, (mother, child, spouse, whatever) will hurt me if they try, because I care, so they can.

I also think that all these people who are telling me that I need to stop feeling, may be wrong.

Actually, I think they may be the ones who need to adjust.

After all, if the few people in life we care for ( parents, children, spouses) treat us hurtfully, and we don't feel hurt, what does that say? What does it mean about turning one's feelings on and off whenever it becomes convenient to do that? What?

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