"Nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around.”
Dad announced last night after saying grace, "I feel mean."
Forgive me for saying this but I thought was what's new?
Then I realized the fact that he was announcing his mood was new. So I listened and tried to figure out what was going on. He wouldn't (couldn't) elaborate. I asked if he knew why he felt that way, he said no. I asked if there was anything I could do, he said stand back. I quit asking.
We ate, like most nights, in relative silence. Jack and I discuss our day's events, never intentionally excluding Dad. He turns a deaf ear on any conversation that does not begin with an extra loud effort to get his attention. DAD!
If asked, he'd tell you he feels lleft out, like a third wheel.
If asked, I'd tell you he's as free to jump in as anyone else. He chooses to play his woe is me card.
Dad has pretty much made it known that he does not like to be asked:
How are you feeling?
How did you sleep?
Are you okay?
Can I help?
His main answers are I don't know and no. For a man of words he is strangely reticent to use many of them.
When Dad made his announcement I wonderded "what did I do now?" And after that, how can I fix this? That's my co-dependent inner child for you. Everything is always her fault and she's got to think fast to restore good will and humor in her environment so she can feel safe.
I thought back over the day and figured out that I hadn't done anything. Dad was fine when he went to bed for a nap and not so fine when he got up. It may have been a dream, or a pain, or something as simple as getting up on the wrong sided of the bed. Regardless it wasn't my problem. I let him eat quietly. Played the normal game of cards and beat him but not by much. I didn't bring up any sensitive subjects. Mainly we were quiet. Hard for me to do sometimes. This was a good lesson.
After doing our nightly rituals, I sat with Dad for a few minutes and asked one more time ... still feeling mean? Yep. Can I do anything? Nope. I held his hand as we both listened to whomever it was that Oprah had on. Normally Dad isn't a touchy feely kind of guy... or doesn't appear to be.
I've noticed though, that he's less shy about holding hands. It works as a connection to others that he can't get any other way.
I didn't ask him if he's still feeling mean this morning. I figure I'll find out one way or another soon enough. I did wonder, however, if we should devise a mean scale. You know like hospital nurses use. If one is no pain at all and ten is unbearable-give-me-drugs pain, where are you today. We could substitute mean for pain and have a similar scale. If one is feeling like a pussy cat and ten is a daughter-eating lion, how mean are you? It might just work.
The funny thing is it might work for me too! And if "mean" isn't the emotion of the day, how about sad, happy, scatter-brained? What I'd really like is one of those charts they have in kindergarten rooms that has circle faces with lots of different emotions drawn on them. Like the smiley face guy gone berserk! I'd put it on the refrigerator and have some way each one of us could designate how we're feeling at any given moment. Since we're using a kindergarten model we could use alphabet magnets that stand for our names - S for Sweetie, Q for Queen, C for Curmudgeon, etc.
I think this is a pretty good idea, even if I do say so myself. I also think I'm the only one who would use it. Maybe putting the chart in the bathroom where I could see it at the beginning and end of each day it would serve a better purpose. Maybe not worrying about how mean Dad is, but taking note of how I am is a more productive use of my time. Chances are Dad isn't going to get a whole lot less mean. Hopefully I'll learn to be mean-free anyway.
Wishing for you gold stars and smiley faces,