Last week I framed a group shot of Dad and his girls from his birthday in May. I figured he'd just switch it with another photo. I was wrong. No surprise there! The engineer with a brain that actually knows how to use a slide rule, spent enough time lying in bed looking at the wall, that he decided it was time to make some major changes. As has been the case in the last few months, he was the thinker, I was the do-er. Somehow these exercises always start out as a kind of father/daughter adventure but turn on a dime to a squabble to rival that of the Israelis and Palestinians. I haven't yet learned how to keep my mouth shut and let the hammer and nail do the talking.
Before we started on the picture hanging/re-hanging we [okay I] thought the desk should be cleared off because it was piled so high with stuff that a good portion of the wall that could be used for pictures was covered up with junk. However, this project in itself could take a few days. The de-clutterer in me wanted to just trash everything. The right side of Dad's brain was in overdrive wanting to read each piece of paper, receipt, old birthday card and gun magazine. It didn't take long to realize this was going to be a long day. But we dug in anyway.
If I were to describe myself to someone who didn't know me, I'd say I'm an easy going, go-with-the-flow, amenable to suggestion, flexible kind of girl. Others might say I could more accurately be called a control freak. That may be right, but I just don't see myself that way. I feel like I always let the other person be in control. I learned in my 12-step journey that there are different kinds of control. The bossy kind, and the don't rock my boat because I'll freak out kind. Hmmm, I'm not bossy am I?
However, since a lot of my years as a homemaker/decorator I was flying solo while my husband [who today I'm told has a home decorated with a "frog" theme] was out protecting the country and living the Navy "Adventure." I admit that I sat crying in the middle of the wet floor, blaming everyone from the President to John Paul Jones if the toilets or ice maker ran over but I also taught myself how to use a power drill, a jig saw, and a hammer. So what if I put a few extra holes in the wall, I got plant hooks and pictures hung by myself. It never occurred to me to ask for help, even if the man of the house were home. Picture hanging was woman's work.
Thus, working with someone else who has a somewhat different, more linear eye for decorating began to bring out some of my control issues.
Dad: Move that picture there, and that picture there.
ME: I think it would look better if we leave that one there and move the other one over there.
Dad: No, I want that one there.
A few minutes later.
Dad: Move that first picture back where it was, then move that one down.
ME: That's what I just said.
Dad: I'm not through yet.
Midway through, before I blew my stack I had an epiphany. Slow in coming, but brilliant nonetheless. This was Dad's project, not mine. It's his space and he needs to make it like he wants it. It's not about my decorating style or his control, it's all about making him feel comfortable. It was way past time for me to be quite and let him direct which picture when where.
And here's the kicker. Once I let go of thinking my way was better, the job became way less painful.
Later on, Dad sat at his desk tossing things into a trash pile at my feet that I fed into the shredder. We worked in silence. Dad doesn't have the need for chatter that I have. There's something to be said for silence. There's something to be said for cleaning out, shredding bits and pieces of the past that are no longer needed and keeping just the things that make you smile. There's something to be said for working in tandem.
The recurring theme I find in caring for an old person is how similar it is to caring for a toddler. When a little one is just learning how to do things, a mom, even when she is harried and in a hurry and wants to do this deed so she can move on to the next thing on the list, needs to remember to back off a little and let the child do the task, whatever it is, his/her way. That's how independence is learned. At the other end of the age spectrum, I've learned a caregiver needs to give an old person enough time and space to accomplish some of the same tasks - getting dressed, going potty, fastening his seat belt. Holding on to independence, and what it stands for is just as important as learning it in the first place. It might seem to take forever to get something done, but it is the doing that is important not the time it takes.
Note to self: Slow down. Don't be in such a hurry. There is time enough.
Wishing for you the ability to see through someone else's eyes,
P.S. I just read this on FB. It is from a sermon commentary about tomorrow's Gospel reading, Luke 10:38-42. "The Marthas of the world are so busy doing good and necessary things that sometimes they don’t have time to realize how deeply they themselves stand in need. When Jesus comes, he reminds us that we need the grace and peace he offers. Rather than be distracted by providing service, or being anxious and troubled about many things, we would do well to slow the dance we are doing, to stop, look, and listen." By the Rev. Giovan Venable King
"Rather than be distracted by providing service, or being anxious and troubled about many things, we would do well to slow the dance we are doing, to stop, look, and listen." Is it possible that was written for ME?