Hardware or Milk?

I did it again... I walked right into the hardware store, expecting to find milk.....not literally - it’s a metaphor - but it’s particularly upsetting when I’m positive the milk is in there....

After I dropped my (91 year old) mother’s groceries off at her apartment (conveniently located right...next....door), I began an innocent enough conversation that somehow, (as it often does) went sideways...

My expectation was that the hardware store would still sell blame-free, guilt-free, simple, loving, nuts n’ bolts conversation between a mother and daughter. I quickly realized I was in the wrong store when the only products I could find were hidden blame, thinly veiled criticisms, and what-felt-like-disappointments. None of which (I know) were intentional. Hell, they might not have actually even been there, but that’s how this particular shopping experience felt to me. It also felt very familiar... like a pattern that’s been around since I was a first time shopper.  

In the old days, Mom and I would have gone head-to-head with our exchanges, and in the end, no one would be worse for wear. But today, after my first response-attack, I saw an unfamiliar look on my mother’s face that stalled me. It involved a slightly quivering lip and glassy eyes. It was sadness.

I asked what was making her sad (and threw in that she might want to see her friendly therapist) and she said she couldn’t tell me because I would get mad and yell at her (what?!) This was a whole new aisle I had never been down before... Aren’t I  the child? Aren’t I the one who is suppose to be hurt? Aren’t I the one entitled to comfort and understanding? The simple answer is – NO, not anymore. So...I said I was sorry, kissed my mother’s forehead, and promised to shut the door tightly when I left.

I will always be my mother’s child, but I will also become my mother’s caretaker. This inevitable role reversal is happening quickly. And I need to get on board and embrace it while I can. Somehow (!!) I need to stop looking for milk at the hardware store, and let Mom be who she is now....I need to treat her with the dignity and grace she deserves. Afterall, I will be on her side of the table one day, and I need to show my own daughters how I want to be treated when I’m 91. 

Emily GaffneyComment