I was chastized yesterday by a woman who wanted me to chill out and just let the old lady do her thing.
The thing in that moment quickly turned out to be her refusing to go in the direction of traffic in the battery powered shopping cart, almost running over the woman who chastized me and then slamming backwards into a string of push shopping carts.
I had to lift the front of the cart, with her 250 pound body onto it, to aim it in the right direction, all while she was telling me she didn't have to go that way.
I shot the tonguelasher a look. I am used to managing this particular petulant old lady, the one who doesn't care to stay to one side in asiles, who sits blocking others, and who just plain hates being told what to do.
It's amazing how quickly behaviour that would usually be simply self-centered turns into menacing when executed in a heavy wheeled vehicle in the middle of a throng of Saturday supermarket shoppers. And when the driver of the cart is oblivious, her helper soon becomes the focus of attention. People flash their eyes, wondering why I can't keep her under control, and I just have to be tense, taut, and looking foward to move obstacles or avoid the next incident.
My father drives on journeys, and he has learned to listen and to trust me. He knows he can use a second set of eyes, a second memory about the route, so he listens when piloting a vehicle. My mother is just an old lady in a cart, shopping. Why should she have to listen to anyone?
Our journeys are most often my mothers's journeys, undertaken to entertain her by getting off her recliner and into her mobile recliner, where she is helped out of the car to shop, always with an omipresent assistant. As that assistant, I can never stop watching her, because even when she sends me ahead to scout for something, she will just jaunt off in her own way so she is impossible to find when I return with the requested information or directions. It's impossble for me to shop on these jaunts, because she needs constant watching, constant changing direction, constant minding, which, I tell you, is quite draining.
When she is tired, or hurts, she will tell us to go shop, and she will wait in the car. We never take her up on these offers unless there is one or two specific things needed, because we know she doesn't mean it. She just wants to make it appear that these trips aren't all about her and her whims, that they are for everyone. We did a three day jaunt to Toronto, which was very wearing on me, having to drive them through a city they know well but which I have almost never driven in, and at the end she said "I guess you never got to have any fun." Right. And how could I possibly have done things for myself while keeping her schedule?
One of the most difficult things is her passive agressive nature. She admits that she doesn't think about things, doesn't understand choices, but does like to have her say. I may tell my father to turn right to get back to where we want to go, but she capricuously says "turn left" and he does. He knows how to do what she says and clean up whatever consequences later. This may have been fine when he was just 75, but at 82, mixed messages to him while driving can be terrifying, at least to me being thown around in the back seat.
Last night after a big day of travel, I suggested she go to bed early, around 11 PM. She was petulant at being told what to do, but 10 minutes later she was fast asleep, and I put the throw rug over her in the recliner, turned off the lights, and turned down the TV so I might be able to get down to sleep. I can't turn it off, because it confuses her when she wakes up and it's not on, her friends comforting her.
None of this is new behaviour, of course. It's what I grew up with, a second generation narccisistic mother who always demanded that people try to make her happy, and was always sad when the best they could do was amuse her for a few moments.
It's just that now, in her early dotage, she doesn't hear so well, doesn't see so well, and that means she doesn't get the cues of when she slips from just self-centered to menacing.
And when I try to help her understand, well, that little girl who never wanted to do what her controlling mother wanted her to do kicks in and she's just bloody petulant.
So lady who wants me to "chill out" and let the lady do what she wants, well, you take care of her for a while. You try it.
At least when we take care of kids, we know they are learning, know they are trainable, know eventually things will get better
When we take care of elders, though, we know something else.