Garrison Keillor suggests that the reason midwesterners are so laconic is because they spend time around large animals. It’s not good to startle large animals, or even to take them off their own schedule.
I suggest that being around large aging people offers the same training.
As my sister’s Airdale got older and older, he was clear about his needs: he needed when he needed when he needed it. Rain was no reason to delay a walk, and walking was no reason to delay standing and sniffing for a while. I took care of him then, and I took care of him at the end, when I used the breaker bar to soften the earth while her ex-husband dug his grave at the side of the pond.
My father has much the same idea now. There is no reason to eat bad pie, or to not toss off another long letter to an expert, explaining where everyone has gone wrong by not paying attention to physical thinking in engine design. He does what he does on his schedule, and while he will do for others, make it simple, easy and short.
My mother has never liked schedules. Christine would always get cranky with me when I backtimed schedules, like the TV producer I am, but she knew it wasn’t really a bad thing. My mother, on the other hand, sees anyone trying to rush her as a reason to resist and slow down. I often need to listen to her talk for a half hour to forty-five minutes after the time she should have started getting ready to leave for an appointment just to get her centered enough. She feels the drowse and she caves.
What this means, this resistance to set schedules, the resistance to keep them, and the push towards some inner desire, is that my schedule has to be soft and flexible, all the time. When people want what they want when they want it, you have to be here to deliver. And you have to be laconic about, it not just patient but also implacable. It is amazing, for me, how much energy and concentration it takes to be mild.
I’m on their schedule, at their whim. It’s hard. It means that I have really no chance to build a head of steam, the pressure of motivation to get me going. The requirement to not upset the residents in their stalls goes deep. Your tooth crumbles at dinner? Just be quiet about it.
Chris Rock is out promoting his new movie about marriage. “Only married people understand how you can love someone and hate them at the same time,” he says. “You tell your freinds what’s going on, and they say ‘That’s awful! Get out of there man! Just leave her!” and you say ‘But I love her so much!'”
It’s my belief that he just wasn’t paying attention or wasn’t committed enough in other relationships if he thinks that just occurs in marriage. All relaionships are the same, as ACIM reminds us.
My mother enjoyed going out yesterday. She informed us that she might go out again today, maybe to retrieve the bag my father left at the checkstand.
Or, she said, maybe not.
And my only responses can be slow patience & love.
Even if that helps me die too.