Up in smoke


I knew Miss Cathy was going to bring up my trip and somehow, someway, some day when she did-she’d give me agida. I wasn’t sure when but I knew it was coming. And sure enough, a couple days ago it happened. I’d walked into the kitchen for a coffee refill and she was sitting at the counter with her “hot comb” straightening her hair. She said, “You’re counting down the days huh?” It was early in the am and I was still in my own little world so I didn’t really get what she was talking about so I said,” counting down for what?”

While passing a section of hair through the teeth of a very hot device she explained, “till you go to Kansas City.” The smell of burning hair was thick in the air as she used the comb to straighten her natural curls. The air would soon get thicker still for a whole “nother” reason.

“Oh yeah, that”, I thought, it’s not like I’d forgotten about my plans so much as I wasn’t bringing them up (at all in fact). I wasn’t talking about the trip because I was dreading the inevitable argument that would result. I know you’re thinking, “I’m projecting” or “I’m putting a negative out to the universe” or better yet “that on some level I ‘wanted’ the conflict.” But no, but NO, I’ve read my Deepak Oprah, I’ve had a Life-coach and know that we manifest the “story” that we tell and I’ve logged enough hours “navel gazing” during talk therapy to know fact from neurosis. So yes, I know all this and I also know that if YOU spent the amount of time with Miss Cathy that I have you’d think the same-it’s not “negativity” it’s “self preservation”.

Imagine my surprise when she said, “depending on the weather I’m going to go visit Tine while you’re gone.” Tine (Ernestine, “Tine” for short) is Miss Cathy’s youngest sister who still lives in their hometown, Henderson, North Carolina.

Well, she certainly “buried the lead” didn’t she? I was happy as could be for her but “practical me” was wondering, “how was she going to get down there?” and thoughts of me driving her “down South” didn’t exactly thrill me. I don’t know about you but to me it’s as if every mile I drive past the NC border takes a year off the calendar so by the time we’re in Henderson it’s 1952 down there-and I wasn’t born until 1959 so what does that say?!, oh well, what price freedom.

While I pondered her mode of transport she continued, “and I’ll tell you something right now (the mood in the room suddenly changing), if in two or three months you want to go someplace else you go right ahead but I am NOT leaving this house-no more!” (I could have sworn I heard a little sizzle off the “hot comb” but I can’t be sure.)

“Alrighty then, so, here we are, and here we go”, I thought. I put my coffee down, took (half) a deep breath and before I knew it (although I’d predicted it) it was October all over again. Remember, back in October when I told her about my first trip and how she tried for days to convince me that she was “well” and that she should stay home alone. She tried everything, even what I call the ”Five stages of persuasion”:

1)    Intimidation: One has to be loud and authoritative, this works best on small children with a vested interest in survival but not on adult children of parents who no longer pay your bills or wipe your butt for you

2)    Reasoning: This can only work if both parties are in denial about the disease or condition at hand

3)     Cajoling: This could include anything from the “buddy” approach in speech and body language to bribes of favorite meals or money

4)    Threats: These usually take the form of self-important statements that start with “Do you know who I am?” or “ You don’t know who you’re dealing with buddy” but realistically that can’t be backed up by any substantive actions)

5)    Self pity: This can include tears, mournful looks, pleas to God for help and as a last resort threats of suicide but once the “suicide” card is played one can’t keep throwing it down lest somebody calls your bluff

So, after going back and forth and over and over the same territory, I had to ask myself, “Was there anything different about this discussion/argument that was any different from any other discussion/argument we’ve had over the past year about whether or not she could or should be able to stay by herself for any length of time?”

To be honest, the answer was “no” but this time I just wasn’t sure-maybe I was tired. I found myself almost persuaded by her arguments and for the first time I wondered if she was indeed capable of taking care of herself alone for on week or more.

I mean, she made a strong case for it-in volume if nothing else. I listened past the anger and stubbornness, the denial and pride. She may not think I understand what she’s going through but I’m trying (I am HERE after all). To her credit she hasn’t had any accidents in months nor has she shown any lack of judgment that would put her in danger of hurting herself or others.

So, I was in a quandary, I had to admit to myself (if not to her) that maybe “we’d” (Tony and I) had jumped the gun here. Maybe she was “better” and all she needed was some time to get herself together after the events of last year. Could it be, could the doctor’s be wrong?

I mean, at the end of the day all I want is for her to be happy (and safe) and although I know what the doctors have said I’m the one living with her and from what I’ve observed she’s not doing too bad.

She was also doing her hair the entire time we were talking and it was somewhere around this point in our discussion/argument while she was straightening a section of hair that she singed the ends because she’d left the curling iron on the heat too long.

Nothing like the smell of frying hair to give you pause while you’re arguing. Since she’d just finished making a long winded, pretty well rehearsed speech about how well she could take care of herself I was tempted to use what had just happened against her but she was embarrassed enough (not to mention that it would take weeks for her hair to grow out so she’d be reminded enough of “how well she’s taking care of herself”).

So, I graciously said nothing while she sat there pulling at her burned follicles and let that be the end of the discussion/argument…….. for now.

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