Wilma hasn't been visiting her husband Ken much as while he rehabs his hip. "He's in a rest home. I just can't stand those places. It would be too much for me."
Karen, on the other hand, visits sunup to sundown. The family begs her to stay away since she has bronchitis. "I can't help it," she says, "I need to make sure they're doing everything right."
In both cases, they know what the right and rational action is, but in their culture, their depth of feeling excuses them. "I just can't take it." "It's too much for me." "It makes me too nervous." "It upsets me too much."
Of course, what makes me clench my teeth at night is that not only are they choosing emotion over common sense, they're applauded for it. Wilma, she just can't stand seeing her husband in pain, obviously she's so devoted to her husband. Karen, she can't keep her hacking coughing controlling self away from the surgery patient, obviously she's so devoted to her father. No one even thinks of saying, "Suck it up! Get over yourself and use your brain."
I know the thing that annoys me is that they consistently swing so far to the side of emotion in all emotion versus reason decisions. That would suggest I annoy them by swinging too far to the reason side.
(I tried to think of any recent reason-vs-emotion conflict I've had. Hmm. Anything I felt was emotionally "just too hard for me" but I still chose reason. Hmm. Then I noticed the Ghost of Mom in the corner giving me an arch baleful glance, a deadpan stare. Oops! Forgot about firing the doctor following her hospice because he wasn't on board with her death. Sorry Mom, forgot about that misery for a moment.)
My Mom swinging over to reason and denying emotions is as probably as annoying as the in-laws whining "it's too upsetting for me to visit my husband." The in-laws have been very quiet about my triumph of reason over emotion, but then again I haven't been bringing it up to them. The person I have been annoying is Marcia. I keep saying things like, "You know, it's been about a year since I killed my Mom" and she tells me forcefully I did no such thing. I reply, "No, if I'm honest with myself - " "NO. YOU DID WHAT SHE WANTED."
Yes, I did, I know, and she was always very clear what she wanted. (I also almost didn't have medical power of attorney because she thought it might be "too much" for Gary.) And I think it's important when you do a thing you can face it without ducking, looking head on, unless that thing is looking in the bathroom mirror naked.
But, that embrace of reason and half expecting applause for it is probably just as galling as the in-laws admiring their own delicate sensibilities, I suppose. Still it is the way I was raised, and I think I'm going to symbolically thank Mom for it by doing the most clear-eyed, rational, indelicate thing I can think of: I'm killing something and eating it.
Just tonight Gary as we discussed where to eat, Gary said, "Why do you want to eat lobster? It's gross. You end up eating lobster ovaries and fetuses and cancerous lobster tumors."
I thought, yep, I'm having fresh lobster on April 10, and I'm looking that lobster in the eye and plopping it in the water myself. Because that's how we roll on the distaff side, and because I can picture the in-law women fainting at the thought. Gary, of course, will have to leave the house because it will be too much for him. I think April 10 will have to be Lobster Day, the day I embrace my extremes with as much self-love and care my in-laws do.