Its in the bedroom, on the bedside table, just behind the clock, about 3 inches back and to the right, close to the back right hand corner. These are instructions Mom is giving to the nurses aid, who has come to see what is wrong with the bedside telephone. Of course, the aid has spotted it, the moment she walks into the bedroom of Moms assisted living residence, but Mom is still barking out directions, from her position on the living room couch. Ive heard her do this, many times. When she directs people in another room to fetch something, or to put away something for her, she continues a long string of explicit directions, long after the average sighted person lays eyes on it and has done the job. Why does she do this? Doesnt she get it that they can see? Then it hits me, like the proverbial light bulb coming on. Yes, of course, she knows they can see, but the habit is so etched on her brain that it doesnt occur to her to acknowledge that they can see. Ever since I began to lose my vision at age 8, my mother has given me hair-splitting directions when I was looking for something. Even to this day, if I drop something on the floor, such as a Scrabble tile, and I kneel down on the floor and start making circles with my hands on the carpet to locate it, she peers down and tells me where to find it Move your right hand forward, now over to the left a little, no too much, now back about an inch. Notice, my mother never says right over here. Her directions have always been extremely accurate. Good thing she keeps her belongings lined up and catalogued in their appropriate places, so she can do what she thinks is necessary, to direct the aid to right where it is. It can be annoying until I realize that she is just In the habit of doing so, although I am the only one who ever needed that kind of direction in her life. These days, when Im sent on a fetching mission, I have often found the object and dealt with it, long before she has finished her orders, but it takes a great deal of effort for her to think of the right words and to get the breath to project them. Part of the annoyance on my part is that I understand that some of this behavior is due to her excessive need to be in control. Instead of saying, Its on the second shelf of the bookcase, and letting me trail my hand across the shelf to find the object, she wants me to put my han in the exact spot she thinks the object is in. Even though finding it myself is often more efficient, Im trying to just let her continue with her instructions, and by the time she is done, I have it in my hand and am handing it to her. She never gets it that she is expending way too much energy with all these orders. She never will.
As I reflect on my life growing up with this woman as my mother, I am discovering some traits that are, shall we say, less than desirable? Is recognizing them enough to prevent me from demonstrating the same behavior when or if I reach her age? I hope so. I sincerely hope so.