“Oh, for a man!” Mother said, her frustration spilling over just like the water that splattered against the stainless steel kitchen sink, tossing sprays and spurts and droplets out of the sink, splat against the cabinets and spitting rays over the edge of the sink towards the floor, where they’re interrupted when they hit our bulk, covering us both with water polka dots.
I march through the days, tackling the tasks. Not for some glory or praise or recognition but just to keep moving forward, to keeping everything working, constantly getting the job done so that Mother can stay in her house.
For several days the faucet aerator has been acting up. Won’t stay attached. Turn the water on and the aerator flies off the end of the faucet, the thing blows apart and the pieces fall down the drain into the garbage disposal.
Mother’s frustration ignites the fire of my frustration. Stupid faucet. Stupid house that needs constant work. On top of that, stupid that Mother is helpless enough to think only a man can solve the situation.
“Move over, Mother and let me get to it.” She slowly inches sideways, her hand reaching for her cane so that she back out of the space between the portable dishwasher with its island top and the sink.
I move to the center of the double sink, irritated and forcefully dig for the aerator parts; making sure my body is angled away from the disposal switch. A nitwit who wired the house at some point since it was built in 1925 thought best to put that garbage disposal switch on the front of the lower cabinet right at sink level. We’re always accidentally hitting it just by leaning or brushing against the front of the sink. God forbid your hands are down the sink drain at that point.
“For most of my adult life I’ve had to do it all without a man.” The rant that has been building in my brain, threatening to lash out now spits forth.
“Not that there weren’t guy friends or my brothers who could help in a crises or that I couldn’t hire someone to help once in a while, but for the most part it was just me to get it done.”
Mother slowly moves to the kitchen stool on the other side of the room and sits. “I need to wash my hands when you’re done.” She said.
“But I believe God puts where He knows we’ll best grow,” I said gripping the aerator and the faucet in an attempt to force them together so they’ll work, “even if it means we’re frustrated, irritated and sometimes miserable.” I turn on the water and again the aerator blows off and splits apart.
“You might as well just leave it off.” Mother gets up from the stool and heads back toward the sink.
“Or, maybe He puts us there because the misery will make us cry out to Him.” I plop the aerator down on the counter, wash my hands and reach for the clean pot and its lid that had dried overnight in the dish drainer.
“Of course, no one could measure up to Daddy.” I said as I moved to the pots and pan cupboard next to the stool Mother just vacated. “He could do anything. Plumbing, electric, H/A, car repairs, he even tested rocket fuels, for pete’s sake.” The smaller pans clang and bang as they come out of the cupboard, the one in my hand goes in place by size and more clanging and banging until they’re all back in the cupboard. Clanging and banging pans are hard on Mother’s ears and I generally try to limit the noise but today I don’t care.
“Although why you had to give Daddy constant direction, like you do me, is beyond me.” Can’t slam the cupboard door shut, it doesn’t fit that tightly.
I’ve gone too far. What must it be like to be eighty-five and have your adult daughter lecture you on your failings? To have to push through the pain and disabilities of old age just to make it through the day and on top of that, listen to me rant?
“Maybe that’s just how you communicated with Daddy in your sixty-one years together.”
Mother says nothing. Just keeps on working getting her breakfast together. Today she’s baking corn muffins. Then she’ll fry herself an egg.
I head to the bathrooms to collect towels to throw in the washer.
“It’s a good thing you had me learn to do things on my own, God,” towels from my bathroom in hand, I head to the hamper for the rest of the dirty towels, “because if I hadn’t, I couldn’t handle this house and its constant work. Then what would Mother have done?”
No, I don’t do it for the glory and the truth is, if I weren’t here, God would take care of Mother some other way. I pull my head out of the hamper and straightened up, my arms full of towels, my back creaking back into place.
Be honest, Vicky, the bottom line is that it would be nice to be acknowledged, given some credit for having a brain that works.
“Help me, God, to not take Mother’s reactions personally, and to not be insulted by her constant need to tell me how to get things done. I know it’s just who she is. Although it would be ok with me if you change her some while you’re at it, God.”
Back through the kitchen I trek, towards the laundry room just as Mother pulls the muffins from the oven. “Hmm, those smell good.” I say as I pass.
“Here,” she says, “have one.”
“Thank you, Mother.”
And thank you, God, for who you made us and where you put us. I will survive and I’ll be better off for it – working faucet aerator or no working faucet aerator.
MY 85 YEAR OLD MOM AND I BOTH CHUCKLED AS I READ THIS OUTLOUD TO HER! YOU HAVE AN AMAZING WAY OF TAKING ORDINARY EXPERIENCES AND WRITING A DELIGHTFUL, FUNNY TALE ABOUT IT!
Thanks, friend. Hope you’re well!
Oh, the work of old houses. I was thinking of some of your past posts in our week of water trouble… changing out toilets, and then having a drain line problem that turned out to be just nasty. I was also thinking of your blog in connection to how we become who we are by the strange and weird randomness of where we are and who we are with… and then here is your post, illuminating all similar thoughts and ponderings on mothers, houses, frustration, and the gratitude that comes in the moment when patience and calm returns.
Old houses are a challenge aren’t they – nearly as much a challenge as living in the same space as other people – both frustrating and rewarding. I’m glad something I said spoke to your thoughts. I feel honored that you were thinking of my posts!