I post a semi-regular picture of my mom and I on social media. I call it the Saturday Selfie with the Mama. I don't know why I do it or how it got started. And it doesn't really matter. It's a thing now for whatever purpose.
People leave comments on these and like the hell out of them. To which I just shrug my shoulders. More recently I have noticed the comments tending more toward what a good daughter I am. Those make me growl a bit in the back of my throat. These folks are all well-meaning. The response is purely something in me that gets lit up by the words.
So as my fast write this morning, I'm going to dig around a bit and see why that comment triggers that response. And because I'm feeling all outline-y and logical I'm going to number them.
1. There is something inherently patriarchical in it. They don't say I am a good child. They say I am a good daughter. A true comment insofar as I am her daughter and I am basically a decent enough person. But it lands inside me like a pat on the head and an acknowledgement that I'm doing what I'm supposed to do and am therefore a "good daughter." That I am sacrificing myself so that my brothers can go on and do important chest beating man things that will change the world. Clearly my junk. And the absolute irony is that those "man things" aren't what changes the world. Things like Saturdays spent with a rapidly declining Alzheimer's parent are what change the world. I know this. And on some level I feel sorry for people who don't get it.
2. There is a feeling behind the comment like "I could never do that." That I am different in some way that allows me to. Weaker. Soft-hearted. I call BULLSHIT on this one. It's not that you couldn't, it's that you won't. Simple as that. Like anything else, you have to be flexible and learn how to be with this person as they change day by day, sometimes minute by minute.
3. I am not a good daughter. Never have been. Mom herself will tell you my brothers were easier. I am not like her and am exactly like her. I am at best an adequate daughter and she an adequate mother. I was never hungry. I had a place to live and a shot at a good education (as long as I paid for it). We weren't nice to each other before. We fought. ALOT. I learned about what kind of woman I wanted to be by not being like her. Sounds harsh. But it's nonetheless true. Thing is, Alzheimers has pulled back the layers of her and I find that I like who she is now (sometimes more than I ever liked the harder version). She is soft where she was nut hard. She is fluid where she was fixed. She is open with her emotions where she was closed off and cold. And the things that I craved from her growing up fall into my lap unasked. How could I not snatch them up? This makes me a selfish daughter. Only after I got enough of those love-y bits was I able to forgive all the bullshit of my childhood. Only then was I able to kill the cold, hard shelled, fixed woman I had become. She gave me permission to just be who I was. And I returned the favor.
Somehow by saying I am with her because I am the good daughter diminishes the scope of our relationship to a sound byte. Diminishes the struggle of two people to love each other despite what their words say. It simplifies something innately complex and beautiful.
Or is it there to remind me in the end it IS simply beautiful?