Friday, June 02, 2017

Does "Unfiltered" Mean "True?"

Mom went ballistic, ca. 1966, when my younger brother leaned out the window at a gas station to yell at an obese customer, "Hey, Fatso!"  Years later, she faulted me for "overdoing it" when I called my teacher's face  "nauseating,"  post- mustachectomy. Later still, when I was a young teacher, she stopped me from telling off a bull-headed parent:  "Life's too short. You're the professional, you're the grown up; keep all that to yourself."

So, when Mom now forgets to filter her comments, am I seeing the "real Mom?"  Sometimes, under attack, I've terminated a conversation; the morning after, even minutes after, it's been balm to my wounded feelings to hear her say, "I can't imagine why I'd say those things. I'm so sorry you had to hear them."

The truth is, disparaging comments come to all our minds every day, maybe every moment.  Even the best of us will let fly some of those thoughts among friends. Nothing new, here: the Biblical epistle of James calls the tongue "a restless evil, full of venom" (James 3.8).

We define our character in part by what we choose not to say.  That my dog Mia restrains her wild animal impulses when I say "Leave it!" is precisely what makes her a "good dog."

When Mom's filter drops because of dementia, and she speaks from the feeling that she has lost control of her own life, that's not the "real" Mom; that's Mom "forgetting herself."

I've got to be the grown up, still: time with her is too short to waste it in ephemeral battles.

No comments: