Mother, not being known for her empathy, never ceased to surprise my sister Abby and me. When husband number three Tom was battling cancer, Mother kept a diary. She wrote down her innermost feelings and left it out in the open which meant it was fair game for my sister and me to peruse. And of course we did just that.
My sister began reading while I distracted Mother, which was not difficult because she had a very short attention span. All you had to say was:
Tell me again about Aunt Opal for the one millionth time.
and away she would go. I would practically tell the tale right along with her since I had heard it so many times. But it gave my sister time to devour the diary.
When I heard Abby shriek I knew she had stumbled upon a rich entry. I ran to the kitchen to see what was the matter (kind of like Santa!). And truthfully I had to sidestep all the clutter and shit all over the floor. Once I battled my way there, my sister showed me the latest entry where dear Mother had written:
I need some alone time. Fat chance!
We were stunned by her unbelievable selfishness and obtuse comments in the face of Tom’s life threatening illness. What was wrong with her? Wait a minute. We knew exactly what was wrong. Mother lacked the empathy gene and so poor Tom was SOL when it came to any care or pity.
His needs first? Never.
When we got over our initial shock, we decided to attempt to help Mother with her lack of sensitivity. We discussed Tom’s fragile health in the hopes she would see the error of her ways. Who were we kidding? Her response? A very nasty retort:
Oh, he could do better! He just won’t try!
Kind of the same refrain as always, her needs came before others and she shouldn’t ever feel guilty about putting herself first. But this time Mother was saying that a cancer patient “just won’t try” to do better. Once again we learned it isn’t a good idea to attempt to out-think crazy.
Tom did pass away from cancer shortly thereafter, and Mother finally got her wish for some alone time. You might say she was happy but that would be exaggerating. And Lord knows we don’t want to do that!