What Sheila didn't say
Can she hear my stomach gurgle? Will I suddenly mess my pants? I have a new pad, so if I pee a little, it won't show. At least not before I can get to the bathroom. But the bowels can be sneaky. I don't trust them. Should I have gone to the doctor over them? Should I have grown a spine and been forceful and taken charge of my own health. But I would have had to explain. So much to explain and so much of it embarrassing. I'd be trying to be assertive to them while telling them how I had been unassertive previously, which couldn't possibly go over well.
"A thing worth doing is worth doing badly."
"A good plan should never be put off waiting for an excellent plan."
Stop making lists and plans and start somewhere. Anywhere. The important thing is to get started. You know that well enough. Call it the middle. Jump in. No regrets later for not having done something else. Maybe the snap decision will be starting where it's most important to you.
No. Not the kitchen. Does that mean that the kitchen embarrasses her most? Poor dear. She's obviously appalled by the place and what I've let it and me descend to. But I finally asked for help after avoiding doing so for so long. I get credit for that. Giving myself credit is important. It keeps me going. I know myself well enough at last to know that. Good Job, Sheila. You have help and it's going to help unlock things.
So where is the middle. Well, for me it's the desk. It always has been. The desk is the heart, the dark, confused heart. Any true changes must start at the desk or result in changes to the desk.
I've been living by myself enough to sort a few things out functionally, to make do. Making do is a virtue, or at least it always will feel like it to me. "Something, something, wear it out, make it do, or do without." I'll remember the beginning later, or at least I will if remembering is important. I have to believe that. That I'll remember if it's important. And I have to remember that remembering won't come if I ignore things. Things ignored are lost. What is rehearsed is retained. It's not a bad thing to remember.
Father always remembered the bad things. He was always saying how good his memory was and how far back it went, but it never seemed to do anything but make him resentful. It just left him with a list of resentments against everyone he knew. Gunnysacking they call it in pop-psych jargon. That and the other thing left me with no urge to remember. Just assume the best and rely on others.
So I make do with an old folding chair tucked neatly and handily behind a sofa and Grandma Dora's old desk for the heart of the house and my hopes. It's a good thing the desk folds up or I'd have papers and things stacked all over it. I do tend to spread things out for easy view when I work and then one thing is not finished and the next thing gets spread out over the top of it. If I never tried to sort the stacks, you could mine back through my intentions like an archeologist or geologist going through the strata.
The pigeonholes don't look bad, but that's mostly because they're too small for the papers I use. It's a woman's desk made for old fashioned woman's stationary, which was obviously supposed to be smaller to be more easily filled by a smaller intellect. The spoon, on the other hand, is embarrassing. Ignore it for now.
I'm nattering a bit, aren't I? I'm trying to find a way to reassure the dear. She still looks a bit like a deer in the headlights. Maybe I'm comparing her to the others, which isn't fair. Or maybe everyone is a little abused and damaged.
I statements are popular now. Tell how it is for me, how it is in the house she's in now. Let her know what connections I have, even if I'm avoiding them.
That's a question. Automatic that I should reinforce the questioning. It's good for children to question and learn. Even the girls, which is questioned much less now and here than then and other places. Reach for the dictionary. The dictionary is a friend. I've been trying to develop an understanding of myself and one of the things I know is that I'm the kind of person who will look up a word and then get distracted and read for several pages in the dictionary. Or in an encyclopedia. It just seems to be natural. It's not showing off although I may admit to it being a kind of greed. Not to everyone, though. I would only admit it to someone who understood. Mostly it’s a comfort. Odd are that others aren’t comforted by dictionaries.
Perceptive. I like that. I can support that. Not every child has a talent that's easy for me to support. And she's interested in the books. That will be . . . a little embarrassing at the moment. She's noticed the books on cleaning. "Yes. Reading about it is easier than doing something about it."
Ah, the computer generation. So many think that they're becoming socially inept from being on the computer so much - just as Mother used to make comments about me having my nose in a book. Should I admit that Mother and Myrtle bored me silly? Not to just anyone. Only to someone who understands. And not to this headlight dear, not just yet.
The problem with computers is obsolescence. As soon as you get one, it’s the wrong one and can’t do what everyone is expecting you to do. But that does remind me of Peter. He wasn’t here long but he was very polite and has been very sweet and reticent about staying in touch. I wish I could have helped him. Bringing his difficulty to the attention of his Grandmother kept him out of the system, which would have been bad for him. But it didn’t solve things. I hope it gave him enough resources to get him through. He was so wonderfully creative.
Pity I couldn’t have encouraged that creativity more. It was just plain that he would never be in foster care very long. The time was better spent preparing him for dealing with his family. He needed permission to decide what was best for himself and to press for it politely but firmly.
Pity about the wife with the color charts. I think he saw her as creative, when she was really controlling. I think that he thought he could be happy leaving the creativity to her and getting on with the family business. I don’t think the decision was accurate.
I feel like I should have begun to address that. But I’ve never trained someone into a successful artist and have no real confidence that I could do that.
Still, everything I don’t say makes me feel like a coward. I wish that speaking out weren’t so difficult. I wish that it didn’t feel like challenging and hurting people. I never told Father that I didn’t agree with him. He was my support and my champion and in the end I was appalled by him. Would I have ever gotten beyond that. Should I have spoken up?
It was a different time and different things were expected of young ladies. I wonder if things are really so different today.
Papers. Would I keep them in better order if I weren’t afraid of making the wrong decisions with them. Or, perhaps, the fear is that I’ll make the right decisions and still disappoint someone. Why does it feel like everyone else has a right to a contrary opinion?
Where to start? How much of a foundation is necessary before building begins?
“Could you pull those papers out from between the books?” Now what sort of excuse can I give for that? A weak one obviously. Would Father have hated me if he’d known my thoughts? He seemed to hate everyone else.
How much was she told? I was worried that I’d forgotten and asked for the wrong person, but I’m sure I asked for Myrtle’s daughter, Billy, and she’s much older than Barbara, here, I’m sure of that. And I’m sure her name is Barbara, I’ve gotten that fixed in memory, and she’s calling me Aunt so I know she’s some relation of Myrtle’s
But she’s much too young to need a start-over. Too young to need to swap room and board for cleaning and driving. Possibly too young to drive.
Packets. Yes, I know how to manage education packets. But she doesn’t seem like the sort to be behind. Maybe it’s just that she’s shy.
Fractals. Failure. I was going to read up on them. I got the books and watched some TV shows but never got far enough to have more than a nodding acquaintance with them. They were going to transform our understanding. So was chaos theory. So was television, if I remember back. Now it’s the internet. Our understanding is going to be transformed again. Only it never happens quite the way that’s expected. Or nearly as much.
Poor books. Poor shelves. Poor stomach. Oh, that’s going to be a big burp if I’m not careful. Embarrassing pains roaming about. At least it’s at the less dangerous end.
Good girl. Go for the cleaning gear. The sound of the kitchen cupboards will cover the gurgles. No. She’s back too soon. Can’t jump to the bathroom all the time. Wastebasket! Yes. That’s in the dining room. Walking always helps move things. Jet propelled biddy, that’s me. Ought to organize the diet, if not the innards. Everyone is always going on about doing that.
Can’t remember the details, of course. Could look them up, so it just goes out of the mind. Carbs and Fats, Protein and Fiber. Memory. If it isn’t your responsibility, you forget it. What was it Douglas Adams called it? The SEP Field: Somebody Else’s Problem. John woke up the first night that the baby cried but it wasn’t his problem so he never woke up again.
Think of seven things at once, then a eighth and one of the seven has to drop out of your mind. He put that in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. . . no, in the second one. What was it called? (And any other seven things except John)
That’s going to annoy me. Oh, well, it will come later.
Connie is her sister. Will I remember that? Do I need to go pee? It comes so suddenly, sometimes.
Mom and Dad: is one of them Billy’s child? Did Myrtle remarry? How do I ask without sounding senile? Ask later.
She wilts when she talks about school. I could make her feel relieved, but would it be best for her in the end? Would it be avoiding things, for both of us? Ask the responsible questions. You know them. Wait for her answer before deciding.
The computer again. It could just be that she wants one. There’s no real reason not to get one. The basics won’t change, nor the problems.
Now where did that dinosaur come from? I have such impractical ideas, but they pull at me so. Sometimes I think they’re my fear dressed up to distract me. Perhaps I should humor them. Or be stern with them. If there’s always going to be another along in a minute, why am I afraid of forgetting them?
She’s a sweet child, I think. I don’t know yet if she’s diffident or untaught in life skills or lazy. She waits to be asked to help. Do I want that? It’s a relief in some ways, but a burden in others. It would be easier if she could take over. But then I’d resent and fear her. This is easier on the feelings if I can keep up the resolve to instruct and manage her, but is it better?
She’s offering to help with the book! That’s unusual. And I do need to pee. Don’t abandon her. Don’t make it a big thing. We could get a computer, but what kind of hookup?
Made it! There’s a word for these little triumphs that are of no consequence to anyone else but the triumphee. I made it up myself, using Suzette Haden Elgin’s conlang to do it. What was it? It will come in a few minutes.
Would cable or DSL be easier to set up? Which would be cheaper? Which would be faster? If I make the wrong decision, will I be ashamed?
She’s offering to research and analyze the problem. I could allow that. It would feel like helping teach her. I would say that there are no wrong decisions. I’d mean it too.
Vernon. I could get her talking with Vernon and just make wise old person noises in the background. The only question is my bowels. If we’re going to leave the house, we’d better do it while they’re still cooperating.
Vernon. Natalie. They’ll help but stay back. They’re task-oriented and don’t push. Natalie will give me looks, but if I don’t follow up, she won’t be resentful. The computer is a good focus. One more trip to the bathroom then get into regular clothes. Nothing that can’t be stained, just in case. Take extra panties and pads. Wear a jacket. . . one that’s not wrinkled.
Pulp writer? Where did that come from? Oh, dear. I wonder what all is in those books. That’s Natalie. Still not dressed. Must dash.
Yes, yes, whatever. Need to get dressed. Can’t be seen like this