I have been staying with my parents for the last three weeks. I flew in to help my dad take care of my mom. Caregiving is hard work, but it also has a lot of down time. I am not allowed to use the down time to repeatedly check Twitter, Facebook, or my blogs, or heaven forbid I try to beat my level on Candy Crush. (Level 421, y’all. Nothing says giant loser than level 421 on Candy Crush) unless..unless I have first picked up all my dishes, made my bed, or emptied the dishwasher.
I am almost certain that I am doing more housework here than I do at my own house. And do you know how come I put each and every spoon in the dishwasher? Or make sure that my sock lint is picked up off the living room floor?
That is what my brother and I are calling it. My dad is the MASTER. I don’t know how he does it. In three weeks the man has trained me keep dishes out of the kitchen sink and wipe up the little dribble of coffee that I spilled when I poured my cup. He has done it without nagging. He doesn’t have to say anything because I can feel the displeasure emanating from him.
Don’t get me wrong. My dad is a gem. Dad heads to the grocery store every couple of days and brings home candy, gluten free cookies, and frosting that I eat straight from the can. He doesn’t say a word. We eat ice cream doused in caramel syrup every night. I am pretty sure my brother has eaten his body weight in cashews. Surprisingly, I haven’t gained any weight, which I am sure is God’s gift to me right now.
But we do not waste food. If there are leftovers in the fridge, we eat those before we make anything new. I ate potato soup for a week. I really should have halved the recipe. Oh, boy.
(Uh oh. Dad is in the kitchen. He is scrubbing the sink. I feel the displeasure as I type this. Did I leave my coffee cup on the counter? I don’t remember. )
Back to my original thesis. Silent guilt. How does he do it? This is the mystery that I must discover before I head home. I must learn to employ it upon my own children. Is it in the look? Tonight he picked up my ice cream bowl. I was going to put it away! He chuckled and said, “oh, sure you were, but I am not folding your laundry.” I didn’t catch any look of the eye. Just his little chuckle that made me feel bad that he had to pick up after me.
Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.
And I want to please him. How is it that at 41 years old my dad still has such power over me? I am a people pleaser. Sure. But it is more than that.
Yes, I must learn this trick of his. It is effective and doesn’t seem to expend much energy. He is the master. I am impressed with his skills. He is the Obi Wan of parental manipulation. I must be the padawan, but I must not let him know that I am trying to learn his secrets. I need to bring it home and use it on my own children. That is my plan.
But for now, I have laundry to fold.