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?

Silent guilt.

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.