For a few hours Thursday morning we were without power. The silence was so complete I could hear the crackling of the gas stove (which we lit by hand).
The Rice Krispies were snap-crackle-popping so loud I had to put in ear plugs.
It was cold and calm. I gave Benji breakfast by the light of four candles and a strategically placed flashlight. We watched the sun come up through the trees, Ellie still asleep and Jichaan brooding quietly in his cave.
No internet. No TV. After Benji went down for his nap nothing but a hot mug of green tea and a blank page.
I didn’t think I’d feel this kind of peace for some time to come. Certainly not this morning, not after the night we had.
There are a couple of verses from childhood running through my head ‘This too shall pass’ and (paraphrasing) ‘When you’ve done all, stand.’
So, let me lay this out for you. I stood up to a bully yesterday. A bully in my very own home.
Yes. Jichaan didn’t approve of the cost of my sweet cleaning lady who comes twice a month and helps me remember what a clean house feels like. For two minutes until my children systemically and gleefully tear it apart/spill apple juice on it/crush chips into the carpet again.
Life is too short. And messy. And…if it isn’t REALLY clean, like REALLY CLEAN, we get BUGS people. Like, big ones. Cockroaches and flying many-legged things that make my goosebumps have goosebumps.
I’m not a saint, or an angel. I’m just me. I’m a pacifist, and a turn-the-other-cheek-second-chances kind of person. At least I try to be. But something flares up hot and immediate when I’m being pushed around.
And then it hardens and I will not be moved.
There are some who say - he’s 95. Just let him have his way - just humor him a little longer he won’t be around much more.
Reality? Everyone caves to Jichaan. The only question is how quickly.
Immediately so as to avoid suffering? Or eventually, after he has relentlessly hounded you day and night until you throw up your hands and agree to anything to make it stop? He is a minor tyrant.
To be honest, I’m kind of a pushover. I’d rather have peace than my own way 95% of the time. But when I feel like I’m being bullied? It’s like a special super-power that surprises even me with it’s grit. I wouldn't even have known it was there except, well, except for bullies.
Anyway, I said no. I said cleaning lady stays. Especially since Bill will be in China this weekend and won’t be available to help me scrub/vacuum/dust/Clorox and in general keep the nasties away.
He erupted into a very predictable (and loud) tantrum worthy of only maybe Shannon Doherty when she didn’t get the part of ‘Drama Queen Three - the Return of Highest Drama Over The Silliest Of Things’.
Apparently I am dis-invited from his funeral.
I do have compassion for the idea of a proud older man, faced with end-of-life realities and decisions. It isn’t easy being 95, physically, emotionally, spiritually. There is no doubt he is suffering. Actual pain in his body I am sure, and emotional pain from suddenly, and for the first time in probably decades, losing a power struggle.
I welcomed him into my home. Nervously, admittedly, but with open arms and with the hope he and his grandchildren could form a special bond, fill that special spot only a grandparent can.
That might still happen or be happening.
But, it is clear he doesn’t want to live here unless he is boss. Which I just made it clear, he is not. And that’s painful, yeah? So I have compassion for the bully who, once someone stands up to him, begins to look diminished in everyone’s eyes. Instead of fear there is pity.
And the bully has the choice to change, to grow, to reach out and be vulnerable and loved. Or he caves in on himself and becomes bitter and isolated, resentful and wretched.
It is my sincere desire that he reach out and accept the love and support he is being offered. There is love here in my house, and warmth and forgiveness. There’s crazy too, and nervous breakdowns on the horizon. But love too.
But no cockroaches. And no bullies.
“Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.” Benjamin Disraeli.