It's barely two o'clock, and I've just collapsed on my bed after helping Sophie to her room, peeling off my sweaty clothes and guzzling cold water. I walked Sophie to LACMA this morning, loathe to sit around the house and wait for the teenagers to arise. As you know, Sophie can walk, but not for great distances, so I pushed her along and periodically stopped, helped her up and out to stretch and walk for a bit. What a good idea! I thought to myself many times as I made my way to the museum. No, this isn't build-up to some catastrophe. Look on it, rather, as the proverbial drop of water on the forehead, tortuously slow but torture all the same. What's going to happen? A caregiver and her daughter -- more and more, as Sophie ages, I morph into Caregiver and less Mother. We took the elevator up to the third floor and walked around big empty galleries lined with Greek sculpture.
I thought the dim lights and empty echoing rooms would somehow calm Sophie as she was moaning and groaning, shifting and fidgeting in her chair. She wanted to get up, she wanted to sit down. She wanted something. I don't know if she wanted anything.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
I might have hissed a few times for her to be quiet. Stop moaning. (Caregiver/Mother knew she wasn't in pain or uncomfortable. Don't ask me why. I just knew.)
I was acutely aware of the random people walking through. Sophie's groans and moans echoed, and people stared. I looked straight ahead. I set my jaw. I pretended not to notice. The imaginary conversation that runs in my head nearly non-stop included Relax! No one notices! It's like when a baby that's not yours cries -- it's really only irritating to the mother! Except for on airplanes! Maybe Sophie is just vocalizing now that her brain isn't so occupied with seizing! That's a good thing! You're dreaming! It's fucking obnoxious, and I don't think I can stand it anymore! My life is ruined! But isn't that statue amazing? Those implacable faces, sightless. Should I take a photo of the headless woman? She's more ruined than I.
I got on an elevator and made my way to the Southeast Asian art rooms. They were totally empty and even more dim than the Greeks. I thought that surely here Sophie would be quiet. I imagined myself as Tibetan, calm and tranquil, also implacable, yet with a smile that hinted at humor. I let my shoulders relax and let Sophie moan. I didn't hiss.
The ideal woman in Tibet had large breasts, was curvy and earthy. I wished I were Tibetan, knew that I'd be a better Tibetan woman than American, pushing my disabled groaning daughter around a fancy museum, stifling my own hisses.
You can't strive for implacability, much less equanimity.
The walk home was excruciatingly hot. Sophie moaned the whole time, kicked off her shoes and kept dragging her bare toes on the sidewalk. I kept having to stop and put them back up on the footrest. I felt sweat dribbling down my back and my face in flames. I even stopped hissing and just did it. Pushed and walked, told Sophie that we'd be home soon and she could walk around her room and I'd leave her alone. At some point I stopped to rest, took a selfie and sent it to one of my fellow extreme parents with the caption Angry Caregiver Mother. She texted back We should start a calendar! I won't include it here but rather let you think of me more like this:
***Angry Caregiver Mother