What happens when you light a gas light in a glass house?
My first concern: the safety of it.
I’ve sat on the question of a gas light in a glass house since I called the owner of mom’s sitter agency last week.
A couple of things the owner doesn’t know:
- We live in a glass house. I write about mom’s journey openly. The sitters (and the agency that sends them) are part of our journey.
- I read messages that support my concern before I called her.
“I would never… !”
But the thing is, she did.
And I’m sitting here in a glass house wondering, do I hide this hiccup of our journey?
I struggled with the answer after the first call, but then she called back.
“I resent that you accused me…”
She had done some “research,” but she still didn’t know that I had already done mine.
Why am I still on the fence?
A fellow blogger recently wrote about how and when we decide to post about sensitive topics. This was timely for me as I wrangled with two things: sharing the story of the gas light in my glass house and whether or not to make a change.
The kicker is we like our sitters, and mom has a special bond with one in particular. So even after the “I resent…” phone call, I struggle with how to share and what changes, if any, we need to make.
I have one job: their safety.
I interrupted her “I resent that you…” spiel:
“I’m sorry you feel resentful, but I only have one job here: to make sure mom and dad are safe…”
Holding my cards (I could have ripped into the “what you don’t know is…”), I was able to come back to and focus on this: my “job here.” Their safety. I put them in this glass house (with their permission, of course), but that doesn’t mean I’m careless about what we welcome inside these walls.
What is the safe next thing?
In the middle of wrangling with this for four days that wore like four weeks, I received a message from my ex who, at the beginning of this month, moved from Louisiana to DC.
If you follow my posts, you may have read about our journey and you may already be aware that he became closer to my parents, especially to mom, after our divorce. He has generously cared for them during this hard year, coming to the farm on weekends to prepare meals and lavish us with cakes and decadent donuts. His partner and I suspect that the hardest part of his move from Louisiana to DC is leaving my parents behind.
On Good Friday —the second 168-hour day of my wrangling with a gas light in a glass house—, my ex sent me this message:
Hey. Thinking of you and Mama Nick on this Easter weekend. 14 years ago she decided that forgiveness was the way and I got invited to Easter dinner for the first time in 4 years. Hope you’re doing well and writing. Miss you all.
Finding the way
Reaching forgiveness was huge for mom. And it is the way. This is a good week to chew on this. I haven’t finished chewing on safety and gas lanterns, but a bite of forgiveness will do me good.
I’m still prickly following the two phone calls with the owner of the sitting agency. Maybe she was posturing. Maybe she’s afraid of losing a client. It’s not my job to sort it out.
Truth be told, we’re all guilty of the distant cousins and less sinister fudge and white-lie iterations of gaslighting. I’m not making excuses for her behavior and I haven’t necessarily reached forgiveness for her. I do think, however, I extinguished this gas light. I’m confident the two of us reached an understanding, that she heard me, that she knows I’m paying attention to what is and isn’t safe for mom and dad.
Lanterns for illumination
I won’t smash this lantern against the glass walls of our house because that would be messy and dangerous, and a hissy fit of ruffled feathers doesn’t necessarily honor my primary concern: my parents’ safety.
If there’s forgiveness in my heart at the moment, it’s for the agency (not the owner) because the agency has provided skilled, dedicated, and patient sitters who take good care of mom (and, by the way, I led with that when I called the owner). We’ll prepare should the need arise, but I don’t think trading out the actual people who show up for this job is the answer.
The literal meaning (from Merriam-Webster) of gas light is “Light made by burning illuminating gas.” So, I pause here for the illumination. Hopefully, walking through our glass house with this “illuminating gas” will shine a light for others on this journey, will lend some insight when they struggle with the help they hire.
Because it’s hard.
Now, where to put this gas light so it can shine, so it can be all the illumination it was meant to be, without hoodwinks, fudge, or white lies?
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2022
Pennie, your post reads like poetry to me. A glass house, gas-lighting. Literal and figurative. Conflict, a touchstone, and forgiveness. I cannot pretend to understand all that happened. What I do understand is your devotion to your parents, your open-heartedness, and your commitment to truth.
I’ll take all of this as compliment. Thanks, Adela.
As my Mama used to say, ‘Forgiveness is always the answer. It doesn’t mean you have to stand on the track and get hit again by the train, but you can step off the tracks, forgive and learn from it’.
So I totally agree with you. Take the positives from this. You’ve been heard. Improvement will follow!
And a light definitely shines brighter when it’s not smeared with fudge. Just sayin’…
I love that train track analogy. Thanks for that!
I love that you are speaking your feelings and frustrations without bogging down in the details. It is hard to do when you love the people caught in the web of details and defenses. I have been there. Mom has been gone almost 15 years but I can descend into vortexes of “what ifs” and “if I’d only” quite readily even now.
Thanks, Nancy. And thanks for your article last week. It helped me muck my way through this.