Let’s start off with a bit of reality: life is not convenient and it is often filled with guilt.
For three weeks, my grandmother had been mentioning that her assisted living facility was going to bring in a photographer. Each time she mentioned it, I reminded myself to look at the activities board on the way out. Inevitably, I never look at that board. We are almost always on a mad dash out as the youngest is having a temper tantrum or the oldest reminds us there is still homework to be done.
“Don’t you need some new pictures of the kids,” Grandma would hint. For three weeks it was the same question.
Of course I need new pictures of the kids; they haven’t had pictures done in years. Thanks for reminding me of one more thing feel guilty about– not keeping up with pictures of my children. But having my kids’ picture taken at an assisted living facility isn’t exactly what I had in mind, and quite honestly, there was just too much going on to fit in a photo shoot.
I kept putting Grandma off, telling her that we would see. Each time I pushed it off, I felt immense guilt for not being excited to give her something that would make her happy. Shouldn’t every request be met with an enthusiastic “Yes!”?
The problem with putting things off (a habit I know all too well), is that eventually they come due. At some point, you have to have an answer whether you’re filled with guilt or not.
“Pictures are this week, Cath, and I saved the forms and information for you. You know the first 5x7 is free,” Grandma said as she searched through a stack of papers, pulling out just the right ones.
This was it; I couldn’t put her off any longer. I was going to have to suck it up and either tell her I didn’t want to do it or rearrange heaven and earth to make it happen.
With my jaws clenched, I went through the list of things that needed to be done for these pictures: wash and press clothes, bathe the kids on Wednesday and pray they stay that way, leave work early on Thursday because they will likely need another bath before we go, cancel plans to an event I had promised to attend, figure out what to do with my daughter’s uncontrollable hair, decide how to schedule in her homework that night, and plan a quick and easy dinner.
“Sounds, good Grandma; let’s get signed up.” I did my best to sound excited at the opportunity, but I’m sure she noticed the frustration.
Then I felt bad. I felt ashamed that my willingness to do it was out of guilt for putting her off so long. I was ashamed that I couldn’t be excited or at least hide my guilt a little better.
Here I was worried that my busy life was going to get even busier and even more inconvenient because an old woman wanted pictures of her great-grandkids. After everything my grandmother has done for me – all the times her life was inconvenienced for me – I was getting all flustered over some pictures. So on top of feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, I was feeling guilt and shame.
I accomplished the list of things to make the pictures happen and I toted both kids – freshly bathed and coiffed across town. Just getting my daughters hair to look like something other than a Halloween wig is an Olympic sport. I had a bag full of snacks to keep them occupied if we had to wait, and even managed to wrestle the toddler into a button-up shirt.
As we walked into Grandma’s assisted living facility, I noticed there didn’t seem to be a photo shoot going on anywhere. In fact the sign-up sheet was still sitting out.
My blood pressure began to rise and I instructed both kids (with clenched teeth) to sit quietly on the couch while I figured out what was going on.
I asked at the reception desk, and the woman had no idea what I was talking about. As I tried to decide if I was just crazy, I looked at the sign-up sheet.
I was a week early.
I put on my prettiest smile – the one I hope distracts people from the raging voice in my head – and took my beautiful children by the hand. I tried to squash all negativity as we spent the next hour with Grandma laughing at what a silly mistake I made.
I’d like to say that my laughs were sincere, and that this was one of those times I could honestly just laugh at myself, but I couldn’t help but be reminded that I would have to go through this all over again the next week – hopefully without all the guilt.
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