“Hollee”, my grandmother says gently, “Is Danielle okay?” I knew just what she meant.
Living with my Dad has its own special challenges. Most of which I have successfully mastered by flying low and taking up as little space as possible. This, in and of itself, is quite a feat with a daughter who is larger than life. Danielle is colorful and loud and talkative and messy. None of which work consistently well on the road named for my forbearers–a quiet people who keep everything inside. Don’t ask, don’t tell. I’m playing with fire by even writing about this.
My Dad was in the military and worked in a highly technical job in a laboratory. Perhaps this is a contributor to his over the edge disposition on cleanliness and order. He has lived alone for decades and likes nice things in pristine condition. Knowing this, my mom begged me to dust and sweep and mop, which I have done.
I find myself tiptoeing around all the artifacts in here while pretending like it’s the most natural thing in the world for me to do so. There are huge citation fish, stuffed owls, and deer antlers on the walls. Glass objects, model houses and boats sit squarely on tables and everything has a place. One particular place. Just one.
My daughter and I have done well here. Nothing has been broken or has fallen or been misplaced. We wash dishes immediately after using them and recycle everything (and I mean everything-as in virtually nothing goes to waste). Yes, we should live in an orderly environment but this level of order is exhausting physically and mentally. I am grateful to have a beautiful home to live in but sometimes, I just cry because of the burden of the expectations.
A few days ago, I was admonished to sweep the fringes on the rugs. This simple request was meted out in a matter-of-fact manner with an angry tone that hinted of a detrimental inattention to detail. So now, I walk around careful not to step on the fringes because I cannot bear the added chore of using the tiny broom and putting it back each time I use it. A little thing that is a big thing.
I try to intervene for Danielle’ every chance I get but I was off guard last night as she and I joked around in her room. My dad admonished her to cut off the lights when she leaves a room. A simple request. One that she would happily agree to given her ‘save the world’ philosophy on just about everything. But the request was said with all the 1940s ‘this is my castle’ authority of an adult to a child. His tone was totally uncalled for and I felt so helpless in the moment because if I intervened, then it would have surely made the situation worse.
The easiest thing to do in the moment is just to hope that the chastisement won’t be too mean or last too long. After the episode (as we now call them), I said to her “Don’t worry about it. When we get our own house, we are going to run around turning on all the lights. The house will be lit up like a Christmas tree. We can even flick them on and off like this (flicking the bathroom light quickly). She and I had a good laugh with hands covering mouths.
I gave her a kiss goodnight and then wondered about how much more cover up I can do. How many more times can we laugh this off.