Before I turn the key, I say, “Mom, want to put on your seatbelt?”
“What?” She has a sweet, vague look on her face.
“Your seat belt. You’ll need to put it on.”
I reach over her and drag down the seat belt. She nods and pulls it forward, towards the buckle. But she looses momentum and the belt slides back into oblivion. Now I have to unbuckle my own seat belt, stretch up and pull my mother’s seat belt forward again. This time I snap it in myself.
“How is work?” Mom says, when we are underway.
“It’s fine. I have an interesting new editing job, working on a romance novel.”
I stop at a red light and she asks, “How’s work?”
I grip the steering wheel but keep my voice calm. “Fine. I’m editing a romance novel.”
Three minutes later, she asks again. That’s when I realize; this is a great opportunity for me to exercise creativity. Having imposed limitations can be a catalyst for creative thinking. I set myself a challenge: How can I give my mother a new and truthful answer every time she asks me this question?
“How is work?”
“I am really enjoying reading this romance novel set in the early 20th century and figuring out how to make the characters more believable,” I say.
She smiles. I smile. Now that I’m viewing mom’s repetition as a trigger for my own creativity, I feel lighter, more open and loving. My mind is dancing about, constructing a new and interesting answer. Now I am eager for my mom to ask me again and again, so I can share interesting information with my mother while expanding my art of creative expression
Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.