Just before I left to spend two weeks in England with my 81 year old mum, and my brother Robert, I joked with friends about Robert and said that I expected we would drive each other slightly crazy while I was there. What I see as my free, simple and uncomplicated approach to life, would collide with his methodical, careful ways.
Like last year, when he had given me a key to use while in England, and then suggested I leave it at home when I went out for a walk in case I lost it! Although I saw the funny side of that afterwards, I didn't at the time.
When I tried to give him a break from cooking one night and made spaghetti sauce, Robert had been aghast at the fact that I used onions. The smell of cooking onions, he said, is absorbed into every fabric surface in the house and lingers for a very long time; and worse, he told me, you just can’t get the terrible smell out of your clothes. Yes, they would smell for days, or longer. And to think that for so many years I had been blissfully adding onions to almost every dish I cooked
My dear brother reminds me of “Bob” in one of my favourite movies, What About Bob, starring Bill Murray. He has a decidedly obsessive-compulsive streak—in my opinion.
I laughingly said to my friends that it was a result of our childhood, which like that of so many others was difficult. But, I explained to them, it had affected him more than me.
My friend Magda caught my words and tossed them back to me with gentle humour and provocative insight. “Let’s just say, Belinda, that it affected you both differently."
Her words humbled me, and on the way home I reflected on how arrogant I must have sounded, but worse, I realized that my words reflected my heart.
This year Robert didn’t give me a key at all. I used the key safe outside the door and the extra minute this took didn’t bother me one bit.
I also realized that when in England I am entering his space and I determined to treat it with respect. I stayed out of his kitchen unless asked for help—and, when needed, I stepped in with the help Robert asked for, in the way he wanted.
Suddenly I see that his routines and patterns are his, as much as my ways are mine. It was so disrespectful to laugh at them. So many of his revolve around our mum. She benefits tremendously from the level of care Robert gives her. It maintains her health and well-being and I am so grateful. Without him, she would be so vulnerable.
This year we hardly irritated each other--I'm not sure of my effect on him! Perhaps I am finally growing up. He couldn’t resist bringing up that onion thing again though. I’m counting on my friends to tell me if there is an odour I should be aware of, because the onions are staying!
John 16: 33 NIV
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.