It always surprises me when a meltdown strikes, not Mom's, those are like clockwork. I'm talking about my meltdowns.
Let me go back to the beginning.
We were having a quiet beginning to our 4th of July. My youngest and I were having a friendly argument about her choice of clothes to wear to see fireworks tonight. She said her shirt was red. I said, and still say, that it was burgundy. So, we headed to Walmart to buy a cheap red tank top. All was good.
On the way home, I realized that the gas was below a quarter of a tank so I stop to get a few gallons. I didn't feel like filling the tank because it was hot out... 100 degrees at noon. It was hot but not horribly. I am just about through pumping, I only got $20 worth, so maybe 3 minutes at the pump? Katie and Mom are sitting in the car, in the shade, with all the windows down. As I shut off the pump, 2 woman pulled up in front of me and started yelling at me that "she is hot". They point to Mom. I said, "Yes, I'm aware. It's hot for everyone." They said, "Well, she is so hot that she had to tell me. You need to take better care of her." I realize that they aren't being friendly and I ask, "Seriously?" Then the woman leaned over and screamed at me, "You need to help her not stand there and argue with us!"
I was livid. How dare they butt in where they knew nothing of the situation. I wish that I believed they thought they were helping. But, what exactly was my alternative? Run out of gas and sit on the side of the road indefinitely with Mom? Come out earlier in the cool part of the day? The same time that this morning we all finally had gotten to sleep after Mom stayed up until almost 4 am? Should I wait until it cools down in the evening? That's right about the time that Mom starts her paranoia trips.
So, now I'm angry that they didn't think it through at all. How long was Mom sitting there in the heat? Three minutes that she was supervised, that I knew was temporary and with a cold drink? Did I walk away from the car? Was I schmoozing with someone that I ran into? Could I have broken the law and left the motor running and endangered everyone's lives? What should I have done differently?
And, of course, my anger turned to tears. Lots of them. And a major meltdown ensued. The public disapproval reinforced my (and most caregivers') feelings of inadequacy, of not doing enough. No, it's not fair to feel that way. But, a lot of us do. And, public shaming is always a degrading experience.
As I finish this and consider an apt title for this entry, I realize that running on empty represents so much more than today's post.
Image credit: http://morguefile.com/archive/#/?q=gas%20gauge