I screwed up. Not that I don't do that fairly often, but this was a big one. Last night I was having my regularly scheduled phone conversation with my father, who is 83. (Yes - he schedules such things and one must account for being absent or unavailable at the appointed time. Groan.)
Anyway, I started the conversation by asking how his Easter was. My younger sister and her family had gone to visit him, and they had a nice time. He loves to cook and made a great dinner with both turkey and ham. (I haven't heard her report on the day yet, so I imagine I have somehow displeased her. She usually calls or writes me when she returns home to tell me how it went. Ahhh, my family can be such "fun". )
Then he asks me if I got my Easter lily. Hmmm, scratching my head, and wondering what Easter lily he's referring to... "I got your pretty Easter card and the $20 in it", I said cheerily. "We really enjoyed the Easter buffet, thank you!" (Each year my father sends cash with his Thanksgiving and Easter cards which he designates to be used toward our dinner.) "I didn't get an Easter lily though??"
"What?!" he sputtered. "You didn't use the money to buy an Easter lily?" I could sense his blood pressure rising and I was totally confused.
"What are you talking about, Dad?" I asked.
"I wrote in the card that you were to use the money to buy an Easter lily and then whatever was left over should go toward your dinner. Didn't you read the card?"
My mind drew a total blank as I struggled to remember what the card had said. I recalled the picture on the front - a purple background with a beautiful cross and lily. Surely I'd read it, what did he write?
"Go and get it and read it", he demanded. Well.... I couldn't because it was somewhere in the stack of clutter on my counter.
"I'll check it in a little while, Dad", I said. "I'm sorry if I misunderstood what you wanted."
"I think you intentionally forgot what I said to do so you could spend all the money for dinner," he accused.
Oh, Lord, here we go again. "We have enough money to eat dinner out, Dad" I said, "it's just that you always say to use it for dinner, so I guess I must have misread the card or forgot what it said."
"Well you find it and read it and let me know what it said next week when I call!" he blustered.
"Ok, I will Dad" I said, feeling very blindsided by the whole thing. He's never sent money for anything other than eating out before. The rest of our visit was shaded by his unhappiness with me, making it very clear that I had once again disappointed him. Story of my life.
As soon as I hung up I dug thru the pile on my counter for the blessed Easter card. Sure enough - in it he clearly wrote that I was to buy an Easter lily for our home, and use any remaining money for our dinner. He had instructed my two sisters to do the same, and he had placed one on the alter at church in memory of my Mom. (His church does that each Easter.) It was a really nice sentiment and I was touched. I could understand his disappointment. Both of my sisters has followed thru and I blew it. Always me, just as he has come to expect. And then I felt really bad.
No real way to undo this one, just apologize, as I did, and wait for it to blow over. I'm still wondering how I could have missed that in the card. Didn't I read it?? Surely I did. Did I just space it out? Very possible, I have at least a hundred things on my mind right now and I am so forgetful. But of course this is implausible to him, even though he is forgetful too. So I guess I'll just take the rap of doing it intentionally or whatever he wants to believe. Sometimes you can't win for trying. SIGH
If these fun little encounters serve any purpose it's to remind me NEVER, EVER to lay guilt trips on my children. The burden of trying to please parents can be immensely heavy. My kids already know how proud I am of them, how much I respect the people they've become, and how much they are loved. I don't care if they screw up now and then, we all do.