just a bowl of oatmeal

December 26, 2004

To my shame, I was impatient this morning. As I tried to figure out how to correctly prepare Mamie’s breakfast, I grew frustrated, and thought, “Oh, why does it matter so much whether it’s made exactly the way Mom does it–it’s just a bowl of oatmeal!” But then I was ashamed. Of course, it is not just a bowl of oatmeal. It is Mamie’s routine, and her routine is all she has left in this life.

And I knew that I was terribly wrong to be so selfishly earth-bound in my way of thinking. Mamie is my step-father’s mother, and she has not been blessed with the ageless vigor my own grandparents seem to have. She is losing her mental facilities, rapidly now, and her movement is limited to a slow shuffle from the bedroom to her chair to the kichen, and to the bathroom. Mom and Lou have cared for her in the home for almost 6 years now, since they married, and she does indeed require constant care.

So, this morning, once Mom and Lou were both at work and the boys were heading out the door, it was discovered that none of us here knew how to prepare her breakfast the way it was always done. Mom tried to tell me over the phone, in between customers at work, and from her hurried instructions I fumbled through it.

And that is how I came to my morning lesson of being more mindful to be gracious in allowing for other people’s routines, no matter how inconsequential they may seem from my own limited perspective. The truth is, of course, that we all need our routines, some of us clinging to them more than others, but all alike in our need to some sort of daily order and expectedness to our lives. So, for Mamie, this means a large bowl of stove-cooked oatmeal–2 servings with a spoonful of sugar, a spoonful of honey, and a dash of milk–and on the side, the blue cup with a spoonful of French Vanilla Carnation instant breakfast mized with a half cup of water, and the yellow cup with a spoonful of Citrucel mixed into a half cup of water, each with a flexi-straw.

And for me, that meant an Amelia Bedelia moment. You see, as Mom was instructing me, I thought, now why-ever does it matter which cup is used to mix what? I did not initially catch the fact that each side cup was separate, and so mixed both the instant breakfast and the Citrucel in with the oatmeal. She did not notice in the taste of it, but she did, after a moment, ask about her “milk.” “There’s something else too, she normally gives me, and I can’t remember what . . .”

That was when my cheeks flushed with the realization of my error. I knew better than to try to remedy the situation with another spoonful of Citrucel, this time mixed with water. So, I did the best I could, and gave Mamie the blue cup with instant breakfast–her “milk.” She was satisfied with that, and contentedly ate the remainder of her oatmeal, sipping her cup of milk.

In the end, Mamie got an extra spoonful of instant breakfast this morning and I got a dose of humility and, hopefully, an extra portion of lasting patience.

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