“Can you still juggle?” I asked Helen the other day.
She picked up three somethings — I don’t remember what they were — pom-poms or apples or Easter eggs — and juggled them quite handily.
I’ve seen her do it before. We have a video of it. As she focuses on juggling golf balls, she keeps her eyes on them and her mouth is wide open.
Like a ukulele player who presses his lips together or sticks his tongue out to the side while playing.
We aren’t all professional.
When jugglers juggle they have to focus, and something else may fall by the wayside in order to keep the balls in the air.
I guess I’m back at imperfection.
This is supposed to be about my mother.
My mother was most at home in the kitchen. She cooked for our family, for her church family, for special occasions, and for the every day. Huge spreads. Humble soups. Everything always delicious. (Except the beef heart. And the lamb burgers.)
Her juggling took place in the kitchen. She had an amazing talent for getting all the food on the table piping hot for us to enjoy. Her timing was perfect.
I, on the other hand, serve lukewarm green beans with hot meatloaf and cold potatoes. I forget to heat the plates the way that my mother did. I can’t get people to the table on time. I have not yet figured out the art of juggling many food dishes in the kitchen.
When my mother began struggling in the kitchen, we should have seen it for it was, a sign of dementia. She couldn’t keep all the balls in the air anymore. She called me for help more and more.
And I was resentful.
Unsympathetic and unaware that she was moving into a strange vortex that left her confused in the kitchen.
“You make such good scalloped potatoes,” she called one day to tell me. “Could you make some for Dad and me? We have company coming tonight.”
I bristled inside. I was home with seven or eight children, tired, frustrated — and honestly, the last thing I wanted to do was make scalloped potatoes for my mother so she could go golfing and still have a nice dinner to serve her guests.
But I did it.
In retrospect, I think she was worried about her cooking — and how sad that is for me to realize today!
But she had dropped one of the balls she was juggling and asked me to help pick it up.
If only I had known. If only I had understood better in those early days.
People — be patient and kind. Don’t mock the open mouth of someone keeping the balls in the air.
We’re all juggling something.
And we all drop balls.
We all need help, not criticism.