Exaggeration

I am prone to understatement, in most situations, and I think it’s because my mom is prone to hyperbole. An actual interaction from last night:

Me: “You’re online with your desktop, finally.” (we didn’t bring all the cables to her computer when we moved, or if we did, she hasn’t unpacked them [don’t get me started]. I’ve gone out and bought another one, but she put it somewhere and we couldn’t find it, and so I’ve had to replace it again, so I can upgrade her computer before Microsoft stops giving away Windows 10 later this week. In the meanwhile, she’s been using a spare laptop I had, and has had everything she’s needed— access to the internet for email, voicemail, and games.

Mom: “Oh, thank you! I’ve done without for so long. I’ve wondered what it would be like if I ever got up and running again!” (I promise you, there was no sarcasm, here.)

Now, you can say that she was just being effusive in her thanks and I shouldn’t hear criticism for not fixing it sooner, here. And you might be right. But I’m her daughter and we hear criticism from our mothers whether we should or not. Also, perspective? While she doesn’t like the laptop (smaller keyboard, no mouse, though I offered to wire up her mouse to the laptop, etc., and she declined), she had complete access to what she needed, and she’s gone to not one ounce of trouble to resolve this (she has a computer technician she used to call and she could have called him to resolve this at any point in the last 11 months. And it has not, apparently, troubled her sufficiently to do that, just enough to complain loud and long.)

Later, she waxed eloquent about how she was afflicted by things like writing an email on the laptop and having the cursor move and place text oddly. It’s not that I haven’t had that happen to me before or that I am not bothered by it, but on a scale from mild paper-cut to being strapped to a rock and having your liver repeatedly eaten by birds, I feel like it should fall much, much closer to the former than the latter. Annoyed and irritated are valid and useful emotions, but they are not the same as tortured. Modified access is not the same as denied access.

Somehow, I can see that, for her, turning the emotional heat up is supposed to help this situation, but honestly, it just makes me resistant. Why set up the laptop for her at all, if she’s not going to appreciate it? Why buy the cord at all, if she’s just looking for something to complain about? There’s plenty to do, and she’s going to find plenty to complain about in my upgrading her from one system to another. Even when her technician was helping her (reminder: I’m all for [either of us, but in this case her] paying people to do things I don’t have time/don’t want to do), she repeatedly talked about how she wanted to throw the computer out the window, it frustrated her so.

It might be germane to say that she hasn’t had to pay for a computer since 2001, because I’ve gotten her rebuilt computers from work for free for the last several years. I also gave her the first word processor/computer with email that she ever had, pre-2001, starting a stream of forwards and Snopes-unverified rumors and half-truths that have continued to this very day. You’re welcome, world! So the thousands of hours of solitaire-playing and email chatting she has done excepting the one computer my dad bought her in ’01 and the access extended by relatives when she travels is all on a charitable grant from yours truly.

I think what would make me feel better about things is if she treated little things like they were little things. Because she treats little things like they’re big things, and sometimes treats big things like they’re smaller than they are (I have a blanket policy that says if she thinks she needs a doctor, I offer to take her to the ER on the spot because she’s deeply underplayed peritonitis and a heart attack on my siblings and I’m terrified I’ll miss the opportunity to save her life when it presents itself), it’s like everything is distorted and I can’t see the true dimensions of anything. Is it a thing or is she trying to tell a better story? Is it a thing or is she trying to push my emotional buttons?

It bears saying that, as with so many things in life, this is also one of her best qualities, in proper context. She can take a little victory and turn it into a ticker-tape parade, and especially for the kids in her life, this is the best thing ever. It just gets hard out of that context.

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