Ask nicely

Remember the movie A Few Good Men?
It was one of my favorite ‘90’s movies, namely because it was quite quotable.
“You can’t handle the truth” was uttered just about every time I was asked a question that didn’t warrant a response.
But now, over 20 years later, there’s another Jack Nicholson line starting to reverberate in my mind: You’re going to have to ask me nicely.
You may not even remember it. Tom Cruise’s character was leaving the meeting with Jack Nicholson at Gitmo and said he wanted copies of Santiago’s transfer orders.
Nicholson said sure, but – he was going to have to ask him nicely.
Not come down to Gitmo and flash his badge and act like he was entitled to them; Cruise’s character needed to show some respect and courtesy.
A bit of politeness and manners, even if he was requesting them for a legal matter.
Was that too much to ask?
Tom Cruise may have thought so but guess what? He obliged.
I doubt A Few Good Men was meant to be a lesson in manners, but I wish Jack Nicholson would give his little speech to a few people.
Namely – or rather, unnamely, to protect the offenders – a few people who do not have a shred of manners.
People, it seems, have forgotten how to ask nicely.
It used to be that when people needed a favor, they knew how to make their request with polite verbiage and genteel petitions.
Somehow, that act of decorum has been lost.
Now, people request favors through heated demands or acting as if they are the one bestowing the favor by asking for something.
I don’t get it.
I never liked the ‘get more flies with honey’ saying but I do understand you can get a little more common courtesy by being polite.
Whenever I call any customer service number, I always start out being nice. Especially if I am going to ask them to waive something, like a shipping charge.
If I am nice, they tend to want to help me. In fact, there’s been times the charge was something I had overlooked but was waived, simply because I have been cordial and polite.
After dealing with the public most of my adult life, I am keenly aware not everyone had been raised to be polite, but the problem has gotten even more out of hand.
I hate to say it, not because it is cliché, but because it makes me sound old, but the younger generation has really escaped any lessons on how to be polite.
Instead, there is a demanding attitude wrapped in a sense of entitlement.
“I need you to do this and I need it now,” is often the method of request.
No please. Definitely no thank you.
Just a “you need to do this for me now.”
No question of it was do-able, or an inconvenience.
Usually, people didn’t care if they were interrupting something you were already doing.
They wanted something and they were the only one in the universe that mattered.
Guess what? I am not very inclined to do things that are presented in that manner.
When someone is rude and demanding, I am usually not going to prioritize their request.
If they are nice and polite, I am usually more open to helping.
“I think manners needs to be taught in school again,” I told Mama one day. She was all for it.
“What happened?” she asked.
“Nothing unusual. Just an observation. People are so rude now and think the whole world revolves around them and what they want, when they want it. They have no respect or concern for anyone beyond the tip of their nose.”
She could understand. She has dealt with the public for most of her life as well.
Not long after that conversation, I received an email, this one full of a litany of demands and devoid of any courtesy.
I sighed.
I may do it, when I can get to it.
But, first, they’re going to have to ask me nicely.

Love harder

When I became a mom, one of my dearest, life-long friends gave me some advice.

Whatever I did, do it out of love and it would be the best decision for my child.

Those words have guided me and been in my heart for the last 14 years, my frequent gauge as to what I did, how I reacted, and what I said.

Loving our children should be natural – I know it isn’t always for some. Not everyone is nurturing, or expressive with words; some show love in different ways. My Granny was not one who heaped praise or wasted words on endearments, but she loved in a different way.

Mama is the one who loves unconditionally and quietly, not making a big fuss or demanding.

So, love has different modes of delivery when you’re a parent and is cut from different cloth depending on the person.

But love is love and it is supposed to cover a multitude of sins.

It doesn’t always work that way though.

I have heard of people who have turned their backs on their children for various reasons.

Some of those reasons are painful reasons, too.

It is hard for me to imagine because I knew growing up, no matter what I did, no matter how wrong I was, nothing would have separated my Mama’s love from me.

Granny wouldn’t have stopped loving me either, but she would have fussed about whatever I did until Jesus returned.

Nothing I could have done would have made them stop loving me. Sure, they may have been disappointed, and I am sure Mama is still disappointed by some of my choices, but she never stopped loving me.

As a mother, I have said nothing would ever change my love for my child.

I couldn’t foresee there being anything that would make me stop loving him or forsake him.

But let me tell you something, you should never say make such presumptuous statements because you will have a doozy thrown at you to test you.

I had thought of every possible situation my teenager could throw my way and the very one I had not considered was the very one that came up.

I couldn’t grasp it. All the things I had taught my child were discarded and it felt like a personal attack on me since it was a topic I had so verbally expressed my opposition to.

Had he not listened to me?

Did he not care what I believed or thought on this subject?

I was told that it didn’t matter what I believed or thought, it was his beliefs and not mine. He was being tolerant of my beliefs and position, and expected a little tolerance in return.

I was devastated. I was not prepared for this.

I told Mama and she was shocked.

“Oh my,” she said. “Goodness.”

I sought solace in my dearest friends and one lovingly suggested that maybe this was his way of rebelling.

That made sense.

My way of rebelling was wearing Black Sabbath shirts and lots of eyeshadow. I still wear the eyeshadow but have long discarded just about anything related to Ozzy.

My music was the way to rebel against my Mama’s country music. The main thing she was vocal about was my music and her dislike for the loud, headbanging noise she said wasn’t fit for audio consumption.

Was this his way of rebelling against me in the one area that he knew would strike a chord?

“He is trying on different perspectives to find himself,” one friend said, “It’s his way of just seeing if this fits.”

What if it does? I wasn’t sure I could handle it.

“Then, that’s what he is. What does it change?”

It changes that he is not following my way, my path, and the presumption I had that he would be like me in this regard. It meant he was not living up to the expectations I had for his life and the things I had assumed for him.

“Are you going to love him any less?”

“No,” I said. “But I am hurt. Really, deeply hurt. And disappointed.”

“I get that,” she replied. “But he is learning. And maybe this is a time where you love him harder.”

It doesn’t matter what he did.

Just like it doesn’t matter what someone else we love has done that we deem to be a mistake, or some path we wouldn’t necessarily chose for them.

Sometimes, we have to let them make those mistakes and choices and just love them harder through it all.

Always be kind to your mama

Mamas, it seems, can be a sensitive bunch.

Particularly mine.

I don’t remember her being that way when I was younger, but she has become so in recent years.

She claims I am not as compassionate as I could be.

Case in point, she can’t hear most of the time.

I am not sure if it is because of her age that her hearing is declining or it’s because she and my uncle normally have the T.V. volume at some obnoxious level that can probably be heard five miles away.

“What did Cole eat after school?” she will ask.

“He ate two orders of fries,” I said.

She hears: “He was attacked by flies?”

“He ate two orders of fries.”



“No, Mama, he ate two large orders of fries. Fries. Fries!” I am practically yelling by this point, straining for her to hear me.

Mama takes it the other way. “I don’t think you should talk to me that way,” she says, a tone of indignation creeping into her voice.
“I was not talking to you any way. I was talking so you would hear me.”

“You were yelling.”
“Mama, I told you four times he had fries and you didn’t hear me. I had to practically yell, and I still don’t know if you heard me or not.”

She gives me the silent treatment for a few moments. She probably didn’t even hear what I said the last time.

“I am so sorry I cannot hear that well. I am 74 years old, my hearing may not be the best,” she said.

“Mama, you may need to get a hearing aid.”

“I am not getting a hearing aid,” she said. “I don’t need one. I am just not hearing as well. And this phone is not the best. I don’t like it. But you could be a bit nicer and more compassionate. You know, one day you will be old and may need some patience, too.”

I sighed. It wasn’t that I was impatient with her. I just felt like she needed to get her ears checked.

When did her hearing start to decline? Had it been around the time she started going a bit slower when she walked? The woman that worked two jobs after she retired– often getting off work at one job and sleeping a few hours before going into her next job – now found grocery shopping too tiring.

“Why do you get so angry when I can’t hear you?” she asked one day.

“I don’t get angry,” I replied. I don’t.

I get…I am not even sure what I get.

Sad, frustrated, scared – that’s what I get.

My Mama, the crazy redhead, was always able to hear every swear word under my breath as a teen and could live off coffee and nicotine for days. She was the one that would move the biggest mountain standing in the way between her Kitten and whatever I needed to do.

And now, I am fearful as age seems to be creeping up on her.

It scares me. It really does.

“You do get angry,” she insists. “You need to remember I am your mama and you shouldn’t get angry with me.”

I tried explaining I wasn’t angry again, but she had already decided I was. “Did you ever get angry at Granny?” I asked. When all else fails and you can’t win an argument, deflect.

Mama felt silent again.

“Well?” I pressed.

“I didn’t get angry with her; I got frustrated.”

“Uh huh.”

“I did.”
“And, why was that?” I asked. Before I asked the question, I knew the answer.

Mama didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to. Granny refused to get a hearing aid, doing the same Mama had done, and accused her of raising her voice because she wouldn’t hear.

“Didn’t she say you used to yell at her? Simply because she wouldn’t hear well. And you got so frustrated with her.” Hello pot, meet kettle.

“I had a reason; there was nothing wrong with that old woman’s hearing when she wanted to eavesdrop.”

True. Granny could hear a pin drop, or a bag of cookies open when she wanted to; the rest of the time, she exercised selective hearing and tuned us out.

Something I think Mama may do, too, though she denies it.

“You just need to remember one day, you will be old, and you will want Cole to be patient with you,” she said.

Right, I thought.

A few days later, Cole was trying to tell me something and I had to ask him to repeat himself.

Three times.

As he walked away, I heard him take a deep sigh.

And so, it begins.