The Dick Whisperer
A good friend of mine, who happens to be male, recently said something about me that could be taken one of two ways. After reading this story, please let me know which way you would take it…
My name is Adrienne, and I am an introvert. This part is important, so don’t forget it! There are plenty of people out there who identify as introverts, but I am firmly on the extremely introverted side of the introvert/extrovert continuum.
Just how introverted am I, you might ask.
Introverted enough to have stopped talking for two months straight while in junior high. Didn’t talk to friends, didn’t talk in school, didn’t talk to my family, didn’t even talk to myself. The only reason I started talking again was because some nosy, but well-meaning, teacher noticed my silence and called a social worker. I was then faced with talking to a child therapist to prove I wasn’t “crazy” or being committed to the regional center for disturbed children. I’m smart, so obviously I talked after that. What were my reasons for shutting down all communications? I won’t say—ever. That’s how introverted I am.
Now, on with the story…
My good friend Robert has been going through some very difficult times in his life. He was the sole caretaker for his 95yr old grandmother until last year when she had to be admitted to a nursing home. During this process, his family has devalued his work in caring for his grandmother. They said some pretty insulting things about him being too “lazy” to get a real job (he works part-time as a massage therapist), but they were totally okay with never being the one who had to change Grandma’s adult diaper, feed her, keep her company, or take her to the doctor. What Robert did for his grandmother was more than a full time job, so his family’s attitude has been hurtful, infuriating, and just plain wrong.
Now, Robert’s mother is on the edge of losing her independence. She’s in her 70’s and has battled a serious case of rheumatoid arthritis. Lately, she has been needing much more outside help to get to the doctor and take her meds properly. At this time, no one in the family has taken direct responsibility for her care, but Robert is often the first one on the scene to help her. If she falls, the life alert calls him first. He picks her up within minutes and gives her whatever care she needs. He is the only one who checks daily, multiple times per day actually, that she is eating properly, feels well, and that her emotional health is still okay. Yes, Robert is a natural at caring for sick people.
The problem with his mother comes in when Robert tells his family that he doesn’t want to go through the same things he went through with Grandma. He doesn’t want to argue about care and constantly have to deal with insults and divisiveness from his brothers, neither of whom know anything about elder care or all the legal affairs that must be “in order” to make a more peaceful transition. He wants the family to be united, so that his mom can have what she needs going forward, whether it be a plan to transition into an assisted living facility, or a plan for a family member (most likely Robert) to be in charge of her care.
This idea has been met with vehement resistance, because the younger brother, the uninformed brother, just doesn’t understand why being prepared and proactive is important. Robert’s suggestion was to set up a meeting with an elder care lawyer, so that the family can hear a professional explain the ins and outs of all the legal paperwork and estate planning that should be done. Robert’s brothers and mother would be present for this meeting, and after they have been informed on all options, Robert’s mom will chose the one most comfortable for her.
Why is this such a problem?
Because the younger brother is uninformed, yet he wants to run the show without having talked to one social worker on the issue. Robert has talked to multiple social workers, lawyers, professionals who work in the nursing homes, and directors of programs geared for elder care. Yet, the uninformed brother expects Robert to just drop the issue and do whatever uninformed thing seems most comfortable to him.
I’ve been present during most of these meetings, because Robert trusts my ability to listen. I take notes for him, and then we talk about the best and most gentle way to discuss the issue with his mother. This is not easy. I have also been present during discussions with his uninformed brother. These discussions are almost always contentious at best, but Robert finds my presence to be soothing, and he thinks I bring balance to difficult situations.
Because I’m an introvert, and his family are all extroverts. He thinks my calm perspective is valuable.
He asked me to be present during the meeting with the elder care lawyer, his brothers, and his mom, but his uninformed brother balked at having me there. I overheard their entire conversation yesterday. I was sitting in a chair, minding my own introvert business at the time. Besides me and Robert, there were two other people in the room. Robert’s two best friends, Ike and Adam, were there to watch a ball game, but the angry call from the uninformed brother interrupted the game. I should mention that Robert, Ike, and Adam are all men in their mid-forties. All three of them work out, and are what I would describe as fitness buffs. They spend a lot of time talking about working out, building muscle, and sports. They are far from simple minded, but they aren’t as intellectual and introverted as I am. They find my quiet amusing.
Here’s how the conversation with the uninformed brother went:
“Look, Bro, I still don’t see why Adrienne has to be there!” Uninformed Brother shouted.
“Dude, it’s because Mom is a girl! Man, mom’s sensitive and this shit might overwhelm her. Adrienne needs to be there because she speaks Mom’s language. She can explain this in a girl way that won’t upset Mom!” Robert responded in a loud angry tone. He was clearly frustrated with his brother.
“Man! This stuff with Grandma is difficult enough. I’m trying to tell you that I don’t think any of this is necessary. Mom’s not going to end up in a nursing home, blah blah blah blah…”
Robert interrupted Uninformed Brother with a, “Look Bro, Mom needs Adrienne to come along, because you keep giving her a hard time. Adrienne can listen to you and me rant about this and then figure out how to word a question perfectly, and I’ll be like, yeah, that’s what I wanted to ask! Bro, Adrienne is like the dick whisperer!”
Wait…! I’m the what??
I looked up and saw Adam, the other extrovert in the room, trying to hold back laughter. He looked like he was choking on his own tongue from trying so hard. Ike, the other introvert, couldn’t hold back his reaction either. Ike actually snickered a little, but he looked very uncomfortable about finding my discomfort funny…typical introvert reaction. They both looked at me as I covered my face.
As soon as the call ended, we all had a good laugh.
Robert realized what he’d said in the heat of the moment, and told me, “That didn’t come out right. What I meant was dick whisperer, like jerk whisperer.”
That didn’t end the laughter of course.
I may now be known as DW within this little circle of friends…sigh.