When I was a girl, I had a terrible relationship with my mother. Truly, it seemed as though she didn't like me, and the only way I could achieve a truce was to do it—everything—her way.
I wanted long hair; she cropped it brutally short. She wanted me to be unfailingly sweet-tempered and respectful; I rose to every provocation. She wanted me to do chores; I wanted to be untethered from anything having to do with home.
In college and beyond, I've mostly been able to do it my way: I wore my hair long and wild; I spoke my mind; I found a (mostly) stay-at-home partner and largely avoided household toil.
So one of the things that get under my skin when I head out for California and my quarterly stint of elder care is a certain sense of defeat. In the end, after all these years, she's won. Cancer has shorn my hair more harshly than her shears, and only a monster would be anything but kind and helpful in the face of her frailty.