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Thursday, June 16, 2011

How's your filter?

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My grandmother has Alzheimer's disease. She's living in a nursing home right now. And while Alzheimer's is a sad disease, it has brought some funny moments. It seems that Grandma's filter is gone now. You know, that filter that stops you from saying things that might be inappropriate or at least better left unsaid.

Last weekend a nurse offered Grandma a chocolate milkshake. She took it, sucked it right down, and declared, "That was better than sex!"

To which the nurse responded, "It would be pretty hard for you to say that, considering you had 13 kids!"

We've laughed and said Grandma has probably been thinking these things her whole life and is only know actually saying them out loud. Whether it's a result of her disease or she figures at 87 years old, she's earned it, only Grandma knows.

Little kids have to be taught to use their filters. I remember once when Annie was about 3 or 4 years old. I was holding a friend's new baby. Annie came over and I said, "Look Annie. Isn't she cute?"

Annie matter-of-factly replied, "Eh. Kind of cute. Kind of ugly" and ran off to play, leaving me mortified and stammering for an appropriate apology.

Has your kid ever asked someone, regardless of gender, when the baby was going to come out of their belly? And the person. was. not. pregnant.

There are days I really wish my filter was broken. When I would like to just let loose whatever sentiment comes to mind, regardless of to whom it is directed and how it might affect them. Facebook seems to be the corner coffee shop of those with broken filters. Like the inability to see the reaction on someone's face somehow absolves the "speaker" from the consequences of what they've just put out there.

Sometimes I think a filter leak is a good thing. It gets people's attention, maybe wakes them up to something they've not been able to see before. But mostly, I trust my filter to keep me in the "treat others as I want to be treated" mode. 

Remember "You've Got Mail?" Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) had no filter and often regretted it. Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) had a broad filter and often felt frustrated by it. I suppose the secret to these filters is, like everything else in life, balance.

So how's your filter? Do you say what you want when you want to? Or do you bite your tongue as a matter of etiquette and good will?

7 comments:

Mediakath said...

One of the best things I did as a parent was keep a journal of things the kids said like "Grammy can't eat dessert...she has diarrhea" (meaning diabetes)and older sister looking at baby brother, "Wow! He has a little peanut, but (gesturing) Daddy has a BIG peanut!" (that one had hubby strutting around for days)...

Beth Zimmerman said...

I bite my tongue most of the time. Though I have been known to describe things as "better than sex"! I agree with your FB observation. Too many people turn loose of all their inhibitions and say whatever pops into their heads.

Great post!

Christy@WickedHappy said...

Thanks for this post. It made my day! My almost three year old is definitely filter-free, and we have already stammered through our share of awkward apologies. Thanks for the reminder that we all end up dealing with it in one way or the other, and that it's not the end of the world. :)

Stacy Lynn said...

I'm currently dealing with two aunts, both 86 and both named Peg (one is hubby's and one is mine), and both saying exactly what's on their minds. Sometimes it's funny and sometimes the timing makes you want to crawl in a hole.

One aunt gleefully announcing to my daughter and I that "We have queers here (meaning the nursing home). I thought she was bad-mouthing the staff again. Turns out she was talking about two little old ladies who have, uh, found each other. That was kind of funny.

The other aunt, upon being handed a chocolate cookie with a smiley face by a darker-skinned child at church, complained about being given a "black" one (our church is very ethnically diverse). This aunt tends to treat our dark-skinned Filipino friend, who is a doctor, like the hired help...ordering them to get her coffee and such. I could die, but they write it off as her age and humor her.

The "filter" used to work very well for the one. The other never learned to use hers.

Ellen Stewart (aka Ellie/El/e/Mrs. Seaman) said...

My gram's Alzheimer's had her telling the truth in a skewed way. She told my mom, "There's a place you can go here and take any clothes you want!" My mom was worried gram was stealing,so she asked to see the place. It was my gramma's own closet...

As for my filter, well I need to engage it more. I am constantly putting my foot in my mouth!

Joanie said...

My filter is pretty strong. I keep my mouth shut when I know I should speak my mind. I wish I could just say what I want sometimes.

Lana said...

I think with age comes wisdom. As a teacher, I needed a big filter, but every once in a while I would let a few words out. Like instead of asking for a volunteer, assigning the part of Hamlet on a certain day, knowing he/she would blindly turn a page and read the first line at the top of the next, "Oh what an ass am I!"

I am not quite as worried about the opinion of others when I do see an injustice or cause I want to support. If they don't like what I have to say, they can file it appropriately, BUT I still pick my battles with care. I, too, still have quite a bit of faith in the Golden Rule, especially with our girls watching and listening.