When I first moved to Boston – just after the Red Sox had won the pennant and lost the Series – I lived in a duplex underneath the landlord who was in her 80’s and worried. It felt safe every night to sleep with my two young children because Mrs. Felton paced room to room upstairs all night long looking for trouble.
We did enjoy each others company and often she would ask me for help with some household thing. One time she complained to me how hard it was to light her gas broiler. She had one of those inconvenient ones at the bottom of the oven, a separate place to open that had to be lit at its top.
Kneeling down and then bending her body up to see the little hole where the match had to go was a hardship for her and staying there to make sure it was lit was further insult. It was for me too but I was 22.
I quickly showed her that if she put tin foil on the bottom of the boiler she could see the reflection and would only have to stoop to light, not twist to check the flame.
I remind myself that I was 22 and perhaps too quick about the whole thing but I could see her not wanting it to get better. I could see her wanting the problem to go away and yet being unwilling to do anything about it.
Since then I have witnessed my own process and that of so many others and I have always remembered that moment when a solution was discarded. Could I have said it better? Could she have been eased? Would she?