Grandma has always been a snooper. Even when I was a kid I remember that when she was coming for a visit, Mom would hurry around the house “Grandma-proofing” everything. We knew that given the chance, Grandma would poke through drawers, look at personal correspondence, etc. It was a peculiarity of my Mom’s relationship with her own mother that there was never a confrontation about this behavior, and so, the behavior never changed.
Knowing this (and also knowing that at her age, Grandma is unlikely to change), prior to her moving in I made sure I had a secure and lockable place to put any items that I didn’t want Grandma having access to. I don’t really have anything to hide, but I did put away things like personal paperwork, old letters, books that I thought she might find objectionable, etc. I thought I did a pretty good job of protecting both myself and her from any nasty surprises.
When she got here it quickly became apparent that any pretense of hiding her snooping had gone out the window. She’d walk by me and stop, open a drawer and start going through it. It became sort of a joke between us. I’d ask if she had found anything good. She would then start naming the items she found “nail clippers, paper clip, needle and thread…”…exciting stuff!
One day I was jokingly giving her a hard time about it and she said “Yeeeeaaahh…Old Snoopy…that’s me!”. The name stuck. Now, whenever I catch her snooping I call her “Old Snoopy” and we have a good laugh.
The first summer she was here I often had to work late. One night I got home after dark and she had already gone to bed. I took the opportunity to have a rare few moments at home to myself, opened a beer and headed out to the living room to watch some TV. On my way I noticed some small scraps of paper scattered around the floor. There were bits of paper here and there strewn from the living room to the kitchen.
I thought that maybe she had gotten bored and cut up some paper. No big deal. I was surprised when I opened the cabinet below the sink and found this in the trash:
It was very deliberately arranged and done for maximum effect. While I was away she had methodically torn up and arranged pieces of the David Mamet play “Sexual Perversity in Chicago” in the garbage. My first reaction was to laugh, because it was a pretty ridiculous and artistic thing to do. And how did I miss hiding this play from her, it had SEX in the title!
On the other hand, I was really upset at what this meant. She no longer had any filter telling her that it was wrong to destroy another person’s property. As though on cue, she came out of her bedroom. When she saw me with the garbage can in my hand she stopped. She knew she’d been caught.
Me: “What’s this?”
Grandma: (in her most disapproving voice) “That. Was. NASTY!”
Me: “..So you think it’s ok to destroy my property because you don’t agree with what it says?”
Grandma: “It was filthy”
Me: “And I’m sure you read it cover to cover just to be sure…”
Me: “You think that gives you the right to destroy it? It was MINE. You destroyed MY property”.
Grandma: “…It was filthy..?”
Me: “Yes. It’s a filthy play full of adult themes and foul language. That’s the point. It was also mine. If you disagree with anything you find in my house you have two choices: Talk to me about it like an adult, or ignore it. Destroying my property is not an option”.
Grandma: (after a long pause) “…I didn’t think about it as being your property…it disgusted me so I destroyed it”
Me: “…but you understand that you can’t do that anymore?”
Grandma: “Yes. Sorry”.
I gave her a hug and told her it was ok. We then had a good laugh about Old Snoopy becoming destructive. It seems less harsh if it becomes “Old Snoopy” instead of “you”.
Shortly after this happened I got permission from the Department of Social and Health Services to have home health come in several days a week. In addition to making sure that Grandma gets her meds and lunch every day there is someone around to help keep this type of destructive behavior from repeating itself.
Yesterday, I caught Grandma snooping through my work folders when I returned from a quick trip to the store. I asked if she found anything interesting…She said she didn’t understand what it all was, but there sure was a lot of it! Today she tried to send Jackie (our home health aide) away. Grandma says she doesn’t need “grandma sitting”.
No, Grandma, you don’t. But Old Snoopy? Old Snoopy can’t be trusted…