It is a small compliment to the legal profession that its practitioners are learned in the art of taradiddle, the underhanded capacity to twist words to achieve a desired result. Certainly the ability is honoured by those who are the subject of litigious proceedings but otherwise seldom does the transgression acquire the flavour of skill over cunning. Nonetheless the technique (or, if you must, the duplicity) is a useful artifice when dealing with those who mistakenly insist upon their own propriety in the face of contrary rationality. I am thinking of my recent dealings with my elderly mother whose grasp of things is daily declining but who nevertheless persists in imagining that she alone holds the reins of control over her affairs and destiny.
In an attempt to deal tactfully with what amounts to contradiction of my mother, I excuse the so-called “little white lies” on the theory that while they disguise the facts they importantly blunt their thrust. Like it or not the frozen truth is not something everyone prefers to know. Where some window dressing adequately lends the appearance of pleasantness to rebuttal I hardly think it an offence to dilute the candour accordingly.
A common example of my deceit is that associated with the cost of services. For someone like my mother who is almost a century old the current cost of everything is under constant attack. If she were to know the precise amount spent for her care, nourishment and residency she would be in a state of utter disbelief. The glaring exception to this broad observation is the amount she eagerly expends on Sisley make-up from Holt Renfrew but that largesse she dismisses as an imperative.
Another occasion which commands less than condemning truth is that associated with the state of my mother’s house which is for sale now that she has (against her relentless objections) moved to a retirement residence. The house has an unmistakeable odour of tobacco, the unwanted product of my mother having smoked cigarettes inside the house. The stench permeates the remaining household fabrics (curtains, sheers) and even the interior wooden features of the structure. It was so bad that the plastic bags mother kept in her kitchen closet smelled of smoke. Whenever we visited my mother we routinely washed our clothes afterwards to rid ourselves of the lingering infection. The realtor has frequently commented upon the contamination as a detriment to the market value of the place. Another drawback is the age of the house. While the systems and out-fittings of the house are generally workable and liveable, after fifty years some updating is in order. Again my mother is in denial on that point and she resists any attempt to suppress the appeal and price of the house on that basis. It is for this reason among others that I seemingly collaborate with mother whenever she rants about “not selling unless I get my price”. I manage to appear cooperative on the point without sanctioning the assertion. I am supported in my obfuscation by the fact that “my price” is in fact over the list price and even beyond the spread suggested by two independent appraisals. I reckon that if she can be so obviously carefree with her details I am entitled to a degree of indiscretion as well.
Normally the subterfuge which I practice on my mother is harmless and without any substantive repercussion. However in the past twenty-four hours I came close to being caught off-base and risked being exposed. Without having given adequate consideration to my mother’s most recent request for attendance at her bank to view the contents of her safe deposit box, I unwittingly agreed to take her there this morning. I forgot that mother invariably wanders to the teller’s wicket to update her savings account passbook. And I speculated that she would at the same time make enquiry about the balance of her chequing account. Lately I have misled my mother about the balance of her accounts because of the many expenses she has incurred to effect the move to the retirement residence and to pay her initial residency fees. I had anticipated that the dwindling bank balances would be adequately replenished by the amount of the mandatory annual RRIF withdrawal which I had orchestrated with her financial advisor. I overlooked that the deposit was scheduled to be made on the very morning of our visit to the bank. As of last evening, when the pressing nature of the matter dawned upon me, there was no evidence in her RRIF account that anything had been withdrawn nor in her bank account that anything had been deposited. I went into a moderate state of panic reminiscent of what a child experiences when discovered in corpus delicti.
Overnight I began contriving plans to cover my tracks. I had to date accommodated my devious secrecy about my mother’s affairs by acquiescing to her blatant distortion of the numbers relating to her moving and residency costs. But I could see it would be a challenge to explain an account of $9,000 which she had estimated between $900 – 950.
In keeping with the proven philosophy that a blizzard of information can succeed to baffle almost anyone, I determined to provide my mother with precisely what she wanted but in far greater detail than she might have anticipated receiving. Technically I would be coming clean but my hope was that the barrage of information would cloud the absorption of it. Thus I proceeded to print the last thirty days’ transactions for her chequing account, savings account, RRIF accounts and investment account. In the end the collection amounted to reams of paper.
I would have been less than hopeful that the tactic would work had I not discovered mere moments before my departure that the large deposit from the RRIF account had successfully made its way into my mother’s chequing account. Now I was armed not only with quantity of paper but also the charm of numbers to decorate the presentation! And when as anticipated my mother questioned the balance of her accounts, I produced a succession of papers which heralded the significant balances and effectively minimized the importance of the numerous debits to the accounts. Some selective distraction proved useful to divert attention from in-depth enquiry upon any particular entry.
It is imperative to keep in mind when digesting these nefarious particulars that there is nothing inherently wrong with the truth of any of the facts other than that my mother imagines the truth to be otherwise. It is only my effort to shelter her from the abrasion of the truth that prevents me from wanting to share it with her. For example, her residency fees are far greater than she imagines but it is an expense which she can comfortably sustain and it is not an expense to which she is not entitled. So while I came dangerously close to having to shake her to the foundation with the disturbing reality of her circumstances, I was happily spared the confrontation and no one is worse for it. Besides no matter how annoyingly candid one might be, nothing will change. Far better to turn a blind eye and indulge in a bit of taradiddle. Phew! That was close!