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I’m very fond of saying, “No one ever went to her grave wishing she’d cleaned more.” I’m generally thinking about dusting, a task I hate. I clean kitchen and bathrooms regularly. Dusting? There have to be dust elephants, not bunnies, before I’m motivated.

Recently, I shared this saying in a group that included my daughter-in-law. Everyone’s head nodded in agreement, except hers. Her face was a study in puzzlement, then she said, “I’m not so sure about that.”

My relationship with my daughter-in-law has always been a struggle, I assume for both of us, not just me. She tries. I try. I suspect each of us tries too hard. But the essence of our challenge became clearer to me over this brief exchange about dust. She is a minimalist and an obsessive cleaner. When I know she’s coming over, which isn’t often, I get obsessive, too. Those dust bunnies become elephants in the split second after I find out she’s coming and I engage in an orgy of cleaning unlike any cleaning I do at any other time.

But, in fact, I wish I could share some of her obsession in the hope that it would draw us closer, that perhaps we might enjoy a cleaning session together. Anything together, in fact. Our views of the world are so different, they are dusty to each other. I can’t see through the dust to an understanding of her perspectives. It’s easy to see our different attitudes about dust and cleaning. Not so easy to see beyond that.

Despite understanding her perspectives on dusting, I don’t understand our other differences, which remain unspoken and misunderstood. It’s not that we disagree about everything. It think she and my son are doing a good job raising their son (my grandson). They are tech people and they don’t emphasize tech with him any more than the fact that they are always poking at their phones and I suspect he’ll pick that up from their example when he’s old enough to have a phone (he’s six now). I am pleased that they haven’t given him a phone yet and don’t allow him to poke their phones.

So, our differences lie elsewhere, somewhere in the murky dust of our relationship. My secret wish is that she’d come over to my house when I’m not here and indulge herself by cleaning it. But that’s just the surface. What lies underneath remains obscured by dust elephants.

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