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Thursday, October 12, 2006

I usually wait until something funny happens or at least until a few funny things happen before I submit a post. I am submitting this one – not because it is especially funny but because I want to.

We spend a good 18 years with our parents. From there we chose are paths and visit from time to time. I was convinced that as my parents aged they became weird. For example, my mother and stepfather wear glasses all of the time. They ordered caller id for the same reason that you did. Unfortunately, they did not order a large text screen for their caller id unit. Every time I called them I could not understand why it took them so long to answer. One day during a visit I learned the answer. This is the scenario:


“Babe, who is it?” Mom

“I don’t know, aren’t you near the phone?” Stepdad


“Yes, but I don’t have my glasses.” She picks up the phone and hands it to her husband. Almost hitting him in the head because he is trying to read the display from far away.


“Well, I don’t have my glasses either, where are they?”

“You left them in the table, mine are in the bedroom. So, YOU see who it is.” He reaches for his glasses on the coffee table almost tipping over in his LaZBoy chair.


“Okay, I got them… Now let’s see. Ooop.”

“Hello, you have reached the…..” Answering Machine

I couldn’t believe it. This scene had been playing for weeks. Prior to the caller id phone, they answered the line with no injury to themselves. I talked them into getting a separate unit with large screen display. Later when they ordered satellite dish, I enabled Caller ID display on the TV screen for them.

My father suffered a rash of hubcap theft his first year in his new Detroit home. I went to visit him one day. Very funny. Dad was so angry about losing yet another hubcap to the thieves that he drove me around his block shouting, “That’s my damn hubcap. No, there it is! ”We must have passed each of his hubcaps twice during that 4 block drive.

Dad is also a trickster. He will invite me up to visit and then sit outside drinking beer listening to classic soul. As if we did not have plans. The last time he did this was Father’s Day. We were supposed to go to a festival that featured WAR, yes War. He goofed off showing to me his latest wood whittling project, the compost pit that he built, the birdfeed he made, his new blooming bulbs and perfect lawn. Yes, he rubbed in the fact that I cannot seem to keep a green lawn. He is very proud of his new hobby and talents. So was I, but I wanted to see War live in concert and he knew that. Besides, he never asks me about my crochet hobby. Of course, we missed some great songs by the time he got there. Over the years, I have learned just to go into the kitchen and listen to my stepmother tell her very funny stories and let him be with his beer and classic soul.

If my parents got old and wanted to live the rest of their lives with one of their children, I would bid on MOM. She is a great cook but I am not. In her twilight years, I will cook a lot of vegetarian, tomato based and diabetic meals. When she asks “What is this?” I am going to say, “Why? Do you think that I am trying to KILL you? Just eat it.” A common response to my question about many family dinners as a child. Payback, I can’t wait.

Grandparents are another story. Being the oldest granddaughter takes some responsibility. It means making sure that my grandparents recognize me before dementia sets in. Yesterday, I spent the day with my sick grandmother and my senile grandfather. I realized too late that I haven’t spent enough time with Grandpa. He became rather angry with me in his home without my aunt, his eldest daughter there. I had tried to visit whenever she was there so that he would know that I belonged there but I hadn’t visited enough.

That day I was alone with him and Grandma who was too ill to get out of bed. Knowing that I would be there all day, I decided to help Grandma out and skip the Westerns watching with Grandpa. (They never tire of Western movies and Encore has a dedicated ‘Westerns movie channel.’) Bad move on my part. He demanded to know why I was taking all of his cat food. I was bagging it for the trash. He didn’t care that all 30 cans of cat food had expired the end of last year and most of it had gone bad two years ago. He insisted that he will feed his cats even though I reminded him that he hadn’t fed them in years. In fact they were long dead. He wanted me to leave. I had no right to clean his kitchen. No right to move the 10 fuses that he didn’t need because his home had been converted to a circuit breaker 5 years ago. I told him that I was not leaving and that I would clean his kitchen because Grandma was not feeling well. He threatened to call his daughters on me to get me to leave. I gave him the number to call my mother. He called it and of course she did not answer. He accused me of knowingly giving to him the number to a messaging service.

One of my older cousins came over and convinced him that I was my mother. He stopped threatening to punch me out. (it is okay to giggle) At the time, I was annoyed but patient. It hadn’t occurred to me that he had forgotten who I was. I came around and I visited when I could; just not enough. I knew that he would forget about the cat food and I continued to clean the kitchen. He would forget that my cousin came over or that I told him that i could outrun him if he came after him. I left the fuses stay where they were and cleaned out canned goods that had expired in 1997. Besides, the whole thing was actually really funny.

After I made him dinner he told me stories. He told me about one event that changed everything. Losing his father at 15 and being the eldest son to a family of 9 made all the difference. No college for him. Becoming a father himself just six years later and then caring for two families left no time to pursue his dreams. His memories of his youth and his 30 year career are crystal clear. It made me think about his dreams, his mother and my mother. I can listen to him talk about events that happened 40 years ago as if they happened last week for hours even told twice. But I can’t sit and watch Westerns all day long.

Perhaps in my twillight years after my crochet hobby has crippled me, my grandchildren or my sister's grandchildren (which is more likely) will sit at my feet watching Encore SciFi on the holovision and i will chase after them for trying to throw out my yarn basket.


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