Generation Canyon

Beebee has old parents, and it is hard on her psyche.  Our daughter is the only teenager in her acquaintance whose father retired about the time she hit high school — and it wasn’t because Dad had made his millions, either.

When other people our age were peering over the lip of their empty nest, we discovered, to our great joy, that we were about to be Mama and Daddy again.  I was an old mom masquerading as a young grandma.  The obstetrician had a geriatric specialist standing by at the delivery.

Beebee frequently pleads, “Please don’t ever get old, Mom.”

I know what she means.  She has witnessed her grandparents become window peekers, people who entertain themselves by watching their neighbors through the curtains, much like younger folks watch TV.  I can’t even glance out the window momentarily without creating anxiety in her young mind.

She keeps a sharp eye out for telltale old-people symptoms, hoping that with early intervention she can slow down the slide.  “Mom, Dad isn’t going to make any wood lawn ornaments, is he?  He is revving up the scroll saw.”

“Nope, he’s too busy doing the real woodworking — remodeling the kitchen.  And besides, I’m not into lawn ornaments, which is why I sold his pink flamingos to some other elderly couple at the rummage sale last year.” 

“Yesterday, when we were at McDonalds,  he was carrying on about hamburgers being six for a dollar when he was my age.  I nearly gagged on my French fries.”

“It’s a clever old-people ploy, my dear.  Slather enough guilt on the children and it chokes the expensive appetite right out of them!”

“Promise you won’t ever get old?”

“Promise.  When I’m eighty-five, I will think just as young as I do now.”  (This will have to satisfy her.  It’s the best I can do.  She already views my mid-fifties perspective as beyond ancient.) 

“But … you tell stories … over and over … just like Grandpa did.”  (My father had favorite anecdotes, all from his World War II days.  They were funny, but only the first twenty times or so.  I seem to be following in his footsteps.  It must be in the genes.)

“I have never told the same story more than twice,” I indignantly reply.  “By time number two, you are all rolling your eyes and covering your ears.  I WANT to tell my stories more often than that, and you ought to let me!  Kids, these days!  No respect!” 

Beebee goes on, in this heart-to-heart chat about the child-as-caretaker problem she imagines she has.  “The worst of it, Mom, is your friends.” 

Again, I know exactly what she means.  My acquaintances scare me, too.  Women within a ten year radius of me all want to discuss their health issues, and Beebee has sometimes listened in with horrified amazement.  Fifteen-year-olds should not have to know the ins-and-outs of premenopausal to postmenopausal woes, hemorrhoids, gall bladder attacks, and plumbing surgeries gone awry.  For that matter, I don’t want to know, either, but I have to be polite.

I like to tease the child sometimes, just to see what she’ll say.  “Beebee, when you were born, you were the answer to all of Mom and Dad’s dreams.  We were always afraid that your sister would move away, and she did.  But now we have you to take care of us through our twilight years, our very own in-home health care professional.  Think of it — you don’t have to obsess like other kids do about who you will marry or what you should do for a career.  All your material and emotional needs will be met for decades to come by your wonderful parents — and I plan on being around for at least another forty years.” 

Beebee calculates quickly and realizes in forty years she will be a tad older than I am.  She stalks off with a good-natured “Humpff!  Mom, you’re even scarier than I thought.”

Postal Romance 

I don’t know if you have noticed, but elderly people spend a lot of time looking out the window.  No, not just to see what the weather is doing.  They are watching their neighbors for entertainment purposes — much like other folks watch TV. Apparently, our life was an ongoing soap opera for one of our neighbor ladies for awhile.

We’ve been blessed with Paul having a mail route close to our home for most of his postal career.  This meant he could come home for lunch.  It’s been wonderful for the girls and me to be able to connect with him midday.  For the few years when this was not possible, the day was sooo long without him!

Most of our neighbors got the idea fairly quickly that the mail truck parked out in front of our house everyday about noontime was Paul’s, and that he was home for a sandwich.  It was pretty much a no-brainer — except for one elderly woman, who got the notion in her noodle that the lady at our house had something of a peculiarly spicy variety going on with the mailman.  Now, she was partially right; the lady at our house does have a spicy little romance going on with her mailman, but since he’s my husband I think it’s probably OK.

In vain did her son explain to her that it was all right.  “He lives there, Mom!  He’s just home for lunch.  They’ve got a little girl.  She’s home during the day, too.”

But the idea that something soap opera-ish was going on had lodged in her cranium, and there was no getting it to budge. The possibility that the mailman could live in the same neighborhood that he delivered to was incomprehensible.  Perhaps the idea that the mailman lived a normal, ho-hum existence outside of delivering mail was incomprehensible as well.  Every day, she watched for that mail truck to pull up in front of our house.  Every day, she timed how long it sat there.  And every day, she clucked her tongue to her family about the shenanigans going on over at the neighbors’.

We heard the whole tale over the back fence from her son many months later, and all had a hearty laugh over it.  I had never dreamed of being such an interesting character.  That my neighbors would give me more than a few seconds’ thought — and that the thoughts would be of such an unusual nature — was a novel idea in itself!  I doubt if he ever did convince Mom.

The Church Dinner 

Recently we had a dinner at our church, and I was volunteered to be part of the kitchen crew. The thing I love about church dinners is that something amusing always happens. It is part of the nature of the situation. And we were not disappointed on this occasion.

My source of entertainment this time was a visiting elderly lady of peculiar appearance — bright blue spectacles, with blue tassels and beads hanging from the bows. While she was going through the food line, she commented that she couldn’t eat the salad because it had Italian dressing on it, and ohhh, she couldn’t eat dressing! One of the serving ladies offered to bring her some plain lettuce, but she wouldn’t have it brought–she had to march into the kitchen to get it.

A few minutes later, I happened back into the kitchen, smack dab into the middle of an extremely graphic monologue this woman was slathering all over Daisy Miller about why she couldn’t eat the salad with the dressing on it. Daisy is an extremely elegant, lady-like person, and she was politely listening and nodding, with a little smile on her very frozen face. If I could have read her thoughts they probably would have gone something like this: “Do … not … show … emotion. … Look noncommittal. … Do … not … look … grossed … out. … Do … not … look … embarrassed. … Oohh my! What can she be thinking??!! … Try … to … look … pleasant. … Focus … focus … focus ….”

It had a lot to do with having a barium test and the hospital people forgetting to prescribe an enema first…and what happened as a result. And how she has to be very picky, picky, picky about what she eats ever since — two years later. OOHHH MY!!!

I waited until she had left the room and was out of earshot, then burst out laughing. “Some people will just tell you anything, won’t they?!!” I chortled. Daisy didn’t say anything. She was still trying to process — or maybe erase her memory banks, I think. I, however, will cherish this little episode forever in my memory banks, because my humor is a little sick, and I love people’s quirks.

Later on, the lady came back into the kitchen. She needed milk–2% milk–in her coffee, couldn’t use creamer, you know (because of her condition), and did we have any 2%? We looked in the fridge. Ah yes, there was a gallon of milk in there.

(Now, you have to understand about the church fridge. It is a scary place. All sorts of forgotten items were in there. Half-eaten this, and half-eaten that, some from pre-Noahic days, I think. Take-out pizza–nobody dared lift the lid of the box to find out what was residing there. No one ever seems to know who put these questionable items in the fridge, why they didn’t finish them up, or how many years ago they were abandoned.)

Mabel Cory expressed doubts about the milk and said we would look at the date. June 30. This was July 11. The lady insisted, “Oh, I’ll just taste it, and if it’s OK, I can put it in my coffee.” Mabel was horrified and protested that it was too old by now. “Oh, you can’t believe the dates on those jugs!!! You got to taste it to tell! It’s probably fine.” She proceeded to pour a cup, taste it, and smack loudly several times. Smack, smack, smack! “It’s good! I’ll take it!” (More laughter from yours truly after she left the kitchen. Why can’t I control my funny bone? Nobody else seemed to think she was nearly as funny as I did, except my ten-year-old daughter, Beebee–only she informed me on the way home that the old lady wasn’t so much funny as SCARY.)

So, that was how I spent last Friday. I am laughing still. I’ll bet you’re all just envious, now aren’t you?

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