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.”

Family Visits, Bathroom Takeovers

After a week’s visit, my older daughter and the grandkids went back to Pittsburgh.  It’s always wonderful to see them, but I think we all breathe sighs of relief when we part company and go back to our own little routine again.  We cry and we smile at the same time!

Our house is small, with no extra bedrooms, so when family comes to visit, our younger daughter must leave behind the luxury of her own room and bath, and take her nightly repose on the living room couch.  This is somewhat inconvenient for all of us, especially when she waxes imperious in ordering the rest of us to bed when she feels it is time to get her beauty rest.

However, three of us all using the downstairs bathroom is the most traumatic part of the whole experience.  Have you ever had to share your facilities with a teenage girl for a week?  Our bathroom suddenly looks like the health and beauty aisle at Wal-Mart.  I do not know why one small person should need so many products to keep herself looking lovely.  When she moves in there is not a square inch for any of the rest of us to so much as store a toothbrush.  There are skin cleansers here, oil-absorbing papers there, makeup to the left of me, hairspray to the right of me – and many other foreign objects too numerous and mystifying to describe.  The shelf fills up and the residue spills onto the floor beneath.  The tub holds whatever the shelf and floor cannot contain – and it is a mighty big overflow, let me tell you!  We have to pick our way carefully along the narrow path from the door to the commode, if we want to avoid stepping on something.  Even my older daughter, a beauty queen in her own right, wonders at the magnitude of it all.

Even worse than the clutter is the amount of time our teenager spends hogging the bathroom.  Two-hour showers — I kid you not!  Now, the hot water runs out after about the first half hour, but Beebee gets in some great cogitating time while waiting for it to heat up again.  If she doesn’t eventually solve at least half the world’s problems, while waiting for phases two and three of her shower, it will all be a total waste, but I am hoping it will all bear fruit somewhere down the road.

There are times that the wait has been so extended that I have had difficulty remembering what it looks like in that bathroom.  And woe betide to anyone who has not planned carefully to use the facilities before the teenager commences her toilette!   The only solution is the gas station down the street.

%d bloggers like this: