Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Our Time is Coming
Let me start over.
Many of my generation are dealing with parents in physical and even mental decline. We discuss their "situations" behind their backs; what state they're in, whether they're still competent or whatever. We test them in little ways, pretending to be casual, "How's your knee, Dad?" "What day of the week is it, Mother, who is the president of the United States?" "Have you taken your medicine today?" "What's that smell?"
If this is not enough, we make insinuating suggestions, "Do you think it's still a good idea to be driving?" "Have you considered selling this joint and moving into a nice facility with people of your own age where your meals are provided for you and you'll finally have time to read all these fascinating National Geographics you've been hoarding for thirty years?" "Aren't you tired of administering that pesky old multi-million dollar stock portfolio? Wouldn't it be easier and nicer just to sign a power of attorney and get it off your hands?"
We are miffed and resentful when these helpful suggestions are rebuffed, but let's admit there's a little speck of retaliatory motivation in play here. For the first years of our lives these people took care of us in every way, a fact which they were not shy about holding over our heads and lording over us about. "You'll always be my little boy," they tell us when we are fifty years old and wear bifocals. They keep humiliating pictures - and show them - when we stood naked on the coffee table, holding a well-chewed teddy bear in one hand and the tail of the long-suffering beagle in the other. We smile and laugh, of course, but deep down we are rankled, rankled in no small way, and now, as they enter their golden years, we find the tables unexpectedly turned. It is as if the turkeys, after generations of dread and trembling, discovered a new holiday in which the traditional meal was pilgrim.
With this in mind, I'm keeping a close and watchful eye on my daughters, because I know one day it will be their turn. I've already spotted them making certain predatory glances when my guard slips. To make matters worse, even when I'm at the top of my game, I'm not someone you'd want to trust with anything sharper than round-nosed scissors. I sometimes say "pork chops" when I mean "chop sticks." I carry a Smartphone which I never answer keep charged, or use, and which serves no apparent purpose other than a counter-weight my wallet. To say I lose my car keys frequently would understate the situation by a wide margin; the best I can claim is that I often find them.
I love my daughters, of course. I adore them as if they were my very own children, but there is a broad and spacious distance between loving someone and trusting them. I love my dog, but I wouldn't put a rib-eye on the floor for her to look after while I left the house.
Accordingly, I've started dropping little comments to let them know Daddy's not ready for the glue factory just yet. "Just yesterday," I'll say casually, "I drove the car all the way to the Kroger and back. Not a scratch," or "Today is Tuesday, October 3rd, and the President of the United States is Barrack Obama. Did you know that?" or "The ol' bladder is in tip-top shape, yes sir. Just this morning I was peeing like a race horse. Of course, I only pee when I want to. No control issues here. I don't want you to go thinking I've got a colander for a urethra."
Oddly, these comments, rather than diminishing the predatory gleam, make it shine only the more brightly.