Zohrbak: “So how’s your grandmother doing?”
Dorquemada: “Oh, she’s fine. She’s enjoying her time being spoiled. I’m just exhausted from sleeping with one eye open and jumping up every time I hear a bump at night.”
Zohrbak: “That’s cute. That’s parenthood in a nutshell, but ours lasts 18 #$%@ing years.”
Dorquemada: “Trust me, I thought about that. Yeesh.”
My grandmother tore her meniscus and had surgery last week. As per doctor’s orders, she has to keep her weight off her left knee for five more weeks. Until then, I’m in charge of all housekeeping details. So far, so good. The general state of cleanliness hasn’t slipped much. I’m nothing, if not a hygienic caveman.
Home security has actually improved. I perched boiling pots of tar atop our fence posts to deter marauding bands of Mongols, Huns, and door-to-door salesmen. I’ll occasionally patrol the premises and scream, “You barbarians can sack the rest of the neighborhood, but you’ll keep your perverted, pillaging paws off our property! And no one buys encyclopedias anymore, so buzz off!” Then I shake my fist angrily, lovingly kiss my tactical shotgun barrel, and shake my fist some more. I go back inside when I see my neighbor’s horrified faces.
No one’s been hospitalized with food poisoning. Yet. Actually, I’m a tad insulted when friends and family members express surprise over my culinary skills. For example, take today’s phone conversation with my dad, who lives in New Jersey. “I didn’t know you cooked,” he huffed suspiciously.
“Well yeah, Dad. I lived by myself for about 10 years after I got out of the service. I know how to fend for myself. Geez.”
“Well, I figured you can take care of yourself,” he said. “But I can’t cook. I never could. My food preparation isn’t much more than survival cooking.”
“Yeah, I remember those days. You didn’t eat much more than a bowl of boiled noodles. That’s why I learned how to cook. Because I would have hung myself if I ate like you every day.”
“That’s cute. You know what else you can do by yourself, right?!”
After the initial round of barbs was out of the way, we commiserated on our respective grannysitting ordeals. I’ve had a few struggles with my grandmother so far, but nothing major. She’s supposed to stay on her walker and not use her left leg at all. Nevertheless, there have been several instances where I’ve caught her bending over to dig in the pantry or haul stuff around the house.
My immediate response is to growl at her like Edward G. Robinson. “Meh, see?!? Look here, dollface! If I catch ya trying to stretch those stems, it’ll be curtains for ya! Curtains, ya see?!? Mehhh!”
She’ll just stare at me blankly. I’m used to it.
Then I’ll holler, “Cease and desist with the gymnastics, woman! And if I catch you trying to do another pirouette in front of the cupboard, I’m gonna brain you with this cast iron skillet!” To drive the point home, I‘ll wave the frying pan menacingly.
She complies 90% of the time. She’s relinquished all control over cooking, laundry, and housecleaning. If she has any complaints, she hasn’t expressed them…yet. She promises to behave when I leave the house for my morning workout, as well the occasional shopping trip or an evening visit with friends. So far, so good. But I have to stay alert for those moments when she gets bored or agitated and starts wandering around the house. And that’s when I brandish the skillet again.
Mercifully, our collective ordeal is temporary. My troubles aren’t nearly as arduous as Dad’s. His mother (my step-grandmother, for those you keeping score) is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, which means Dad has to keep her under constant surveillance. She already got lost driving, roamed outside in the middle of the night, obliviously walked away from a smoldering stove, etc.
So there’s that. Plus, he works nights. On average, he gets about 3 or 4 hours of sleep before she wakes up and putters around the house. The lack of sleep and constant worry has left him physically and emotionally exhausted. But he’s stubbornly clinging onto his hopes that he can ride this out until he retires next year, so what I can possibly say or do to change the situation?
Then there’s my friend Hot Lips. She told me she’s had her fair share of grannysitting mishaps. “My great aunt hates to drink liquids,” she sighed. “She ended up in the hospital several times due to dehydration, and I have to constantly remind her to take a couple of sips of water or cranberry juice. She crumples up her face as if I were making her take a nasty spoonful of medicine. I explain to her that our bodies need water to be healthy, and she’ll say ‘you sound like the rest of them!’”
Hot Lips continued. “She also hates taking a bath. It makes her grumpy.”
“What’s up with that? Is she is a geriatric hippie?”
“Well, she was born in 1916 so I don’t think ‘hippie’ would apply. I think she is part of that ‘30s mindset that once a day is excessive. Also, she is French.”
You have no idea how hard it was for me to bite my tongue and refrain from a barrage of French hygiene jokes. Then again, if you knew how achingly cute Hot Lips is, you’d understand. But there’s also a decent chance she’s plotting my doom after reading this post. Alas.
“So, she’s 95,” I muttered. “Wow. Well, maybe she’s one of those protohippies who hung out with Alice B. Toklas.”
“Doubt that. You’re so cheeky.”
“I am an incurable wiseass. But I’m sure you figured that out many moons ago.”
“But alongside the bad girl things she does, there are 8000 cute, sweet things that make me love her.”
“Yup,” I nodded. “Same here.”