This week, I was lucky enough to have my parents visit us. It has been a long time since they made the treks, so I wanted everything to be perfect. It’s funny about parents. No matter how old they get or how old their offspring get, that parent-child dynamic never changes. These are my observations about our parents-offspring relationship that have stood the test of time.
My Parents will always treat to everything. We could be going out to dinner or filling up a gas tank and my parents will have money and or credit cards at the ready. In a way, our “who is going to pay” dance mimics an old western gun battle in that the person who draws the credit card out the fastest usually wins. I say usually because I could have my card hidden on the table for the entire meal, and whip it out before the check comes, and I still lose. Somehow the servers always know to give my dad the check. It’s as if he sends them telepathic messages saying, “The check is mine; bring me the check.” I have tried every possible strategy to break that psychic bond my dad has with restaurant people even going as far as to tell managers ahead of time to instruct the servers to give me the check, but somehow he is always able to override my effotrs. It’s a damn mystery.
My Mother Needs to Do Laundry: My mother is not happy unless she has a chore to do in my house. “Let me fold some laundry!” This is not an indictment on my domestic skills; it is an indictment on her inability to let go of being a mother and enjoy being a guest. So, I have learned that when she visits to always have laundry in the dryer that she can fold. Sometimes, I just keep putting the same pile of laundry back into the washer and dryer over and over. Does she notice? Maybe, but it’s not about the clothing; it’s about her knowing she has “earned her keep” for visiting. I will do whatever it takes to make her feel comfortable and if that means she has to clean my house from top to bottom to feel comfortable, then that is what I will let her do! What kind of daughter would I be to deny her this pleasure.
My Mother Wants Me to Eat. She’s Italian so this is not her fault. It’s her cultural heritage to shove food down my throat. This is an example of our breakfasts over the past few days:
Mom: “Have a banana, it’s good for you.”
Donna: “I had a half of a banana so I am fine.”
She takes the half I left and puts it in front of me.
Mom: Eat the banana. It has potassium.
Donna: I know it has potassium, but I just ate the other half. I will eat the rest tomorrow.
Mom: Why don’t you just eat it now? Here I will cut it up in a bowl of cereal.
Donna: I just ate a piece of whole wheat toast; I am good.
Mom: That’s it? Have some cereal (she pours out the cereal). The banana is on top.
Donna: Now, I’m having two breakfasts. Fine, just give it to me.
Mom: Do you want juice? I will pour you juice.
Donna: I just had juice… okay, give me juice… I will drink the juice.
Dad: Leave her alone. She’ll eat what she wants.
Mom to Dad: Do you want a banana?
Dad to Mom: Oh, look here comes Ed (my husband). He will want breakfast.
Poor Ed, he had that deer caught in the headlights look, but too bad. My dad and I know it’s survival of the fittest, and in-laws are too meek to fight.
My Dad Likes to Fix Stuff: My father has come to my house over the years and has done everything from replacing washers in faucets to re-planing “uneven” doors. If I had given him the go ahead a few years back, he would have put on an addition. I try to hide things in my house in need of repair, so he relaxes when he visits, but somehow something always goes wrong. This week it was a clogged drain. Luckily it gurgled to a stop while we were on our way out the door to take them home, so he couldn’t take apart my sink. In fairness to my parents and siblings, my dad wants to fix all his kids’ houses. My sister, who lives near them, would joke that when she first bought her home years ago, she would return home from work at night, and she would find new faucets, cabinets and other major renovations completed. Her dogs were not traumatized, so she knew my dad was there with my uncle making “improvements.”
There Are Winners and Losers . This week we took my parents to Atlantic City. They like it there, and I don’t know why because my mom always loses and my dad always wins, and whatever competition thing they have going on between them really comes out. So, next time they visit, I think I will have to call ahead to Caesar’s and ask if there is some way they can make my mom win on her slot machine so she can for once in her life say to my dad, “Ha, I beat you!” I think it might help smooth out the bumps in their 59-year-marriage .