I’m looking forward to visiting my parents during the holidays. There’s nothing like a visit with the folks to remember why you live 600 miles away from them, and how fortunate you really are.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Mom and Dad,. It’s just that I’m kind of glad they live where they do. They retired to a nice community near Myrtle Beach, and our last visit was quite interesting.
It shed some light on retired life, for one thing. With the holiday’s approaching, and the inevitable get-together soon, I recently contemplated our last visit.
One thing I noticed about my now-retired parents is that items like milk, or the lack thereof, take on the significance of foreign policy. Take for example, this conversation between my parents.
Mom: “I thought we had no milk.”
Dad: “No, I just bought a gallon. Remember? I just went out yesterday.”
Mom: “Why are we going through so much milk?” She searches in the refrigerator for the new gallon. “Where is it? I don’t see it.”
Dad: “I know it’s there, I just put it in.”
Mom: “Oh, here it is, all the way in the back.” She peers in momentarily and closes the refrigerator door.
Dad: “We won’t need any when I go shopping Saturday.”
Mom: “Probably not.”
Dad: “You better check. How much is left in the old container?”
Mom: “I don’t know, I’ll look.”
Mom looks in the refrigerator.
Mom: “There’s about half a container.”
Dad: “I probably better get some today. I don’t think we’ll make it ’til Saturday. I’ll have to stop at the store later.”
Mom: “We could probably wait until Saturday.”
Dad: “I better pick some up, better to be safe than sorry.”
And on and on it goes. As Phil Rizzuto used to say, “Holy Cow!”
I decided right there, when I got home I would not drink milk anymore. Ever.
It didn’t bother me that Mom followed my daughter and I around with a bucket filled with disinfectant cleaner. Actually, I wanted to take her home with me for a week. (All right, a day.) But my poor cats would probably get disinfected too.
If shoes, bras, or nail-polish remover were left in spaces they “didn’t belong,” this crisis required immediate inspection, the calling of the National Guard and a jury to determine who was guilty of placing these offending items so carelessly.
After a few days Mom gave up on her routine of measuring the distance of the soap holder from the faucet and the exact angle of the brass toilet paper holder from the toilet bowl.
The stress on her face was visible, and I could see her intermittently taking nips from a “water” bottle throughout the day, while my father suddenly had assorted golf buddies to tee off with daily.
See, in my apartment, everything belongs everywhere. There are no rules, just messes.
Which brings me to the advice portion of this essay. When visiting with family this holiday season, (particularly retired parents), be sure to look for these signs that indicate it is time for you to leave:
1. Your luggage and belongings are packed and in dad’s car on Tuesday, but your flight back is not until Saturday.
2. A port-a-john, a pup tent and a cooler appear in the back yard with your luggage alongside.
3. Mom can be overheard on the phone calling airlines and bus companies and whispering, “It doesn’t matter, when is the next one leaving?”
4. A “For Sale – Drastically Reduced” sign is visible on the front lawn upon waking.
5. Mom insists that the room you are staying in immediately needs to be painted, carpeted and the windows replaced.
6. Dad insists there is a severe hurricane forecast, and you must evacuate immediately. When you watch the Weather Channel, it forecasts beautiful weather.
7. Your parents suddenly leave for an out-of-town family emergency, and then you realize – you are their only family.
8. You get a call from a friend back home who tells you to come home immediately – your house has been robbed. On the kitchen counter you see a Western Union receipt for hundreds of dollars in your friend’s name – from your parents.
9. Mom claims to be stricken with a sudden mysterious illness that is highly contagious, and for your safety, demands you leave at once.
10. The water, heat, phone and cable are suddenly disconnected, and Mom relates that, unfortunately, every hotel in the area is booked!