Sometimes as a parent or caregiver, you get to enjoy the personal care task you’re asked to do. Reading a favorite story to your young child; I used to read “Fletcher and the Falling Leaves” to my kids night after night. I never got tired of it. Or, you realize that you have to be the one to do it. When my father ended up in the hospital almost 4 years ago with C-Diff and they wanted him to drink the barium-infused milky nightmare needed to make his bowels show on the x-ray, I drank some with him. It was chalky and sticky and faux-strawberry and all around just awful. But I drank it with him anyway so that he would do it. The universe had placed me in that spot at that exact moment for that exact purpose, and when the universe does that, you have to go along. It is the universe, after all.
And then there are the things that are not like that.
This came to mind the other day at my father’s apartment as I ran down the list of chores he had so thoughtfully prepared for me. The bills, of course. His latest iPad problem. Parceling out medication. Unpacking his Amazon shipments, including the never-ceasing supply of Depends. Changing the battery in his Apple TV remote and/or hearing aids and/or TV remote and/or other TV remote. Then there is my usual list, which includes airing the place out, checking for expired food (especially the food he leaves on the counter), throwing the plastic bags, cracker packages and Sweet N’Lo packets he is hoarding, and examining the state of his bed and other important pieces of furniture to make sure they are clean.
I have come not to mind most of these. Most things I do for my kids also fall into this category, which as a sandwich generation man, is fortunate. Or I am suppressing something, one or the other.
Then there are some chores that I die a little each time I do. To spare needless gory details, I won’t list them all. One is cutting his toenails. It is pretty obvious why I don’t like this one. Another, though, is cleaning his glasses.
I don’t know why this one bothers me so much, but it does. It would be pretty easy for him to do for himself, but he won’t. He has caregivers in and out of his apartment every day, and it would be easy enough for him to ask them. It’s common for elderly parents to cling to their children as the only ones who can do things for them, no matter how small. Especially those who lack an empathy gene. I’m just saying.
This past weekend I stopped to ask him why he insists that I have to be the one to clean his glasses. He stopped for a second to ponder it, and said, “Because you are the master. No one gets them as clean as you do.”
Well, maybe I am.
Then I took a deep breath, took out the Windex, and cleaned his glasses again. Both pairs.