by Theresa Snyder
If I started this column with that old horror story cliché, “It was a dark and stormy night,” I wouldn’t be too far off.
“Has Donnie started sleeping through the night yet?”
“Heather has been throwing these temper tantrums lately. Do you ever have trouble with Jennifer doing that?”
If it isn’t the babies, it’s the youngsters.
“Erick is doing so well in school this year.”
Everywhere I turn, people are talking about their children. Well, I have two “grown kids” at home. I can tell stories with the best of them.
I know the worry of sleepless nights. Mom sleeps through the night now, but she used to walk the floor. Her diabetes made the nerves in her legs jump and it kept her awake all night. These nocturnal wanderings led to little sleep for me. I knew she was not steady on her feet. Like a new mother, I would lie awake listening.
I know about temper tantrums. When we first moved in together, we had a settling-in period. Mom was very ill and short-tempered. Dad was recovering from surgery and did not have the patience that he normally shows. When they would get into an argument, I would leave the room to go to my side of the house. Mom would pursue me to come mediate. I just told her that if we weren’t living together I wouldn’t be there, so it would be best if she simply acted as though I had gone home for the night.
I can brag on my charges’ accomplishments. Dad has gone back to school. He is taking a screenwriting class. I am very proud of him. He entered the Willamette Writers annual contest this year. Mom has started doing exercises to improve her balance and stamina. Even though it is hard, she is very diligent about doing them each night.
Got kids that don’t eat because they have spoiled their appetite with snacks? I came home the other night and asked Mom and Dad if they had thought of what they would like for dinner. (I don’t mind cooking; I just hate trying to think something up every night. I have never been a mom; plus, I used to eat cheese and crackers at night when I lived on my own.)
My parents informed me they weren’t that hungry. They had a snack at teatime. Usually, tea at our house consists of tea, or other drink, and fruit or graham crackers at around four o’clock.
With that in mind, I asked, “So, what did you have for tea?
“Dad bought us an ice cream,” Mom answered. Now, I know that Mom likes Dairy Queen. There is one right down the road and occasionally Dad treats her to a cone.
“Did you go to Dairy Queen?”
“No,” Mom paused, probably thinking of how to break the news. “We went to the old Tillamook Creamery in town.”
At this point, Dad gets all enthused and starts to tell me about a huge banana split. I figure he saw it being carried past their table on the way to another. After all, Mom and Dad are both diabetics and carefully watch what they eat. “What did you and Mom have?” I asked innocently.
“A banana split,” Dad answers as though he had just wasted his time telling about the wondrous concoction.
“So, you shared a banana split.”
“No, we each had one,” Mom confesses. She knows I may play the disapproving parent in this part of the scene. I surprise them both.
I think back to my grandmother and the story of how she walked through the kitchen and found her girls – including my mother – eating raw chocolate cake batter. She merely said, “That will make you sick,” and kept right on going. She was right. It was almost 30 years before Mom could eat chocolate again.
I also paused long enough to remember a story about my father that concerned a bowl of pickled cucumbers his grandmother told him not to eat. To this day, he gives Mom the cucumbers from his salad.
I just looked at them both and said, “Well, fine. If you get a high sugar count tonight, don’t come crying to me.” I think I do a pretty darn good job as a substitute mom.
This is the third in a monthly series, “We 3,” which introduces VoiceCatcher readers to Theresa Snyder and her stories – sometimes touching, sometimes hilarious, always authentic – about caring for aging parents. First printed as a monthly column in the Gresham Outlook between 2003 – 2008, they were collected in book-form in 2007 (Mt. Hood Community College Press). The columns have been updated and are reprinted here with permission of the author.
Theresa Snyder has been writing ever since she can remember. In 1996, shortly after she moved her elderly parents in with her, she realized she couldn’t resist writing “out loud.” She found an audience in east county interested in reading about the challenges and rewards of being a baby boomer caregiver. Unlike other authors, she does not possess a degree or a long list of publishing credits. Instead, she likes to think she has earned her title as “author” through life experience and a great deal of reading.Check out her work at Baby Boomer Caregiver.