by Theresa Snyder
We three Snyders went on a road trip one weekend. This type of operation never was an easy feat. My mom was a diabetic who took sixteen pills a day and used innumerable atomizers. Dad was also, and still is, diabetic. At that time, one could really count all three of us as cripples. Mom walked with a walker, Dad had, and still has, a plate and sixteen screws in one heel and I had a torn meniscus in one knee.
Every hour, on the hour, we had to stop, walk around a bit and change seating arrangements. When Mom and Dad’s little dog, Corkie, was alive, she knew where all the rest stops were on familiar trip routes. She would wake out of a sound sleep slightly before the stop and start to beg if she needed to stop, or just get excited if she wanted out for a good smell around the car.
Our ultimate destination this trip was my younger brother’s home. Jeff and his wife live up an estuary out of North Bend. They both are nurses and don’t get a lot of time off. Luckily, their time off coincided with mine and, hence, this trip.
Mom had a hearing aid, but refused to wear it. She said it ‘bugged’ her. Several years ago, Jeff lost hearing in his left ear, and he wears an aid in the right due to degenerative bone disease. He knows a thing or two about hearing aids, so he told Mom the reason she had trouble wearing her aid was that she didn’t begin wearing one as soon as she started losing her hearing.
When she did wear it, she heard things she hadn’t heard in years, like the sound of her own breathing or chewing, and she was unable to screen out those sounds.
At that time, Dad’s hearing had not been tested. He felt it would be admitting he was getting old, so he would simply say he couldn’t understand a person over the sound of a passing plane, the radio, the washer, the dryer, the television – anything that was inconveniently making a sound at the time.
A road trip where one of them ends up in the backseat and one in the front could lead to some interesting “funnies.”
Dad notices a mural on a building we’re passing: “Look at that pretty mural.”
Mom: “What pretty girl? Are you ogling the girls again?”
Mom to Dad: “Well, that makes everything copasetic.”
Dad: “I didn’t think it was so pathetic.”
On this trip, we had a lunch layover at the assisted living facility where a friend of ours lived. Pat was technically blind and deaf, though if you stood in her field of vision (a very small tunnel) and spoke loudly in a certain tenor, she could see and hear well enough to get along. She grew up being deaf. She does not try to interpret what is said. Instead, her conversations are sprinkled with “What?” and “Huh?”
A couple of hours with Pat, trying to make myself understood, and acting as “go-between” for all three, left me feeling as though I was in one of those ads about cellular phone static where everything said is misunderstood.
Once we arrived at my brother’s, Melissa, my sister-in-law, and I found ourselves practically yelling at each other until one of us reminds the other that WE are not hard of hearing. We can go into the kitchen and talk about our deepest and darkest secrets, and no one even asks us why we are whispering.
Of course, there were more “funnies” to be had with Mom, Dad and Jeff all together.
Me from the kitchen to Dad in the living room: “Do you want cheese on your taco?”
Dad: “Why would I want peas with my taco?”
Melissa to Mom: “Do you want some olives?”
Mom: “I’d love some tamales.”
From the passenger seat in their van I say: “I sure am thirsty.”
Melissa in the far backseat says: “If they’re thirsty, we could stop in Charleston.”
Jeff in the driver’s seat: “It’s whose birthday? And why would you want to shop in Charleston?”
Traveling with Mom and Dad was an adventure and, if you threw in Pat and Jeff, you may have heard, “Ladders really is the rest insane” instead of “Laughter really is the best medicine.” Keep laughing!
This is the fifth 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.