80 Going on 8

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day and as Papa wished me Happy Mother’s Day he said, I know you are not my mother, but sometimes I feel like you are. I smiled, hugged him and agreed. He is just a big kid and it is at times like this I am reminded that like we are definitely Raising Papa.

Papa might be eighty but inside is an eight year old boy who does not like to shower and he will do or say anything to get out of bathing. Doug and I will probably never understand this and Papa will probably never change, but together we will keep trying to make sure he is always clean. Papa is a man that can spend 20 minutes combing his hair, ask repeatedly how do I look? but never want to put a foot in the tub to rinse off. Doug and I realize this is who Papa is; we take a deep breath, smile at his excuses, and then politely insist that he needs to bathe.

I’m not dirty. I don’t see any dirt. Papa was a mechanic and used to come home from work full of grease and grime, he attributes dirt to work and this is how he knew he needed a shower. Papa is visual; if you don’t come home dirty you have not been working. If your hands are not blackened, you are clean. If you are not soiled, no shower is necessary. It is that simple.

The last time I showered I got water in my ear and I think that is what is causing this allergy. A couple months ago he mentioned to his doctor that he had a wax problem in my good ear. Papa’s good ear wears his hearing aid and the suggestion from the audiologist was to make sure he showered and water and shampoo gently splashing in his ear would help to keep it clean, just make sure his ear was dry before he put his hearing aid back in. We are not sure if Papa tried to hold his ear under the water for an extended period of time but he is pretty insistent that when he had a slight cough just as the pollen count was rising this spring that it was caused by water in his ear and not all of our new spring blooms.

I am too old to sweat or I don’t have any germs. Papa, age has nothing to do with it. I can point out the beads of perspiration glistening on his forehead as we walk, but he seems to think this is just the sun in my eyes.  And of course when I bring it up later he has forgotten. All I can do is endearingly pull out everybody’s favorite Christopher Robin quote, call him a silly old bear, and tell him it would be a good idea to freshen up.

But my favorite is when he fakes taking a shower.  We have noticed that on several occasions he has gotten dressed very quickly, happily skips downstairs, and says with a grin I showered this morning. Papa doesn’t move that fast and we knew there was no way he could shower so quickly, so recently I decided to monitor the time I heard the water running in the bathroom. Without a doubt the 43 seconds that the water was turned on wasn’t long enough to warm up, let alone have him step into the shower and get wet, so this time we decided to lightheartedly call him on it. Dad, the shower wasn’t on very long, are you sure you remembered to get in. With a startled look he mentioned the shower was on, you can go check. Yes, it was on, but not very long. I am quick. What did you time me? Smiling, I show him my phone and say as a matter of fact I did. Knowing he has been found out he looks at me with big eyes, and slowly mentions but my towel is wet. This Sunday he came down with a smile and unwaveringly said I really did shower today. Yes Papa, today you did.  I feel pretty good. Success!

Papa uses mouthwash, a lot of mouthwash. He keeps a large bottle of Listerine next to the sink, and a spare bottle under the sink just to make sure he never runs out. He loves to swish his mouth with the blue stuff, and I would not be exaggerating to say he actually practices swishing every chance he gets. He swishes while sipping his orange juice in the morning, while drinking water throughout the day or even as he drinks his milk at the dinner table. I am not a fan of perpetual swishing but Papa is a swisher and thinks this provides suitable oral hygiene. So, sadly the act of actually brushing his teeth is another thing that we have to constantly stay on top of. I brushed them this morning, why would I do that again at night? I am clean. In the past 5 months Papa has spent more time in a dentist chair that he has over the past ten years. My teeth don’t hurt, what is the big deal? While he cannot comprehend how oral hygiene can be related to any other health issues, he does understand we want him to make sure he keeps what teeth he has and that he needs his teeth to eat. Although we can’t say we know exactly what is going on in his mind, we can probably very accurately state that just about every thought is in some way surrounded around food. We have provided him with an electric toothbrush to use in the evenings hoping that this new toy will help with keep his pearly whites sparkling. Now trying to convince him he doesn’t need to bring a 1.5 Liter bottle of mouthwash for a weekend trip is another story…

We have also noticed that there are times Papa has selective forgetfulness. Monday: I walked today. Great, where did you go? How many steps did you take? Did Christina walk with you? Oh, I forgot my counter. I guess he forgot Christina too, she wasn’t aware of him walking.  Tuesday: I walked the big loop today. Awesome, did you remember your counter? I put it in my pocket after I got home. Wednesday: I walked to the corner today; I had my counter, it was about 200 steps. I didn’t ask which corner, but at 200 steps it was probably the corner of our yard. It is a good thing we walk with him in the afternoons.

Every Saturday we tell him to strip his bed so the linens can be washed. Every week? I never heard of people washing their sheets every week.   We know that is not true, Nana washed and ironed their sheets for every seven days for almost 60 years but it is senseless for us to remind him of that. Typically Papa forgets and makes his bed right away so he doesn’t have to take his sheets off or help put them back on later in the day.   What he is really hoping is that we will overlook it and not “make” him change his sheets. Papa helped change his linens this past Saturday and on Sunday morning as he were getting ready for church Doug mentioned to hold off on making his bed until later so he was not rushed. Our eight-year old Papa heard hold off on making the bed and disregarded the rest of the comment. Doug told me not too. Had Doug asked him to strip the sheets that bed would have been made in record time!

The term Grandfather Clause originated in the late 1800’s and states that the law does not apply to certain people because of conditions that existed before the law was passed. This term loosely fits our circumstances, sort of. Sure our household habits are not law, and Papa’s preexisting condition is memory loss, but he is of course a grandfather who should not be held accountable for what he doesn’t understand. Papa really is just a big loveable 80 year old kid and fortunately for him we must grandfather him in to some of our new rules.   He is exempt from trying to appreciate and remember our way of life. We will continue to follow him and load his gently used cup which he would leave sitting on the kitchen counter forever into the dishwasher every night even after we have remind it is a good idea to wash it daily, sometimes just replacing it with a clean cup of the same color without him noticing.   We check his room when he is not around to remove clothes from his closet that he has worn and rehung or make sure he puts his dirty socks into the laundry after each use. We took him shopping for some spiffy new sweats and explained that it is probably not appropriate to wear his pajamas or relaxing clothes to hang out on the porch or walk around the block while he is home during the day, and then put his relaxing clothes in a less convenient place so he is not tempted to wear them indefinitely.

Last night as we were sitting and relaxing Papa said that he wants the three of us to get away for the weekend to unwind. I am not saying we have to go far, we can stay in this state, but it would be nice to get away for a few days. Trying to find out exactly what he had in mind we asked him what he wanted to do, what he was interested in. I like to go to McDonalds. That pretty much sums it up for our big eight year old. We all have tickets for a Nat’s game on Friday evening, but I will look for a local day trip we can take on Saturday so we can all get away and unwind.  And if our trip includes walking we can probably bribe him with a stop at McDonalds on the way home.

2 thoughts on “80 Going on 8”

  1. I enjoy reading about Doug’s dad so much. You are both fantastic with him. Fred’s father is 82 and so far (knock on wood) incredibly healthy. He does have Macular Degeneration and the family is going through the indignity of weaning away driving privileges. It’s a blow to the egos of these men who cut their teeth on muscle cars. Their cars represent so much.
    Give Mr. Marocco greetings from the Tennysons. I will see everyone tomorrow and plan to share your link. Keep up the good work.

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