My dad left my house two weeks ago, but his legacy lives on. While he was here, he slept 18 hours a day. In between naps, we’d have conversations – as long as he was alert. There’s no grand moral lesson in this post. I just know how much you like to read about my dad, so here he is!
Please imagine all of these conversations with us yelling and my father mumbling. He’s so deaf, you have to yell at him LIKE HE’S A FOREIGNER just to get him to understand you. So we yelled until our throats were sore. Early in his visit, I was putting my son down for an afternoon nap, and my dad mumbled, “She goes to bed this early?”
“Does she sleep every day?”
“YES, DAD, EVERY DAY.”
“Does she sleep too?”
(JUST IMAGINE US YELLING.)“No,” I said of my daughter. “She doesn’t nap anymore.”
“Sleeping like that’s no good for you!” he said to my son.
I put my son down for his nap, and when I got back, Dad had already nodded off. He slept with his head hung, sitting on the couch, for two hours that time. My son didn’t sleep, because right now I’ve got to put him to sleep while he’s riding in the car if he’s going to nap at all, and having Papou in the car was just too exciting. So I retrieved my son from his crib, and he and his sister shrieked and yelled as they played in the living room, where my dad was still sleeping. My dad didn’t even twitch.
That evening, we took my daughter to the American Girl doll store. She had saved some money that she wanted to spend on her doll. (For the record, we do not buy anything for her doll, and the “Pacifier Fairy” bought it for her. We’re teaching her about money, so she pays for all of her doll accessories, hairdos and anything doll-related. Everything there is so expensive that she’ll be ready for inflation when she becomes a real consumer.)
Everybody who sees the American Girl Doll store for the first time is overwhelmed by the number of accessories available for these dolls, the prices and the idea that this store is thriving in the midst of a recession. My dad was unmoved. After much discussion about prices and value and whatnot (she wanted to buy hair bands – the kind you get at the drug store for $3 – for $20.) We came out with a package of $8 stick-on earrings and headed home. In the car, my dad said, “Are we going to a restaurant?”
Let me back up here. When my dad called me about coming here, he said, “You don’t have to entertan me. I don’t need to sight see and we don’t have to eat out or anything.” So that afternoon, I had made dinner before we left. We’d gone out to dinner the night before, and my dad didn’t complain.
My husband said, “No, we’re not going to a restaurant. We’re going home. Maria made dinner already.”
“Oh, oh,” my dad said before he fell asleep.
When I served him dinner, he handed it back to me. “Warm this up, will you?” he said. “It’s too cold.” It was hot. I had to stick my son’s dinner in the freezer to cool it off. And this was not the first time. He handed back every meal I served him, because they were all too cold.
That night, I went to bed at my usual 9:30, and my dad was still up with my husband. Somehow they got into a conversation about one of my dad’s favorite subjects: overpaid teachers. “These teachers, they all make a hundred thousand a year,” my dad said to my husband.
“No they don’t,” my hub said, “I wanted to be a teacher when I got out of college. In Northern Virginia, they make forty thousand a year.”
“That’s still a lot. They never work. They get off at three; they have all these holidays and summers off,” my dad said.
My husband continued. “If I worked for forty thousand in Northern Virginia, where I lived, I could never have afforded a house. Houses average four hundred to seven hundred fifty thousand there.”
“Teachers don’t make forty thousand. They make a hundred thousand. I see it in the Pennysaver all the time,” my dad said. Once a year, or whenever there’s a school budget to vote down, someone budget detractor posts the salaries of the highest-paid teachers in town. I doubt there is even one teacher that makes a hundred thousand, but these lists, as you might imagine, consist of teachers who’ve worked there twenty years, and probably include administrators too.
“I’ll show you how much they make,” my husband said, as he pulled up Salary.com and typed in “teacher.” Salary.com had the average teacher making forty thousand.
“Well, I guess they don’t make that much,” my dad said. “But they still get all of their health insurance from their husbands, and the husbands can pay for everything. They’ve got nothing to worry about.”
The next morning, my dad told me that my husband had shown him that teachers don’t make a hundred thousand. “I don’t believe that,” he said. But my father chooses to believe the internet when it says that illegal aliens living in welfare hotels are receiving government checks and using their food stamps to buy lottery tickets.
The next morning, my dad hadn’t had breakfast – hadn’t even wandered into the kitchen where I’d written him a note and left him a buttered, toasted English muffin – and he asked me, “Do you have a McDonald’s around here?” I had just returned from picking up the kids and I wasn’t going to go out again, plus I’d already made him breakfast.
“Yes, we do,” because this isn’t the Third World, “but I have breakfast for you,” I said, leading him into the kitchen.
“Can I have some tea?” he said.
“I’ve got coffee made for you,” I said.
“Your coffee’s too strong,” he said. “I like to dilute mine with milk. I’ll have tea.” He makes tan-tinted coffee you can see through at home, but it’s not like he doesn’t have coffee at the diner or McDonald’s. Real coffee shouldn’t have been anything new. And this was his third day. If he didn’t like my coffee, why didn’t he ask for tea sooner?
I made him tea. He wolfed down the English muffins and said, “I hate to ask, but is there more?” I gave him some raisin bran. As he ate, I was prepping food for the Crock Pot, and he said, “This is a nice house.”
Wow, a compliment! “Thanks,” I said. “We want to redo the kitchen – open up the pass-through and move the cabinets against the wall to make it bigger…”
“DON’T DO RENOVATIONS!” he yelled. “YOU’LL NEVER GET YOUR MONEY BACK!”
“Well, it doesn’t really matter,” I said. “We don’t have the money for that right now anyway, and we want to move back East, so it may never happen.”
“You have a formal dining room here. Don’t do anything to the kitchen!” he continued. His kitchen has the original 1962 stove, wall oven and yellow-stained cabinets. We’re selling the appliances on Ebay when I inherit the house. But what the hell business is it of his if we redo our kitchen?
And then he slept. I let him sleep through lunch, left to get my son, came back, my dad was still asleep. Got my daughter two hours later and he was still asleep. The kids played and screamed and shrieked, nothing.
I woke my dad up for dinner. This time I was prepared. I ladled his Chicken Piccata Stew straight from the bubbling Crock Pot onto his plate, stuck it in the microwave for two minutes, and then gave it to him, scalding.
Apparently scalding was what he wanted, because he started eating it right away, and had scarfed the whole thing by the time I sat down. Then he asked for more tea and dessert. When my dad eats sweets, he’ll take a portion, finish it, have “a sliver” more, another “sliver,” some more and more until half a cake is gone. I purposely made cupcakes for him because he couldn’t keep cutting a sliver of cake that way. It had worked pretty well. He’d only had one or two cupcakes at a time. I had some cookies we’d made too – a big container of them. I’d put them out the night before and, not wanting to finish them, I guess, he’d left one for us. I gave him the cupcakes this time and he only had one.
After dinner, I told him to get his things ready to go – he was taking the red-eye, leaving the house at 8 p.m. He went downstairs and I breathed a sigh of relief. His visit was almost over. Whew! He came upstairs and fell asleep on the couch until my husband got home from his class and picked him up. We said goodbye and that was it.
He called two days later. “I got home okay. I didn’t sleep much on the plane. I had trouble falling asleep. When I got there, I got lost walking around the parking lot at the airport. This security woman found me and drove around until we found my car. I had a good time there. It was very enjoyable. The kids are something. Did you watch the debate?”
“Yeah, I saw it,” I said.
“I turned the TV on to watch it, but I fell asleep. I do that sometimes.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” I said.
“Okay, I’ll be talking to you.”
“Bye.” And that was it. One more visit, over. We survived.