Role Reversal

Molly and I made the trek to Stratford the other day. As usual I let the folks know in advance (like a week) at the previous visit. Then everyday when I call I remind them again. And everyday during the call they ask at least once when I’m coming next. It’s a routine. On the day before I come it’s key for them to know what time and for lunch arrangements to be made. Unless there’s a morning medical or other appointment I arrive at noon. If I bring Molly then we eat at their place so Molly doesn’t have to wait in the car.

The household roles have changed (almost a 180) at my folks place. Now it’s dad who cooks and grocery shops. Unfortunately my dad has never had cooking experience before other than frying eggs. So it’s an adventure. Everything is pan fried or indoor grilled (my sister bought him a smokeless grill and showed him how to use it). There’s an aversion to using the oven and I’m not sure if it’s vision related or technology that’s the barrier. Mom uses a toaster oven for everything. She knows how to push the start button and there’s a long bell to indicate it’s done.

So the other day dad excitedly prepares lunch. Mom does the prep as her memory and vision loss makes it dangerous for her to cook at the stove. Dad puts on his Liaison College apron and fires up his cooking area. The grill is red hot (he’s making steak) and his frying pan is awaiting the chopped veg from moms cutting board. The table is set.

I sit down at the table to alleviate the congestion in their tiny kitchen. It’s a bustle of activity as the two of them perform their duties. Of course Molly is in there too because it’s my moms mission to feed the dog first. It’s the only room without carpet so Molly’s food is in the middle of the action on the kitchen floor. I don’t even look to see what crazy leftover mess my mother has assembled for Molly to eat. At a quick glance it’s a mashup of everything they’ve eaten in the last week.

Since I’m staying the night there’s wine for me at the table. I would prefer mineral water but I indulge to appease my folks. Having s drink at lunch (which is their dinner) is not only acceptable, it’s expected. Usually I’m driving back same day or taking them to an appointment so I abstain entirely from alcohol. My dad has carefully selected a bottle of wine that he hopes I will like. In the past I’ve mentioned that drinking my moms boxed vintage is not appealing. My dad is the host with the most and wants to ensure that I’m a satisfied guest. I think Frank helped him pick wines at the store. My dad was a bit appalled at the prices but Frank assured him it was the right call. Today, in the midst of a cooking frenzy, dad comes to the table where I’m sitting to make sure the wine is ok. I emphatically reassure him that it’s perfect.

Ok. Lunch is ready. Dad brings the steaks over. Then the frying pan with his concoction of veg (peppers, onions, garlic and potatoes) prepped by my mom. And mom brings the salad. Dad sits down ready to devour his creation. But mom realizes that the table wasn’t fully set. I have disrupted their routine. There’s no salt and pepper. Oh, the ketchups missing. Darn, the napkins were forgotten. Mom sits then hopes up again realizing her wine is still in the kitchen. Does anyone want bread? Dad and I are already half way through our meat. How’s the steak? Great dad! Good job! He beams like a kid. Cheers mom says. Cheers. Great lunch. Well, we have the same everyday … your dad does the shopping; we eat what he buys. Do you like sweet cream cheese? (A random question out of left field that’s got s hidden meaning; that’s how mom rolls). What kind of sweet cream cheese? My dad, knowing exactly the hidden meaning chimes in, I didn’t read the label and bought sweet cream cheese by mistake. Oh. Sure, we can use it on bagels. Great you can take it home! Ok. But my moms not done chiding (in her hidden way that’s not so hidden anymore) … you know, I don’t know why your dad would buy sweet cream cheese? We never had that before. Dad tries to end the topic: I made a mistake and bought the wrong one. Wow. Dad usually never owns up to a booboo and would normally say: I thought I would try it. Mom is not rebuffed easily. I didn’t even know they had such a thing as sweet cream cheese; who would buy it? Somehow she’s found her dig of the moment and won’t let go.

I start talking about Molly. That’s an instant cure. However I’m certain the cream cheese isn’t dead for good yet.

Does anyone want bread? No mom. Thanks. Mom? Are you putting ketchup on your salad? Yes. I like it sometimes. Oh ok. Would you like dad to add some salad dressing to his shopping list? Oh no. He doesn’t make a list anymore. Dad: I don’t need one.

Oh boy. New thread of digs.

Hey! I’m picking you up next week to come to Collingwood. Oh. Ok. Dad: no. I drive myself. Yes dad. I’m taking mom and you’re driving behind in your car. Yes.

Lunch is finished. Mom lets us know it’s her job to clear and tidy the kitchen. Dad and I can play cards. It’s too windy outside so we rearrange the table. Dads lucky at first but then the cards go cold. Lady luck is in my corner. My mom knows when dads winning or losing depending on his table talk.

I let dad know we have to take a break to walk Molly. He welcomes the diversion. We all get ready to go out. It’s a lovely day for a walk and since they live in the park it’s an easy manoeuvre. Molly enjoys the new smells and finds a spot to leave a 318. Dad wants to take the shortcut home on the grass through the back. Mom and I and Molly stick to the sidewalk. I’m not sure if dads tired or sore or what but he doesn’t say.

Back at their apartment I ask dad what’s happening at the US Open. He gets his tv flicker. I get mom organized on her prep for our next project: zucchini muffins. Rudy had the great idea for me to bake them with my folks at their place. Perfect. Mom can grate the zucchini. Right after the news. You know I can’t read anymore and I need to know what’s happening in the world….

After our final card game ( dad is totally frustrated at the turn of events) we move into the kitchen and I supervise their baking duties. Dad is the mixer. Trying to tell him that over-mixing the dough will result in hard pucks instead of muffins is futile. All he heard was MIX. Mom is measuring zucchini. How many of these? Oh. Where do I put them? Is the bowl big enough? We never made these before. Is there enough room in the bowl? Mom. It’s all good. Dad? Do you want raisins or walnuts or both? Both. Ok. Here’s the stuff. Don’t over mix it …..

Ok. The dough is done. Dad you can fill the cups. Here’s the first one. Now you do the rest. Ok. We are ready to bake. Timing is perfect: muffins will bake while we solve the puzzles on Wheel of Fortune. Then there’s Family Feud with “I’m your man” Steve Harvey. It’s s daily ritual and dad knows the prizes and the games like the back of his hand.

Molly settles on the couch between me and dad. Front row for the action.

In a survey of 100 people, “where do guys go to have fun?” …. Dad: the beach. There are five answers on the board: the bar, friends place, sporting event, strip club … dad is now shouting … the beach! The beach! When the final answer is revealed and it’s “the beach” dad is delighted and smiling from ear to ear. Mom: did dad get it right? Too cute.

The US Open is disappointing. Sharipova is manhandled by Williams. Dad: there’s a you g girl from Latvia. Do think Leo watches her play? I’m sure he does dad.

The muffins are ready. Dad wants to try one. They are slightly puckish. But he is pleased with his creation. It was a good job.

Mom heads for bed at 9 pm. It’s past her usual time. Dad follows behind. I finish my wine.

Good night. Sweet dreams.

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