Sunday, October 23, 2011
Apropos of nothing, my Daddy enters the room and says, in a pained voice, “So if I grew a ponytail, you’d just cut it off?”
“Yes. Lopped. Immediately.” To catch you up, we had recently had a conversation about things that I loathe; men with ponytails being one of them. Al Franken, Dick Cheney and people who think irregardless is a word are three others.
“Lopped?” he asked, with the same look on his face that Lulu (his dog) had the first time she saw herself in a mirror.
“Yes. Lopped. Maybe even with pinking shears.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
“But it’s my hair.”
“Obviously if you are so inclined to grow a ponytail, you have taken leave of your faculties and someone needs to intervene. That someone is me.”
“Ok, but what if I wanted a mullet?”
“A mullet is simply a ponytail having a party. It would be lopped as well.”
“Without any warning.”
“This counts as the warning, just so you know.”
“Who made you the hair police?”
“It’s not just hair; clothes too. And I was elected.”
“I don’t remember voting.”
“It was secret ballot. But I assure you, you voted for me. Twice.”
“Why are you so aggressive about this?”
“Ponytails on men are aggressive. So are popped collars on old people, so don’t get any ideas.”
“What’s a popped collar?”
“You’ll never need to know. See how I protect you?”
Dear readers, I feel I must take a minute and apologize if anyone reading this has been offended. Of course, I’m not apologizing for my opinion; I feel pretty confident that I am right. But if you have a ponytail, feel a kindred spirit for those who do or are at present wearing a popped collar (and you’re over 21), I apologize for the fact that I am judging you so hard right now, I think I may have just pulled a muscle. And for that I am truly sorry.
After the hair discussion, my Daddy decided to “git inside that head ‘a yours” and asked me for my opinions on any number of topics. I would like to think it was to truly gain insight into what makes his eldest son tick. I suspect, however, that is was simply a ruse to distract me while he foraged for illegal items that he doesn’t know I know he hides in the deep recesses of his bedside table. What sort of caretaker would I be if I didn’t spy, people? Don’t be so naïve. I have to save him from himself. This is a diabetic who fixates on sugar to the point that it’s almost funny. In the middle of a meal that he has personally requested and is eating with as much as haste as a Minuteman waiting for Paul Revere to ride by screaming about lanterns and boats and British dudes, he will state, “Boy this sure is good, but not as good as chocolate ice cream. I’d love a gallon (!) of that right now.”
So I am forced, FORCED do you hear me, to sneak and spy. Peek and pry. I have, however, found very little in the way of evidence of contraband snacks. I have, so far, simply found more empty wrappers of his approved snacks than is typically allotted. Even if they are sugar free, eating 7 popsicles in a day is not good. Anyone who has gone on a sugar free diet can tell you what sugar alcohol does to you. And you, as a regular reader, are far too familiar as it is with this area of his personal hygiene. If you are a new reader, start at the beginning. And thanks for your support.
I started to think I was making headway. Maybe he is listening to me and not eating foods that are bad for him although he has stopped losing weight after the initial 20 pounds. And I was about to get all proud of him (and myself) when my network of accidental spies began reporting.
Before you get all judgmental, let me say that it all started innocently enough. My assistant Marie casually mentioned that she saw my Dad at the snack machine (on the hospital campus where I work), buying a soda one afternoon after his doctor appointment. Another time she made him some coffee and when she asked how much sugar he took, he told her two spoonfuls, never mentioning that he is supposed to use Equal or Splenda or Old Lady (Sweet n Low) since he is diabetic. Later her daughter, Dawnyielle, then mentioned, oneday visiting on her day off, that she had seen my Dad on the other hospital campus (where we live) reading a book outside the convenience store, soda in hand. When I casually mentioned this chance sighting, my Daddy had the nerve to say that she must have mistaken him for someone else. As if there are two redheaded rednecks with a grey bowler and green paratrooper suspenders, riding a red scooter. Really? That’s your defense? It wasn’t me. Are you suddenly an R&B singer? If you’re going to make a concerted effort for people to notice you, which was his goal with the hats, then you must deal with the consequences of being noticed. Wearing colored pants (pink, kelly green, aqua) keeps me honest, y’all. You can’t perform any activity that requires stealth or secrecy if people can see your pants from outer space.
I decided not to press the issue due to the fact that I was secretly proud of him for actually leaving the house without me, even if it was to cheat on his diet and move ever closer to the reality of “the sugar taking his feet”, which is his favorite lament.
At least he’s doing something. The fact that these activities are simply sketchy as opposed to openly larcenous is a workable paradigm. This coupled with the fact that he’s started to cook for himself in the mornings is progress. I'm looking past the fact that there’s not much else to do once you’re awake at 4:30 AM. Apparently he feels that God has taked him with ensuring the sun rises on time because he wakes at the same time each day and he has no chickens to feed or cow to milk. The only downside is that he is not one to cook breakfast foods on a consistent basis. I have attempted to grow accustomed to being awakened to a variety of smells. Some are awesome (bacon); some are subtle (grilled cheese) and some are downright odd (shrimp and okra?!).
The fact that he is up makes me happy. I worry about his health being negatively impacted by his lack activity on a daily basis. So even when I would prefer not to be roused from slumber with an offer of stewed tomatoes, or tommy-toes, as he calls them, I am happy that I am offered something other than silence. Because I know that day is coming and I can't bear to think about it.
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Since we last spoke, I had an interaction with my Daddy that aired out some laundry so to speak. One of the items on the agenda was, in fact, the laundry or lack thereof. I was concerned that when I washed his clothes on Saturdays, I found but one lone pair of underwear, pants and socks. For the entire week. Now I am not one to go searching for household chores. Truth be told, if it weren’t for this Southern Baptist guilt related to the cleanliness/Godliness connection, I’d have those Merry Maids, making merry all up and through here.
However, when the stench can rouse you from sleep like the most unpleasant of alarm clocks, something must be done. “Old Man Butt with Feet”. Talk about the worst Yankee Candle scent ever. As I have previously mentioned, but feel compelled to repeat, this odor proves to be more than these new Febreze canisters (that supposedly can cover the smell of a room full of rotting meat and/or animals) can take. The funk has got to go, do you hear me. And I said as much.
During the ensuing discourse on habits that are just flat out wrong, I spoke so eloquently of the need for portion control when eating, better aim when peeing and the actual definition of a clean dish, grown men wept and Shiite Muslim terrorists loudly sang the national anthem. I mean, it was awe-inspiring and downright patriotic. I assure you, if I’d have spoken even one more sentence, Mary Lou Retton might have flipped through the living room in her American flag unitard, a sparkler in each hand.
And I think I got my point across. Now, you have to realize that portion control for him is the most quixotic of pipe dreams. Giving him free reign of the kitchen and expecting him to control himself is like giving the most felonious of carnival workers full access to the funnel cake/corn dog cart. It’s just too much temptation not to end in a gastrointestinal nightmare. And he seems oblivious to the connection. When I explained that the average person does not use a roll of toilet paper every three days unless they are decorating someone’s lawn, he seemed genuinely shocked.
I recently attended a retreat with my church choir and he was left to his own devices for exactly 46 hours. When I returned, the level of carnage in the kitchen simply defied logic. Had he been my teenage child, I would have immediately accused him of having either a party with 80 of his closest personal friends or having offered housing to a small family of refugees. Either way, more food than could have been safely consumed by one person had disappeared.
You have to understand my father views eating as a competition. It isn’t an activity to enjoy so much as it’s a means to end. And it doesn’t matter if it’s good; as long as it’s a lot. This intake of food is Olympic level. That chubby little dude on Food Nation is an amateur, people, compared to mi Padre (that’s Spanish). And his need for crackers is nothing short of an addiction. I fixed him BBQ pork roast, macaroni and cheese and broccoli for dinner the other night. And he asked for crackers to go with it. When I asked why on earth he needed crackers, he insisted if he didn’t have “bread” he didn’t think he could enjoy himself. I told him I felt pretty certain he’d survive. If one of the tenets of parenting is a mastery of sarcasm, I may be parent material after all.
I tried to explain that if he insisted on getting full every meal, he would never lose another pound. And since his only exercise is walking to the toilet to relieve himself, his food consumption should have a commensurate decrease. He accused me of speaking French and went in search of a sugar free Popsicle.
And I don’t know what he’s doing in the bathroom, but there is pee EVERYwhere. It’s as if he were a urinating Willy Waterbug. You remember those water toys from the 70s that had little tubes that sprayed water every which way? Imagine this, but with pee. I mean, how else do you explain urine on the rug in front of the sink and on top of the toilet tank? Try to un-picture that, dear friends, I dare you.
And I realize I should have left well enough alone, but I just had to slip the last topic into the conversacion (also Spanish). Now I am fully aware that you can’t un-poke a bear but I just had to ensure that he understood the real definition of washing dishes. See, he has decided that “his chore” is washing the dishes after I cook. And as a harried homemaker, I appreciate the effort. However, washing dishes is not his forte, as it were. Mind you, there are both dishes and water involved but oftentimes they do not meet. I have witnessed him wetting the silverware, with cold water and then wiping it with his fingers and placing is ever so gently onto the towel to dry.
At first, I tried to give subtle hints by placing still-dirty dishes back in the sink to be washed again, but it was to no avail. Now I don’t know if his eyesight is such that he truly can’t see the food remaining. However, a good rule of thumb for cleaning should definitely be “if you can still smell the chicken, the casserole dish might be dirty.” Just sayin’.
But apparently our “talk” worked. He has been toeing the proverbial line for the past week. I washed four, count them, four pair of underwear today. And he even ate the pre-portioned meals I cooked with very little pouting and protestations of hunger. Have we reached a middle ground? Or is he just trying to lull me into a false sense of security? Surely he hasn’t matured that quickly. He couldn’t possibly have grown as a person in a week, could he?
I should have known he’d do something so nefarious, so diabolical. I mean, how dare he become a better person, just when I've begun documenting this social experiment. See how selfish he is.
Friday, October 7, 2011
It’s the end of the first month and we’ve settled into somewhat of a routine. I accuse him of being the source of all odd smells and he accuses me of “forgetting where you come from”. Now, I have been accused of many things in my day, some nefarious, some untrue and others quite on the mark. But as someone who is able to recognize a Jim Ed Brown and Helen Cornelius duet from another room, I take exception to that remark.
I may want to forget some of the more redneck aspects of my heritage, like peeing in the yard without shame or the cover of darkness, but as someone who once dressed as Buck Owens for Halloween, I feel I am sufficiently country as to be welcomed at a 4-H meeting, y’all. I mean, I am the former owner/caretaker of a cow, sheep and horse; not necessarily in that order. I have worn Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots, albeit under duress, but I actually bought chukka boots last year, people. Chukka Boots! The fact that they are navy and come with a matching suede belt shouldn’t take any of the shine of my spurs, if you know what I mean.
After being confronted with this information, my father’s terse reply was, “Well, pardon me, Conway Twitty. Did you get your pink pants at the feed store?” Touché, Farmer Brown. Touché, indeed.
And so it goes. I have cooked boiled okra, people. Boiled Okra! But to be fair, I have made him watch Project Runway, which he says he doesn’t like but still manages to vocalize his opinions on which dress looks most “hookerish”. Oddly enough, we usually have similar tastes although I am able to guess which weird-shouldered Barbarella dress the judges will pick, whether I actually like it or not.
I think this sudden interest in fashion stems from his purchase, upon arrival, of a black bowler. He has now decided that he wants to collect hats and has since purchased gray bowler and a brown fedora. He asked me what I thought about his hats. I said I liked them just fine, but that if insisted on wearing them he needed to start dressing in more fashionable attire. As it is he looks like a hillbilly who mugged a British banker in the 1870s. And he agreed! I was rendered speechless and fled to Marshall’s before he could rescind his comment.
Why not TJ Maxx, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. TJ Maxx and Marshall’s (and Homegoods) are owned by the same company (TJX) but there are distinct differences. TJ Maxx has jewelry, only women’s shoes and more designer labels. Marshall’s has shoes for the entire family, no jewelry department and Big & Tall Menswear.
In my frenzy, I purchased an additional pair of khakis (he now has two) and a blue plaid button-down. Gingham is the new black. You heard it here first.
Of course, he hasn’t actually worn the shirt yet, but I’m holding out hope, y’all. I have made it my duty to make the world a better-dressed place one person at a time. I guess I should have picked a less complex pupil for my latest project. But fear not. Those huge, yeti-like feet will be encased in coordinated socks by the end of the year. I mean, he can’t see his feet so he wouldn’t know anyway, right?
Stealth fashion seems to be the best bet for this redneck redo. I’ll be like a Navy Seal of fashion, without the guns or camouflage make-up or the combat. Okay, maybe not a Navy Seal. Maybe just a navy-jacketed style coach for those who wear overalls. I’ll do whatever I need to do, as long as I’m cute, not sweaty and get a free pass for being judgmental. You pickin’ up what I’m throwin’ down?