Taking Care

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My dad is the last of our parents still surviving. He will  turn 98 in November. He is in assisted living and I visit on the same days every week. Consistency is important. Crystal comes with me about once a week. The girls visit whenever they can. Visiting him has apparently led to a new topic of conversation between our daughters. When our time comes, it has been decided that Lisa will get Crystal. That makes sense since they talk on the phone for hours every week anyway. Liz will be stuck with me. Michelle, obviously the wisest of the three, will just be available when the others complain.

I do find it interesting that in no scenario do Crystal and I stay together in our approaching old age. We’ll have to see about that. But, if the girls have their way, Liz gets me. Sorry Brad. Liz is smart, organized, very compassionate, and can out stubborn a herd of goats. Crystal insists that Liz reminds her of someone. When I ask who, she just smiles and rolls her eyes. I’m still not sure to whom she was referring. Except for the final trait, she might have meant me. I, however, have never been stubborn a day in my life; and I would fight anyone to the death who said I was.

Liz, however, was born that way. She was also born a daddy’s girl. I remember coming home from a hard day at work ready to crash in my favorite chair only to be greeted at our front door by an adorable two year old wearing her winter coat on backwards (easier to put on that way). She turned her head briefly to her mom and said her two favorite words “Daddy, Out”. Inevitably there was something I thought of that we needed at the store or something for dinner, or just a walk or a couple of pushes on a cold swing. She had me trained.

On rare occasions, her well tolerated manipulations backfired. She had to be around three years old and we had just finished some errands. It was time for a little treat. We stopped at one of my favorite restaurants, Pepe’s Tacos. Picture a classy version of Taco Bell with actually good Mexican food. I can’t remember what I ordered, but I always ordered a side of pickled Jalapenos. I just liked a little extra spice. Unfortunately, Liz loved pickles. She immediately reached for the peppers. I unceremoniously pulled them out of her reach. What followed was at least five minutes of discussion about what Liz insisted were the pickles I was hoarding. Somehow, I was unable to convince her that she wouldn’t like them. Tears were shed. Finally, after I wiped my eyes, I gave in. I cut off the tiniest piece of a pepper I could manage. She quickly popped it into her mouth and chewed. Her face changed in a matter of moments from the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat. The little green temptress wound up on the table cloth. And I fed her some chips to sooth her burnt palate.

It was one of those rare teachable moments you get as a parent. When you are a kid, you promise yourself you’ll never say certain things when you are the parent. But temptation was too great. I believe my next sentence began with the phrase ‘maybe next time when I tell you’.

By now I’m certain that with her five perfect children, Liz has more than once, repeated similar shallow words in an attempt to maintain some measure of control and authority. That is just what you do with kids, try to keep them safe, sometimes in spite of themselves.

And someday when Liz and I return to Pepe’s Tacos and I ask for a side of Jalapenos; Liz will take them away and try to explain that they are no good for my ulcer. Who do you think will win that argument?

Spoiler Alert: Next post will contain details of progress on the publication of our memoir. Yes, there has been progress.

The girls visited this weekend. Liz and I enjoyed a couple of Jalapenos. They had no idea why I poised them like this. Can you guess?


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