Could This Life Get Any Funnier? by Melissa Swedoski
As you roll along this mortal coil, does it ever seem like someone is having a good laugh at your expense? You think you’ve got it all going on, all that and a bag of chips, and then, just to keep you humble, something ridiculous happens to remind you, “don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Over the holiday weekend, my sister and her boyfriend, along with my father, came to visit. It was a typical family weekend – eating out, a little shopping, and a family friendly event for the kids. Maybe not all that exciting, but when you have children who need to stay on a schedule, you tend to work around them, for the sake of your sanity.
During these weekends, my father likes to corner me in the kitchen while I’m doing dishes. I can’t get away (because if I stop washing dishes I will never return), so I have to listen to what he has to say. Although admittedly sometimes I just talk louder and/or change the subject multiple times and he gives up.
On this particular “cornering” moment, my father asked me what the word was in “The Godfather” to label the men allowed to give counsel to the don. Well, he mangled the pronunciation of “consigliere,” but I knew that’s what he was trying to say. When I asked why, he said he needed me to be his consigliere for a moment, although no illegal or illicit discussion followed.
The thing about being a later-in-life mom is that you are often the parent of young children and the child of older parents, all at the same time. I tried to pooh-pooh the people who were telling me this as I had my first child at 40.
“You’ll be picking out a nursing home as they’re picking out their first house,” one woman said, I think trying to be funny.
“You’ll be shopping for two sets of diapers: one for you and one for the grandkids when they come visit.”
Hardy har har. Hilarious. Do you have a joke about peeing several times during the night as well?
The truth is, though, that with only my father left alive, the family dynamic has altered. Before, my mother was the center of the family universe. She made the vacation plans, she chose the menu for holiday meals, she kept track of birthdays and kept us all up-to-date on the far-flung relatives that we rarely saw, but at least knew of their shenanigans.
For the last three years, however, we’ve been without her guidance, and I’m not sure any of us were paying close enough attention to take up the reins. Fortunately, my sister had the recipes for the holiday favorites, although none of us were adept at cooking them. I’m good at making lists, so I had all the important dates marked down. Keeping up with the relatives? Not so much, but it turns out, I don’t really miss that part that much anyway.
The one thing I was under-prepared for, however, was dealing with my now-single father. Not because he didn’t know how to do things. He was experienced in cleaning, doing the laundry, even a little light cooking, just to get by. He had a rough transition taking over the family finances, but he eventually found a system that works for him, and now he can obsess over it to his heart’s content.
The main difference is that he is now left without his “consigliere” – i.e., my mother. He’s not a man of many friends, and definitely not any that he’ll share his troubles with (doesn’t want to be a burden, you know), so when he has something he wants to discuss, I usually get cornered in the kitchen.
It’s not the counseling part I mind. It’s the sorrow that raps at my heart every time it happens. It’s just one more reminder that my mom isn’t here. One more reminder that her wisdom – although strong in my being – is out of my reach now, just a little too far for a phone call.
Life likes to play funny tricks on you. Sometimes in your very own kitchen.