When I was a little girl, I guess around 5 or 6, my mom had her gall bladder removed.
Even though my dad was at home with me, it was the mid-70s and fathers weren’t really known for their housekeeping skills, so to ensure that I was fed, bathed and did not burn the house down, Mary Cahalan, my mom’s best friend who lived across the street from us in the Bronx, kept an eye on me while Mom was in the hospital.
This was fantastic because Mary only had sons, and they were older than me, so she relished the idea of spoiling a little girl for a few days. And after I got over the confusion of why my mother wasn’t home, I was excited about Mary because, after all, this is the same woman who returned from Ireland with a GIANT shopping bag full of chocolate for me once.
First of all, she had an awesome Irish brogue and the expressions that went along with it (my favorite, for some reason, was “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”); second, she liked to paint my nails because she was well-manicured and my mom was not a nail-painter; and lastly, she did cool stuff like, after giving me a bath, she’d let me stand on the toilet while she dried me off with a big fluffy towel and then covered me in yummy-smelling baby powder. Oh, she also let me eat chocolate. A lot.
It wasn’t that my mom didn’t do cool things for me, it’s just that Mary let me do different cool things that I wasn’t accustomed to doing. I don’t know why I thought standing naked on a toilet was glamorous, but for some reason it made me feel like a movie star. (Hmmm…maybe I need to try that again sometime…)
Well, my mom is in the hospital again today, having surgery, and recovering very nicely, thank you very much. Mary Cahalan died many years ago, so she is not around to powder me down after a bath, although I admit that would be a bit weird now (okay, a LOT weird).
Instead, since we still can’t trust my dad to cook, clean, and not burn down the house, I’ve come to stay with him at my parents’ house while she’s in the hospital and then to help take care of her for a bit once she comes home. I sense the same feeling in my dad that I had 35 years ago when Mary Cahalan was briefly the new sheriff in our town. He’s a little confused that things aren’t the way they usually are, and yet he’s enjoying the way it’s panning out.
I’m letting him do things when he wants, on his schedule. So when we got home from the hospital at 4 this afternoon, we both napped, even though there’s a chance we won’t sleep tonight because of it. (Although, true to form, my mother’s radar must have been in full effect because she DID manage to call and wake us up!) We’re having leftover pizza for dinner, and we’re waiting until we’re actually hungry to have it. I think I’m going to let him be in charge of the remote control tonight, which is his equivalent of dancing naked on a toilet. And when I showed up yesterday, I came bearing chocolate cake. So, yeah, all hell is breaking loose without a responsible adult in the house.
So 35 years later, instead of being the one someone takes care of, I’m the one that’s in charge. But I’m still paying it forward and making the most of doing things a bit differently, even if it’s just for a few days. So if my dad wants to stand naked on the toilet and douse himself with baby powder, he’s got my blessing. I’ll be in the kitchen cutting him a big slice of chocolate cake!