My friend Nuria told me today that she heard I went for a 2-week visit in the United States to spend time with “a man.”
Air quotes were intended.
A man? I looked at her aghast, and then I chuckled. Yes, I guess I did. If you consider my visit with my 89-year-old father-in-law as time spent with “a man.”
My flight from Barcelona to Washington, D.C. was not a bowl of cherries. In fact, it might have been the in-flight meal with cherries that caused my dreadful sickess.
Seven hours of food poisoning, sick in the airplane’s closet-sized bathroom. When I was not in the toilet, I was hunched over in a jumpseat in the back galley wrapped in a blanket. The flight attendants tried to ease my constant shivering with a bottle of hot water that they kept reheating in the microwave.
I was brought off the plane in a wheelchair and taken through airport security and out to a waiting Uber.
In the past, whenever I saw someone in a wheelchair coming off an airplane, my idle thought was — I hope I never find myself in that condition. It must suck to be old.
Well, by the grace of God there goes I.
The Uber driver delivered an exhausted me to the home of my father-in-law.
Bobby has 5 sons, 6 daughters-in-law, 19 grandchildren and a couple of great grans. But he insists on living solo in the two-story house that has steps to the upstairs and steps to the basement . . . which we all fear will be his undoing.
Time spent with Bobby, aka “a man,” is a privilege. He is funny and tells good stories (often the same story a few times a day).
During our two weeks together, we went to multiple vision and hearing appointments. They are especially entertaining when your sister-in-law ditches whatever she is doing and joins you. Lots of giggles.
I had several opportunities to drive Bobby to the Jewish Community Center Gym where he was the oldest guy working out. I’m not sure what consists of “working out.” I don’t believe lifting weights is involved, but not quite sure.
It must be noted that any time spent in a car with Bobby is an exercise in patience while he tells you why he should NOT have had his driver’s license taken away. That happened back in August. He couldn’t hear my reasonable responses on this topic because he will not wear his hearing aids.
He and I made several visits to the grocery store. He didn’t like that I put the car in the parking space with the blue “wheelchair” sign. Embarrassing.
But he loves the grocery store as it allows him to utilize the shopping cart as support, thus ditching his cane. He believes he blends in with all the other shoppers who pack the aisles of the Giant on a Friday afternoon.
He slowly wanders up and down the aisles trying to remember what he had scribbled on a shopping list that he had forgotten back at the house. He likes to open the doors of the glass cases in the frozen food section and stand there and ponder. I just go and look at sushi and other things he would never ever eat, such as avocados.
Then we go through the checkout lane. He is the only person still living in the DC area who writes a check. The cashier doesn’t even ask him for ID. She knows him. “Hi, Mr. Jacobi.” Writing the check takes a while, but everyone behind us in the line is patient. Perhaps they admire that he lives his life on his own terms with a visiting daughter-in-law who doesn’t interfere. Or perhaps they are just immersed in their phones.
That night in the kitchen, Bobby prepared his dinner of Sara Lee raspberry pastries, Oreo cookies, chocolate brownies, and a sprinkled covered donut. I mentioned to him that I look forward to returning in the Spring to celebrate his 90th birthday.
He made a sigh, stared me square in the eye, and said: “I really can’t believe I will be 90, because inside I feel like I am 35.”
Don’t we all?
The next morning, I told him “come on, let’s get in the car, I’m taking you for a haircut and shave at the barbershop.” He protested the shave part and asked me if I thought he needed a haircut… “woman to man.”
I was frank. “Yes, come on, you need a haircut.” And off we went.
Negotiating a busy Saturday morning parking lot with a cane and a gait that is sketchy at best, as well as the two steps that go DOWN into the barbershop — I gotta tell ya, I was rethinking this idea of a haircut. If he tripped and fell it would be all on me. No haircut can fix a busted head.
But he made it just fine and the lovely woman barber was thrilled to see him. . . again.
I didn’t know he had “another woman.”
I whispered to her to give him a nice old-fashioned shave, too. The kind where you use lots of shaving cream, a brush, and one of those straight razors. I exited the barbershop to go mosey around next door at the hardware store.
Thirty minutes later, I returned to find a new man. Huge smile on his face and more energetic than ever. There he sat in the barber chair and when I came in, he beamed and said “who knew that a shave could be this good? I feel like I’m 25 years old.”
I’m glad I could shave another 10 years off his age.
So yes, I just returned from spending two weeks in the States with “a man.” A really good man.
Bobby, with his cane and his snail-paced precarious momentum, provided me with ample time to slow down and look at everyday life with a senior perspective.
He may have the speed of an almost 90-year-old, but with it comes the heart of someone 25 to 35 on any God-given day.
I took my Catalan language midterm exams this past week. With jet lag and all… I did pretty well. The Catalan word for father-in-law is “el sogre.”
Séu returned from a week in Bern, Switzerland. She was with one of our favorite families who is 2nd generation into the slalom canoe kayak world. Skiing in the Alps! The world is indeed getting smaller. I remember when I was her age that driving to Alabama was an adventure.
As always, thank you for reading.
Lisa (and Séu)