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Reflections April 2015

Agelessly Yours

Dinner In The Barracks

By Karen White-Walker

“I don’t know why you insist on living your life in the fast lane, and dragging us along with you,” lamented my mother. But if we didn’t include them she’d say, “What, old parents are like worn-out clothing –  good enough for around the house, but not good enough to be seen in public?”

When out-of-town relatives come for long extended visits, our family throws a big bash when they arrive, and an even bigger celebration when they leave. It sounds like their departure is better than their arrival, and that just isn’t so. It’s true that my sister, brother-in-law, my husband and I all get exhausted because we have this crazy, cockamamie notion that we must entertain everybody, every minute of every day.

I also have to “pretend” that I’m a more organized housekeeper than I really am, and that my husband and I aren’t prime subjects for an article to be considered in that magazine with its monthly column, “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” It seems like relatives have always put a strain on our relationship, because my husband claims I “change” when I’m around them, and I insist that he shows off when he’s around his people — period! Personally, I think change is better than showing off, don’t you?

So many times I’ve made reference to how my visiting elderly parents had really slowed down before we sadly lost them. They equated tackling a flight of stairs with that of climbing Pike’s Peak, so we had to do things strictly at sea level and very slow paced. If we wanted to go out for dinner at 6:00 p.m. we had to inform them at 9:00 a.m. or they’d never be ready.

“I don’t know why you insist on living your life in the fast lane, and dragging us along with you,” lamented my mother. But if we didn’t include them she’d say, “What, old parents are like worn-out clothing – good enough for around the house, but not good enough to be seen in public?”

Of course I’d hyperventilate when she played the “I feel sorry for myself” card, but I just retreated to my bedroom, fell to my knees and begged God to keep reminding me of His fourth commandment and make me forget about His seventh one. Of course I’m kidding, because the pay-offs in laughter with aging parents far exceeded the pay-outs in tears.

Although there were days when my dad’s memory was good and he was very coherent, there were times when you had to repeat at least 50 times where we were going and what we were going to do. One summer the six of us made plans to go to a dinner theatre to see Neil Simon’s delightful Army comedy “Biloxi Blues.”

“Where are we going?” asked Dad on our drive up there. Within ten minutes he asked the same question so many times, and I kept repeating the same answer and very gingerly I reminded him that I had just told him.

“You never said that once, never once!” he insisted. “You people are all lopsided, sideways, upside down and that’s the truth!”

You’d think that such a dialogue would throw us into a deep depression, but Dad was so animated, and his facial expressions so comical, that we were forced to laugh. Laughing BEFORE taking in a comedy –  how extraordinary is that?

We were escorted to our table by the dinner theatre’s owner and once seated, my dad piped up with, “This was one hell of a long ride just to get something to eat.”

“No Dad, we’re seeing a play, too, remember?” spoke up my sister.

“Go on! A play? You never said that once, never once!” he complained.

“I know, Dad,” I spoke up, “we’re all lopsided, sideways, and upside down.”

“Ain’t that the truth!” he piped up.

The dinner was luscious, the service excellent, and soon it was time for the show. This was when we “lost” Mom to another area in the restaurant/theatre — a table practically on stage so she could hear better because of her serious hearing loss.

“Biloxi Blues” is extremely entertaining with its very humorous lines, zingers, impeccable timing, and serious undertones that gives the play substance. The language in the Army barracks is maybe considered spicy for the play’s 1943 setting, but rather mild by today’s lingo. But every time the sergeant yelled, lambasted and swore at his men, Mom jumped, reached for her purse, and we kept worrying the whole time that she was going to hop up on stage and bop the big mouth over the head with her purse, adding greatly to the drama.

Oh, to only have our two family “entertainers” back with us again.

 

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