My wife and I have been perusing brochures of assisted living facilities now that my mother-in-law has fallen harder and more often than the euro has this year. It reminds me of this recurring daydream that flash-forwards everyone into the future.
My 15-year-old daughter Annie is 45 now and she is pushing a large cart through the Costco warehouse. She is standing between a pallet of Depends male undergarments and the Kirkland store-brand adult diapers that Consumer Reports has just announced might run the risk of leaking on the sides. She labors over the decision on what to swaddle my incontinent fat white rear in for a moment.
Right before she chooses, the dream curtains part to reveal my 13-year-old daughter Maura in her 43-year-old form as she tours the wings of a nursing home.
She stands between the brightly lit ambient hotel vibe of the premium wing and the darker hallway that leads to rooms of boxy concrete blandness that emit a slight yet unmistakable smell of Frosted Flakes soaking in a bowl of stale urine. Maura nods politely as the manager weighs the pros and cons of their packages.
When I am no longer competent to make choices for myself in the (hopefully) distant future and my children are at a fork in the road like the ones outlined in these dreams, I hope memories my daughters have of the stuff I have been doing for them all along inspires them to choose the name brand adult diapers and the premium suite in the assisted living facility instead of opting for the cheap route.
In case they forgot, here are just a few gentle reminders to the girls on things I did that provide irrefutable proof that their dad deserves precious metal treatment in his golden years.
Christmas morning: Yes, the present bounty that was laid at your feet was only possible from your dad’s work and sharing his paycheck. That’s a given. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
The real work began after the presents were unwrapped. Those toys didn’t just spring from their packages and run across the floor on their own!
Tickle Me Elmo needed a battery enema up his furry red butt before he started to giggle, and that required yours truly to drive to every 7 Eleven in a 30 mile radius for a few packs of Duracell on Christmas morning.
With Elmo all sorted out, I turned to the Barbie that was crucified to her pink confines with wire twist ties to ensure she kept her position while in the shipping container from her Asian manufacturing origins. It was up to Dad to untwist her dozens of plastic-coated confines, and at times I must admit I wasn’t successful at ejecting her within an impatient toddler’s timeframe.
There could be more than one decapitated doll in the Central Jersey landfills that lost their heads when I lost my cool and forcibly yanked the doll from the package before her time. Rushing to K-Mart on Christmas morning to replace Headless Barbie before you noticed the incident is yet another reason why only the best will do for Dad as you put him out to pasture!
Teenybopper concerts: Sure, it might look like I was enjoying myself immensely when I hollered the lyrics to Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb” at the top of my lungs, but I was just masking the pain of being subjected to a whole evening of bubblegum pop. Passing a kidney stone would have been a more joyous way to spend an evening.
Yet I still would rather take in a Greyson Chance/Selena Gomez double bill than sit through Disney’s Single Mom Princesses on Ice, Elmo Goes to the Proctologist on Ice, Bert and Ernie Come Out of the Closet on Ice, or Sesame Street’s Intervention of Oscar the Grouch on Ice.
Our downstairs basement is crammed with plastic wands, glow sticks and hats that are fond reminders of those shows and evidence that I deserve the deluxe meal package at the nursing home.
Chuck-e-Cheese: This most god-awful amusement and eating establishment on the planet was your
favorite place on Earth for the first few years of your life. This was, of course, a germaphobe’s nightmare -- kissing a homeless man’s tush would be cleaner than the yellow and red ones you joyously slobbered on while inside that giant meshed playroom.
The silver Chuck-e-Cheese game tokens have the words “no cash value” on them, something I confirmed the following day when I tried to use them as part of my co-pay when I had you in the pediatrician’s office for a mysterious case of pink eye.
Coincidence? I think not.
Dance recitals: Wading through three hours of interpretive dance, modern dance, ballet and company performances just to see you do that one tap number in the back line is torture at an incomprehensible level. Your mother sat next to me and she seemed to enjoy every minute of it while I plotted the murder of the effete dance school owner whose idea it was to string this many show tunes in rapid succession.
IKEA furniture: When you have kids of your own, I’m sure you’ll tell these mocking stories of how your father would think he was following the Swedish instructions down to a “t” on your little art desk, only to realize there were four screws left over and the drawer mechanism was facing the wrong way once everything was tightened up.
You’ll stand up in a fit of laughter, mocking the way when you were a kid your dad would throw the widget tool across the room and scream “f***ing live with it that way” before exiting the room with great dramatic flair.
Perhaps this might be a compelling reason to buy the store-branded adult diapers, come to think of it. Never mind.
Hopefully, I made my case and my point!
(Mike Farragher’s essays can be found on www.thisisyourbrainonshamrocks.com)