While it certainly isn’t the first time I realized how far removed I have been for most of my life from the grittiness of family affairs and relations, I was reminded of it in buckets again today. The aging of my parents has embroiled me in elemental family matters to a degree I have never before experienced. My primary mission today was no more complicated than to take mother to the Life Lab for some blood work recently requisitioned by her physician. The experience was nonetheless ornamented with tribal colour and texture.
The exploit began at six o’clock this morning. Last night I had instructed Siri on my iPhone to awaken me at 6:00 a.m. this morning which “he” dutifully attempted before advising me that my iPhone was in “airplane mode”. Once I resolved that hidden issue, the instruction was reiterated and duly scheduled. And sure enough at 6:00 a.m. this morning the iPhone began its annoying buzz to awaken me from what was then a deep slumber.
Although our appointment at the Lab wasn’t until 10:40 a.m. my mother had asked that I telephone her to ensure that she was out of bed in time to prepare for the expedition. After having made myself a coffee and prepared a bowl of cereal with a sliced banana I reckoned it was appropriate to call her. When mother answered the telephone she sounded groggy. She insisted she was awake though she acknowledged she was still in bed, and no, she didn’t need me to call later to make sure she hadn’t fallen back to sleep.
After browsing my computer and munching my breakfast I realized it was time to prepare myself for the drive to collect mother. The subsequent moments passed rather more quickly than I had anticipated and as a result I was in a bit of a rush to get out of the apartment and onto the road. I needn’t have fretted as the traffic was by that time relatively thin and I ended arriving at my mother’s house earlier than planned. We nonetheless left for our destination though we decided to stop at the local branch of the Royal Bank of Canada to get some cash. After some debate about whether to withdraw the cash from her chequing or savings account we settled upon the chequing account and I assisted her at the ATM. Once mother had withdrawn the cash she pretended to count it (but acceded to me doing so on her behalf) and then proceeded to push a chunk of it in my direction. I resisted the offer and told her it was no trouble for me to assist her in these matters. As she pocketed the money again she insisted on paying for our lunch later, an offer I accepted.
I then proceeded to the Life Lab and dropped mother at the front door. As usual she asked whether I wanted her “disabled” blue card which she had formerly used when driving. She persists in keeping the plastic card in her purse even though she no longer drives. She never seems to understand my reluctance to use it when I am not in fact disabled. In any event we overcame that obstacle and I told her to wait on the nearby bench until I parked the car and returned. Of course the parking lot was almost full and I had to park in the most remote space.
We met at the front and proceeded inside. Although I had ensured that mother had her health card I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten to extract the physician’s requisition from the glove compartment of the car. So back I went to the furthest corner of the parking lot to collect it, muttering obscenities along the way. Once I rejoined the small group waiting for service in the Lab it was but a short delay before mother was called. Her mission complete, she soon reappeared in the waiting area and we discussed our luncheon plans. The plans included collecting my other half to join us, which we did and headed back to the City to a Chinese restaurant en route.
Once seated in the restaurant my mother took an instant dislike to our tattooed server who she decided had a bad cough and shouldn’t be serving food. This intelligence, while mildly disturbing, wouldn’t have been particularly out of place were it not for the fact that mother insisted on pronouncing her objection in a fairly audible manner within hearing distance of the server. As the server (whose English was admittedly strained and who might therefore be presumed not to have understood what my mother had said) did not appear to react, we let it slide. However, when my mother subsequently commented – again in less than sotto voce – that the server should quit arguing with the cook and get on with what he was employed to do – my immediate reaction was to jab her with my right elbow and insist she put a lid on it! She looked at me with considerable astonishment as though she failed to understand my precipitous concern. But thankfully she sensed the strength of my rebuff sufficiently to clam up.
As always in these recent embarrassments everyone recovered remarkably quickly as though nothing at all had transpired. We were by then drinking our soup and eating our respective meals. Mother had ordered less than we and she claimed to have had enough. When however I shared with her morsels off my own plate she made short order of them. At the end of the meal we had only to endure the customary kerfuffle surrounding payment of the meal. Mother grabbed the bill with the dexterity of a hawk but became entangled in a private conundrum about whether to pay cash or use her bank card. There ensued further review of the matter in some detail, weighing the pros and cons of cash, the triggering of the need to return to the bank for more cash as a result and the trap of not having the exact change. Not to mention the wrangle about the amount of the tip. We resolved this extraordinary inconvenience by determining that we would pay for lunch with our credit card and mother could repay us in cash. We assured her that the amount of cash proffered by her was sufficient to exhaust the liability.
As we made our way to mother’s home she confessed she was drained by the events of the day and that she looked forward to having an afternoon nap. I appeased her characterization of frustration with having to do these things by recasting the proceedings as a mixture of dutiful work, leisurely drive in the country on a lovely day and a relaxing lunch. I am not convinced that my spin on it was entirely palatable. It is conceivable that at 89 years of age everything is annoying.