Observations on quality time with my 84 year old father, day 7

Observations on quality time with my 84 year old father, day 7:

• Typical driving conversation:

Me – “Dad, I see you’re futzing with the air vents. Are you too hot or too cold?”
Dad – “Both”

• As hard as he may try, my father just can’t get the hang of “Politically Correct” terminology. As we age, it can be more difficult to adapt to change, particularly when those changes are cultural. When you’re in the workplace, especially if you work for a large organization, most people catch on pretty quickly, plus you have mandatory trainings. My dad though has been “retired” for close to 20 years, so he’s not quite up on the latest terminology nor does he attend mandatory trainings…although maybe he should. He currently uses the term “Afro-American” as if “Love American Style” was still a present-day television show. Before we were married, when referring to my wife, who is Japanese-American, he would say that my previous girlfriends were American. I said, “Dad, she was born in California. She’s every bit as American as you or me.” “You know what I mean” he said. Later on he referred to her as “Oriental”. I said, “Dad, that’s a phrase used for things like ‘rugs’, not people. Better to use the term ‘Asian’.” That was difficult for him to swallow. “Let me get this straight: you want me to call her “Asian’? Isn’t Russia in Asia too? Would you have called Khrushchev ‘Asian’?” I told him it’s always best to call people what they prefer to be called. I guess it’s better than my ex-wife, who he was convinced was a Nazi. “Dad, she’s from Holland. The Germans overran Holland early in the war and made the life of Dutch people miserable. Her parents had to eat tulip bulbs to survive. They have no love for Germany”. He protested. “What about Kurt Waldheim? He turned out to be a Nazi!” “But Dad, he was Austrian. That’s got nothing to do with Holland. And anyway, your Dad was from Austria. Was he a Nazi?” “Curt, now you’re talking crazy! He was Jewish, of course not!” Yeah, I’m taking crazy. I just need to learn to pick my battles. Circular conversations give me a headache.

• He’s always been a spitter. “I have post-nasal drip” he says. When I was younger, he would spit out the driver’s side window while driving. We had a pool table above our garage in the 70s and while playing he would spit out the window into the backyard. If it was really cold though he would spit in the closet. He didn’t like when I told Mom that. Now, that he’s the passenger instead of the driver, I have to make sure that when he spits, there isn’t a bicyclist going by. I don’t want him to hock a loogy in some tattooed Gen X’rs face and have them kick a dent in the rental car’s door. I’ve paid enough in parking tickets here already and don’t want to have to pay damage fees too.

You’ll have to excuse me for now. The microwave needs another cleaning.

© Curt Weiss 2014

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