Category Archives: olds

Team McUseless Again

[Important background information:  One of the Olds and I greet each other by shouting “HI” followed by the person’s name as LOUDLY AS POSSIBLE EVERY SINGLE TIME ONE OF US COMES INTO A ROOM. IT IS FUNNY. Ish. Was probably funnier when we had only been doing it for like two days instead of a month, but, whatever. The purpose of the game is to scare and/or annoy one another; anyone else [i.e., the other Old] in the general area who is annoyed is a bonus.]
Time: This morning
Place: Living room
Players: Olds,  me
Old #1: I need to speak to the two of you about something.

(Old #2 and I exchange glances of trepidation)

Me: What?  I’m sure it’s Dad’s fault, not mine.

Old #1: No, it is BOTH of you.  It is about your noise level.

Old #2 [shouting even tho is 5 feet away]: WHAT??  WHAT DID YOU SAY ABOUT NOISE??? WHAT???

Me: [laugh laugh laugh]

Old #2: [laugh laugh laugh]

Old #2 and me: [laugh laugh laugh] WHAT?? WHAT??  WHAT DO YOU MEAN?!?! [laughs]


Me: What yelling?

Old #2: We don’t yell. What are you talking about?

Me: Last night? I wasn’t even up here.

2: No, she wasn’t

Me: Except that one time

2: Oh right,when I asked you to put the dog out.

Me: Maybe that was the yelling?

2: I don’t think so. Why would I raise my voice? I was right in the same room.

Me: I know.  We’re not deaf. Maybe mom is just too sensitive. And the dog could hear us.

2: I have no idea what your mother is talking about.
Me: Me either. What were we even saying?

1: [can barely speak bc totally suffused with fury] when. you. say. HI. It is TOO. LOUD.

2, Me: [confused, innocent, wide eyed looks] What? Huh? We can’t say hi now?
1: [no words. pure anger. shoulders and ears level with one another]
Me: I just don’t know how us, speaking in normal voices, could bother you all the way upstairs! [nods from #2] I know! Did you have your c-pap on?

1: [barely forced out] nooooo. maybe not.

Me: Oh! Well then! See!!  No WONDER you woke up!

2: That isn’t OUR fault!


2: You weren’t sleeping soundly then! Actually, you weren’t even REALLY asleep yet!

Me: Right!!! Also, the noise of it wasn’t covering up other sounds; usually the machine running blocks out noise!

2: True! So, if the machine wasn’t running, and you weren’t even asleep, then, why are you making us feel so bad??
Me: Also, it isn’t my fault that you sleep with the door open!

2: No, why should we be punished for that?

[neglecting to remember that he doesn’t close it either]

Me: AND: did you turn the fan on? Sometimes you forget to turn the fan on, and then, with the door open and no c-pap on, well—I just can’t see how this can possibly be our fault!

2: You could have turned on the fan!  Yes!

Me: Also, you could have gotten the one from Laura’s room AND turned that one on, couldn’t you?
2: Exactly! Two fans would have solved this whole issue!
Me: Did you have the fan on or not???

1: no. i didn’t. [white with rage. no visible neck. hair seems floaty as though might be standing oddly away from scalp]


[continuing on in this manner shouting over each other in a fearsome crescendo]
Old #1: never. mind.
Me, Old 2 exchange satisfied looks, nod, praise dog for jumping on Old 1, and ask Old 1 when she’s going to make us some more damn coffee.

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dirty ramblings

One of the many, many problems of living with one’s Olds is that one no longer has much choice about certain things. Although they are always very clear that this is my house too, and that I belong here and all of that, when it comes down to decisions about the house and its contents, I have no say.

Which is probably for the best most of the time, because I hated owning a home and having to do things like mow the yard and call plumbers and vacuum. It was all a lot of energy that I could have been putting somewhere more valuable, such as learning to get along with other people in a professional environment—-HA! Oh, that was a good one.

I have already mentioned the Olds’ new furniture idea. Nothing has changed yet, but at any moment a large truck could roar up and start unloading things. Because it is clear now that I will not be getting any warning about future home improvement products. For instance, a week ago, the Olds went out for the afternoon, and came back with a gleam in their eyes and expressions of utter satisfaction on their smug little faces.

“What did you do?” I demanded, breaking up their little whisper and giggle fest.
(I am not kidding when I say it is like living with 4th graders. Ones that drink vodka instead of juiceboxes, but still)

They both sit up straight, mentally smoothing down their straightjackets, and one of them says, in a not particularly friendly way:

“WE bought a washer and dryer!”

The other Old nodded and glared at me as if to say “YEAH WE DID, MOTHERFUCKER!!”

They seemed very defensive about it. “Oh, good” I said, carefully. “When is it being delivered?”

“On SATURDAY!!!!”, they crowed, arms crossed, with, I swear to god, some hair tossing. Well. Head tossing, to be more precise. Not a lot of hair to toss on one of them.

I looked from the burning gaze of one to the barely concealed eye rolls of the other. Unable to think of any safe reply, I backed away with what I intended to be a pleasant look on my face, and shot down the stairs to my lair. I listened intently for any explosions upstairs but heard only some slapping…..which was disturbing until, I realized they were high five-ing each other.
Which, was still disturbing. It was just the least upsetting thing that such a sound could ha—-ANYWAY.

I will not recount the actual delivery and installation of the new appliances, for it is too annoying and too early for vodka. But it is here, and apparently, it works. For everyone but me. I have now tried to do three loads of laundry and I have a feeling they will be my last. I could probably figure out all of the seventy million different settings if I tried; that’s not really the point. What is going to drive me the rest of the way out of my mind is how one of the Olds keeps trying to help me. She does this from a different floor of the house, by yelling instructions which I cannot hear and which make no sense anyway, and then she threatens, I mean, offers, to come up and “help” me. This counts as technology instruction and is therefore unacceptable.
I’m either going to have to start going to the laundromat or just wearing my clothes in the shower to get them clean.

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Keeping up with the Oldses

One of the many responsibilities I have as Keeper of the Olds is making sure that they are still healthy and in [mostly] working order.  And, in spite of the fact that they treat their livers like amusement parks and eat according to the four food groups of caffeine, sugar, red meat, and cheese, they are both in better health than they have any right to be at their age.

Since I live with them, I am well aware of my limitations.  I no longer try to keep up with them in most ways.  For example, I know that I cannot drink their coffee, for I have a human heart that will stop working with that amount of caffeine flowing through it. They are both proud that they stopped putting cream in their coffee years ago, but since I believe they could put heavy whipping cream in what they call coffee and still only turn it a dark, murky brown, I give them no health benefits for this.

I also do not eat the same diet as they do much of the time, because I eat very little red meat, which they believe should be eaten at least once a day.  I also refuse to eat what I define as “cute” meat.  This includes lamb and veal. The Olds, on the other hand, often drive past fields of darling baby animals in the springtime and remark on how delicious they look.  Perhaps if I could drink more than a tablespoon of Irish whiskey at a time, I too might be numb and dead enough inside to feel absolutely no empathy for God’s most adorable, fluffy creatures.

Since they are from rural Ohio and had me when they were about 14 years old, the Olds are not actually that much older than me.  My sister, though, was born when they were around 35, and she cannot keep up with them either.  The Olds like to visit her, because she lives in Chicago and has an excellent wine shop around the corner from her house. Usually, about 36 hours into their visit, I will receive a phone call or a text from my sister, explaining that she is lying on her bed unable to move and believes that she may be dying. Her head is pounding, her stomach is a sea of discontent, and in general she feels as though she has just been on a three day bender with Henry VIII. This is because she tries to keep up with the Olds’s vacation schedule when they visit, which is even more shocking than their regular schedule. It goes something like this:

1. Wake up. Drink nine cups of coffee so as to achieve same effect as one cup of their homemade brew
2. Go in search of breakfast. In Chicago, this usually means doughnuts from Glazed and Infused. Go look at their website. I will wait here for you.
[Did you see those things? They are unholy, unless your religion is doughnut worship, in which case, they are a collection of gods made of sugar and fat]
3. Talk about where to have lunch.
4. Look up menus of lunch possibilities on the internet
5. Go to lunch.

6. Possibly, do some sight seeing or shopping.  Meaning, they usually end up at the wine store buying all of the French wine they cannot get at home.

7. This is exhausting, so they either go back to hotel or my sister’s home and nap for two hours.
8. Wake up, realize is 4pm, meaning is 5pm in Indiana and therefore they may start drinking
9. Start drinking cocktails
10. Get ready for dinner
11.  Go out to dinner, usually at excellent and often quite expensive place. Have enormous dinner with proper wines and post dinner brandy, port, or Irish whiskey.
12. Olds: return happily to hotel. Sleep the sleep of the innocent for a full nine hours.
13. Sister: stumbles home and tries to stay alive
14. Next morning: Olds bright eyed, bushy-tailed, and confused as to why sister and her husband are moving slowly and avoiding loud noises.  Ask them loudly how they are feeling seven or eight times.
15.  Repeat. For three or four days.
Then, they return home and say that they are worried that my sister is coming down with something due to her lack of energy and general greenish coloring.

It is at that point that I have to remind them that not everyone approaches life as though it takes place at a medieval feast with 15 courses and gallons of ale. They cannot understand why that is, and I suppose that is why they are in general, pretty upbeat. Either that, or they no longer have enough brain cells left to switch between different emotional states.

Because of their tendency to excess, I often worry about their cardiovascular health. That is why I like to do random spot checks on their hearts and their reflexes. I often have to change up my techniques to keep them on their toes, but generally, I conduct my spot checks as follows:

I wait until they have retired for the evening. Then I make sure they are finished getting up and down to get a drink of water, going to the bathroom, finding their teeth, taking their nightly meds, and all their other pre-sleep Olden activities.  I can tell when they’re finally settled in because one of them starts to snore intermittently and the other one reads, passive aggressively turning pages with as much crinkling and rustling as possible because he’s trying to wake the other one up enough to stop her snoring.  Once the rustling and crinkling dies down and the snore subsides to a steady buzz, I know that one of them is sound asleep, and the other one is engrossed in his book and starting to relax into a drowsy haze.

Then, what I like to do is creep up the stairs to their open door, stick my hands into their room, and CLAP as loudly as two hands can CLAP.  Sometimes I also yell or whoop very loudly. It depends on how in-depth of a spot check I’m doing.

What is good about this method is that it enables me to check on their heart health, because one of them used to have atrial fibrillation. Usually, there is no episode of that, which is good.
It also allows me to see if their reflexes are still fast enough for them to be allowed to drive, because usually one or both of them scream and fling all four limbs into the air in terror. Also, it proves that their hearing is still functional. All of which I remind them, before running for cover, which I have to do very,very fast since they also still have pretty good aim.

And they read very heavy books.

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Team McUseless

Sometimes, when I am bored and there is no one around for me to torment, I have to resort to texting my sister annoying questions.


I do this because I know it infuriates her, and that amuses me.

The reason it infuriates her is because it reminds her of when one of the Olds had knee replacement surgery. The Kneeless Old had (k)needed a (k)new knee for some time, but kept putting it off. Finally, the Kneeful Old and I convinced her that it was time. She could barely walk without extreme pain, and all of her constant complaining and negativity was starting to get on our nerves. Plus, she was having trouble getting around well enough to do all of our errands, and eventually, I had to start going with her to do them. I did not move home to spend my days picking up prescriptions and dry cleaning and purchasing groceries, for Christ’s sake, and I told her so.

Her reply seemed unduly harsh, so I will not reproduce it here.

The prospect of having to rely on me and worse, the Kneeful Old, finally proved to be even more terrifying than the thought of surgery, and so she scheduled it with her surgeon.

It was at that point that the Kneeful Old and I had a sobering realization. Who would be taking care of the Kneeless Old’s normal duties while she was recovering? It would be at least 4 weeks, and possibly 8, until her new knee would be functional enough for her to resume her responsibilities. We asked her what we were supposed to do during that time. Once again, her reply seemed more pointed than the situation required, and contained some words that I had not realized were in her vocabulary.

Yes, she was facing a surgery where basically her lower leg would be almost completely detached, secured only by some skin and a couple of strands of muscle fiber. She would have to remain in the hospital for at least three days, and then would have to spend a week to ten days in a nursing home recovering, while learning to walk again and undergoing physical therapy. Then, when she came home, her activity would be very limited for another couple of weeks, and she would not be able to drive for at least 6 weeks. This all sounded a little stressful, at least for her.

More stressful than that, however, was the idea that the Kneeful Old and I would be left to shift for ourselves for at least a week, and would then be expected to care for the New Knee Old as well.

This meant that for the week she was in the nursing home, we would be left alone in the house with no method of obtaining or preparing food. There was no one to collect spoons, or to make them clean again. The Kneeful Old would surely run out of clean clothes, especially considering that he believes if he wears something for two hours, that it must be washed again before putting it on for another two hours.
Someone would have to remember to let the second floor dog out, and to supply her with food twice a day.
There would be no way to make coffee, since once the water compartment in the Keurig was empty, we would not be able to fill it again. Which probably wouldn’t matter, since when we left our dirty coffee cups in the sink, they would not reappear, clean, in the cupboard.

It was a problem.

Worse, was that when the New Knee Old got home, we would be expected to not only continue living in this slipshod manner, but we would have to add caring for her to our packed schedules. And, unlike those of us who were satisfied to subsist on cereal (until the milk ran out), cold cuts, peanut butter eaten from a spoon, and ice cream, she would require something akin to actual meals with nutritional content, and would probably also insist that these meals be COOKED.
After a short conference during which the Kneeful  Old and I assessed our skills and found them lacking or non-existent, we could come up with only one solution.  There was no way we could handle all of this and stick to our busy work schedules. We work from home, but people do not understand that this means that you never leave the office.  You simply work constantly, until someone reminds you to take a break and eat something before you pass out from sheer industriousness. The kind of dedication we had to our daily tasks simply would not permit us to do justice to the Newly Knee’d Old in her time of need. Also, there was no cable outlet in the room she would be staying in, and we would not be able to watch Criminal Minds in there.

Someone else would have to take over.  Someone who could cook.  Someone who knew how to put water in the Keurig.  Someone who would go to the food store and purchase food.  Someone who would be willing to watch soap operas with the New Knee Old in a non-judgmental and non-ridiculing way. And we knew just the right person for this job.

My sister needed to come and do all of these things so that the Kneeful Old could remain in his office adding to his spoon hoard, and so that I could retreat to my studio and maintain my strict napping and Criminal Minds watching schedules.

We knew that if we asked her, though, that she would think of many unnecessary and inconvenient questions, like “How is it possible for two adults who are not even Republicans to be so incredibly selfish and inconsiderate?” and “Are you serious?” as well as “What the hell is wrong with you assholes?”

So we came up with a cunning plan. We would simply have to appear as helpless and incompetent as possible, and text her lots of idiotic questions while sounding as sincere and stupid as we could, and she would end up so disgusted with us that she would rush home and take over.

It worked perfectly.

Within two days, she appeared, told us to get the hell out of her way and not to speak to her, and fixed everything. That night there was cooked food that included vegetables and protein, and it was served on real plates and not paper ones or eaten directly from containers.
By the next day, we could even take showers again, because now there were clean towels and we had already used all of the paper towels when the real ones ran out.  Plus, the newly knee’d Old could come home and not run the risk of getting a terrible infection, because my sister knew how to clean the bathroom and put clean cloth things on the beds—sheets, she called them! I knew they had a specific name! Plus, we could cut back on our nap schedules, since we could now have coffee again because my sister knew how to put water in the Keurig.

The Kneeful Old and I had to put up with certain indignities like being referred to only as “Team McUseless” and several other unprintable names. Since neither of us have the ability to feel shame, we had to remind each other to look suitably chastened every so often. For the first few days, my sister insisted that we help with tasks that she felt were consistent with our abilities, such as bringing pitchers of ice water upstairs to New Knee Old or taking meal trays back down stairs.  Sometimes, she also thought she should be able to sleep, and this meant that we might have to actually sit in the room with the New Knee Old and talk to her and stuff. Luckily, I remembered that I had three seasons of Criminal Minds on DVD, so this was almost bearable, even though they were bad hair seasons for Dr. Reid.

So, things settled into a kind of routine. The New Knee Old was recovering nicely. My sister was secretly delighted to have two people to boss around, and knew that she was earning endless points towards Number One* status. And the Kneeful Old and I were able to maintain our normal schedules while performing the absolute minimum of help possible. Naturally, this could not last.

In order to make things more fun,  the Kneeful Old and I started keeping a running tally of who did what, and obviously we began to assign certain tasks point values.
Bringing water upstairs: 5 points.
Helping New Knee Old change her bandage: 30 points.
Putting a load of laundry in the dryer: 10 points
Helping New Knee Old bathe: 1000 points.
And so on.
It became fairly involved, and it was becoming difficult for us to keep track of who had how many points.

There was a dry erase board in the New Knee Old’s sickroom. This was where my sister was keeping track of how much water the New Knee Old drank, what exercises she was supposed to do when, and some other stuff that had to do with pain medication that had to be carefully doled out or something.

The Kneeful Old and I realized that we needed some kind of easily updatable score keeping method. Like a dry erase board. So we erased all of the boring charts my sister had carefully created, and replaced her neat, clear handwriting with our wild scrawls.

It wasn’t just the fact that we were keeping score, or even that we erased her charts that caused my sister to ban the Kneeful Old and me from being in her presence during the rest of her visit.  What sealed our fate was when she realized that we were not competing for the most points, but that the winner was the person who earned the fewest points.


Of course I won.
* I have two siblings. I am the oldest, then my brother, and then my sister. We continually jockey for the positions of Number One, Number Two, and Loser. Living with the Olds should earn me constant Number One status, but sadly, it does not.

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