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.