My much older and less attractive brother brought our elderly father over to my house for a visit, and then went out for a pack of cigarettes.
“I didn’t know he smoked,” I told my dad.
“He doesn’t,” my father answered.
I haven’t seen my brother since.
It didn’t happen exactly that way, but that’s the way I like to tell the story of how my father came to live with me. He’s in the later years of his life and has been widowed for some time now. He’s also been diagnosed pre-Alzheimer’s, but, really, aren’t we all pre-Alzheimer’s?
My wife, to welcome him into our home, cooked him a 5-star dinner Tom Colicchio would be jealous of, and, to top it off, she served him a nice helping of vanilla ice cream. REAL ice cream, not the cheap stuff. I save that for my mother-in-law.
Let me digress for a moment. I know some of you may have gotten the impression from my January column that I don’t like my mother-in-law, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I’d like to take this opportunity to dedicate the rock & roll classic “Mother-In-Law” by the late, great Ernie K-Doe as an expression of my feelings for her. Meanwhile...
"This ice cream's not very good," I heard my dad tell my wife.
Let me stop right here and formally apologize to my mother for ever having been a kid. I can't begin to tell you the times my mom served me a perfectly good meal, sometimes even perfectly delicious, and it didn't meet the standards of a kid who used to eat dirt.
Don't judge me for eating dirt.
Then I had kids of my own. No matter what my wife cooked, they wanted to eat something else. I don't know about your kids, but my kids only wanted to eat food we had to pay for, preferably at a restaurant. If it was home-cooked, they’d hem and haw and complain.
“You could always eat dirt,” I’d suggest, but, sadly, my humor was lost on them.
So when my dad told my wife he didn't care for the ice cream she had just served him--and which he enthusiastically ate, judging by the speed with which he ate it--I figured he had the right not to like it. So I didn’t say anything.
"Where'd you buy it?" he wanted to know.
"Costco," my wife told him.
"Yes, Costco," she repeated.
Costco is one of those warehouse stores, along the lines of Sam’s and Price Club, where you have to buy a membership to shop there, and where you don't just buy something, you buy a LOT of something. But they do sell quality goods, and one of those quality goods is their ice cream. It's not just good, it's very good.
My dad wasn't sure.
"Oh, huh... hmmm..." he clarified. "You said you bought it at Costco?"
"They sell some of the best ice cream there," she said, trying to convince him.
My dad still wasn't sure.
"Costco..." he considered, and then considered again. "Hmmm... Costco. Huh, yeah... well, I didn't like it.”
“Why didn’t you like it?” my wife asked, humoring him.
“I just didn’t,” he said. “The PX sells better ice cream."
Because of the time he spent in the military, he was able to shop at the PX in the Army base. In fact, after he retired from the military, he even worked at their PX for a few years after that. If anybody would know the quality of the PX ice cream, it would be my father.
I remember once asking him what the letters “PX” stood for.
“I don’t know,” my father told me, in what was one of our longer conversations. Meanwhile...
My wife patiently listened to him. She was even nodding her head and making eye contact.
I've learned in life that if you make eye contact with someone it just encourages them to continue talking.
Which he did.
"Blah, blah, blah Costco. Blah, blah, blah ice cream. Blah, blah, blah coming back with those cigarettes?"
Now he was starting to get on my nerves. I happen to like Costco. They have enough of my money to prove it. I also like to go there for the food samples they hand out to their customers. Many’s the time I was saved the cost of buying my father lunch by going there and letting him snack for free.
“What did you eat?” my brother’s wife would ask when I’d drop him back off at his then home base.
“Everything,” we’d say, chuckling together conspiratorially like two naughty first graders thinking they're getting away with something.
"Yes, dad," my wife said, simmering. She likes Costco, too. "Next time we go to the PX, we'll get some for you."
I thought she handled that rather smoothly, since we never shop at the PX. My dad may have been retired from the military, but I wasn't. I had to pay for MY exclusive shopping memberships.
"Costco..." my dad kept repeating, gnawing at that name like he was a dog and it was a bone. He was shaking his head as he said it. "Costco... hmmm."
I had to laugh.
I was shaking my head, too.
Born in the southwest, Jim Duchene wonders if you've seen his brother, Henry. Check JimDuchene.BlogSpot.com, RaisingMyFather.BlogSpot.com, or @JimDuchene for him, would'ja?
as featured in Desert Exposure Magazine