Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has gotten a lot of airplay on the telly lately. Monk, the show about a San Francisco detective with OCD, won Tony Shalhoub, who played the title character, a bunch of Emmys and a Golden Globe. There was also a show called Obsessed on A&E that profiled real people struggling with OCD, phobias and anxiety disorders. Another A&E show that we watch from time to time is Hoarders, which can be really hard to take with its scenes of rotting food, waist-high garbage, scurrying cockroaches, squirmy maggots, animal poop, and squished kitty cats. For some reason, it's always cats, those supposedly agile creatures, that fall victim to the mounds of trash.
Personally, I think most folks suffer from varying degrees of OCD in one form or another. My mother was (and still is) a packrat. Moving my parents to Dallas six years ago meant downsizing them from a two-story house to a two-bedroom apartment, and the process was especially painful for my mother. The move was a huge physical and emotional wrench, and I tried very hard to be considerate and understanding, but my patience wore thin. We were on a tight schedule and falling so far behind, because my mother kept shilly-shallying over this pot or that picture, that I finally started throwing things into boxes just to get it done, thinking we'd deal with it once we got to Dallas and the pressure of the actual move was behind us. Despite the roadblocks, we managed to throw out an unholy amount of junk. Six years later, the junk we took with us is still with us, moldering in her garage. Occasionally, Mom will insist we go out there and sort through it. We'll spend 20 or 30 minutes pushing things around and then back in their boxes it all goes.
Like mother, like daughter, but for me, it's the garage door, for some bizarre reason. Since I'm usually the last to go to bed, it falls to me to turn the house down for the night, turning off lights, checking that the doors are locked, the cats are accounted for, etc. I will peek into the garage to make sure the door is down and then a few minutes later, will have to check it once more, just to be sure. I don't double-check anything else, just the garage door. Whenever I leave the house, I make sure the door goes down all the way as I back out of the drive and into the alley. Then, when I'm out in the street, I'll glance to my right through a gap between houses, where I can see my garage door once more and make sure it didn't sneak up while my back was turned. If I'm preoccupied and forget to make that important secondary glance, I'll hang a u-turn and go back. (Bet you didn't know that, did you, honey?)
In the interest of fair play, I think it's time I gave equal space to my 88-year-old father-in-law. He's a widower, having recently lost his wife of 65 years. Harry is in remarkable health for a man his age. Never had a cavity. Uses glasses for reading only. Has had one surgery in his life and that was for a hip replacement in his 70's. My husband jokes that his dad will probably outlive us all, but unfortunately, his mind is not doing so well.
The first time I ever met my future in-laws, in October '78, they arranged a cookout during my visit. Back in the day, Harry enjoyed grilling and he was quite good at it, a technique my husband has never mastered, darn it. Anyway, the food was served and my steak was delicious. In fact, I think it was the first time I'd ever tasted a steak that wasn't cremated into something with the texture of roofing shingles --- my mother cooked all our beef well done --- and this one was a nice medium. But I had a hard time enjoying the meal with the chef hovering over and around me, anxious to the point of panic that everything be perfect. It was a constant barrage of "Is your steak okay?" "I can put it back on the grill." "It's no trouble to cook it a little longer." "That looks a shade too red, are you sure it's okay?" My future MIL finally took pity on me and told him to back off and leave me alone. We are just now realizing how grounded Anna kept him all the years they were married, and now that she is gone, his OCD/anxiety is in overdrive.
Last week, my husband and his siblings bullied their dad into seeing a neurologist. He was not happy about this, but they were concerned on a number of fronts: some significant memory lapses, falls, and an occasional inability to string words and sentences together. They did an MRI and the doctor said she would call with the results today. Instead, it was my husband who got the call --- from a harried nurse pleading with him to please ask his father to quit clogging up their phone lines; he had called no less than twelve times. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), the MRI did not show anything remarkable other than some slight brain atrophy that is very common in elderly people.
My husband and I are definitely members of the Sandwich Generation: still raising kids (or at least funding them) and looking after our elderly parents. It's not a fun spot to be in, but we've managed to keep a sense of humor through it all. I do know this --- when my turn comes, my kids will be fighting over me, and not in a good way, either. "I had her at my house the last two Christmases, now it's your turn to have the old bat!"
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