Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dad and the Garbage


My dad rearranges garbage.

He's been doing this for several years now. I noticed, way back when, that whenever anyone threw anything away, dad would quickly go to the trash can to reorganize it. This is partially due to the fact that he uses plastic grocery bags as his garbage bags, so he is striving for maximum efficiency of space. It is also due to the fact that he hates the idea of flies (fruit or otherwise), and so he quickly wraps banana peels, peach pits, etc, in plastic so as to lessen the likelihood of flies being drawn to them.

There is something else he does. His municipality recycles everything-- plastic, paper, aluminum, glass. He knows that plastic does not decompose. So he puts organic waste in plastic bottles-- milk bottles, for example-- on the theory that the decomposing organic matter will help the plastic to decompose just a bit. (Mind you, the plastic is all going to be recycled). I stopped trying to point out to my dad the error of his ways about two visits ago. Now I just watch placidly as he fusses, and then proudly explains his efforts to me.

Of course, none of this is about garbage, really. What I think this is really all about is the betrayal of the aging body, the feeling of being unsteady on his feet, the knowledge that he shouldn't be driving, really, the hell of needing to wear adult diapers because his bladder and bowels are so unpredictable. Dad rearranges the garbage because, really, there is precious little in his life over which he has control these days. He certainly doesn't have control over his body, or his children, or his taxes, or the fact that his wife of 58 years predeceased him. Despite a several year campaign and countless visits to his doctor he still can't control the fact that his blood pressure bottoms out unexpectedly, leading him to fall or faint, sometimes in public places. He can't control much of anything, really.

So dad rearranges the garbage, and I watch him rearrange it, and try not to be annoyed. It is such a little thing. It is such a big thing.

So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me...
~Psalm 71:18

3 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Mags, this is so poignant. I can relate. We so much want to be in control, that we seek to control what we can, whether it's something that matters, or not.

I had a taste of lack of bowel and bladder control when I took medication to bring down my cholesterol, and it's awful and humiliating. I had other bad side effects, too, such as feeling that I might be dying. I finally told my doctor that I was past 70, and that my quality of life was important to me, and that I would not continue with the medication.

My cholesterol was not that high, and he said OK, and told me to drink a glass of red wine every day. I told him I could do that.

Your father does no harm, and you are right to let him be - well, except for the driving. My father-in-law drove a good many years after he should have stopped, but they kept giving him a driver's license, and there was not much we could do. He would have continued to drive even without a license, until he was forced to stop.

Diane said...

oh, I am thinking of my own parents and their health concerns... thank you for this...

Serena said...

Poignant post full of grace notes. "Such a little thing ... and such a big thing," that says it. You are giving good gifts to your father ... and to your readers here. Thank you.