Everywhere you go nowadays you see ‘kids’ taking care of their elderly parents. That wasn’t the case when I wrote, “Kissing Tomatoes,” 10 years ago. At the time, publishers said, “Love the writing but no one will buy it. Who cares about Alzheimer’s?” Well, time changes everything.
Just today, the woman in front of me at the pharmacy counter was waiting for her mother to write a check. Dowager-humped and small, her shaky hand extended from a wrinkled, arthritic arm. The wait for all of us was almost interminable.
Every few seconds, the daughter looked around nervously, then straightened her shoulders as if to keep herself from getting the hump her mother has. She was so embarrassed holding up our line that I made small talk.
“Well, looks like you get to do all the shopping while Mom pays the bills.”
She brightened slightly. “Yes, we’ve always loved shopping together. Just takes longer now.”
“No worries,” I replied. “We’ll be there ourselves one day.”
An hour later I dashed back to the same store for something I had forgotten. The man ahead of me was turning his pockets inside out for change and holding a single bottle of water.
“I just need twelve more cents, right?” he asked in a nervous voice. He was sweating and his face so flushed, that I feared he might be having a heart attack.
“Goodness,” I said to the clerk, “I’ll pay for his water.”
“Oh no. Can’t let you do that,” the man said. “I have it here somewhere.” He began searching his back pockets. “I’m taking care of my mom,” he suddenly blurted. “Never thought it would be this hard. She’s driving me crazy.”
“How wonderful,” I replied. “After all of those years she raised you, now you are caring for her.”
“Yeah, but the only problem is I can’t spank HER!” he laughed.
His car was parked next to mine. As he jumped behind the wheel, I waved at the old gal next to him. “Mom!” he yelled, “This lady just paid for my water.” “How nice,” she said. “And how nice that your son is looking after you,” I added. “Oh, not for long,” she confided. “The doctor said this thing I have will be over very soon.” I glanced at the man. He shook his head. Yeah, time changes everything—especially us.