“SO then I said to her, that’s all very well and good, but… actually Mam, can this wait until I come downstairs?”
“Grand yeah, I’ll just go down so,” her voice floated in, muffled, through the bathroom door.
I dropped my head into my hands, ears ringing with blessed silence, savouring the few minutes to myself.
My parents are staying with me for the week, while my brother decorates their house and I swear, it’s like having two kids to stay.
Two tea-drinking, newspaper reading, Silk Cut Purple smoking kids. No matter where I go in the house, they follow me, pulling at me, looking for entertainment.
“What’ll we do? Will we wash up?” they implore, all eager to be helpful, regardless of the fact that we’re still drinking out of the glasses they want to wash up.
“Where does this go, will I put it away?” Mammy Dunne asked, gesturing at the Pile of Death of bills and paperwork in the kitchen. I hadn’t the heart to tell her that that’s where it lives, permanently, so I let her put it away in a drawer. I’ll get it out when they leave.
They’ve only been here since this morning and already I’ve had to endure:
– A25 minute explanation as to how the TV “yoke” works. It’s a remote control Da, it really isn’t that hard. As I watched him struggling with the UPC menu guide I fantasised about beating him about the face with his own slipper.
– A 90 minute run down of how all the neighbours are doing, the gossip from home (all of which I already knew) and what number 40 put out in their bin on Wednesday night.
– A full hour of impressions of their grandkids. They’re my nieces and nephews, I know, and I love them but I didn’t need two 70-year-olds acting anything out for me.
So far my Da’s slopped tea on the wooden floor, thrown his cigarette butts in the bin, despite me leaving a big ashtray outside for him and broken the towel rail in the bathroom.
There was an almighty crash followed by a muttered ‘Moy Jaysis’ and he emerged, wrestling with the towel and the metal bit that used to stick in the wall.
“I barely touched it!” he said, outraged. “Lookit, the shaggin’ thing just came off.”
My mother has put every single dish and utensil I own back in the wrong place. She insisted, clawing at my arm feverishly, on doing the washing up, so eventually I relented. Only to walk in to find her putting the roasting dish away in the glasses cabinet.
And the saucepans in with the forks.
She did scrub my roasting tins to a shine they haven’t seen since the day they were bought, so I suppose I can’t complain.
When they’re not shadowing me, hovering and trying to help, they’re nervous and jumpy, like young gazelles.
“Where would I find the towels?” they ask fearfully, eyes darting around, oblivious to the fact that the towels are in the hot press, at the top of the stairs – the same place the towels are kept in their own house. The same place the towels are kept in MOST houses.
“This sugar here, is this the sugar I’ve to use in my tea?” they venture, terrified in case it was special sugar, not for the likes of them, and I was going to give out to them.
There was almost all out war at lunchtime when I brazenly put two slices of ham into Mammy Dunne’s ham and cheese sandwich.
I was trying to kill her, apparently. With a heart attack. She never eats that much ham, that much ham would feed a village so it would. Did nobody teach me how to make a ham sandwich, without resorting to gluttony?
At dinner they competed with one another to eat the least, to prove that they weren’t a bit hungry. Every time I asked them all day if they wanted something to eat they almost deafened me with shouts of “We’re FINE. Don’t be WORRYING. We’re FULL. Haven’t we had our LUNCH? Not hungry at ALL.” So when dinner rolled around seven hours later I knew they had to be starving, but they wouldn’t give in. They’re made of sterner stuff.
Lips smacking, they nibbled on a single carrot and then professed themselves full and totally satisfied, no need to fuss.
I can feel them now, as I type, eyeing me, hungrily.
They’re starving, the pair of them. And they won’t take their shoes off. My mother’s clutching her handbag like a mugger’s going to leap in through the bay window and wrestle it out of her bony hands and my father’s still wearing his jacket.
It is going to be a long week.