There is a big difference between dish soap and dishwasher detergent. Just ask my dad. He recently confused the two, creating a “t-suds-nami” across the kitchen floor. Dad doubled down when my mom questioned his naiveness to such a basic domestic skill. He confidently fabricated a statement that he was multitasking by doing the dishes and washing the floor all at the same time. Only wood floors don’t really do well soaked with an inch of water.

“So, why was my dad doing the dishes?” you might ask. A valid question considering the soggy outcome of a simple household chore. The answer is, that it was quite a trip to get to this point. That is to say my dad’s dishwasher of 45 years slipped on the stairs and took quite a trip down to the floor. My poor mom fractured 2 bones in her foot leaving her with the prescription of non-weight-bearing for 8 weeks. 

Now I don’t want you to get the wrong impression with where this story is headed. My dad is a very smart, hardworking man. He practiced large animal veterinary medicine for many years and worked pretty much 24/7 as he was the sole vet in his practice. After working grueling hours in all kinds of weather and dodging large bovine that generally wanted to kill him, my dad was content to live like Grizzly Adams. Therefore someone had to keep order in the house, and that person was my mom. 

Mom and dad had their roles and performed them well for 45 years, but mom’s trip to the orthopedic doctor switched those roles. As a family we set sail on a trip of patience, and domestic enlightenment. My mom had to learn to delegate tasks and resist the temptation to just do it herself. Dad had to learn how to interpret mom’s instructions, thus drafting me as the neutral interpreter when dad got it wrong.

Over 8 weeks of immobility, meals evolved from corn beef hash out of a can to healthy grilled meats and veggies. There were no more fits over fitted sheets. In all fairness getting that first corner to stick while you make it all the way around the bed is a gratifying victory amongst irksome chores. In addition to the domestic learning curve, instead of throwing all articles of clothing together in the washing machine my dad became concerned with things like “delicates.” I assured him that the term delicates was reserved for underwear that came from Victoria Secret, not Walmart. When your underwear comes in a value pack of 6 you would be hard pressed to damage the fibers in the washing machine. My parents also began a routine of peaceful daily drives to remedy my mom’s prison pallor and mental unsoundness. That is until mom ran down the car battery listening to the radio while my dad was in the grocery store. If it wasn’t for a Good Samaritan with jumper cables, they would still be in the parking lot arguing over ignition key operations.   

So the proverbial old dog learned new tricks, and mom learned to relinquish household control to a domestic barbarian. I no longer threaten to run away from home, even though I don’t live at home anymore, the frustration was still very real.  

Role reversal is the great leveler to those who have been fiercely dedicated to the same responsibilities for many years. Whether its husband and wife or parent and child, the switching of the guards brings forth enlightenment to all relationships. So however you arrive at your aha moment with your family, I hope it’s a peaceful journey not a painful trip.                

Mandy Sullivan freelance writer/columnist invites you to read about her precarious experiences as a caregiver for multiple generations. So sit back and enjoy a fun read in the only room of the house you can find some peace, even if you have to make a stink to do so! 

© Mandy Sullivan, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mandy Sullivan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.