Running an Octogenarian Sweat Shop Takes Work

When I was just finishing middle school, my paternal grandmother came to live with us. She’d fallen into a bit of a funk after her birthday that year, and it was best that she no longer live on her own.

She was ninety.

A few years later, after some similar events, my mother’s father also came to live with us. He was a bit younger, still in his eighties, but while my grandmother had a memory like a steel trap, Granddad had a great deal of dementia. He mostly had no idea who any of us were except my parents. Incidentally, while Granddad had always been a difficult man, he was quite a pleasant one in those later years.

Being of sound mind wasn’t required for helping out around the house, though. And while Grandmom was into more domestic pursuits, Granddad preferred being outdoors. As his dementia progressed, he could no longer be trusted to make it home after a walk around the block by himself, so we usually tried keeping him relegated to the back yard where it was fenced and he could be seen. But on one occasion, he popped on his fedora and escaped out front to rake leaves, unnoticed.

After some time, someone took note of Granddad’s absence and the search process began. Unlike some other occasions, this was a short search, ending as Granddad was discovered prostrate on the front lawn. Thankfully, he was conscious, but seemed to be in some pain. So my mom loaded him into the van and Grandmom as well, and sped off to Urgent Care.

It’s tricky when you care for elderly folks, because there are sadly a number of people who aren’t kind in this world, and some of them take it out on old people in their care. When you bring an older person in for medical attention, it’s not unlike bringing in a toddler who has been hurt. So when my mother showed up with not one, but two very old people, saying they both lived with us, and one had a broken arm, there were some speculations. The doctor had some questions, and he intended to get answers.

“Sir, what were you doing when you got hurt?”

“I was raking leaves.”


Granddad pointed fearfully at my mother and cried out, “She makes me!”

The doctor turned toward my mother, the disgust painted on his face. And my mother, ever in possession of a snappy retort, gestured toward my Grandmom who sat there, bright-eyed and declared,

“That’s nothing! I make that one do the laundry!”

No further investigation was ordered.

Granddad Jack with his broken wing.
Granddad Jack with his broken wing.

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