In the middle of January, my dad came to stay with us for two weeks. Our daycare, aka Our Second Mortgage That Comes Without a House, didn’t start until February. And during a Skype conversation last fall, when it appeared both my parents had had too much to drink, my mother gaily volunteered to send my dad to California, and my father gaily agreed.
I felt torn. On one hand: Free child care! On the other hand: This is the man whose primary relationship is with his computer.
I emailed Dad two single-spaced pages of baby directions. When he arrived from Chicago, I made him practice infant choking procedures on a baby doll.
Then I went back to work.
And for the next two weeks, Dad took care of the Barnacle all day, every day, sitting under him on the glider for all naps, where he read the news and took selfies of himself with the baby and posted them on Facebook. The longest time without moving or getting up to pee: 2 hrs. 20 minutes! He did all the feeding, all the bouncing, all the comforting. Then, every night — and I mean EVERY NIGHT — he cooked dinner for us. Then he cleaned it up.
Almost immediately, SJ and I began calling him “Supergrandpa.”
But what really shocked me was how quickly Dad and I got used to talking about breast milk.
Dad: What is his intake from you a day? Sixteen ounces? Thirty-two would be a quart. Have you added up all the gallons you’ve fed him?
Jenny: Um. No.
Jenny: When you take a bottle out of the fridge, you have to shake it because it separates.
Dad: So it’s like salad dressing.
Jenny: Um. Sort of?
(Dad takes the baby so I can eat lunch.)
Dad (to the baby): Come here. She needs to make some more milk, so she needs some silage.
Silage: fodder (such as hay or corn) converted into succulent feed for livestock through processes of anaerobic bacterial fermentation (as in a silo)
Dad also sent me text messages every day, including pictures and videos. Somehow, I found myself reporting my breast milk output from work.
Jenny: In other news I already pumped about 2 oz. so so far, so good.
Dad: Keep pumping, mother geyser!
In another text, Dad, who is 75, reported: Two NBD diaper changes. When I saw him that evening, I asked him about it.
Jenny: How do you know what NBD means?
Dad: No big deal.
Jenny: I know what it means, but how do you know what it means?
Dad (gives me a sly look): Did you think I was behind the door when they rattled the shucks?
IMPORTANT NOTE FOR CONTEXT: My father, who is from Quincy, Illinois, the heart of corn and soybean country, often speaks in farm-related idioms. But this was a new one on me.
Jenny: What the … what the hell does that even …
Dad: Do you know what shucks are? Corn with the dried leaves before they’re harvested? Those are shucks. Being behind the door is like you don’t see what’s happening.
The most heartwarming part of Dad’s stay was how seriously he took his promise to help out with his first grandchild. HE BROUGHT HIS OWN FUCKING APRON. And every day, after his morning constitutional, he put on his apron, and he didn’t take it off until after washing the dinner dishes at night.
One Friday, when I was working from home, I sat nursing the Barnacle in our bed. Dad appeared in the bedroom doorway and whispered, “Has he slept yet?”
Jenny: No. But he’s nursing so he’ll probably sleep in here with me.
Dad (looking serious): When did the nursing start?
Jenny (flustered): I don’t know. I guess about 10 minutes ago.
Dad nodded and ran back to the kitchen to put a note on the whiteboard where he was keeping track of all naps and feedings. He came back and stood in the doorway again and said, “The spaghetti squash was soft so I had to throw it out.” He looked really sad. Then he said, “I washed all your pumping equipment.”
“Oh, my God,” I said. “Thank you.”
And he washed all my pumping equipment, and all the bottles, EVERY DAY.
That night, after cooking and cleaning, Dad disappeared into the kitchen again, saying seriously, “I got to get my bottles set up.” MEANING HE NEEDED TO TAKE MY BREAST MILK OUT OF THE FREEZER, PUT IT IN A BOWL OF HOT WATER TO THAW IT OUT, THEN MAKE THE BABY’S BOTTLES FOR THE NEXT DAY. NO YOU’RE CRYING.
At one point, toward the end of his stay, Dad showed us the Fitbit app on his phone. Without leaving our 900-square-foot house a single time, my father clocked FOUR TO FIVE THOUSAND STEPS EACH DAY HE WAS WITH US.
To compare, when he was single, SJ once clocked FIFTY-FOUR STEPS.
Dad (about the Barnacle): I barely had any problem with him.
Jenny: There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s perfect.
Dad: I remember thinking that about you for a couple weeks. (To himself) I also thought that about your mom.
On his last night, Dad showed me his belt was looser by one notch. Later that night, after cooking and washing up, he pulled his apron over his head and said, “This is like dropping the mic.”
These roasted vegetables and sausages were prepared by SJ’s father and stepmother, who swooped in the day after Dave came and kept the torch burning, with incredibly tasty and nutritious home-cooked meals ALSO EVERY NIGHT, nightly cleanup, and THEY MOPPED OUR FUCKING KITCHEN FLOOR. For this pan of guilt À LA WHY ARE PEOPLE SO NICE TO ME DON’T THEY KNOW WHAT A TERRIBLE PERSON I AM AND HAVE BEEN, you need to:
Chop any combination of vegetables. But this delicious combination included:
- White onions
- Yellow peppers
- Red peppers
- Yellow squash
- 4 sausages from Whole Monsanto Foods
You need to:
- Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil.
- Bake at 400 degrees for a while. But I really don’t know. I didn’t cook it. And I’ve never baked sausages at the same time as vegetables! What a great idea, right? It was delicious and filling!