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Make Room for Daddy

By Mink Stole | Posted 4/25/2001

What can I do about my dad? He's been lonely since my mom died two years ago, and, as their only child, I feel somewhat responsible for him. I live with my husband and child about 150 miles away, but Dad recently decided to buy a business near us and is dropping huge hints about how convenient it would be to live nearby. My husband and daughter love him as much as I do, but he moans about having to cook for himself, do his own laundry, cleaning, etc. and I don't want him to start depending on me for all his domestic services. He's still young, not yet 60, and in good health.

Daughter Dearest

Dear Daughter:

Not wanting to take care of a perfectly capable adult male doesn't make you a monster--it makes you not a martyr. If you can pull it off, try making a joke of it. Say something like: "Dad, there'll be plenty of time for me to take care of you when you're old and feeble; you wouldn't want to wear me out before you really need me." Then offer to find him a good cleaning service.

If he's talking about moving, then he's ready for some kind of change. It may be time for your dad to get back into circulation. I took an extremely casual poll of the single women I know (OK, I asked two), and they unanimously declared that the man they would most like to date is a widower. The theory is that he's proven himself free of the dread commitment phobia, he wouldn't be warped by divorce-induced bitterness, and, most importantly, he'd be housebroken. (Although your dad, with his reluctance to perform even the simplest domestic tasks, may still require some paper training.)

Make a list of every wishes-she-weren't single woman you know. Eliminate the ones you'd rather eat glass than have in your family, then invite the rest of them to meet Dad. You could be painfully obvious about it and have them over to dinner one at a time, but a big party (including lots of couples) would give him and the ladies a chance to check each other out more casually, without the pressure of having to make conversation for a full evening. Chances are very good at least one of the ladies will follow up with a dinner invite, and who knows? You may be seeing less of dear old dad than you want.

People often ask me where I get the time to read all the books I read, and the answer is: waiting for them to show up for appointments. I have burned through entire libraries while waiting for my tardy pals to show up for lunch, movies, or concerts. I know that I will never change an entire society's inability to calculate time (or inability to respect mine), but I need to know how to deal with this. How long do I wait for someone before it is appropriate to leave? Fifteen minutes? Twenty?

On Time

Dear On Time:

Marilyn Monroe once said "I've been on a calendar, but never on time." Clever quip--bet she didn't think it was so damn funny when she was waiting for Bobby or Jack to call. Unfortunately, many people feel about punctuality the way they feel about their turn signal--they're aware of it but feel it's just not right for them.

With old friends, the easiest thing is just to familiarize yourself with their patterns and try to relax. Or try being late yourself a few times to see if anyone notices. (I've done that with one perennially late pal of mine, but he's still never gotten there first.) Or, if you're willing to risk a fight in order to try to change things, warn them in advance that you won't wait, and, if they're still late, leave. When meeting new friends, I always ask if they tend to be late or early so I'll know what to expect.

The actual official acceptable waiting period is 20 minutes, but I'd push it to a half-hour if I'm comfortable inside with a drink and pull it back to 15 minutes if I'm outside, in a bad mood, or don't really want to be there in the first place. Then, if there's a next time, I'm definitely more casual about when I show up.

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