If you've read the Raising My Father stories over at the Desert Diary section of Desert Exposure magazine, you know that my much older and less attractive brother takes care of our elderly father. He does this without complaint. At least I think he does it without complaint. I quit listening to him years ago.
There are times, however, when my brother and his family travel out of town on vacation and are unable to take him along. This is when I've had the pleasure of taking care of my father. Let me stress that it is indeed a pleasure, because, if my brother happens to read this, I want him to think he got the better end of the taking-care-of-your-aging-parent deal.
It was during these adventures that I came to the conclusion that my father should be a private investigator, and I'm not just saying that because he sports a bushy mustache, drives a red Ferrari, and has an old war buddy who flies a helicopter for a living. No, I'm saying that because he has all the qualities it takes to fight crime and baby kangaroos.
Despite what you see on TV, private investigating actually consists of doing nothing for long periods of time. Heck, my dad can do that standing on his head, which, at times, he's been known to do. Also, my father is naturally curious. There is no private conversation I can have with my lovely wife that my father won't try to eavesdrop on.
"Honey," I'll say, as I'm whispering sweet nothings into her ear, "let's go take a nap."
"A NAP?" my father will interject from across the room, his TV blasting away at full volume. "It's the middle of the day! Why would you want to take a nap?"
I also have to be careful where I place my mail because my father will pick it up and go through it as if it's any of his business, which it usually isn't. His own mail, however, he has no interest in. My brother tells me he'll hand it to him and our father will just put it down wherever he's at. There it will stay until my brother brings it to his attention.
"Aren't you going to check your mail, dad?"
"Why bother?" my father will say. "It's nothing but bills."
We, his children, take care of all his other expenses. Like a true P.I., my father isn't interested in paying his bills, so we take care of those, too.
My father understands human behavior and has the uncanny ability to anticipate what someone is going to do before they do it. When he watches a baseball game and all the bases are loaded, he'll say of the batter walking to the plate, "I bet he bunts." When the batter then hits a home run, he'll still insist, "He should have bunted."
With his hearing aids, not only can he hear, but he has SUPER hearing.
If a bad guy he captured were to confess, "I admit it, gumshoe. I assassinated President Kennedy, kidnaped Jimmy Hoffa, and put the heartbreak in psoriasis," my father would nod his head knowingly.
"What did he say?" a police officer just arriving at the scene might inquire.
"I don't know," my dad would answer. "I can't get this dang hearing aid to work. Wait a minute!"
"What? WHAT?" the cop would say, pulling out his gun, ready for anything.
"My son and his wife are taking a nap... and it's The Middle Of The Day!"
Nothing goes undetected or unreported by my father. In the brief time he was with us, my son received an important phone call on our landline. He was job hunting, you see, and had applied to several companies. When he came home, my father gave him the happy news.
"Somebody called. They said you've got the job."
My son was so excited he jumped for joy and got stuck.
"That's great, grandpa! Who called?"
"What?" was my father's response.
"Which company called?"
"Yes. Which one called?"
"Don't you know?"
"How would I know? I didn't answer the phone. Did they leave their name and number?"
"As a matter of fact, they did" my father sniffed, offended.
"What is it?"
And don't let my father's fading eyesight fool you, nothing escapes his notice. Just ask the lady who likes to sunbathe next door. Which reminds me of a private investigator's most valuable skill: womanizing. Like any P.I. worth his salt, womanizing is just one of my father's many talents.
"Dad, you should start walking at least 15 minutes every day," my wife, concerned for his health, told him.
"Why walk when I can sit and watch TV?" he answered, shrugging it off.
"Because it's good for your sex life," I joked.
My father thought about that.
"Who do I know lives 15 minutes away?" he wanted to know.
It's this dedicated avoidance of exercise that, despite his advanced age, gives him the stamina of a much younger private investigator. As long as that P.I. is only six days younger.
After doing something strenuous, like eating lunch, he'll announce to no one in particular, "I'm going to take a nap."
My wife and I will look at each other.
IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY?