OPINION: When you get to my age, you start to fret about your parents getting old.
You've still got a parent/child relationship but as the years drag on the role of who cares for whom will eventually change. The horrible question is: When will that day come?
My mum's a sprightly old duck. Our family is structured more like bonobo monkeys than great apes. The women sit at the top, running things by having control of the alpha males who believe themselves to be in charge.
I've never thought about her losing her mind. That's what Dad's side of the family are for. I've always imagined it'll be Dad who I wander in on and catch playing with his faeces.
On a recent visit to my parent's house, I was at the fridge, as is my usual habit when visiting family, searching out expensive cheese and free beer. Something caught my eye. A large dog roll. Now, my mum's never liked dogs. I know dog-lovers would find it hard to believe but there are people that aren't so fond of man's best friend. She says, "I'm not a dog hater, I'm a dog tolerator". But that's just the wife of a former politician talking. Dog roll in her fridge is big news.
Growing up in a dogless house had its challenges. It was only through having friends with dogs that I got to enjoy their smell in the back of a station wagon on the way home from the beach and their amazing ability to eat anything, even their own vomit.
When we were young, we hatched a plan to get a dog but Mum wouldn't budge. My brother and sister were once given a puppy by a neighbour. They brought it home wrapped in a dirty blanket thinking they could break her with a cute face and some tears. No amount of pleading or bargaining (we even promised to never fight again and keep our bedrooms tidy for the rest of our lives) would break her and the puppy was returned blanket and all.
So there the dog roll was, taking up almost a whole shelf, and staring at me. Something was seriously wrong. At that moment she arrived home.
"What's with the dog roll, Mum? Have you gone bonkers and got a dog or has the old man finally won you over to his idea that a Jack Russell would look great beside him in the vintage car?"
She looked at me quizzically. "You mean the chickens' dog roll?" Like I'm the crazy one.
After some confused discussion I ascertained that one of her rural friends has advised her that when your non-productive chickens get a sniff of spring and start to lay again you can hurry them up by feeding them dog roll twice a day.
It turns out the traumatic part of the whole exercise was going to the supermarket to buy dog roll. After the overwhelming experience of choosing (she went for the cheapest), she then slid through self-service so she wouldn't have to make doggy conversation with a checkout operator.
She swears her chooks have upped their lay. I'm just glad her mind is as sharp as ever and she'll be beating Harvard PhDs at Scrabble for a few years yet. I'm just wondering if now that she's got through the dog roll barrier maybe the old man should start lobbying for his Jack Russell again.
- The Press