For the first time in two years, my presence in my parents’ home is superfluous—in a good way. I booked two weeks since previous visits have often been too short for me to manage the backlog of tasks, but really two days would have been adequate to fulfill my parents’ practical needs this time. I think we’re all a little mystified about why I’m still here. The correct answer: my plane ticket out isn’t till next Friday.
Idle hands are the devil’s playground, as an old boyfriend used to say. So I’ve begun to stir up some dust by attacking the hygiene problem. The home aides keep the visible dirt down, but the smell of mold and mildew is patchouli-strong in places. So yesterday I took apart the downstairs linen closet, which was particularly offensive, and rewashed everything that could be washed and aired out everything else on the deck in the sun and scrubbed the walls with Lysol. Not 100% odor-free now, but better.
My brothers and I have been talking to my parents about having a cleaning service come in regularly to dust and vacuum the house and swab down the bathrooms. My parents, naturally enough, are somewhat defensive. “We don’t do anything to make it dirty,” my mother said. “Why do we need that?” She’s forgotten the truly dispiriting thing about housework: that you have to keep doing it even if you’ve led a soil-free life.