Friday, August 30, 2013

Key wars

My parents, who are virtual shut-ins, are obsessed with keys. They have clever key fobs (“THE KEYS TO SUCCESS”) and key-ring mounted tools (mini-flashlights). And they have a lot of keys: two to enter the building, one for the mailbox, one for the elevator, two for the door from the back stairs to the apartment, one for the deep freeze (which houses not frozen peas but old tax returns), one for the safe deposit box, and so on. 

For years, you would have thought I was robbing them when I asked to borrow a basic set of house keys. They were more willing to lend me tens of thousands of dollars to buy my apartment when I was poor and 30 and unlikely to be able to repay them than they were to lend me their keys for half an hour when I was in my 50s and running errands for them. 

After protracted, intense negotiations over the course of a year or so, I finally, at the age of about 60, managed to procure a set of my own. I knew that I had passed some kind of character test when I was shown the hiding place for the deep-freeze key and the safe deposit box. Somehow, after six decades, I had persuaded them that I was trustworthy.

Not so the home aides. Even though these responsible and reliable women live with my parents round the clock, providing the most intimate kinds of care, they remain suspect—and not to be trusted with a set of house keys. 

Interestingly, though I fought long and hard to gain possession of those keys, it is with heavy resignation that I unhook my own keys from the ring in my handbag and hook in theirs as I head out for a week in San Francisco. And the moment I drop theirs to the bottom of my handbag and rehook my own before boarding the plane for Newark is one of ecstatic freedom. 

No comments: