by Janet Parmerter DiNola

Today, our five and a half year old grandson Tyler, who just informed us his name is really Chris, planned to spend a fun filled day at grandma and pop-pop’s house. This thrill packed day would include visiting with his 89 year old great, great Auntie Rena, 82 year old great grandma Nonna, his 84 year old great grandfather Papa, his very patient grandfather Pop-pop Keith, and me, his “Let’s play hide and seek” grandma Janet.

What could we do to entertain all of them at the same time? How about taking them all out to lunch? Could it really be a relaxing afternoon taking out three octogenarians and a feisty five year old boy? Well, we thought we would try, so we decided to take out the whole group to the Loganville IHOP. The relaxation began as we left the driveway. Daddy, who ran Pepsi Cola plants in New York City, took over. Of course he no longer drove a car, and had only lived with us for the past two months, but, he was certain he knew the best way to get everywhere. Keith patiently listened to daddy, as he explained the way Keith was going was the long way, and Keith needed to coast in order to save gasoline.

Once at the IHOP, the first step was to get Tyler, (Also Known As Chris), and our three seniors into the restaurant what a sight! Energetic Tyler, Auntie Rena with her dizziness, dementia and epilepsy, my father with his cane, heart problems and neuropathy in both feet, my mother with her lung ailments, diabetes, and numerous other problems,, and me with my white cane.

Since no one except Tyler could walk on their own, as we entered the restaurant, Keith and I tried to hold onto everyone, including little Tyler, while simultaneously opening the heavy glass double doors. Unfortunately, my bent over father with his speedy cane, always wanted to be first. Barreling past everyone, he knocked Mom into Auntie Rena, and Auntie Rena knocked into me. At different times the doors closed on each and every one of us, as we bounced into and off of each other like rubber balls. After foolishly looking like some Charlie Chaplin comedy skit, we finally all made it through the double doors.

Before being seated, we quietly informed the hostess not to give Auntie Rena a menu, because if she read it, she would not eat anything. The problem is poor Auntie Rena still thinks it is somewhere around 1940, and if food cost more than a dollar, she refuses to order anything except water. Auntie Rena is literally shocked when seeing menu prices, and ALWAYS complains, “Oh my, how can they charge that much for a hot dog? I’m just not going to eat anything.” Then, as soon as any one of us turn our head, she picks food off our plate. Since the child menu has lower prices, occasionally, and I mean only occasionally, she will order from there.

Immediately after the hostess seated our happy group, dad called the waitress to the table and ordered his lunch. As she handed the menu to mom, dad said, “Alice, the waitress wants your order.” Mom replied with, “I just got the menu.” The server said, “No problem, I’ll come back.”
However, always running the show, dad put his hand up and said, “No, wait,” as he complained, “Alice, it’s the same thing all the time. You know what’s on the menu, just order.” Mom, who loves to read everything replied, “I like to read it anyway, I’m not ready.” Uncomfortably, the server looked down not knowing whether to leave or to stay at this unusual table dispute.

Sensing the discomfort of this patient waitress, I quickly added, “We’re not ready either, why don’t you come back in a few minutes.” Gratefully, she rushed off as Dad let out a huge sigh of dismay.

After the confusion of ordering was done, I played giant tic-tac-toe with Tyler as my mother went through her normal routine of calling the server back numerous times. First it was, “Excuse me, may I have another napkin?” Then, “Excuse me; do you have another type of syrup?” Then, Excuse me, could I have this and that, then, excuse me, could you please change this spoon?”
Finally, Dad said, “Alice, you are going to drive the lady nuts!” And unconcerned Mom replied with her standard comment, “Whatever!”

While everyone was distracted, Aunt Rena grabbed a regular menu, then threw it onto the table muttering to herself, “Forget this, who would pay that for this stuff?” Handing her the children’s menu I whispered, “Here, Auntie Rena, this one has better prices,” and slipped away the other menu. In a second, she pushed away the paper placemat shaped menu with the games and coloring pictures then angrily said, “This says for one to twelve years old!”
Once I explained the menu was also good for someone one to twelve years under 100 years old, she calmed down and ordered French toast.

Unaware of the varied conversations, Keith and Tyler colored pictures on the paper place mat, as I perused our mixed group and asked, “Is everyone having fun yet?”
After the fiasco of getting everyone into the restaurant, ordering, eating, and paying for the meal, Keith and I were a tad stressed. Nonetheless, since we all live together we now had to get the octogenarians and our little man back home. Much to my dismay, as soon as our feet stepped outside the doors, the floodgates of heaven burst open and it began to pour.

Holding tight to rambunctious Tyler, we trailed behind 110 pound, five foot two inch, white haired Auntie Rena, who seemed entirely confused by the raindrops stared at the sky and rumbled as if bowling balls were falling from the clouds. Half under her breath she mumbled, “Oh my, oh my, look at this I’m getting wet!” At a glance, she could easily have been mistaken for an afternoon drunk, as she swayed back and forth, stumbled over her own feet, and vigorously swirled her arms around trying to push away raindrops.

Meanwhile, my bent over father with his sturdy “hold me up cane” and heart problems, speedily raced past Auntie Rena so he could be first at the locked car. In his jogging suit, sneakers and baseball cap obviously annoyed, he waited, until we all caught up at the still locked car.

After paying the check, my ever snail paced husband Keith, who constantly brags, “I only have two speeds, SLOW and STOP,” unsuccessfully tried to catch up to Dad. When Keith finally reached the vehicle, he could not get the door open fast enough for my impatient annoyed father waiting on the sidewalk. Dad was shaking his head from left to right while audibly huffing in dismay. As dad struggled to step off what seemed to be a Mount Everest size curb, he held onto the car mirror. Now, out of breath, he huffed and puffed and complained about the door still being locked.

Pulling up the rear was my 82 year old mother and her wheelie walker, oh no…I’m sorry, that day I forgot the walker so, she only held onto her extra cane and my left arm. However, the hand of my shared arm, also firmly held Tyler who desperately tried to escape the infamous grandma grip. Unfortunately, I could not use the other hand to grasp Tyler since I use my right hand to hold my white, red-tipped cane for the blind. What a sight! Mom’s walking cane verses my extended white cane, as they dueled for the “number one lead cane” spot. To avoid becoming a tangled threesome, Tyler, mom, our two canes and I slowly shuffled our way to the handicapped parking, which seemed a million miles away.
At last we arrived at the van. After doing a quick Mommy hand off to Keith, I ran around the van, helped Dad climb into the middle row behind the driver and still never let go of Tyler’s slippery hand.

Oblivious to everything around her, Auntie Rena pulled herself onto the middle row of the van, stared out the window and did this pretend whistling thing she does prior to having a seizure. After a second, she pushed the button to open the door, and hopped out and into the van about three or four hundred times. At some point, Keith somewhat frustrated said, “Auntie Rena, stop that and stay inside the van.” Since she never quite understood the automatic door, as she tried to climb in she pulled the handle and of course, as the door began to close, it started squeezing her frail little body. Hurriedly, I stretched over dad, pushed the button, and reopened the door as senile Auntie Rena yelled at the door, “Hey, now you stop that!”

Amidst all the commotion, my plus size mother partially climbed onto the front seat. Feverishly she wheezed and gasped for breath as if she just ran the four-minute mile. Hearing the panting command, “Keith, help me,” he ran around the car to mom. With his feet solidly planted, he gave a heave ho and hoisted Mom into the front seat. With half her body still hanging out of the car, he lifted her other leg, pushed her bottom onto the seat and slammed the door.

Now doing the Tyler handoff from me to my husband, Keith took our little man to the back of the van and lifted the hatch. Since dad and Auntie Rena were finally settled, we had no intensions of disturbing them to put in Tyler and his car seat.
Going through the hatch was the only option to slide Tyler and his car seat onto that third row. There was no possible way our little man could pass three exhausted, immovable, elderly obstacles.

In the meantime, as Keith plopped the car seat onto the back third row, and bent down to lift Tyler into the van, dazed and confused auntie Rena, who is always intimidated by dad, decided to move as far away from him as possible. She crawled to the third back row alongside the car seat and proceeded to fasten her seat belt. At the same time, she sat on the belt needed to fasten Tyler’s car seat. From outside the van, Keith stood up holding Tyler in his arm, struggling as he stretched over the trunk space and back seat to place the car seat in the van. Realizing Auntie Rena was sitting on the belt, he attempted to unfastened her belt and free the other seat belt. Finally, finding the other strap, he clicked in the car seat, placed Tyler in his chair, slammed the hatch, dropped into the driver’s seat, sat back without moving a muscle and with a frustrated unamused look, just stared through the windshield as the wipers rapidly flapped back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
During this strange moment of silence, not a word was spoken. Finally, everyone was settled and ready for takeoff, yet, inside the car, it remained unusually quiet and still. In silence, we all waited for Keith to start the car. Surprisingly, even Tyler did not utter a single word as pop-pop took time to calm down. Tyler remained silent, scrutinizing the last thirty minutes.

With our relaxing lunch experiment over, and fatigued family securely strapped in, Keith started the car. Robotically he drove onto the highway, chauffeuring his tired family home from their big day out.

Tyler, still abnormally quiet from his deep meditation, looked around at this elderly entourage, and with a smile announced his brilliant deduction… “Grandma, do you know why it’s REALLY good to be five or even six years old?” Curiously, I responded, “No little man, I don’t! Tell me why.” Patting his legs, he proudly answered, “Because my legs are good and I can walk!”

In conclusion, to take out or not to take out, that was definitely the question. Now, what was our answer? After analyzing the past five hours, Keith and I decided the next time we choose “take out,” it will be the traditional way! Pick up the food, take the food out, and peacefully bring it home to the family!