Living with My Elderly Dad is like Living With Rain Man

Is there any human who hasn’t seen the movie Rain Man? Well I take that back, because I found out that many young people generally have no idea about this 1988 movie classic (a topic for a blog on another day) and so let me offer a brief explanation for my younger readers.

Rain Man was an Oscar winning movie (best film and best screenplay)  starring Oscar winning actor Dustin Hoffman. It was a brilliant movie and portrayal of an austistic savant – a grown man and an adult – that was bound by his very rigid need for living the same routines in his daily life every single day of his life.

(Side Note: Parents – make sure your chlldren see this film. It is important for several reasons: the portrayal of an unemotional autisitic man as quite lovable, and concepts like family is more important than money.)

Just as an example of one thing in the routine that Rain Man insisted on, he had to watch “People’s Court” starring Judge Wapner every day at the appointed time. He was insistent on the type of foods he had to eat and that he had to eat them with toothpicks. The list of his demands goes on and on.

When I was brainstorming for an idea on a new blog, my own dad suggested this title. He has a wonderful sense of humor and can laugh at himself. He knows he is a piece of work.

For those who are unaware, I moved my 87 year old dad in with me in my home in Houston, far from his previous residence in Philadelphia. It has been a major adjustment in many ways, and learning his needs and wants and “routines” that he insists on, are a big part of that adjustment. I guess if you live to 87, you are entitled to be a bit set in your ways.

Mostly, I laugh or smile at his demands, and when I point out who he sounds like, he laughs too.

Each time I have had an afternoon appointment with him, he says, “But Jeopardy is on then! I will miss it.” He just HAS to watch his baseball, his “America’s Got Talent,” his certain game shows, or he is not a happy camper. There isn’t a whole lot of flexibility there. Except I tell him: “But Dad, I set the DVR to tape it, so you will STILL get to see it!”

He still pouts. That’s because he won’t get to see it at the regular appointed hour.

The next time it happens, the same response from him, and the same response from me. We are on an endless loop with this one.

He’s also quirky with his eating. The two highlights of his day must be the game shows, and his meals because no sooner does he finish lunch when he asks what’s for dinner. He needs to know this information so he can know whether to look forward to the meal or not. Example:  Dad: What’s for dinner tonight? Me: Tuna fish. Dad: Eh.

Dad: (immediately after lunch the other day) What’s for dinner tonight? Me: Leftovers. Dad: Eh.

Dad:(immediately after finishing lunch today) What’s for dinner? Me: Steak. Dad: Oh great! Bingo, he finally hit the jackpot.

He also wants dessert immediately after the meal. Not 15 minutes later, not ten minutes later but as soon as he finishes the last bite of the main meal. He claims he started this as a kid. Not only is he having meals served to him as if he was living in a nice hotel, he wants his cake and wants to eat it too. His sweet tooth knows no bounds. Dessert is a MUST, and it doesn’t matter how delicious and filling the meal is if he doesn’t get a sufficient dessert. THAT’s what he remembers.

Dad: (after finishing his last bite of meal) What’s for dessert? Me: Tapioca pudding  Dad: Eh.

Similar to the savant that Rain Man was, Dad can quote every baseball statistic and score and standing. Most financial things, chores or remembering to take his vitamins are forgotten, but if it involves baseball, his memory is razor sharp. (That goes for old time music too – that’s where I get my love of music, now passed on to my own kids.)

He also repeats the same quotes, the same jokes, and the same stories on an endless loop. As he meets new people all the time, he tells them he is from Philadelphia. “Do you know we got 70 inches of snow there this year?” I have heard his Philadelphia routine about a hundred times so far. Strangers and friends have all heard it. The barber has heard it. His doctors have heard it. The mailman has heard it. Like Rainman who repeated and repeated things endlessly, so does my dad.

It’s okay though. He is 87 years old and has worked very hard his whole life. He needs to be in his comfort zone, so we spoil him and indulge him on all his requests and demands. He appreciates it in his own quirky way.

And most importantly as I said, he came up with this topic so he knows he is this way, and we can laugh together about how living with my dad is like living with Rain Man. I wouldn’t have it any other way.




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