Who knew laundry would be such a big deal? I suppose it makes sense that many of those things that Mother did for all of her adult life would be hard wired into her brain as automatic responses, including which dirty clothes need to be bleached and which ones need to be washed on the gentle cycle, using only Woolite for delicate fabrics. It appears it’s that hard-wiring that makes it tough for her to trust that laundry left in my hands will actually turn out clean and fresh and wrinkle free.
The funny thing is, she taught me how to do laundry and sent me out over forty years ago into a brave new world with the skills that kept me from shrinking and destroying un-washables by dumping them into hot water or accidentally dying everything pink by washing a bright red with lighter colors.
Meanwhile, washing methods and machines and products have evolved some in the years since I learned to do laundry. At least they have for some of us.
When I returned in Mother and Daddy’s elderly years and took up the responsibility for the laundry in their house, Mother was still using the old standard washing powder, in hot water with bleach and yet to me, the clothes seemed dingy and the effort greater than the task required. I’d experienced a reduction in that old product’s effectiveness myself a couple of years earlier and decided the product must have changed. So I switched to a liquid product and was happy. I made the same change for Mother and Daddy’s laundry with good results. In cold water, too, which is close to heresy to hear Mother tell it, but less expensive. So, a no-brainer. For me. Not for Mother.
There are some things that still need hot water and bleach. The white washcloths and towels for Mother’s bathroom and the cotton sheet scraps she uses with cleansing cream to remove her make-up. This is a very small load, however, so I usually wait until I have at least a half load before washing them. And this becomes the fodder for today’s drama.
Behind me, through the door into the kitchen, Mother’s sings a Christmas carol in her shaky little voice as she putters around the kitchen, heating up left-over pizza for her breakfast, filing her insulated cup with ice and water. The sound of her cane clonking back and forth across the room as she moves.
“If you will pull out the white towels, from wherever you’ve hidden them,” she puts the bag of ice back in the freezer, “I’ll put them in the washer.”
“Wherever I’ve hidden them?” I am amazed but don’t turn away from the computer.
“Well,” she gets a coke from the cabinet, “where are they?”
I have to stop laughing before I can answer.
“I’m glad you think I’m so funny,” she puts the warm coke in the refrigerator, takes out a cold coke can and plops it down on the kitchen island.
“Where are they?” her voice rising.
“In the bottom of the clothes hamper, Mother” I keep on typing, “right where dirty towels are always put.”
“Really,” her tone is one of sarcasm and disbelief, “I can’t image a load that large would even fit in the bottom of the hamper.” She moves out of the kitchen, her plate in one hand, her other hand on the cane for balance.
“You’re a trip, Mother,” I’m laughing again.
“I can’t hear you over this Christmas music,” she yells from the other room.
“You don’t want to, Mother,” I’m still laughing. Mostly because we keep having this conversation about why her towels disappear after she uses them. I’ve gotten over being irritated and frustrated. The only thing left is to do those tiny loads in hot water and bleach, and forget trying to save money on Mother’s white towels load. Her hard wired brain can’t comprehend how her favorite four white washcloths and white towels don’t stay clean and fresh for continual use.
I could do like a friend of mine did once. He hated going to the Laundromat so he just kept buying new packages of underwear. When he had a pile of about 100 dirty ones, he finally decided to do laundry. I’m contemplating my options. Do more laundry? Order a clean towel service so that Mother always has what she wants? None of those are cost effective.
Face it, Victoria, her ability to reason is leaving her, so you can either give her no occasion to have to reason out why she doesn’t have perennially clean towels, i.e., wash them every few days, or get over making her happy and let her use other towels and washcloths. That means ignoring her questions and irritations. Think you can do that? Not likely.
The dirty clothes hamper calls, I have to go now.