Being part of the generation that is caring for our parents and also our children and grandchildren, we understand how stretched for time, energy and finances we can be. I decided to take a humourous look at this through the following play. It is not autobiographical but takes a tongue-in-cheek glance at the challenges of our generation.
Cast of characters:
Kelly – middle-aged woman
Millie – senior woman, Kelly’s mother
Bea – senior woman, Millie’s friend
Curtain opens to a kitchen setting. Kelly is dressed in jeans and t-shirt. The t-shirt is on backwards and her hair is messy. She has odd-mated slippers on her feet. She is talking on a cell-phone. It is tucked under one ear as she clears the breakfast dishes off the table. She starts to put the dirty bowls in the microwave, then realizes her mistake and dumps them on the counter. Then she paces back and forth, shaking her head as she listens on the phone.
The doorbell rings and Millie and Bea enter stage left. They shuffle in, talking. Millie wears a below-the-knee skirt, t-shirt, cardigan sweater and sensible, low heeled walking shoes. She carries a large purse. Bea wears a brightly coloured exercise suit and sneakers. Kelly waves to them and then moves to stage right and turns away from the older women to continue her phone conversation.
Millie (to Bea): Kelly is a gem, you know, Bea. She even asked me to move in with her.
Bea: Did she really, now?
Millie: She did. Nice of her. Not that I plan to, though! I’m just fine. I can still take care of myself. ‘Course she worries about whether I can concentrate or not.
Bea: (nodding): That can be a problem at our age, eh? Prunes work pretty well though.
Millie (giving Bea a disgusted look): Concentrate, not constipate! You need to change your hearing aid battery, Bea.
Bea (shrugs): Oh, yeah, concentrate. That can be rough too. And by the by, I have a brand new battery in my hearing aid.
Millie (with a skeptical look at Bea): Really?
Bea: For sure. I changed it just this morning. (pauses) I’m pretty sure the hearing aid’s on my kitchen table.
Millie shakes her head.
Bea: Millie, did I tell you that I went to the doctor last Tuesday?
Millie: No you didn’t. What was the trouble?
Bea: Oh, you know, the constipate thing.
Millie: (nods) Is everything okay?
Bea: I’m waiting for test results to come back. You know, when that cute new doctor – they call him a resident …(Bea ponders for a moment). Do those young doctors live at the hospital?
Millie: Of course not.
Bea: Then why are they called residents? (Bea shrugs. Millie rolls her eyes.) Never mind. Anyways, he asked me if I’d give him a stool sample. I didn’t know what he meant!
Bea: Now if he’d just said to take a….
Millie: (quickly interrupts) Oh, well! What did you do?
Bea: First off, I says to him, “Now what sort of stool would that be, Mr. Doctor? A three-legged or a four-legged?” And he kind of looks at me funny and passes me a little plastic pot. I says, “That’s no stool! Looks more like a hat box!” And he gets a bit red in the face and whispers, “You have to poop in it, Mrs. Johnson.” I asked him why in thunder I’d come to see him with my problem if I could poop on demand.
Millie: These young doctors. What are they thinking, eh?
Bea: I tell him, “I don’t see how that’ll tell you what’s going on with my plumbing.” And he says, “A doctor’s number one clue is in your number 2.”
Millie: So what did you do?
Bea: Well, I didn’t want to disappoint the young doc by saying no. So I gave him a right good sample.
Millie: (deciding to change the subject again) Kelly has been on the phone a while. Wonder what’s up?
Bea: I’ll bet it has to do with that sister of hers. Pardon me saying so, but Kelly has always been too good to her, in my opinion. Even when they were little tykes, Kelly was like a mother hen to Barbie.
Millie: I guess it’s ’cause of the gap between them, Barb being so much younger. And Kelly being the motherly sort.
Bea: Anyways, I think it was sweet of Kelly to ask you to come to stay here with her. She has a heart of gold, that girl.
Millie: I guess. She makes me feel old, though. She says she’s scared I’ll have a senior moment and leave a pot on the stove or something foolish.
Bea: You’d never!
Millie: (reflectively): Just that one time. Only scorched the pot a bit.
Bea: Could happen to anyone.
Millie: Sure. And you can hardly notice the smoke stain on the ceiling. (Millie looks around the kitchen) Want some tea?
Bea: No. I did number one before I left home. I’m fine.
Millie: (shocked) Wine? At this time of the day?!
Bea: (looks shocked in turn) Surely not!
Millie looks at Bea questioningly. Then, realizes they are having a miscommunication again): TEA! Do you want a cup of TEA?
Bea: Ah, sure. That’d be nice.
Bea sits at the kitchen table. Millie busies herself at the counter, putting on the kettle and arranging mugs.
Kelly sighs loudly. She takes the phone from her ear and absentmindedly walks over to the fridge and places her phone inside it. She gets a mug, places the teabag in it and pours water in it from the kettle. Kelly sits down opposite Bea and puts her chin in her hands, leaving the mug of tea on the counter. Millie watches as Kelly does all this. She says nothing but shakes her head.
Millie (turns from the counter.): Would you like a cup of tea, deary?
Kelly: (realizing she left her tea mug on the counter gives a frustrated shrug and gets up to retrieve it. She stands by the counter, holding the mug but not drinking.) I don’t know if I have time. Little James is here. He has a cold and couldn’t go to school today. Sandra dropped him off on her way to work. He’s on the couch, watching Curious George.
Bea: Oooh. I love Curious George. I’ll just go keep him company. Bea exits stage right.
Millie: What’s going on, Kelly?
Kelly: Oh, nothing, Mom.
Millie: (looks at her with a raised eyebrow) Come on, love. I can’t believe having your grandson under foot has your knickers in a bunch.
Kelly: Of course not. I’m happy to have him, snotty nose and all. (Kelly sets down her mug, goes to sit at the table and sighs.)
Kelly: Okay, Mom. It’s like this. That was Barb on the phone. She has a doctor’s appointment this morning and wants me to pick the twins up from school at noon. She didn’t realize it was a half-day until just now. I tried to tell her I can’t, with James here and all. I can’t leave him alone and I can’t get three car seats into my car. But you know Barb. She just expects me to manage somehow.
Millie sets two mugs of tea on the table, one in front of herself and one in front of Kelly, and she sits in the chair next to Kelly.
Millie: Your sister never seems to see the other side of a story. And you always do manage somehow.
Kelly (runs her hands through her hair and sighs again.): It’s getting harder all the time. I feel spread as thin as butter on a poor man’s slice of bread.
Millie: You do too much for your sister.
Kelly (shrugs): Well, she did a lot for me when Keith left me. Helped me move here and such. I owe her.
Millie: She did that. But there are limits.
Kelly: What with helping Barb with the twins, and babysitting James for Sandra when she needs me – lord knows she can’t afford a sitter with her man on EI – and working part-time at the store….Well, my days are pretty full. And the night sweats! (She fans herself with her hand.) They sure don’t help. I hardly slept a wink last night.
Millie: And you help me every time I turn around. You drive me to doctors’ appointments. And take me shopping at the mall….
Kelly: Oh, Mom! Really, I’m not complaining. I’m happy to help out. But I feel stretched. You know, like those old, worn out bra straps that get all saggy and let you down. (Kelly tugs at one of her bra straps, giving her boob a little jiggle.)
Millie (laughing): And you’re ready to snap.
Kelly (grimaces, then gives a wan smile.) That’s me.
Bea (enters stage right and grabs the mug of tea from in front of Kelly.): That Curious George is a hoot. He was monkeying around the museum. Get it? Monkeying around? (Bea laughs at her own joke. Kelly and Millie shake their heads and roll their eyes.)
Bea (sitting at the table with the cup of tea): James says he wants some juice.
Kelly gets up, grabs a jug of milk from the fridge and exits stage right.
Millie: Poor lass. She has her hands full. She’s at her wit’s end.
Bea: Does too much for others. Never says no.
Millie: She is a giving sort of person. (Looks pensively off toward stage right.) Wish I could lighten her load a bit.
Kelly hurries back into the kitchen from stage right, carrying the milk jug. She thrusts it into the fridge, grabs a juice box, and hurries off, stage right.
Bea: (pats her hair) Well, I have to be off for my hair appointment. Don’t want to be late. Henri is going to color my hair today.
Millie (looks at Bea’s white hair.): Blue?
Bea (looks annoyed): True? Of course it’s true. When have I told you fibs? (pauses and contemplates) I was thinking red. But maybe turquoise would be nice.
Millie raises her eyebrows but doesn’t reply.
Bea takes a last gulp of tea and shuffles as quickly as she can to stage left.
Bea: Catch you later!
Bea exits stage left. Millie sits with a pondering look until Kelly returns stage right.
Kelly: James is so stuffed up. Poor dear. He sounds like a steam engine. Just wish it were steam coming out of his nose.
Millie: I’ve been thinking.
Kelly: (raises eyebrows) Oh, oh.
Millie (smiles): Now don’t be like that! (pauses) Why don’t I stay with James while you pick up Susan and Sharon at school?
Kelly: Oh, Mom…
Millie: Now listen. I don’t have anything big going on today. Heck, I don’t have anything going on. I can sit with James for the half-hour it takes you to get the twins. He’ll just lie on the couch snuffing.
Kelly: I don’t want you to catch his bug.
Millie: I’ve had my flu shot. (Millie holds up her hand and starts counting off fingers as she continues) And my pneumonia shot. And my shingles shot. Heck, I am protected from every disease known to humankind! Well, except for maybe STDs.
Kelly: (shocked) Mom!
Millie: But that ship has sailed. I think I can handle a little cold germ. We’ll be fine.
Kelly (considering): Well…
Millie: Good. I promise I’ll have my phone in my lap the whole time. (Millie rummages through her purse and eventually takes a cell-phone out of its depths.) I’ll call you if anything happens.
Kelly (nods slowly): Okay Mom. Thanks. I won’t be long. I’ll just go tell James what we’re doing.
Millie smiles triumphantly.
Kelly: (gets up from the table and starts looking for something on the counter) Now where did I put my phone?
Millie: Check the butter dish.
Kelly looks puzzled, then opens the fridge door and takes out her phone. She throws up her hands in disgust at herself. She exits stage right.
Millie (turning her own cell-phone over in her hands, mutters in a stage whisper): Maybe James can show me how to turn this blasted thing on!
When the lights come back on, Millie enters from stage right and Kelly enters from stage left.
Kelly: Sharon and Susan are playing ball in the yard.
Millie: James fell asleep. Snoring like a buzz saw. Reminds me of your dad.
Millie: He was no trouble at all.
Kelly (goes to her mother and gives her a quick hug.): Thanks, Mom. I don’t know what I would have done without you today.
Millie: I guess I haven’t become totally useless.
Kelly (protesting): Mom, I never said…
Millie (raises a hand to stop Kelly from talking): No, love, you never have. And I’ve been thinking. Maybe it’s time that I did move in with you.
Kelly stands with her mouth open.
Millie: Now mind, it’s not for my sake.
Millie: Of course not. But with you stretched so thin, I can be here for you. I can help with the kiddies and get some meals and tidy the place up a bit.
Kelly (emotions play over her face – surprise, dread, and finally resignation): I see, Mom. I guess you are right. It would be the best thing. For me.
Millie: ‘Course I’m right. Mind you, if things settle down for you, I’ll go back to my apartment. I could sublet it for a couple of months, right? But you could use the help right now.
Kelly: That’s very, um, generous of you Mom.
Millie: I’ll be your Cross-Your-Heart support, honey. (She makes a crossing gesture over her chest.)Your never fail Wonderbra!
Kelly: (laughing) Right. No more stretching for me, then, Mom. Thanks. (Kelly gives her mother another hug.)
Kelly and Millie jump as they hear the sound of glass shattering off stage.
Kelly: (sighs) I’ll go make sure nobody got hurt. Kelly turns and starts toward stage left.
Millie: I’ll get the broom.
Kelly looks over her shoulder and gives her mother a smile and a thumbs up and exits stage left.