Defying his age


My dad has a thing for bathrooms, not that he spends hours preening himself in them or that he is incontinent, it’s just that he likes tarting them up. And at the youthful age of 88 …

… he sees no reason why he should not be singlehandedly renovating a bathroom in the new home he has moved into with my sister and her husband. All he needs to do is rip out and replace the white ware; reposition all the plumbing and then tile the walls and floor. Four stents; a pacemaker and failing eyesight are not going to get in his way … and neither must any of us.

How do you persuade a man who has been so active and capable all his life that it is time to accept his limitations?

The qualities of tenacity and stubbornness that have been so admirable in the past are creating a headache for the rest of the family now.

He has wrenched this battle right our of our hands. The toilet and bath have been ripped out; the pipework has been replaced and reconfigured and, after he has had a few days rest to recover from the exertion of it all, it will be time to choose the tiles.

Excruciating to think about colour choice

It’s painful to see him pale and exhausted in his chair … and it is excruciating to think about what colour tiles he might purchase! For, although Dad has renovated countless bathrooms in the past few decades, his interior decorating style has not moved with the times. He and Mum are still stuck in the “Avocado green” and “Pretty Peach” era. Nothing we say will convince them to go with modern trends.

There’s only one thing for the rest of us to do tomorrow: phone all the tile stores in town and BEG them to remove all coloured tiles from the shelves!! Then while the others are at work, I’ll hop in the back of the car while dad drives mum and I down the long, hilly road (oh boy – another story) to supervise purchase of the wall and floor coverings.


(My time in South Africa with my elderly parents was punctuated with an entire range of emotions that made it poignant, painful and precious. I wasn’t sure how I’d manage this part of my big overseas trip but writing little anecdotes along the way helped me process and appreciate the feelings of what ended up being a very precious 5 weeks with them. This is an excerpt from my diary.)

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