Beware visitors toting diet regimens

May 31, 1994|By ELISE T. CHISOLM

Sid and Joan just left, and I am cleaning out after their special diets, props and idiosyncrasies. (I've changed all names for this column, natch.)

We are old friends, and they live in Iowa, so we don't see them often. But I am pondering how these traveling seniors manage to go so far with so much stuff -- as in health aids and other weird accouterments.

Let's see.

Sid had to have 10 cups of coffee throughout the day and one jigger of Cutty Sark with three limes at 6 p.m. First of all, I don't make very good coffee because I'm the only person in the whole world who doesn't like it. And I don't stock limes.

Joan had to have some powdery fiber product sprinkled on her cereal toast, bananas and yogurt. She needed three pillows to sleep with, and Sid had to have a board under his mattress and four pillows.

The second day with us, Joan dropped her daily pill dispenser on our deck, and we spent hours on all fours crawling around trying to find the pills that scattered like rice after a wedding. And then another hour getting the pills back in the right day-by-day slots.

But we had a great time, and every spring we re-bond with an infusion of "traveling pairs," people who still take to the road but who have an elder hostel mind-set. Some bring their small dogs.

The onslaught starts about cherry blossom time. Then it revs up with tripping through the tulips time, and the blooming of azaleas and the rhododendrons brings out their desire to see the lush Maryland countryside.

Unlike the seven-year locusts, our friends usually come to see us about every two years.

But sometimes we have visitors we have not seen in 20 years, which is really scary, because time unfairly has eroded our looks. I don't have the money for a face lift or a tummy tuck, and good hair days are few nowadays. We reaffirm friendships and lie to one another about how great we all look.

But the past few years I've noticed a change in the nature of the visits -- there's more baggage loaded with blood pressure machines, heart monitors and telescoping canes.

Our visitors are getting older, and their bodily functions are slowing and showing. There are many special requests. And watch out for those tiny hearing aids or trifocals, hon.

I'm not complaining. It is a great time to be alive, right? But I have wondered how alive I will be if they don't stop coming by for a short visits that turn into days. Cal sprained his ankle here last summer, because he missed a step on the Washington Monument, and we housed them past their departure time. His wife was on a vinegar and kelp diet, and I had to spend a lot of time at health food stores.

In April, Ed and Sylvia came by from Canada, but Ed couldn't have salt and Sylvia had to have artificial sweeteners with every food product, even her broccoli.

They were on fat-free diets, and now none of us knows whether to throw out the margarine or the butter, so I have to keep both on hand. I cooked mostly veggies and found myself in the vegetable section of the store fighting with zealous women over ripe cherry tomatoes and cucumbers.

Oh, yes, Sylvia had to have cucumbers and soggy tea bags to slap on her eyes in the morning.

Our most trying guests were old high school friends on their way to visit battlefields. They wore all cotton fatigues with canteens attached, so we spent most of our visiting time ironing.

They drank eight glasses of water a day, so they had to have bottled water and a bathroom of their own.

They brought cameras that they wielded like assault weapons, taking pictures of us from early morning to late at night.

We may close the guest book for a while, and go visit them, kind of pay them back. As I am cleaning out the fridge of kelp and bean sprouts which seem to have grown, I am definitely tossing the fat-free margarine and someone's fishy-smelling vitamins.

But I love having company.

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