The Whiff

Don’t be surprised if the first of your five senses to go, as you age, is your sense of smell. By that point you probably won’t give a shit anyway. In fact, you’ll probably be in denial—of your age, your hair loss, your failing memory, never mind your fading sense of smell. 

Take Grandpop, for example. He’s in the habit of changing his socks, his pants, his underwear just once a week, on Fridays. Possibly, it’s what he’s done since the Great Depression. Pop bathes no more than once a week—on Thursdays. His baths are brief. He’s not a big fan of soap and water. But then, past a certain age, dry skin becomes more the norm than the exception. 

On Fridays, I pick his lady friend up and chauffeur the two of them to an early dinner at the local deli and then to temple for Shabbat service. On Mondays, I return Pop’s lady friend to her “cell,” as she calls it. Before I moved in, she’d journey from Senior Heights all the way to Pop’s house on a public bus. 

[Maybe public buses are nice wherever you are, dear reader; but where I’m at, nearly every public bus I’ve had the displeasure of riding smells like a porta-potty on wheels.] 

I tend to launder our clothes (Pop’s and mine) throughout the week, rather than leave them to pile up in the hamper. I might, for example, sort and wash the whites on a Tuesday and everything else on a Wednesday. The sheets and comforters I might leave for a Thursday and a Friday. 

This morning, though, when Pop comes downstairs, he tells me I’ve screwed up his weekly routine. He tells me I’ve washed his pants, PJs, and underwear too early in the week. Here’s the problem: Whatever he decides to wear on Friday can, and does, get a little stinky before the end of the following week. 

But Pop says, “They shouldn’t.” 

That’s right, he’s convinced that his pants and underwear “shouldn’t” stink after three, four, or five days of wearing them. In other words, he never smells anything wrong with them. No matter what I smell, Pop does not want me to fiddle with his routine. That’s how set in his ways he is. And it’s not like he doesn’t have plenty of underwear and overwear to get him through the week. But it’s too much of a hassle, I guess, to pull on a fresh pair of boxers every day. At least he’s quit wearing his shoes to bed. 

7 April 2005 

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