“Is That Clean?” and Other Adventures

It’s been six months since I made the transition from my father’s daughter to his roommate.

Well, I’m actually somewhere in the middle. Not quite daughter enough to get the clean version of the joke his buddy told him, but totally daughter enough to do his laundry.

Being that my mother is in the States and it’s just the two of us in the house (and I’m a freelancer who doesn’t have an actual office), I have had to assume responsibility of “the home”. I am not the domestic type. In fact, I am the polar opposite of domesticity. But we won’t get into that.

Like I said, it’s just the two of us, so cleaning isn’t much of an issue. As for food, my father is out most of the day, so I’m only required to make one meal on weekdays. Living in Khartoum means your culinary creativity is severely limited by the availability of ingredients, which in turn means that you’re usually rotating a total of like, five recipes. Luckily, he isn’t picky with food, so I don’t have to Matrix-contort my brain that much.

But what the past six months have done is teach me a lot about living with a senior citizen. And let me tell you….


For one, there’s a lot of repetition: repeated conversations; repeated requests; repeated dishwashing.

There’s also a lot of checking if things are clean (see “dishwashing” above). The older you get, the less perceptive you (read: my father) seem to become – and the less you care. As a result, I argue with my father on an almost daily basis on the state of his clothes.

Him: I’m going out
Me: Is that jallabiya you’re wearing clean?
Me: Let me see

Old people are stubborn. And irritable. And fragile. And become irritated when you point out how fragile they are, so they stubbornly do the things you don’t want them to do because they’re fragile. And that leaves you in a constant state of worry about them. The other day while we were in the courtyard, my father tripped and I instinctively yelled, “PLEASE DON’T BREAK ANYTHING!”. He looked at me like I had lost my mind.

He doesn’t know that for a while, I’d be gripped with fright in the middle of the night thinking he died in his sleep while I was upstairs in my room, and would run down and creep into his room to make sure he was still breathing. Then for the next few days, I’d be wracked with guilt that I was sleeping in my room instead of on the couch outside of his.

I have thankfully gotten that paranoia under control. Sort of.

But the biggest, and perhaps most unfortunate, part of living with an old-timer is that you will find yourself transforming into one, too. If you think your young and sexy, vivacious brain will be able to counteract the effects of elderly cantankerousness – you better think again. I’m pretty sure I’ve managed to speed up the mental aging process, and am now teetering on the edge of dementia.

Case in point:

I went out on errands the other day, and only after the third house visit did I realize that I was wearing my cardigan inside out. Clothing care label flapping in the AC-generated wind and everything.

Did I then discretely excuse myself to the bathroom and put it on the right way? NOPE. Because I. did. not. care. 

This is my life. This is who I am now.


In other news (see “adventures” above), I heard the US government is making non-white Americans (you know they ain’t getting checked) living in Sudan interview at the embassy before they travel back to their home.

I hope to God this low-key unconstitutional mess is just a rumor. But just in case it isn’t — insert all the NeNe Leakes ‘girl, bye’ gifs.

If I’M getting the third degree before I go back home, I want to see every white “expat” get the same treatment. I might be a second-class citizen in America, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to be a second-class citizen when I’m not even ON U.S soil.

Am I surprised, though? The first summer I came home after I moved to Sudan, I was interrogated by a customs agent about the reason why I lived in Sudan. He didn’t ask me about my job that much, but spent a significant amount of time interrogating me about who I knew in America. It didn’t matter that I have a US passport, that I was born and educated in the US, that my accent and everything else about me is fully and unmistakably American, that I answered his first question with, “I’m on leave and coming home” – he had the audacity to ask me who I was “coming to visit”. Not where I was staying. Who I was coming to visit.

So yeah, see “girl, bye” above.

7 thoughts on ““Is That Clean?” and Other Adventures

  1. love it! You spoke my own worries growing up with 2 elderly parents. My mom was 41 and my dad was 70 when i was born … so, checking on them to see if they were breathing – if somehow stopped snoring, a noise you’d prefer over the heart wrenching thought of them dying in their sleep – was a ritual I did for as long as I can remember. Caring for an older parent is bitter sweet. You get to be with them and enjoy their company AND see them age first hand. Tips from a fellow, record lots of videos of your arguments, and take lots of photos. Look after yourself from time to time and don’t forget to live your age every now and then. Best of luck a long life for your father.

    • Thank you so much for this comment! What you said about “living your age” is the thing I’ve been struggling the most with – actually for quite some time. I’m the youngest of my siblings and the one who’s lived with my parents the longest, particularly in their old age, and so it becomes difficult to remember (and a source of guilt sometimes) to be young(er).

  2. That reminded me of one of my friends, his mother was sick and he was taking care of her, she’s a snorer, so one night she was in her room asleep, and she wasn’t snoring that night, so he approached her carefully while his heart in his throat fearing the worst, she was covered with a blanket so he can’t tell if she’s breathing, so he tried to check her pulse, that when she woke up terrified, after she snaked him in the face saying “3ayiz taktolni 5alas”

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