The evening starts with the switch of the television. You are all sitting together with dinner bowls in hand and eyes are glued to the screen as conversation ensues with the happenings of the program. You know the perfect time to begin to clear the small table. You carefully handle the porcelain bowls and plates, stacking them neatly in the sink; bigger bowls encase the smaller bowls, utensils go in the cup and everything is filled with water to make sure the food does not stick to the dishes.
Your mum is sick and hasn’t done the dishes in over three years, your father is in pain, fighting the temptation to itch at the red, swollen hands—he looks terrible. Your sister is too young to wash the dishes. But that is okay. You do not mind washing a few dishes, a pot and a few other miscellaneous items. You are responsible. He walks back upstairs without a word, your sister has gone out to play with the neighbourhood kids and you are left to keep your mum company. You guys watch an episode of Oprah together, laughing at Tom Hanks’ comments and Julia Robert has never looked so stunning. The audience is lively and you forget about the dishes. Your father comes down, drowsy but alright. You guys watch Shark Tank and converse about the offers the ‘sharks’ are making to each entrepreneur; some are ridiculous and you all cannot believe the offer Mark Cuban made to one of them—it is ruthless. You delay washing the dirty dishes. What Would You Do? is on next and mum is asking about the dishes. You tell her you will wash them after the show. She sighs and shifts her focus back to the television. Your sister is back by now and all four of you are sprawled on the couches, watching in silence. Soon, a miniscule argument breaks out between your sister and your mum. Your father, still drowsy from his new medication, gets fed up and leaves grumpily. His footsteps echo loudly throughout the house. The fighting comes to a halt.
The rest of the night is up to you; when the minute hand strikes twelve, you order your sister to prepare for bed as you wheel your mum to the stair-lift. You realize you have to wash her thermo cup and add some hot water: she needs water to swallow her sleeping pills. You get her up to the bathroom and prepare everything she needs to brush her teeth. As you leave her to wash up, you run downstairs to pour out the urine from her commode toilet chair. You run upstairs again and into your parents’ bedroom to pour out the urine from her bedroom commode toilet chair. Rinsing it clean, you run back downstairs and quickly lock the screen door, chain the front door and set the alarm. You run back upstairs.
She is waiting on you to help her walk to the toilet. You wait. You help her walk back to the sink to wash her hands and help her over to the walker. You try to be quiet as you wheel her to her bedroom. Your father is lying in bed, half asleep. You assist her into bed, hand her her medication. You utter a rushed “goodnight” as you go back downstairs. Those dirty dishes are waiting.
The house is dead quiet. You roll up your sleeves and begin to soak your dry and chapped hands. As you rinse the suds off the dishes, a tear falls. Then another. They hit the sink and wash away with the dirt and the suds. Finally, everything is clean and you wipe her hands (and eyes) dry. You give the kitchen one last inspection before turning off the light. You quietly walk up the stairs and peek into your sister’s room—a regular check-up routine. You get yourself ready for bed and finally, with the closing of your own bedroom door, the night ends.