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Yesterday was an exceptionally good day, in part because my visit with my dad was hilfuckinglarious. When my mom and I got there, the Activities Director (we’ll call her AD) was quizzing the residents with word games like, “what’s the opposite of up?” Then she brought out flashcards for learning Italian. She would hold up a card with a picture of a turtle and say, in her Long Island accent, “The word for turtle is ‘tataruga.’ Can you say that? Beverly, please say, ‘tataruga.’” Then she’d go around the room asking each resident to say it. By the time she got to the 5th or 6th person, they’d have forgotten what “tataruga” was, so it just sounded like gibberish to them. They’d look at her bewildered and say something like “cacalupa,” which sounds like the worst Mexican food ever, doesn’t it? AD would correct them and spell it for them, but several are hard of hearing so when you say “t” they hear “b” or “p” or “g” or “d,” etc. Or she’d holler “tataruga” at them and they’d reply with something even more nonsensical back, like, “Yes, thank you. And all the little birds. And there’s the wall behind you. Chew chew chew.” Some of the less demented folks would start getting annoyed and holler at whomever didn’t understand that they were supposed to repeat the Italian words, “Just say it!”

One poor woman just could not understand what on earth AD was saying, and when it came time for her to say the Italian word for cat, “gatto,” she said, “pappo.”

AD: No honey, gatto, gaaaatto. Guh, guh, guh.

Resident: Pappo.

AD: Gatto. Gatto.

Resident: Oh, tatto.

AD: Try again, honey, gatto. Gaaaaatttooooo. G-A-T-T-O.

Resident: Totppo? What on earth does that spell?

AD: No, you’re not hearing me. Gatto. It’s Italian for cat. Look at me, nene. Gatto. G. It starts with a “g.”

Resident: Dappo?

At which point the male resident who was sitting next to my dad and who had appeared to be asleep for most of the activity looked up, shook his head in frustration, and mimed shooting himself in the head. ‘Cause that dude is awesome. Mom and I spent the rest of the evening yelling Italian words at each other and bemoaning the fact that we hadn’t been able to videotape the whole exchange for you, dear internet.

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