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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

When You ElderCare Enough…

(…to say the very worst?)

My wife is going to stop taking me anywhere eventually. I used to only be a liability at family gatherings, company picnics, fancy dinners, shopping malls, my office and most nearby bars and taverns.

But lately, I’ve found a way to make the situation uncomfortable, no matter what the setting. Last week, I even managed to do it in an old folks’ home.

To be fair, many situations are uncomfortable in an old folks’ home. But this time was different, for two reasons. One — I wasn’t related to any of the old people involved; and two — the uncomfortableness didn’t involve too-tight trusses or misfitted dentures. So this was virgin octogenarian territory.

(Try not to think too hard about ‘virgin octogenarians’.

And for the love of Christmas, don’t Google it. There are some things you simply can’t bleach from your eyes. Step away from the internet, and nobody gets scarred.)

The missus and I had taken a Saturday afternoon to visit a nice old lady at a nursing home.

“I forget exactly why we were there, whether the lady was a friend of the family, or the great-aunt of a coworker or she served tea and coffee and charcoal pencils to sketch artists on the Titanic or something.”

(And my apologies to the liver spot crowd if I’m mis-interchangeably-using terms like “old folks’ home”, “nursing home”, “assisted-living unit” or “anguished purgatory” here. I don’t know what the hell these things are called, or who’ll get their plus-sized granny bloomers in a knot if I call one the wrong thing.

And by the time I get shoved into one — in a year, maybe three, max — I plan on being too far gone to give a damn myself. Three square Jell-Os and a pack of pills a day, and I’ll be just peachy. So far as I know.)

I forget exactly why we were there, whether the lady was a friend of the family, or the great-aunt of a coworker or she served tea and coffee and charcoal pencils to sketch artists on the Titanic or something. I was just told by the wife to be there, don’t touch anything, be nice and DON’t EMBARRASS ME. AGAIN.

Eh. Three out of four isn’t bad.

Two-and-a-half out of four, actually. I wasn’t trying to be mean. It just slipped out.

I’m not even sure it registered with the lady, actually. We were sitting in her room, having a nice civil chat about the weather and The Price Is Right and the Duke Ellington Band and the many thousands of problems with the youth of today — which evidently includes anyone younger than Andy Rooney, according to the Methuselah lady. And she mentioned — in a very un-Rooneyesque admission — that she’d recently managed to receive emails at a computer terminal in the main living area. And how nice it was to get correspondence from her loved ones, though of course it wasn’t as personal or heartfelt as the handwritten letters of old.

(She didn’t say why. Maybe ‘LOL’ written with a quill pen on parchment feels more ‘authentic’ than on a monitor screen. Maybe one day I’ll read through the U.S. Constitution or the Magna Carta to see how the ‘ROFLMAO’s feel in context.

I expect most of the signatures on the Declaration of Independence to be written in the margins a couple of paragraphs in, with tl;dr beside them. Some self-evident truths never change.)

My wife pounced on this topic — since we were trying to be engaging, and hadn’t had much to say about ’20s jazz or whippersnappers who should be getting jobs and cutting their hair, or how the Showcase Showdown has gone straight into the crapper ever since the pudgy crew-cut guy took over for Bob Barker. At a significant risk, she adopted the position of “technology good” and laid out a future of what assisted purgatory boxes might be like.

Oh yes,” she said. “Email and the internet have really been revolutionary. So much is changing these days. Why, I bet by the time my husband and I are in a nice facility like this, there’ll be computers and wifi networks and video game consoles in every room.

Now, I’m kind of a technical guy. So I figured this was my chance to contribute. I could have — scratch that, should have — just hopped in and agreed with my wife, then gone back to staring at doily patterns on the tea cozies. But the way she had put it didn’t seem exactly right to me, from what I’ve read about, so I decided to slip in a sliver of information of my own. Just to show I was paying attention.

Yeah,” I said enthusiastically. “Heck, the nice ones have all that stuff now.

The words hung in the air for a few seconds. My wife just turned and stared at me, jaw on the floor, as I realized what I’d said. I might as well have gone ahead and tossed in the unspoken implication: “You know, as opposed to this rancid dial-up shithole you’ve been shackled into.

But I didn’t. Thankfully, I didn’t.

And luckily, the nice lady was either extraordinarily gracious or ridiculously hard of hearing, because she just nodded and said, “Oh, my yes — my grand-niece has been trying to set me up on the Tweeter, or some such thing. So much information!

So I sort of got away with it, I guess — though I really didn’t mean to be snarky in the first place. It just happens now, like an instinct or force of habit or something. It works through me, as a vessel — and it’s hoping I pants someone one of these days, apparently. Or myself. The snark doesn’t seem too concerned which.

But my wife just crossed another line off the List of Places I’m Allowed to Go In Public. I’m not seeing the inside of that geezer ranch again.

Not until she checks me in, at least. Which at this rate, could be any day now.

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