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You are only as senile as your children think you are

My grandfather doesn't speed, unless he's late; he doesn't drink, unless it's vodka at a Russian Orthodox wedding; he doesn't shop, unless he's watching QVC; he doesn't give money to telemarketers, unless the representatives ask nicely; he doesn't read his junk mail, unless he has time (and he always has time); he doesn't go to church, unless it's downhill; and he doesn't cuss, unless my aunt demands that he hand over his car keys and checkbook.

When that happened, the cussing I mean, my aunt went to the bookstore and purchased a volume on elder rage. She evidently thought it odd that a grown man, who raised her to adulthood, would feel anger at the stripping of his independence. Unexpectedly, he refused to climb on the ice flow like a responsible senior citizen and let his children shove him out to the offshore glue factory.

In the midst of all this activity it dawned on me that I'll reach that point in life too, when my children decide that my idiosyncrasies suddenly indicate a decline into senility.

My brood will get in cahoots and come to the unanimous decision that I am too short to drive. Yet, no one exhibited fear when I drove them to soccer, cub scouts, ballet, Florida, Tennessee and further looking over the dashboard through the steering wheel to see the road. What's so different if I'm doing it when I have blue hair and I'm 80?

If I'm 35 and I put the ice cream in the refrigerator and the milk in the pantry, I clean up the mess and we all laugh. If I'm 75, I clean up the mess while my children quietly conference on how to have me declared incompetent. Somehow, the incident will signify that I am throwing their inheritance out the window as I speed down the interstate at 20 m.p.h, with my right blinker on, at two o'clock in the afternoon, trying to make it home before dusk.

Forty years from now, the same absent-minded errors I make during the naivete of their youth will incriminate me as feeble-minded: toting my purse around the house because I forgot it dangled on my shoulder, frantically looking for my glasses propped on my head, driving to one place when I intended to go to another, and going to the grocery store only to forget what I needed.

If my mob looked at me today with the same eyes they will see me through when I am 90, I would already live in an Alzheimer's lockdown unit. Making pancakes for dinner would demonstrate that I am disoriented to time and place. Confusedly identifying them by each others' names would cause them to conclude that I don't recognize them anymore. Buying cabbage instead of Xbox games would point to my mishandling of finances. Telling them to clean their rooms before bedtime would classify as sundowner syndrome.

When my kids retire and begin to sniff out my mothball trail, I may gather up my cats and change the locks.

I'll have the last laugh, nevertheless, while I "run away" on my walker. My heirs will dig for those jars of pennies they think I foolishly buried in the backyard. An ill-fated attempt to rescue me from my alleged peculiarities when I'm 95, and shake me down for a little of the money they think I should have given them when they were 20. But, I will have already donated the pennies, all 10,000,000,000 of them, to that nice gentleman collecting for the charity to save the greater pygmy whooping rat of Kenya.

Who's cussing now?



Web posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004


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