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The International Writers Magazine: Life Stories

Really Old
• Martin Green
My day usually begins with a slight jolt when I see myself in the bathroom mirror.   Who is that bald old guy with the bumps on his head and the funny-looking ear where a basil cell cancer has been sliced off?  Yes, it’s me, and it’s hard to escape the realization that I’m not only old but really old.


I finish my bathroom business, brushing with the electric toothbrush as my dental hygienist says to do, washing my face and hands and shaving.    All the while my ancient cat Rascalman, who’s also really old, is meowing at me.     Rascalman is a “tuxedo” cat, black and white, with a pink nose.   I put on my bathrobe and fill Rascalman’s dish with hard food.    He could easily eat the food in the cat food dispenser but insists that his breakfast be served in a separate dish.

I step outside to get the morning newspaper, something which is getting thinner (but not less expensive) all the time.  I pour my orange juice and go through my pill-taking ritual: one each for high blood pressure, acid reflux and my arthritis, the last being an anti-inflammatory, which doesn’t seem to work any more.  I have my usual breakfast of cold cereal with fruit while scanning through the usual dismal news in the paper.  The paper is almost worthless but still has a few comics, such as Peanuts, I like and the crossword puzzle.  While I eat and read I mention a few articles I know my wife Nell will be interested in, anything concerning babies or animals.  Nell has been gone for almost five years but I still talk to her.  She may be gone but she’s still there in my mind.

After I finish the cereal I take my coffee and the paper out to the enclosed patio to do the crossword puzzle.   It’s January and looks wintery outside, gray and pretty dismal.   The forecast is for rain later in the week.  Well, I don’t plan to go anywhere.   Rascalman follows me out and takes his usual place on the footrest.  I can’t put my legs up on the footrest any more because my right knee locks up and it’s very painful when I take my legs down.  On Mondays and Tuesdays, when the crossword, is easy, I zip through it.   Starting with Wednesdays I have my iPad to look up words.  I also check the iPad for financial news and market data, and sometimes for news.  No wonder print newspapers are going out of business when even old codgers like me refer to iPads for just about everything.

I remember when Nell and I had long discussions about whether or not we should have the patio enclosed.   It was pretty expensive but we finally decided to do it.  We were getting too old to travel much and so why not use our money to make our home more comfortable.  When I finish the puzzle I move over to the love seat and Rascalman goes from the footrest to sit beside me.  I think of this as our “buddy” time.  He nuzzles me, I stroke him and talk to him and he purrs.  I wonder how long Rascalman has.    In the last year or two, he’s gotten really old, as have I.

If this is one of my billiards mornings I drive to the Lodge, which is the center of our retirement community’s activities.  The pool room has four tables and on Tuesdays and Fridays I play with three other old geezers.   Once upon a time, we all played tennis; now all we can do is shoot pool, which doesn’t require any running.   All you have to do is totter up to the pool table.   All of us have some kind of disability.   Ken has had a hip replacement.   Dave has a pacemaker, put in after a heart attack.    Mark probably has early Alzheimers.   I have my creaky knees and arthritis.   The other three are also all deaf.   I’m not deaf yet, at least I don’t think so.   I can hear what they say to me; I don’t think they hear what I say.  It doesn’t matter.  Our conversation is always the same, about our latest health issues.  Occasionally, we digress into blasting the latest government imbecility.

After pool I return home and have my lunch.  On this day, I have a casserole brought over by my neighbor Alice.  She and her husband Bill, youngsters still in their sixties, are good neighbors.   Alice is always cooking me something and when I went away last year to visit my son back East they took care of Rascalman.   They’re great animal lovers and volunteer at the local SPCA.   I eat with the TV on for company, although I don’t really pay much attention to it, and when two or more of the talking heads start yelling at each other I turn off the set.

In the afternoon, I straighten up the house a bit, talking to Nell the while.   I do a little reading, then I take my afternoon nap.   Usually, when I wake up Rascaloman is in my lap.   I’ve noticed that lately he has a hard time jumping up and sometimes I have to help him.   Poor old guy.   I’m sure he has arthritis, too.   When I’m awake from my nap, I do a little reading, absently stroking Rascalman while I do so.     Between reading and a little dozing the afternoon passes.   It’s time for supper.   I consider more of the casserole. But I’m not hungry so I heat up some canned soup, easy to do.   Rascalman meows at me for his supper.   He hasn’t lost his appetite.

This leaves the evening to get through.  I consider calling my son, but it’s already late on the East Coast and the phone might wake up my grandkids.   I had a nice visit with him last year but he made it clear to me that he was busy with his job and his family.   I turn on the TV and try to watch it.  The programs are even worse than the usual junk that passes for entertainment nowadays.   I don’t usually think too much about my life; I try to take things one day at a time.   But tonight the house seems cold and unfriendly.   There’s a wind outside.   I can still get around, but the arthritis is getting worse.  I don’t especially want to get a new hip or a new knee.  Almost all of my old friends are gone.  Nell of course is long gone.  Not much to look forward to.  I think to myself that when Rascalman goes there’s really no need for me to hang around much longer.   

It’s May; the sun is shining into the enclosed patio.   I’ve had breakfast and now I sit there with my coffee and the newspaper puzzle.    The kitten, who I call Rascalman II, is on the footrest.   After Rascalman I passed away, my neighbors, the Taylors, persuaded me to visit the SPCA where they volunteer.  This kitten was black and white with a pink nose, just like Rascalman, and I couldn’t help getting him.  Now he jumps into my lap, causing me to spill my coffee.   It’s okay; I can clean it up.    Rascalman II settles in and purrs.   Maybe I will hang around a while longer.

© Martin Green January 2014

The Drink
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George Blake really didn’t like Valentine’s Day.  Now that he was an old married man with two kids he wanted his life to go along smoothly and occasions like Valentine’s Day had a way of causing complications.
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