Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Aging Erratically

The subject of hoarding has come up on a chat board I frequent. Apparently there is a television show about it, and posters have aired anecdotes about friends, relatives and acquaintances, causing my Uncle Earl, my mother's brother, to pop into my mind.

After he retired, Earl lived in a nice one bedroom apartment by himself. He took a bus to anywhere he wanted to go, which did not include many places. He was not much of a hoarder, but one thing he would not be without was milk.

One Christmas period, when my brother Billy and I were home for the holidays, we visited Earl. As was our custom, we offered to see to any shopping he needed done, and he had several grocery items on a list. He added milk to the bottom of the list and Billy and I headed for the supermarket.

When we returned we began putting the newly acquired food away. Billy opened the refrigerator, stepped back while still holding the door open, and said "Earl, what's this?" I looked and there were already *three* two quart cartons of milk in there. As it turned out, they were older than Methuselah, and we disposed of them. That's the only hoarding Earl did - that we know of.

After getting all that out of the way, we noticed that an electric wall clock was sitting on the top of a stuffed chair, unplugged and leaning against the wall and directly below the nail it had been hanging on. We asked and learned that yes, it still worked, but there was no explanation regarding its removal from the wall.

I said "Well, I'll set the time," and picked up the clock. It was an old fashioned, round, white face and black hands clock. I chuckled and told Billy "This'll take a minute. Ten hours to go."

Billy: "Just wind it backward."

Donnie: "It would strip the gears, Billy."

Billy (one of the few people in life who is more stubborn than I am): "No it won't. Not today's clocks."

Sigh. I wound it back to the correct time then stood there holding it as the hands flopped down to 6:30, the gears having been stripped. I held it up facing Billy and turned it from side to side so he could see the hands flopping around - my own little Pyrrhic victory. Off we went to buy a replacement.

We actually found a replacement that was precisely identical to the paperweight with an electric cord back at Earl's, costing only ten or fifteen dollars. We took it back, I set the time (ostentatiously winding the hands forward), plugged it in, and hung it on the nail.

Donnie: "How's that look, Earl?"

Earl: "Well actually, if you don't mind, I'd just as soon have it on the back of the chair."

I'd say your guess is as good as mine, but I don't have one. In any event that was a done deal in a matter of seconds.

I am now reminded of my maternal grandmother. She spent her later years in a nursing home as the only relatives living in the area were Earl and my mother. The latter was in her sixties and had a bad leg, and neither of the two children could take care of my grandmother.

During our Christmas visits, Billy and I would visit her several times, and on Christmas day we would pick her up and take her to my mother's home for dinner and socializing with whatever relatives were able to make it back for a reunion.

One year I picked her up all by myself, Billy being occupied with hoonose what else. At this point she was 90ish and Alzheimer's had set in. I got her all bundled up - coat hat, scarf, mittens - and wheeled her to the front door, drove the car up, and got her into the front passenger seat. We had perhaps a ten minute drive.

After a couple of minutes . . .

Grandmother: "Who are you, dear?"

Donnie: "Well, you remember your daughter, Virginia?"

GM: "Yes."

Donnie: "I'm her older son and your oldest grandchild, Donnie."

GM: "Where are we going, dear?"

Donnie: "We're going to Virginia's for Christmas dinner. Your son Earl will be there, and Billy, your second grandchild and my brother, will be there too."

Silence for perhaps one minute.

GM: "Who are you, dear?"

I can't wait to see how all this works out for me. Perhaps I'll hoard grandmothers or something.

3 comments:

Tom said...

Good to see another post; been a while. I think the "not quite right" relative is pretty universal. Maybe Earl was setting out to make butter or cheese; now he'll have to go out after that as well.

Best,
Tom

BrokenDownProgrammer said...

Hi Tom,

My apologies: somehow I missed responding to this. Glad to see you too.

Well, I *refuse* to carry any butter or cheese guilt around with me. Ah ha ha ha ha ha.

Earl's gone now, and I'll never know for sure what the clock on the back of the chair deal was. However, I think it possible that it was simply more conveniently placed there for resetting after the occasional power outage.

BrokenDownProgrammer said...

P.S.

*And* the twice a year time adjustments.