Most of us geezers — even the writers or maybe especially the writers — manage to get blindsided by the human life cycle. We knew it in the abstract but never applied it to ourselves.
We crash face first when we suddenly need help to accomplish things we’ve done for ourselves since we were teenagers. The physical infirmities are easier for me to handle in emotional terms than the slowing of my mind…”Yes, Grampa, you told me that…a couple of times.”
My wife and I are more likely to ask the daughters for physical help than the sons, but there are reasons beyond sexism. One is that the daughters live closer and one is that they’ve always been competent with tools and such. More so than me, to tell the truth. And while the military calls me 60 percent disabled, my younger son is 100 percent disabled, mostly from back injuries sustained jumping out of aircraft. So I’m not likely to ask him to lift anything I can’t lift.
My grandparents raised me, but long before my mother walked on this last December, it dawned on me that I had taken care of her for more years than she took care of me. I also changed her diaper more than she ever changed mine, but I can explain– somebody had to do it.
The coronavirus just brought up something: I never expected to be part of the cycle of which I now understand I’m on the down side.
I was raised with a condition now the subject of a splendid neologism, “food anxiety.” That is supposed to describe how it feels when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. There is a much older word that I learned as an adult reading American Indian death certificates: inanition. It’s a sophisticated way of saying the Indian starved to death.
So I beat the odds and made myself securely middle class. My kids never missed a meal unless they didn’t like what was being served, something that does not happen if you are hungry.
Last week, one of the kids called and told my wife not to go to the grocery store. This was just a couple of days after she had made the Costco run. Then another of the kids called to ask me if she could “bring me anything?”
“What are you talking about? In the last week, Tracy got food at Costco and I got food at H.E.B.”
“You’ve got to stop that. Both of you.”
I had all the information, but I needed somebody else to put it together for me. Dallas and Austin have both come up with the virus in people who have not traveled. I told her not to worry, that H.E.B. did curbside pickup or home delivery. The last time I did curbside pickup, the guy in the space next to me was buying cases and cases of bottled water. I thought it was funny.
Then I heard from a neighbor that the local H.E.B. had cut their hours to 8 to 8. I drove over there and it looked like shopping after the apocalypse, minus only the guns. It dawned on me that while I have plenty of money in my wallet and several credit cards, I am too old for blocking and tackling.
I went home to do an order for curbside pickup. The website was running like cold molasses. There was a message across the top of the page apologizing for unusual numbers of substitutions or items completely out of stock. The website also warned me that the telephones were backed up and they were more than a day behind on emails.
Much of what I had routinely purchased in the past was no longer on the site. I tried to be speedy clicking on what was there and my wife pointed out that I forgot the sack of potatoes she told me to buy. I never thought acquiring a sack of potatoes would be a problem.
The checkout persuaded me otherwise. After your shopping cart is full, the next move is to choose a pickup time. It’s usually the same day, unless you are shopping in the evening. Then you get punted to the next morning.
This was on Saturday. The first pickup time they had was Thursday. That is going to have an impact on our menu, but I decided I better take it.
When I clicked the button that said “place order,” I got quite a scare. After nothing happening for some time, a message appeared at the top of the page:
Oh shit! Will I have to start over? I can’t go to the store and ask, nor can I use the phone or email.
After stewing over it for a while, I used my browser to back up a page. The cart was still there, so I took another run at “place order.” It worked.
I presume the store will have something for us on Thursday, but we have been warned not to expect exactly what we ordered. If that’s correct, what do we do after Thursday? There are only three supermarkets in town, and they all appear to have full parking lots and a great deal of disorder.
I was reminded of this from my memoir:
Grampa went down to Oklahoma Tire & Supply in 1959 and bought a new power lawnmower on time to replace the reel mower I had pushed in our back yard; the front yard being too completely covered with shade to support much grass. I was allowed to make my own money rolling it door to door. What did I buy?
I bought a quart of Meadow Gold chocolate milk and drank it from the carton right outside a little neighborhood grocery store. I poured it too quickly and it ran down the front of my shirt and I just kept chugging. I chugged the entire quart. It was mine and I could do what I wanted with it, smart or dumb.
I just went to the kitchen and looked in the fridge. There was a partial quart carton — about a fourth — of chocolate milk of an H.E.B. house brand, Mootopia.
I drank it. Carefully.
Previously Published on Medium