Working backwards

8 May





Working backwards

by L. Stewart Marsden


So? You’re here. Why?

Okay, this is not going to be easy. But it has to be said.

I hadda feeling when you called I had done something wrong.

You didn’t do anything wrong.

Why the sour face?

Okay, I’ll just jump in. We’ve been talking and —

Hold on. Who’s we?

Me and the others. The children. We’ve been talking and —

Let me guess — about me.

Will you let me finish?

Sorry. Go ahead. I won’t interrupt. Please — go on already!

We’ve been talking about what’s going on with you and —

Wait! What the hell is going on with me? Something I don’t know about? Who didn’t tell me? Did I forget to tell me?

The fact is that you’re getting older and —

And what? You’re not getting older? God forbid we don’t get older ’cause, you know what that means! Okay! I’m sorry! I won’t interrupt again. Continue.

Yes, we all get older. But you’re getting older older.

So you’re getting the good kind of older, but I’m getting the bad kind of older?

Yes, in a way. Like Grandma.

Well, her kind of older killed her. But she was 97-years-old. So you think I’m getting the kind of older that killed your grandmother? I’m not even close!

Please listen! This is hard! We all have noticed that you’re beginning to forget things.

So who doesn’t forget things? You telling me you don’t forget things? Tearing around with those kids doesn’t affect your memory from time-to-time?

Of course it does. Yes. I forget things. But we’re talking about last October kind of forgetting.


That was one goddam time — and I was under a lot of stress with your mother and everything. Hasn’t happened since. Not even close!

But it could. It could happen again.

God, all things are possible. The earth could open up and swallow this whole neighborhood, for that matter!

Please. We would like to make sure it doesn’t happen again. You’re almost eighty.

Yay for me! Put the candles on the cake and blow everything to goddam hell! So why the hell are you here? Go ahead and read me my sentence — you guys seem to have already tried me and found me guilty.

We think — we believe — it would be better for you to sell the house and move into a nice retirement community.

Oh, shit! Send me off to the old folk’s home! Close the door and let Nurse Ratched take care of me! May as well put a gun to my head and pull the damn trigger!


There are some very nice and progressive retirement communities. We’ve looked at a couple and —

Damn! This isn’t just talk — this is full steam ahead and man the torpedoes with you guys!

You don’t have to get so upset.

You’re right! Hell, my children set about to plan the rest of my life — without even asking me to join in the discussion, I might add — and want me to change dramatically the way I live — and I shouldn’t get upset. Yeah, I don’t know why I’m upset. Why should I be upset?

Okay — I’m sorry. We should have included you.

You’re damn right!

That being said, we didn’t. You said we want to change your life dramatically. Hasn’t it already?


Mom, for one.

We were married forty-five years. Every morning we said good morning. Every night we said good night. She gave birth to you kids and we raised you. I thought we were raising fine, upstanding people. But now, I don’t know. So when she died, of course I was going to have to adjust. That’s how it is. Someone is there forty-five years, and suddenly not? That’s an adjustment. A helluva adjustment. And dramatic.

So, what do you do all day now?

What do I do? I get the hell up, fix breakfast, read the news, work in the garden. What kind of question is that?

Do you play golf any more?

Hey, half my foursome is in the ground. And Harry has Alzheimer’s. I can’t even call him on the phone because mostly he doesn’t remember me. Keeps thinking I’m a phone marketer and hangs up.

Do you get out any?

I walk the neighborhood every once-in-a-while. Getting out is over-rated anyway. What is this with the Gestapo interrogation already?

In a retirement community — not a retirement home — you have neighbors all around you who are your age. The one we looked at has a 27 – hole golf course which you can play anytime you want! There are hot tubs, and activity buildings. You can learn to dance or paint or even play the piano!

I went to summer camp when I was a kid. I couldn’t stand being with kids my age then — why would I want to live with a bunch of white-haired farts now?

C’mon! It’s not a camp. And, everything you need — shopping, grocery stores, restaurants — they’re all a short golf cart ride away! You won’t need your car, even!

Wait! Now you want to take away my car?

If you move into a retirement community, you can keep your car. At least for a while.

There it is! It’s like that Monty Python sketch where one knight is hacking away at another. First the arm, then the other arm, then the legs — like I said — just take a gun and —

WE DO NOT WANT TO TAKE EVERYTHING AWAY FROM YOU!!! (Pause). We love you, and we worry about you!

You don’t have enough to worry about now you gotta add me to the list? I’m an item on your worry list, for Chrissakes! Get me taken care of and cross me off the list. Let me tell you something: LOVE is NOT what you and your brother and sister — and their wife and husband — are doing here!

I’m sorry. This is necessary.

Love is NEVER having to say you’re sorry! I read that! I saw the damn movie even!

Okay, then, I’m not sorry. Selling the house and moving into a retirement community is the best thing your children — and I might add, grandchildren — think could happen at this stage to you in your life. You may not like it now. You may think we’re ganging up on you and forcing your hand. But, believe me — you will thank me down the road. You will.

So, where’s the gang?


The rest of them?

They sent me. I’m the spokesperson.

You drew the short straw.

I drew the short straw.


Okay. You caught me off guard. Way off guard. It’s not like I’m in love with this house with your mother gone. It’s bigger than I can manage. God, I don’t know how she did it. All I had to do was go to work every day and come home and watch football and play golf. And, you are right.

About what?

October. I was scared shitless. I never want that to happen again.

I don’t either.

I know.

I know.

This isn’t going to happen overnight, you know. And I can’t do it all myself.

You won’t have to. And, I’m glad you said that.

So . . .

So, what?

So, you got any brochures on that retirement community?

I love you.

Yeah. I know. Me too.


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 8 May, 2014

3 Responses to “Working backwards”

  1. sdneeve1 May 9, 2014 at 7:20 am #

    I really enjoyed this piece. Gets to the heart of the matter without being too over the top. Excellent!


    • skipmars May 9, 2014 at 8:57 am #

      I suspect this guy — and maybe a few others — are becoming characters. Fishing for a descriptive word to go along with Dialogues for a collective piece. This goes along with Pillow Talk and Morning After, but would precede them.


  2. Sandi August 13, 2016 at 8:09 pm #

    Might be right there one day.


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