Old and Forgotten

Did you see Steve Jobs gleefully announcing the arrival of the second generation of iPad the other day?  Okay, maybe he wasn’t quite gleeful…he does look terribly sick.  But I digress.

I love technology, I use it all the time.  But there are still a lot of people in the world who either don’t have access or simply are not tech savvy.  Lots of them.  Including my Dad.

Now my Dad has never been very good at dealing with anything mechanical…it shocked me to find out that during World War II, my Dad, who was in the service, was in charge of checking the instrument panel of the airplanes they were testing at the base he was stationed at.  I’m sure the people in charge could NOT have known how tech-tarded my Dad actually was.  Okay, they didn’t have that term back then, but you know what I mean.

My Dad is almost 89 and has Alzheimers, and he lives in a care facility.  Since I live in another city, my only means of communicating with him in between visits these days is an everyday, ordinary land line.  A phone, as they used to call them.  I am the one who calls him because he would have no way of remembering my number anymore, and it gives me comfort to hear his voice even if we don’t talk much or for very long.

I had to move my Dad to another room in the same facility the other week.  They only give you one or two days’ notice that the new room is available, so you have to jump on it or give it up to someone else.  When I had him all moved in, I called our local phone company, Telus, to change his land line to the new room.  Of course, I realized that there would probably be a delay and I figured I could live with that.  As it turned out, it was going to be a whole week before they could get a technician out to connect his line.  Why they needed a technician, I don’t know.  There was a phone jack in the room already…but I decided, okay, we’ll wait for the week.

When the day that his phone was supposed to be connected came and went and I still got an automated “This number is not in service”, I called the phone company again.  Well, the technician went out there, they said, but he was told that there was no one there by that name.  Because the bill is sent to me, the tech asked for me, and not my father, even though I explained all of that when I orginally called to set it up.  So nobody did anything about it, and the technician left without doing anything.  I explained again to the customer service person I was talking to, that the bill was in my name but the phone was at my father’s room in a care facility.  They passed me back and forth a couple of times, and finally a customer service representative typed out a new request for a technician.  “Is next Thursday alright with you?” he asked me.  Another whole week before they could get someone out there again??  I was getting mad.  “Another whole week?  Is there any way you can make it sooner?  My Dad has already been without a phone for a week and this is his only way to communicate with his family.”  There wasn’t even an ounce of sympathy in the guy’s voice.  “No, next Thursday is the first available time.”

Okay, so one land line for one old man doesn’t mean much to anybody, I get it.  Phone companies are more interested in their cell phone sales and their big corporate contracts.  A story on the news recently was about the $37,000 bill that one Telus mobility customer received when she went to Africa and used her iPhone, thinking that she had paid for extra coverage there.  That made the news, but one old man without a land line won’t.  I wrote out an angry letter to Telus because there was no email address to complain to, and at the end of the letter I pointed out that by the time this SNAIL MAIL letter got to them, my father would still be without a phone.

Actually, my father and other elderly members of both sides of my family are lucky.  They have people who care about them and make sure they have what they need as they get older and have more difficulty taking care of themselves.  But there are a lot of elderly people out there who are not so lucky, who are put away or kept in terrible conditions.  For example, in a story that came out recently in Toronto, an elderly woman was found unconscious and unresponsive in a basement with NO HEAT in the dead of winter, kept there by her son and daughter-in-law.  How can ANY human being do that to another, especially family??  Elder abuse can happen to anybody, even someone as famous as 90-year-old Mickey Rooney, who recently sat in front of Congress explaining the abuse he received at the hands of his wife and stepson over several years.

And of course these extreme cases make the news, but I think what is even more insidious is the fact that our society as a whole doesn’t have much time or inclination to respond to or even think of the elderly.  Oh, except the scam artists of course.  Yes, old people are really popular with these predators who are trying to scam them out of what little money they have.  I’ve heard two stories recently from people I know whose older family members were the victims of a scam.  If I could have just two minutes with one of those scam artists, they’d…well, let’s just say they’d never be the same again.

Most of us are going to be there one day…at or close to the point where we can’t take care of ourselves anymore.  Hopefully someone will be there to look out for us, but in the meantime I think we can do a heck of a lot more to take care of the ones who so abley took care of us.  If you see and older person somewhere someday who needs a little help crossing the street or picking out some fruit in the grocery store, jump in and say hello.  It’ll make their day, and yours too 🙂


…just in case you were visualizing all 88+ year-olds as being helpless and ineffective, watch this:

Anger Management – An Oxymoron

I was about 20 years old and living on my own in the West End in Vancouver, BC. One night, while returning home from a movie with a friend, we decided to take a short cut and walk down a quieter street. As we laughed and sauntered along, a group of guys were coming up the hill toward us. I wasn’t paying much attention, but as they passed by us I felt a powerful yank, almost pulling my arm off. It took me a second to realize what had happened.

It’s funny how the mind works…my first thought was that someone had accidently bumped into me pretty hard. But my purse was gone, and these guys were running up the hill with it.

I don’t know how long I stood there, but it seemed only a second before the first surges of rage began coursing through my veins, and against my friend’s wishes I started tearing up the hill after the smarmy thieves.

I was mad. Really mad.

It was a long hill and I was getting pretty winded, but after a couple of minutes and without looking back, the thieving punks actually slowed down and started walking, assuming they had accomplished their mission without incident. One of them must have heard me huffing and puffing up the hill, and turned around to see me on my angry charge. And what did they do? They started running again. Cowards!

Before I knew it, they had disappeared around a corner and by the time I reached it, they were gone. I didn’t know what to do with the adrenaline in my system so I started crying as my friend finally caught up to me. Eventually, I got back to my apartment (luckily, I had kept my keys in my pocket) and I called the police.

I never did get the purse back, but I changed my walking habits and bought a smaller purse that I could keep under my coat where no one could grab it.

The interesting thing that occurred to me after the fact was that when I was running up that hill, I had no idea what I would have done had I caught up to them. In fact, they might have beaten the crap out of me, or worse. All I could think about was how mad I felt, violated really, and how I was going to teach them a lesson or two! 

That’s how stupid anger can make you.

There have been other, less dramatic, incidents in my life when anger took over and stupidity set in. I once ran out of the house and stomped down a dark street near my home after a guy who had thrown an egg at my daughter’s bedroom window. I stomped really loudly so he could hear me coming after him. What exactly that accomplished, I don’t know! But he started walking faster and then finally disappeared into the night and somehow I felt a sense of triumph.

I’m 5’4″ on a good day. If you met me, you’d think of me as a pretty friendly, smiling, easy-going person, but I’ve always had a bit of a temper. I never scared my daughters much when they were smaller…as soon as I’d get mad, they’d start giggling. I guess I look pretty silly when I’m mad. But I’ve seen and felt the effects of anger from others and I know it’s a serious business.

Rage makes you dumb, it makes you say and do dumb things and it rarely accomplishes what you want it to. Rage is about getting or maintaining power. But there is no such thing as power over someone else, not really. Anger is something we try to use as a weapon, but which ends up hurting only ourselves. We want to “teach a lesson”, but anger only teaches others to be angry and nobody really learns anything.

Road rage is becoming more common. There’s a sense of anonymity when you’re behind the wheel, so you yell and drive more aggressively because you really don’t fear the guy in the other car. That’s stupid too. Anonymous postings on the internet have become a way for people to spew their ignorant rage. You can be anybody or nobody and say anything you want because you’re not really looking at anyone in the face…it’s a completely self-absorbed action, when you think of it. 

Sometimes you hear of people being made to take anger management courses when they are unable to control their rages and get into some real trouble. Though the term “anger management” seems like an oxymoron to me, these sessions seem to help some people.

The truth of it is that we’re going to feel angry sometimes.

In my observations there are two kinds of angry…the quick, reactionary kind, and the slow, brooding kind. In my case, since I have a quick temper, I’ve learned to give myself a beat or a breath before I do anything. That one second of hesitation is usually enough for me not to over-react to something that’s usually just petty anyway. I know there are a lot of people who don’t think they have that second, but it’s there, and it can save you a lot of heartache if you use it. I don’t always succeed, but most of the time I do.

After that moment passes, I pay attention to what is going through my mind. A lot of the time, I’m case building. “He always does that, why doesn’t she just…why only last week, they…”. That kind of silly stuff. If I’m not paying attention, that second of hesitation will turn into a brooding session, so I have to go that one step further and watch my mind go through it’s drama thing. As I’m watching it, the anger subsides because I’m not IN it. Does that make sense? And then it passes…which is what anger is meant to do.

Then there’s the fuming anger…the kind that’s triggered by one incident, but is fueled by days, weeks, and maybe even years of emotional affliction behind it. I know two people especially who experience this kind of anger on a continual basis. Both hold it in and brood for a very long time, but eventually it all comes out in one disproportionately large explosion.

The solution to this kind of anger is very similar…you have to watch your mind, step outside yourself and carefully defuse the bomb. But in the case of a brooder, they have to backtrack over a long time and dismantle their artillery, not and quick and easy thing to do. But neither is it impossible.

I can’t say that if I was walking down a street today and somebody grabbed my purse, that I wouldn’t go charging after them again. But as I was charging, that little thought would probably come up this time: what happens when I catch them? And that would likely stop me in my tracks.

Plus the fact that I’m 52 and I can’t run like that anymore. Crap. Those suckers are going to get away!!


Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not easy. ~ Aristotle (384-322 BC) – Greek philosopher 
If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow. ~ Chinese Proverb 

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. ~ Buddha
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