Category: Aging Gracefully

Future Not-Telling

When Dylan looked into the mirror as he brushed his teeth, it wasn’t his face looking back at him. Stumbling backwards, he reached for the doorknob and took a deep breath preparing to yell for help.

“Stop. I won’t hurt you. I’m you from the future.”

Dylan stopped and looked at the mirror. “You aren’t me. You’re old.”

The man in the mirror winced. “Ouch. I was a mean little kid. I’m not old.”

Shrugging, Dylan opened the medicine cabinet, swinging the mirror towards the wall. He tapped around the back looking for a power supply or some kind of electronics.

“Don’t you want to hear about the future?” The voice called out from the other side of the cabinet door.

Dylan closed the door again and faced the man in the mirror. “Like what?”

“Before we begin, I do want to point out that I’m not old.”

“You have a beard.”

The man rubbed at his beard and frowned. “Beards are cool in the future, you know.”

“It doesn’t look cool. It looks old.” Dylan was pretty sure after all that this was not him from the future. He wouldn’t ever have a beard, even if other people said it was cool. He opened the cabinet again to figure out how the trick was done. He knocked on the back of the mirror.

“Dylan, Dylan, Dylan,” the voice said. “Stop that. I can prove I’m you. I’ll tell you something no one else knows.”

Dylan swung the mirror back partway, still holding onto the edge of the door. “Like what?”

“Um. I don’t know. Oh, wait. You dream all the time that you can fly. You have nightmares about carnivorous flowers. You cheat when you play solitaire.”

“Whatever.” Dylan crossed his arms. “What do you want, anyways? It’s not like I’ll really become you anyways. Not now that I’ve seen how stupid I look with a beard.”

The man in the mirror stroked his beard again. “I told you, it’s cool. Wait and see.”

“So, why are you here? Do you need to warn me about something?”

“Hmmmm.” Old Dylan thought for a moment.

Dylan rolled his eyes. “Did you forget why you came here? Told you you’re old.”

Old Dylan pointed at him through the mirror. “That’s it. I’m not telling you anything. You get to suffer.”

“I thought I was you.”


“So you’ll suffer too.”

Old Dylan smiled. “Yeah, but I’ve already lived through it.”

“But maybe you could tell me some stocks to invest in or something and we’d both be rich.”

“You’d just waste all the money before I could spend it,” Old Dylan said.

“That’s what you think.”

“I’m you too, so you think it too. Hah!” Old Dylan crossed his arms across his chest.

Dylan swung the cabinet door open and knocked on the back of the mirror.

“Knock it off, that’s annoying and loud.”

“You’re old, old, old, old, old old, old.”

“That’s it, I’m leaving.”

Dylan knocked on the back of the mirror a few more times. When he didn’t hear anything, he swung the mirror back in place. Old Dylan was gone.

Years in the future, when beards were actually cool, Dylan didn’t grow a beard. But he was interested in time travel. He studied it extensively, with the firm belief it would someday be possible. When he joined a team inventing a way to visit the past through mirrors, Dylan volunteered to be the first test subject.

He convinced them to allow him to check in on his younger self so that they could see the effects of visiting a past self firsthand. After a bit of reflection, he decided to grow a beard just for the occasion. He thought it would be best to complete the loop. Plus it would be funny.

“You can’t tell your younger self anything about the future, you know,” the lead researcher reminded him. “You signed an ethics agreement.”

“Don’t worry,” Dylan said. “I won’t tell me anything.”

Grandpa Talks About Money

Carrie had a doctor’s appointment. She would be getting her immunizations, and so both mom and dad went to try to protect all the doctors and nurses. Carrie was scary when she was upset.

Grandpa came over to keep an eye on Lynn and Jim and Neal. They were all a little nervous about how upset Carrie would be when she got home. “We could hide under the bed,” Neal suggested. “I don’t think she’d find us there.”

“That’s no good,” Jim said. “It’s at her eye-level. I think we should hide on the top shelf in the pantry. She’d never look for us there.”

“If we weren’t in the house, she would be guaranteed to be unable to find us,” Lynn said.

Neal sighed and his shoulders slumped. “Yeah, but do you know how much it costs to get a passport?”

“Everything costs more nowadays,” Grandpa said, patting Neal on the shoulder. “I think it’s because young people don’t know the value of money. When I was younger, I could get ten pairs of shoes with a penny, and I’d still get change.”

“Wow.” Jim’s eyes were wide. “How could you get change for a penny? What’s smaller than a penny?”

Lynne rolled her eyes. “Nothing is. And while things cost more now than they used to due to inflation, you couldn’t ever get ten pairs of shoes for a penny. That’s ridiculous.”

“Actually, we used to use leaves as change.” Grandpa smiled. “I’m sure you’ve heard about money growing on trees.”

“I thought money didn’t grow on trees,” Neal said doubtfully.

“It doesn’t anymore. People liked the metal money, because it kept them anchored to the ground better during that unfortunate period of time when gravity wasn’t working so well.”

“Really? Could you jump really high like astronauts on the moon?” Jim asked.

“Of course. The problem wasn’t jumping up, it was coming down afterwards. That’s why people talk about lucky pennies. It would surprise you how many people were saved by having a few pennies in their pockets. I’m sure the moon is full of people who just didn’t happen to have change in their pockets when they tripped.”

Lynne snorted. “Gravity doesn’t change like that. It’s constant.”

“Then why is it different on the moon?” Neal asked. “That doesn’t make sense.”

“Quite right,” Grandpa said. “Of course, I found a real lucky penny once. I knew it was lucky, because it looked like a quarter to everyone else. I was afraid to spend it though, because once it belonged to someone else, it would look like a penny to them. Then they’d think I was cheating them.”

Jim leaned forward. “Do you have it now? Can I see it?”

“Of course I do.” Grandpa reached into his pocket. “It’s right here. See?” Grandpa held up a quarter.

“It’s a quarter,” Lynne said in a bored voice.

“It really does look like a quarter!” Neal looked excited. “That’s amazing.”
Jim held out his hand, and Grandpa dropped the quarter into his palm. He turned it over and over. “It looks just like a real quarter.”

“That’s because it is a quarter,” Lynn said. “Not a penny.”

“Could you give it to me?” Jim asked. “Just for a little bit? I want to see it look like a penny.”

“No, because then it would still belong to me. I’m not really willing to give up my luck just yet.”

“We’ll need it when Carrie gets home. Maybe we could disguise ourselves, like the lucky penny,” Jim said.

“Carrie hates strangers,” Lynn pointed out.

“Good point,” Jim said.

“Back before there was money, we didn’t buy anything. We just traded for what we needed. Of course, you had to find people who had what you wanted. People would put big signs outside their houses listing what they had and what they wanted to trade. You could walk around the neighborhood reading signs. It was hard to be strangers when you read everyone’s signs.”

“That didn’t happen,” Lynn said.

Jim frowned. “I thought there was a barter system a long time ago.”

Lynn took a deep breath. “There was a barter system a long, long time ago. Grandpa isn’t that old. And there weren’t any signs and…”

Grandpa was looking out the window. He interrupted Lynn. “I think your parents and Carrie are driving up the driveway. Who wants to go for a walk?”

Everyone ran for their coats.


Anything You Want to Be

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Leslie looked up from her coloring book in shock. “I can do that? Can I be more than one thing?”

Grandma smiled. “Of course dear. You can be anything you want to be.”

Wow. Leslie felt overwhelmed with the possibilities. She’d always wanted to fly, so part of the time she’d have to spend as a bird. But which one? Owls could stay up all night, but swans were so pretty, and hummingbirds could fly so fast.

Breathing underwater would be neat. She could explore the bottom of the ocean if she was a shark or a dolphin. If she was an octopus, she’d have arms. Lots of arms. Maybe she could gather up treasure from a sunken ship and buy her own house. She’d buy the yellow house next door, so she wouldn’t have to walk too far to go to bed after Mom made dinner.

Cheetahs could run fast. She’d win all the races if she was a cheetah. Being an elephant would be handy in a water fight. Penguins were always dressed up and didn’t have to wear anything scratchy.

Could she be more than one thing at a time? How often could she change? Did everyone else change into what they wanted when they grew up? Why didn’t they tell her sooner?

“So, what would you like to be?” Grandma asked again. “Have you thought of something?”

Leslie nodded. “A bird so I can fly and an octopus. I’m not sure what else. How many can I be?”

“A bird and an octopus?” Grandma laughed. “I’m afraid that you can’t be either one.”

“So what are my choices?” Leslie asked. “Are unicorns on the list? I think they can do magic, and that would be pretty neat.”

Grandma shook her head. “No animals. You’ll have to stay a person like the rest of us. I was asking what job you want to do when you grow up.”

Leslie stood up and put her hands on her hips. “Grandma, you asked me what I wanted to be, not what I wanted to do. It’s not the same thing.”

“You’re right. I’m sorry. I should have spoken more clearly.” Grandma patted the empty space on the couch next to her. “Will you come sit by me and tell me what job you’d like to do when you grow up?”

Leslie climbed up on the couch and snuggled next to Grandma. She thought for a moment. “Maybe I could be a fairy, because they have magic and can fly. Or I could be a princess. I like dressing up and tea parties. Being a superhero would be nice. They have magic powers, too. But they can only do some magic things, like flying and seeing through walls. Fairies can do lots of magic things and can dress up in twirly dresses too, so I think being a fairy would be best.”

“You have to be born a fairy or a princess or a superhero. Just like you have to be born a fish to be a fish, or a bird to be a bird.” Grandma smoothed Leslie’s hair and smiled. “Isn’t there something you’ve always wanted to do?”

“I wanted to eat cake for breakfast this morning.” Leslie thought for a moment. “And I want to do magic and fly.”

“What would you do with magic?” Grandma asked.

“I would help people. And I would magic cake on everyone’s plate, even at breakfast. If someone was sick, I would magic them better. And if I wanted my dress to be a different color, I would change it. I could change it to rainbow colors if I wanted. And if someone wanted to be a unicorn, I would change them into a unicorn, but only for a day, because unicorns don’t have hands, so it’s hard for them to color in their coloring books.” Leslie remembered that she hadn’t finished coloring and slipped off the couch and started coloring again.

“If you want to help sick people, you could be a doctor or a nurse,” Grandma said.

“Maybe.” Leslie kept coloring.

“If you like to color, maybe you could be an artist.”

“Maybe.” Leslie didn’t look up.

“If you like pretty dresses, maybe you could be a seamstress or a fashion designer.”

“Maybe.” Leslie finished coloring and turned the page. It was a picture of a penguin, but her black crayon was lost. She could color it a different color, but she didn’t want to. Leslie closed the book.

“So what do you want to do when you grow up?”

“I think that when I grow up, I will be Leslie. I’ll figure the rest out later,” Leslie said. She put the lid on the crayons and stood up.

“I think that’s a great plan,” Grandma said. “After you put away your crayons, would you like to have a tea party?”

“Of course I would. All little girls named Leslie who live in this house love to have tea parties. Especially if there’s cake.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Grandma said.

There was cake at the tea party.

Grandpa’s History of Furniture

Mom and Dad went out to dinner for their anniversary so they asked Grandpa to babysit. Carrie was already asleep when he arrived. Lynn and Jim and Neal played Go Fish on the couch while he sat and read. They talked in whispers so they didn’t wake Carrie up. Carrie was scary when she was grumpy.

“Do you have a seahorse?” Jim whispered.

“Yes.” Neal shuffled through the cards in his hand. “At least I think I do. Where did it go?” He looked around. “Did I drop it?”

Neal stood up. He wasn’t sitting on it. He looked on the floor and under the couch. Jim leaned over and checked in the space between the couch cushions. “Here it is. The couch ate it.”

Lynn rolled her eyes. “No, it didn’t. Couches can’t eat anything. They aren’t alive, you know.”

“It’s just an expression. It’s not like I thought the couch had grown teeth or something.” Jim handed the card to Neal.

“Didn’t you ask for it? It’s yours now,” Neal whispered.

“Oh, that’s right.”

Grandpa put his book down and came and sat on the arm of the couch. “This seems like a nice, safe couch.”

“I suppose it’s sufficiently sturdy,” Lynn said politely.

“Not like the couches when I was younger,” Grandpa added.

“Did they fall apart when you sat on them?” Neal asked. “What were they made out of? Cardboard or hay or something?”

“Cardboard wasn’t invented when Grandpa was little, right?” Jim looked at Grandpa, waiting for him to agree.

Lynn snorted. “Of course it was. Cardboard’s been around for at least a century.”

Grandpa smiled. “Oh, the furniture was sturdy enough when I was younger, and made of the same sorts of things. It just hadn’t been domesticated yet.”

“Like wolves or boars or tigers?” Neal leaned forward. “Did couches really eat people back then?”

“I repeat: couches are not alive,” Lynn whispered sharply. Everyone ignored her.

“Couches didn’t eat people. But they did bite pretty hard if they were spooked. I can remember going to the fairgrounds after a big furniture round-up. We’d go see what was on sale. My mother insisted on only buying furniture that was broken in, but some people liked to buy new furniture that was still a little wild. We just liked to see the show.”

“The show? Was it like a rodeo?” Neal asked. He looked delighted.

Grandpa chuckled. “Pretty much. I once saw someone ride a bucking rocking chair for a minute and a half. Those were the days.”

“But there isn’t any wild furniture now.” Jim put his cards down and looked puzzled. “What happened?”

“Woodpeckers and termites. They came out of nowhere. Some people believe they escaped from the lab of a mad scientists. Others believe it was the result of the glaciers receding after the ice age. In any case, all the wild furniture died out in less than a hundred years.”

“It was never alive to begin with,” Lynn said.

“That’s so sad,” Neal said. “So it only exists in captivity? How did they train the furniture to sit still and be sat on?”

“Lots of treats. Furniture likes to be dusted. It likes to eat cleaning products too, the kind it can absorb like furniture polish.” Grandpa pointed to the dusty shelves of the bookcase. “When I was younger, the dust on those shelves would have made the shelves spit out all those books and run around the room.”

“Really?” Jim looked uncertain. “But I’ve never seen the furniture move at all. Not even when it’s dusty. Do we not polish it enough? Is the couch starving? No wonder it ate our card.”

Grandpa nodded. “Well, now that you know, you can take care of it. Furniture is trained well before they sell it at stores nowadays, but you don’t want to lose its trust. When I was younger, there was a boy who kept leaning back in his chair. We all told him to stop, but he didn’t listen.”

“What happened?” Neal grinned. “Did it eat him?”

“He probably just fell over. That’s why Mom tells you not to do it,” Lynn said.

“That’s right,” Grandpa said, smiling at Lynn. “He fell over, and the chair did too. None of the chairs trusted him for months. They all scooted out of the way when he tried to sit down, and he ended up falling on the floor.”

“Ouch. That must’ve hurt. What did he do?” Jim asked.

“He apologized to all the furniture in the house. Then he dusted and polished for a week straight. Then he could finally sit on the chairs again.”

Neal’s eyebrows scrunched together. “But grandpa, what did people do before furniture? Where did you sit or eat or sleep?”

“On the ground, of course,” Lynn said. “Not that grandpa was alive before people had furniture in their houses. That’s ridiculous.”

“I need to treat our furniture better. Then it won’t eat my cards or dump me on the floor.” Neal looked around warily. “Do you think it would eat my dinner?”

“Not unless you eat furniture polish,” Jim said. He gathered the cards. “Now that Grandpa’s done reading, let’s deal him in to the game.”

“Just watch out for the card-eating couch,” Neal said.

“Don’t worry.” Grandpa gave the couch a fond pat. “This one is domesticated.” Lynn snorted. Jim dealt the cards and they started another quiet round of Go Fish. Carrie didn’t wake up. Grandpa won every round.

The Argument

Mr. Moffet opened the door and stepped outside to check the weather. It was cold enough for his warmer coat. Satisfied with the results of his research, he headed back inside. Unfortunately, he was in a hurry and neglected to wipe his feet on the way inside.

Mrs. Moffet had mopped the floor the night before. It was the last item on a long list of things to do to finally clean up after all the mess and cheer of the holidays. It wasn’t a pleasant task, but the floor looked great, and it was nice to finish off the list and start the new year with a clean house.

When Mrs. Moffet looked up from her bowl of cereal and saw the muddy footprints left in Mr. Moffet’s wake, she was unhappy. “Look at that. You’re messing up all my hard work.”

Mr. Moffet had no idea what Mrs. Moffet was talking about, but he was in a hurry. “Why do you always blame me for everything? I don’t have time for this. We can talk later.” He grabbed his lunch and left. Thus began the long argument.

The muddy footprints greeted Mrs. Moffet when she returned from work. She didn’t have time in the morning to mop again. Now they were mostly dry. Too wet to sweep, too dry to mop. It was going to be a long slog of crawling on the floor wiping things up with paper towels before she could mop.

She considered leaving the mess for Mr. Moffet, but decided he’d probably pretend he didn’t see the mess. After all, he looked right past it that morning. She changed and got to work. As she cleaned, she felt angrier.

Seeing the clean floor once again helped her calm down. Making a mug of hot cocoa and putting her feet up helped even more. She was ready for a calm discussion when Mr. Moffet came home.

He was late. Mrs. Moffet worried a bit, because he hadn’t let her know why he was late or when he’d be home. Worrying made her grumpy. Mr. Moffet was grumpy because he was late, and that meant he spent extra time at work. He didn’t get paid extra for spending extra time at work, so he preferred not to.

“You’re late,” Mrs Moffet declared when he walked in the door.

“Excellent observation,” Mr. Moffet snapped back.

“Now there’s not time to make the soup,” Mrs. Moffet continued.

“What have you been doing all this time? You weren’t late.”

“I was cleaning up your mess!”

“This again?” Mr. Moffet shoved his arms back in his coat sleeves. “I’ll go get a pizza. See? Now I’m fixing your mess.” And he slammed the door on the way out.

They ate the pizza in silence, not looking at each other. They watched their favorite television show side-by-side in silence. At bedtime, Mrs. Moffet decided it was time to talk about the argument. “I spent all afternoon mopping, you know?”

“Again? Weren’t you just mopping yesterday? You must really like to mop,” Mr. Moffet said. Then he closed the bathroom door and forgot all about it.

In the morning, there was a note on the door. It said, “Wipe Your Feet Or You’ll Have to Mop the Whole House Yourself.” Mr. Moffet looked at the note. He wasn’t sure where this new obsession with mopping came from.

He stepped outside to check the weather. It was raining. The path was slippery with mud from the flowerbed. It was higher than the path. Maybe if he put in a brick border, the dirt would stay in place. He made mental plans to pick up bricks on his way home.

He remembered to wipe his feet.

Things seemed mostly back to normal when Mr. Moffet left for work. He decided the argument was probably due to Mrs. Moffet having a grumpy morning and decided to forget it. He got home early from work and spent hours putting in a brick border around the flowerbed.

He wiped his feet going inside, then left his muddy clothes on the carpet beside the clothes hamper and wiped his muddy fingers on the towels in the bathroom before touching the taps.

Mrs. Moffet didn’t notice the brick border. She did notice the muddy clothes on the carpet and the muddy towels. She had another mess to clean up, and she could only hope the mud wouldn’t stain the carpet. The towels were probably a lost cause.

When Mrs. Moffet came storming into the kitchen, Mr. Moffet smiled. “Did you notice anything different?” he asked eagerly.

“What is it with you and mud?” Mrs. Moffet asked, looking angry.

Mr. Moffet wasn’t sure how to answer the question or why Mrs. Moffet was upset. “I don’t like it on the path? Look, I bought hamburgers to celebrate!”

“Celebrate what? The ruined carpet?” Mrs. Moffet yelled.

“No, my project. The border. Didn’t you notice?” Mr. Moffet yelled back.

“Didn’t you notice the mess you made? And I was going to make soup!”

Mr. Moffet took a deep breath to yell again, and then paused. “What are we arguing about?”

Mrs. Moffet frowned. “You keep leaving mud all over for me to clean up.”

“But I remembered to wipe my feet.”

Mrs. Moffet shook her head. “You didn’t yesterday, and there was a big mess. And today you left muddy clothes on the carpet and wiped mud on the towels.”

Mr. Moffet went to the bedroom to check. He was sure it wasn’t so bad. There was a big mess. He wasn’t sure how he hadn’t noticed. Mrs. Moffet came in. “You’ll need to put the clothes and towels on the washer so I can treat them for stains. We’ll see how that goes. It’s not going to be easy getting the mud out of the carpet, either.”

“Mud can stain things?”

“Of course it can!”

Who knew mud was so messy? He played in it all the time as a child without problems. Perhaps the mud here was different. At least he finally knew what the argument was about. “I’m sorry. I’ll be more careful now that I know.”

And with that, the long argument was over. They happily chatted over their hamburgers and made fun of their favorite show. There would be other arguments in the Moffet household, but none of them lasted as long. Years later, they still sometimes talked about the long argument and laughed. They were just grateful it hadn’t lasted any longer.