Charlie’s Room: Forever Young
Charlie and Marianne were at the grocery store, buying supplies. In the morning, they’d all be leaving on a road trip to visit Aunt Doris. Isaac had packed and re-packed the car with the things they didn’t need before they left.
It was twilight, just at that point where he probably should turn the lights on, but didn’t quite need to yet. He decided it wasn’t quite worth the bother. Instead, he looked out the window and watched as the trees tossed about their branches in the unseen breeze. It looked like they were dancing.
Isaac didn’t particularly want to visit Aunt Doris. She was always pointing out people’s faults and asking nosy questions. Time spent with her seemed to stretch longer than otherwise possible.
But, he felt guilty even thinking that. He knew that she was lonely, and she probably pointed out mistakes in an attempt to help. It had been years since they last visited her. She visited them several times in the past year alone, so it really was their turn to visit.
Often, Isaac felt like there was a younger Isaac in his mind. Younger Isaac said what he thought, was selfish sometimes and kind sometimes, and mostly wanted to have fun. When he had to sit and pay bills, the part of his mind that complained and tried to put off the task was younger Isaac.
Younger Isaac thought that if they were going on a road trip, they should go somewhere fun. Isaac thought wistfully of historical monuments and national parks and roller coasters. He’d checked to see what was on the way, but because his vacation time was limited, they didn’t have many travel days.
In his mind, younger Isaac sat next to him on the couch, watching the trees dance in the twilight. Without turning to look at him, younger Isaac sighed. “Can’t you sleep any less? It would give you more time.”
Isaac thought about his travel schedule. “Nope. I’m old now. If I don’t sleep, I wouldn’t be able to drive safely. It’s different when you’re younger and can sleep in the car if you need to.”
Younger Isaac made a face. “I forgot. You’re old now. But do we have to spend so long with Aunt Doris?”
“She and Marianne have plans. Marianne’s excited.”
Younger Isaac turned to look at him. “It’s mostly shopping, isn’t it?”
Isaac nodded. “And gardening.”
“Why are we even doing this? Couldn’t you pretend to be too sick to go? Pretend you sprained your ankle?”
Isaac shrugged. “Marianne likes her Aunt. Aunt Doris sent her a birthday card with a dollar in it every year. Marianne looked forward to it, and she still does. Aunt Doris brought presents when she visited and cared about what Marianne was doing. She turned up for every recital and graduation. She’s important to Marianne, and Marianne’s important to me.”
Younger Isaac sighed again. “So we have to go.” He sat up suddenly. “But I bet they’ll want some time with just the two of them, right? To catch up and stuff. So maybe we could take Charlie somewhere fun. Anything fun near Aunt Doris’s house?”
“There’s the cheese museum.” Isaac thought for a moment. “I think there’s a nice library, too.”
“That’ll do. See, it won’t be so bad. If she drives you crazy, you can go somewhere fun with Charlie.” Younger Isaac started to fade away. “Man, why is being a grown up so complicated? I don’t feel any older at all.”
And he was gone, and Isaac was watching the trees by himself. It was really starting to get dark. Just as he had almost convinced himself to go turn on the light, it turned on. The light was blinding for a moment, and he blinked a few times and turned to see Charlie grinning in the doorway, his hand still on the light switch.
“Why are you sitting here in the dark?” Charlie asked.
Isaac looked at the window. It was mirror-like now the light was on. He couldn’t see the trees dance anymore. “I was just thinking.”
Charlie sat down on the couch, in the spot where Isaac had imagined his younger self sitting. “Were you thinking about the trip? It’s going to be great! We bought those jelly beans that come in millions of flavors, and Mom says that there are fireflies out now in Aunt Doris’s yard. I don’t remember ever seeing fireflies. We can stay up late to see them, right?”
Isaac smiled. “Of course we can. That sounds fun. And maybe we can visit the cheese museum.”
Charlie grinned. “And bake cookies with Aunt Doris and make ice cream sandwiches with them. Mom knows where the best place for ice cream is by Aunt Doris’s house. And Aunt Doris will let us pick all the strawberries we want. This is going to be the best trip ever.”
“Then we need to get to bed soon so we’re not too sleepy in the morning. Brush your teeth and get your pajamas on and meet your mom and I in here for prayers.” Isaac stood up and watched him go. Time to go find Marianne and see how the grocery shopping went.
“Fireflies sound nice,” younger Isaac whispered in the back of his mind. “And I like ice cream. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.” Isaac grinned and went to find Marianne.
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