© Another Day in the Country
YYou are the only thing without a battery that can be recharged,” I said to my old friend Horace Shaw, “Shawzee,” as he approached his 90th birthday. “If I could just plug you into the wall for recharging, we’d be set.”
“Rue the day,” he said as he shook his head and laughed.
Everything around old age runs on batteries, it seemed to me. I was in my late 50s then. Dr. Shaw was 30 years older.
His phone ran on a battery and had to be regularly recharged. Of course, he’d forget. His watch needed batteries. His toothbrush even required batteries, but not as often as other things.
His hearing aids ran on batteries. We had those tiny little batteries stashed everywhere, it seemed, and yet he was always running out.
His four-wheeled cart that took him everywhere ran on batteries. He had bum knees, which nowadays seem to be replaceable, but not for him.
Some nights he’d forget to plug his cart into the wall for recharging and then set out the next day on a jaunt through the streets of St. Helena, California, and “run out of steam,” as he called it.
Many days he’d return triumphant with someone pushing him into the door of the retirement center where he lived. He called his residence “the motel” without the retirement title, which, in his opinion, was an inherently dislocated and undeserved innuendo about being less than useful.
“We had a great time,” he would crow, telling the tale of a person who’d come to his rescue and “volunteered to get me home.”
Other times, he would just “beg for a plug” in a restaurant or at the food store and recharge his cart for a bit to get him back to home base.
We always had a drawer full of batteries waiting to be called into duty — all sizes and shapes from those finger-tip sized hearing aid batteries to the big Ds in his flashlight.
His car battery, which also dwindled in power under his tutelage, was a problem of a different sort. AAA gave up on him and had to set limits.
Finally the day came when he no longer could drive safely — battery working or not — and I said, “You just can’t, Shawzee,” and he answered, “So you say,” with a disdainful dip of his head, but he didn’t.
His television set, his constant companion in his little apartment, also had a battery-powered “clicker,” as he called it.
If it wasn’t, “Where is that clicker?” it was, “Where are the batteries for the clicker? It just up and quit!”
Clickers do up and quit without notice! Mine quit today as I was turning off the Ken Burns PBS special on the origins of the Statue of Liberty — a wonderful show, by the way. I went to turn off the TV set and nothing happened. An hour before I’d turned the program on with the clicker and all was well.
Sixty minutes of rest and the power is gone?
My television set still would be running on and on while I scramble around looking for a battery supply if it weren’t for manual controls.
Several years ago, when my new computer came, it had a keyboard and a mouse that were both battery operated. All was well. I was just getting used to the new configuration and “poof,” the batteries were used up.
I’m sure it was a respectable Energizer Bunny length of time, but it seemed like “poof” — and I went scrambling for enough batteries of the right size and shape so I could have control once again over my computer.
It wasn’t long before I found the old keyboard and plugged it back in. A few months later, I dragged out the old mouse, with the long-tailed cord, and plugged it in, too.
“Better not to rely on batteries,” I was heard to mutter to myself.
“It’s progress,” my sister assured me. “That keyboard takes up less room, and that tail-less mouse gives you more freedom!”
“But hunting for batteries and having to keep an endless supply is a type of slavery,” I told her.
While I joked about my friend Horace Shaw — who has been dead 20 years, and here I am still talking about him needing batteries in his old age — he was adamantly against humans having batteries installed.
His wife of 60 years had a pacemaker — which was equivalent to a battery, in his mind — and it didn’t work out well.
The pacemaker kept her heart ticking away, long after Dorothy had stopped answering curtain calls because of Alzheimer’s.
In my house I have batteries in two locations, my office desk drawer and the junk drawer in my kitchen. Since I’m in the office writing, I checked this drawer and, after much scrounging around, moving little organizer boxes and extra pencils and cords, I came up with four batteries each of AA and AAA!
Miracle of miracles, the day is saved. I can restock the “clicker,” and rule the television set from my chair. I must be doing something right, on another day in the country.