Friday, August 21, 2009

Daily Story 128: Where I Was Your Age

"Three spatial dimensions was good enough for my family growing up, and it should be good enough for anyone."
Grandpa is frowning and shaking his head at the state of the world as he bounces in the backseat of the car. He's got big drooping jowls now and I feel bad but all I can think of is if that's my future. My wife is ignoring him entirely, not because she doesn't care but because she's already learned that nothing she says can change the course of the conversation.
"We kept things separate," he says, "like they're supposed to be. We knew our place."
"You know there's still time, grandpa. It's just... different." Jules shoots me a warning look because she's smarter than me and knows I'm not going to make him feel better about the world in which we live by arguing semantics. Luckily grandpa just harrumphs and looks out his window at the changing seasons.

I turn at Mayo and 2005, heading towards the University - my brother is graduating today, class of 2011 just like me and our dad. "Grandpa... now that Jimmy is done with school he's going to move to Florida in 1983 to do environmental studies. That means nobody is going to live near the nursing home anymore. Jules and I... we would love it if you would come and live with us." That's a sort of half-lie. We both know it will be frustrating and annoying taking care of him and listening to him tell us about how much better the seventies were the first time around when you couldn't drive there for an afternoon, but that doesn't mean we mind doing it.
"I never liked California. Or the nineties, either."
"It's a really good neighborhood." Jules says. She isn't defensive though, because we had already anticipated his reaction. Grandpa never liked anything, so far as we can tell.

"I just hate seeing you in that place - and I know you don't want to live with dad."
"Eighteen-ninety! Can you believe it! That boy is going to get killed by... by civil war soldiers or something, I don't know. How would I? I never had to worry about getting shanghaied by Vikings on the way to school. It was better all around, if you ask me." My parents' place is gorgeous and in no danger of coming under fire by lost and confused civil war soldiers. That's not to say it never happens, of course - wayward patrols from World War Two have been seen as far out of era as 1980 and 1923 - but they weren't traveling on foot.
"Sweetheart," Jules says, "I think you missed our turn. That's fifty-ninth street coming up."
She's right, of course. "Sorry, sixty-fourth must not go through yet. I was trying to avoid the traffic in 2011." I turn around and drive back towards where sixty-fourth will hopefully be and find the intersection this time.
"In my day," Grandpa starts, "you could get by on your sense of direction..."

I squeeze Jules' hand and she smiles at me. Neither of us are listening too closely but we can get the general idea; When I was your age we didn't have to worry about being eaten by dinosaurs or going home to the wrong house because we didn't know what year we bought it in. Something like that. It's better than my in-laws, I suppose. They're native to 1850 and don't understand technology at all; they're always calling me and asking me questions about the computer we bought them. "And another thing," grandpa continues, "if they're serving dodo or some other extinct animal at the graduation party I don't want anything to do with it. It's not natural."
"Yes, grandpa." It's not his fault; some people just can't keep up with modern times.