The Old-Fashioned Way

                                                                  I envied her…

She didn’t own a computer. She had a cell phone for three months but never used it. She told her kids to take it back. She had time to read and do crafts, take long walks, and lunch with friends. She attended live lectures, went to the library, enjoyed museums, picnics at the park, and face-to-face conversations with her grandchildren, who squirmed much of the time, unused to talking without a keyboard and a computer screen as part of the interaction. And she could see the kids’ expressions, touch their knees or hands, and help them understand social interplay the old-fashioned way.

Mrs. Manfred writes notes to people, does her banking inside the bank, visits friends, and has the bridge club at her house once a month. The book club is on the third Thursday of the month, bridge club on the second Tuesday, and baby quilters on the fourth Friday. Mrs.M. volunteers at the local hospital, stuffing envelopes and helping the cooks put little white cups on the trays for the patients. She wears a hairnet, gloves, and an apron for this job. The apron comes down to the floor, and the extra small gloves hang off her tiny hands like a four-year-old dressing up in her mom’s clothes. The hairnet is a big blue surgical hat of which the hospital purchased at a huge discount in the tens of thousands, making Mrs. M. look like a cross between a blue mushroom and a midget chef. Her hair pokes out from under the blue hat, clown style.

She laughed easily. She had a razor-sharp mind and a heart of expanding elasticity, especially for children. Her favorite volunteer work was reading to kids in hospitals, schools, churches, and libraries.

However, it was not only becoming a lost art, but the ‘safety laws required that she wear a badge, get fingerprinted, TB tested, and background checked all so she could have an “aide” in the room while she read to the kids. Mrs. M. cried at the thought of it.

“All I want to do is entertain and teach the children,” she said. The laws had changed, the world had changed, the people had changed. It became too much of a hassle for her, and eventually, she had to cut back because they couldn’t find the “aide” person. In fact, when she gave up driving for Lent one year, her daughter couldn’t get her to the hospitals, and she had to stop forever.

She was forced into a retirement home—what a loss for everyone — for the kids and Mrs. M.’s wonderfully abundant heart.

One day, when cell phones stopped working, the internet coughed and passed out for a 24-hour period. Mrs. Manfred’s life did not change at all, except the people in the retirement home came down to the central meeting room in a trickle at first and then in a steady stream. Finally, they arrived in a torrent, and the room was awash in blue hairs so that the chattering and laughing brought life back into the home that usually served as the waiting area for an appointment with Death.

New acquaintances became fast friends.

Alas, the internet came back on the next dayand Death and her friend Depression resumed their march. The spell was broken, and Mrs. M. cried until she decided to read to her friends in the old folks’ home –knee to knee, the old-fashioned way.

Smiles all around. Life was good.

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