Elder Hostile

With apologies to Dorothy Parker.

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Photo ©2015, Ted Anthony

“Agnes DeKay,”
my son said in my ear,
“isn’t really a name
that I’d want to have here.”

He spoke as we walked
in a hallway one day
through the “castle of geezers,”
my father would say.

My parents had moved there
when not doing well
and became sharp observers
of this circle of hell.

In the dining room,
Elsie and Alma and Rita
chewed on bland little burgers
festooned with Velveeta

while Leo and Edwin
(and the weird-visor guy)
would squabble o’er whether
the rolls were too dry.

My parents are gone now.
My temples are white.
My prostate is starting
to vex me at night.

And my songs? They’re called “oldies.”
Progressive is retro.
My son laughs at me
when I play Berlin’s “Metro.”

Last week, there was something
I had to retrieve
from that place where alongside
two deathbeds I’d grieved.

I walked in the door,
heard the music on loud
and awaited a tune
from the Glenn Miller crowd.

But what reached my poor ears
brought a tic to my eye:
not “American Patrol”
but “American Pie.”

And I started to ponder,
as gray fills my hair,
of the days when my ilk
takes up residence there.

They’ll serve low-salt nachos
and play Depeche Mode
and stream “Family Ties” —
every last episode.

And Kelseys, not Elsies,
will bingo and brunch
and the walker brigade
will be filled with a bunch

of frail old women
named Amber and Jen
whose nameplates are solo
since they lost their men.

Their solace will come
(as they cough up their mucous)
from offspring named Braden
and Noah and Lucas.

My father, he knew
this would all come to be.
“It won’t be long now,”
he’d whisper to me.

Up the road now, today,
he lies, as he must,
dreaming his dreams
and gathering dust.

And despite my denial
of that far-off day
I know I’m soon bound
to join Agnes DeKay.

— Allison Park, PA 2/16/20

Ted Anthony, a writer based in Pittsburgh and New York, is a Baby Boomer by generation and a Gen-Xer by age. He has been dissecting and musing about American culture since Guns N’ Roses was on the charts and “Rain Man” was in the theaters. He is the author of Chasing the Rising Sun: The Journey of an American Song and is working on the upcoming The Dream That Ate Everything: How Stories Conquered America. He tweets here and Instagrams here. Read more of his work here.

©2020, Ted Anthony

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Exploring and understanding storytelling and how it shapes our lives. My tools: Words, images, thoughts, memories, connections, history ... and, maybe, wisdom.

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