The Fire Inside

My mother can barely walk. One of her great disappointments in life is her inability to play golf. A surgeon who operated on her for her stenosis guaranteed she’d be back on the course, over a decade ago, but that never came to be. And since then, she’s had knee replacement and broken her femur. She’s now forced to use a walker.

But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t get around. She’s the life of the party. She’s the straw that stirs the drink. She lives in a building with everybody from the old neighborhood who’s still alive. They play bridge, they go to movies, my mother is more active than most twenty year olds. Most of the time when I call her she throws me off the phone, she’s got plans, she’s got to go.

So I wasn’t worried about her during the storm, but of course I checked in.

Her power went out.

But Phyllis, her aide, had charged up her Kindle and iPad, she was ready. I tried to explain that Netflix wouldn’t work, because there was no wi-fi, the router needed power, but that didn’t seem to penetrate. When I spoke to her the following day she was pissed. She’d wanted to watch a movie!

We connected on her iPhone, which she just purchased when she lost her old Nokia, my mother needs to be up to date. As to what level of skill she’ll achieve on the mobile, that’s another story. I know an even more worldly octogenarian who’s got one but only uses it for incoming calls, she never dials out, that would be too daunting.

So there’s still no power. And Phyllis told my mother to beware of running out the battery on the iPhone, but my mother had to tell me a story.

She lives off a strip center. In Branford, Connecticut. A blue collar town east of New Haven that’s come up a bit in the last forty years. And one of the tenants not only stiffed her on the rent, he neglected to pay the tax, and now there’s a penalty almost equal in amount and not having paid the water bill, the new tenant can’t get it turned on.

And the new tenant is a pain in the ass. An i-dotter and t-crosser of the worst type. But the space has been vacant and a deal was reached, which wasn’t easy, but now this new guy keeps bugging my mother, wanting to get the water turned on.

So my mother calls the DWP. And they put her on hold for half an hour and then say there’s nothing they can do. She’s got to call back. Which she does. Says she’ll pay the bill. And you know what it’s like dealing with bureaucrats, they take their time and promise little. So my mother says “The water better be on by Monday, or I’m gonna blow up the building.”

Then the police called. The sergeant from Branford. He needed to know. Was she Muriel Lefsetz, was she the person who threatened to blow up the building?

And my mother calls back. Leaves a message. Saying she’s 86 years old and handicapped. She’ll call the DWP and apologize, she’ll send a letter.

But that’s not good enough. The sergeant leaves another message, he’s gonna have to talk to her.

Then the power went out. And since all these oldsters have switched to Internet landlines, she’s been unreachable. They don’t work in disasters.


Fire’s something that’s inside. You might look the picture of health, but be as meek as a mouse. My mother may use a walker, but she’s still blazing brightly.

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