Saturday, March 15, 2008

Respecting your elders

Reflecting on others

My cousin lives in a gentrified part of a Central Valley city. His local newspaper decided last month to write a saccharine human-interest piece on some elderly neighbors of his, a pair of young sweethearts who had married and grown old together. It was a perfect Valentine-themed story. The newspaper reporter chatted up my cousin and jotted down some suitable quotes for the article:
John Doe, a middle-aged landscape contractor, is uncharacteristically home during the day. His longtime partner has just moved out, and he's cleaning the big, empty house.

He smiles when Mac and Martha pass. He's been watching them, waving at them, chatting with them for the 10 years he's lived in the neighborhood.

“They are a staple, aren't they?” he says. “When you fall in love with someone, it's with their heart.... That's what I see when I see Mac and Martha. I don't envy them, but they do make me believe. When you see someone doing it, you believe it's out there.”
My mother saw the newspaper article and phoned me in some distress. As smart as I am, I quickly intuited her concern. The local newspaper had outed my cousin “John” in its Valentine's Day story and revealed the sad tale of his recently broken love life for all to see. As is customary when it comes to my family, my brilliant mind was utterly wrong. Mom's lament was of a different order entirely:

“They referred to my nephew as middle-aged!”

That's progress, I suppose.

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