The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog...

Friday, April 23, 2010


             The Old Man awoke earlier than normal.  He had to go into the living room to look at the only clock in his house.  The clock was an inexpensive plastic clock that ran on two double A batteries and it hung on a wall next to a calendar.   He saw that it was nearly nine a.m., which was about two hours earlier than he normally would have been out of bed.   Usually it didn't matter what time the Old Man woke up.  Time didn't really matter anymore.

            Today, however, he needed to be ready.  It was his 80th birthday.  Family members were going to be coming over at noon to celebrate the Old Man's 80th birthday.  He was happy.  He was excited.  There was going to be a party for him.  He ate a simple breakfast of toast with butter, a cup of black instant coffee, and a banana.  He then went to take a shower and get dressed.

           His oldest daughter arrived before the others so she could get things ready for the party.  She usually came at least once or twice a week to help clean the house, take her father to shop or run errands, and spend time with him talking.  He would see his other children, grandchildren, and great-children at other times throughout the year, but not too often.  Each visit was a happy occasion that came and went.

           As noon approached, family members began to arrive. Hugs and warm greetings were passed among them.  They brought folding chairs and tables, balloons and decorations, and an array of foods and drinks.  Soon the living room was filled with tables and chairs and with people carrying plates piled high with food.  The room was awash in busy chatter and happy laughter, people eating and children engaged in play.  A whirl of sound and activity swirled about the delighted Old Man. 

            After everyone had finished eating, the assemblage broke into cells of conversation with individuals drifting from one group to another catching up on news.  Some clustered attentively around the Old Man as he talked about days gone by and other memories.  Much of his past life now seemed to him like stories he had read in a book long ago.   Children scrambled about the room and into other rooms while a few adolescents sat by bored on the couch as though waiting to make an escape.  Talk, serious and silly, was swapped as the passel shoshed about the room like a bowl of people soup carried on a tray.

            Then after a rousing version of "Happy Birthday" and  the eating of cake and ice cream, family members scurried about cleaning the kitchen and straightening the house.  Men left with tables and chairs and empty casserole dishes.  Gradually the attendees began leaving with sad good-byes, hugs, kisses, and handshakes.  The oldest daughter kissed her father good-bye and told him that she would stop by the following day.   The Old Man watched through the window as the last family members climbed into their cars and left.  And then they were all gone and the Old Man was alone.

           It was not yet 7 PM, but the Old Man felt tired, yet not sleepy.  He would probably not go to bed for several hours.  It didn't really matter what time he went to bed.  He didn't have to wake up at any particular time.  He didn't have to go to work or be anywhere special.  Time didn't mean anything to him now.  Time wasn't that important.

         The sun sat sullenly on the horizon as it waited to make its departure. As the stark shadows enveloped the room, the Old Man turned on a lamp.  He walked over to the calendar on the wall and carefully marked an X on this day that was about to end-- his birthday.  There were 365 days until his 81st birthday.

         This is a short story I wrote for the letter T.  Perhaps I'll go back eventually and polish it up since I wrote it pretty quickly.  Any thoughts about this story? 

          Time for the A to Z Challenge is winding down--only one more week to go.  And most of you have hung in there.  There are a few more difficult letters coming up but I have no doubt that you can finish with a flourish.  Savor and enjoy these last few days as you make them your very best.  Be thinking about what you want to say in your May 3rd post.  Perhaps there was a certain special post that another blogger did that you want to recognize.  Or maybe you want to feature some of your own work that you were proud of.   You might even have quotes of comments you received from other bloggers.

          The May 3rd Mega Post is your time to tell about your experience with the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge on your own blog site.  I know that this student of blog science, as well as many other bloggers, want to know what you learned from this experience.   Try to be creative and as informative as you can.  What you do is up to you and I for one am anxious to see it.


  1. What a wonderful, yet very sad story.
    This challenge has gone so fast. Fun! :o)

  2. Loved the story Lee, so much ofthat is around sad to say,
    I used to work with the elderly many years ago and seen scenes like that all too often,
    I have deleted one of my "T " blogs for personal reasons just in case bloggers ask about it,
    As you say there are some difficult letters on the horizon wonder what will materialise from them?
    Have a good week-end.

  3. I think it's sad that's the only thing keeping him going - the next birthday.

  4. The "teenagers waiting to escape" really addes reality to the story! It was very slice-of-life, and kina let me know what we're all in for in our Golden Years.

  5. Love it. Love the story.

    Don't count down the time. Counting down time is looking forward to the end. Just enjoy it while you are at it :)

  6. Love the story and the idea of A to Z April Challenge. The story makes me want to spend more time with my Dad - I'll make sure to call him today.
    My Wonderfully Dysfunctional Blog

  7. Dear Lee,
    Your story is so "on-the-spot"! I know, because I live with an 83 year old man and he is very much like that, but a lot he does not remember. I had him surprise birthday celebration for his 80th birthday. We had just moved back from living with a daughter in Florida (who now lives in Alabama) and were living in a small apartment. It had a large parking area and we had 25 people and we all sat outside. He was so surprised! It was a good time. I love the teenage boredom part of your story, having had teenagers with that kind of attitude. Ha.
    Thanks for the touching story.

  8. I really like the story (I agree that having teens waiting to escape really adds to it!). I realized reading it that I don't think of 80 as that old anymore... it *is*... I think my definition of "old" is just constantly expanding and, looking at the women in my family who are going strong past 80 I realized they still have a lot going on in life. You are so correct that none of it is dictated by the clock. I've been thinking lately about how much life is dictated by time as I've been dealing with a 4 year old who is on the opposite side of not caring about time... hmmm... may end up writing about that at some point today...

  9. Niki-- Thank you. The A to Z time is running out, but it's been great fun.

    Yvonne -- I'll be interested to see what you do with those final "difficult" letters.

    Alex - Let's hope it's only because of the excitement of the day -- that he'll have more to look forward to when tomorrow comes.

    Will -- I see teens at family gathering at times who seem this way and hope we all have wonderful twilight years.

    Ocean Girl -- that's the philosophy I like to espouse. I don't like to say "I can hardly wait for something" because I might be missing a lot in the interim.

    Buffi- It's so nice to have you visit and hope you will come back. Yes, and call your Dad and talk to him a bit.

    Grammy --I know what you're saying. My father-in-law who will soon turn 86 loves his birthday parties.

    Melody -- you are correct. Age is relative. I know people who are in their 90's who still drive and lead very active lives, while I know people in their 50s and 60s who look much older and act like they are ready to die any day. When we are little kids we have so little concept of time-- 5 or 10 years is like a century and the days seem to last so long. As I get older I can barely get done all of the things I want to do each day, and the days fly by.
    A child's concept of time sounds like a good topic.

  10. That was sad... I thought you were going to have it end worse even though this ending was still sad.

    So now the challenge is nearly o'er
    And I face the final letter,
    I ask myself this question
    Could I have written any better.
    I've blogged throughout this month
    And left my comments every day,
    And if the truth be known
    I've written my way.
    I've done the best I could
    I am pleased that I succeeded.
    This challenge was a journey
    A journey that I needed.
    I've made some good friends
    Each and every day,
    But at the end of it all
    I've written my way.
    There's blogs that made me laugh
    Some blogs that made me cry.
    I thank the established authors
    Who took the trouble to come on by,
    I've learnt such alot
    I won't forget comewhat may.
    With head that's held up high,
    I wrote it my way.
    Thought you may like to read.Yvonne

  12. I did not find the story especially sad. There seemed to be so much joy in the room - the family gathering for the celebration, listening to the Old Man tell his stories. I could almost see the food in the casserole dishes! The fact that he is living on his own, taking care of himself, and finds joy in seeing his family all struck me as positive. I want to know more about this dear Old Man.

  13. Nice, but sad. Makes you realize the value we put on people. We tend to think of the care of elderly as a duty and an obligation, but this can really be directed towards any aged person. When was the last time you checked on a friend or a grown 'busy' child? When we only remember or are remembered on 'special days, what else do we have to live for but an X on the calendar?

  14. Emilee -- Hi, Em-- I miss you. But I'm not quite like the Old Man yet, but maybe someday. Love you!

    Yvonne -- Love it! Are you going to post it on your site? You did the challenge the right way. Look at all the followers you added -- you obviously did something right and the way people keep commenting, they are actually reading and enjoying your work. Good job doing it your way.

    Liza -- I was trying to be realistic. I think it's mostly sad from the aspect of getting older can be sad in some ways, but also a time of rejoicing. It's all a matter of how we look at it.

    Linda -- Thank you. I think you got the point of what I was trying to convey. I wasn't really going so much for sadness, though I did want it to be somewhat bittersweet, but I aiming for the irony that in one sense of his life time wasn't especially important and yet in another way time was running out and it was one of the biggest things he had left.

    The Voice -- I think it's important to show others we care whether we know them or not.

  15. As Mama in the middle, I am selfish with my time. My 91 year old mother needs me as visitor,helper and driver. I'm my daughter's babysitter and grandsons' antagonizer. I guard my time alone.
    Time will change perspective.

  16. I was worried this was a piece of flash fiction and you were going to have him sit down on his chair and die...whew!

    I liked the old guy.

  17. I really loved the story Arlee. It made me wish that I were at the birthday party. I didn't think the ending was sad, just life!
    Love Di ♥

  18. Carol- We need to distribute our time wisely because time for oneself is very valuable

    Raquel-- Yeah that would have been bad. I liked the old guy too.

    Diana --exactly! I think any of us experience that kind of down feeling after the party's over and every one goes home. Then again it's often a relief too.

  19. Great story and thank you for not having him die on his birthday. :)

  20. I really liked it, but I too feared, he was going to die at the end. I want him to have some type of surprise birthday gift that arrives, after everyone leaves and alters his life-surprise us! I thought it was well written and left me wanting more!
    It reminded me of my grandfather~

  21. Enjoyed this story. At first I was thinking what it would be like not to have to be so concerned about time. It seems so much of time is consumed with the have to(s) of life. By the end of the story, I was sad to think he had the time but no one to enjoy the free time.

  22. Lisa -- I don't think many of you would have been too happy with me if he had died, especially on his birthday.

    Ellie -- In reality the story wasn't so much about the Old Man as it was about Time. But the Old Man deserves some kind of special surprise doesn't he? I'll leave that part to the reader to imagine.

    Wanda -- Yes, he had the time, but the question is how much more time? That is something for us to consider: which is most important the past, the future, or right now?

  23. I wasn't as nice a story teller as you, because in my "Q" post my old lady died. *maniacal laughter* Totaly kidding. About the laughing. Not about the death of my character.

    I half expected you to write his death. Great story!

  24. Good simple story. Sad too.
    Lord, help us to remember those who have no one to keep them company but the empty spaces of time.

    Be blessed. Be a blessing.
    DJ GlenMC

  25. What an inspiring idea - writing stories for each letter of the alphabet! Great creative challenge! Enjoyed your story, too. It's SO important to spend time with family and those we love while there is time.

    Thanks for stopping by Life Lessons, commenting on my recent post, and becoming a follower! I love getting to know fellow bloggers! Looking forward to reading your next post. Have a great weekend and God bless!

  26. i thought this to be quite sad. what caught my attention was that he checked the clock at the onset. all other days were the same. then when you used the word heightened everyone's anxiety to get out quickly. i like the way you brought it out that EVERYONE was there. the fact that he put the X on the calender at the end of the day was really significant too.


    MAY 10th is ELLIE's and YVONNE's

  27. I too, enjoyed your story. If you ask my youngest daughter who is a CNA and care-giver, there are lot of these old guys and gals. Maybe he did fully enjoy his "day" and he was content. I like to think as my commentor mentioned, the next birthday is what keeps him going, giving himself a reason to get up each day.

    It is hard to believe there are only 5 more days left, since Saturday is written and in the queue and Sunday is "a day off" I am counting Mon-Fri.

    Each day has been fun and interesting. I am glad to have participated. I am not much of a free-lancer, so I have liked knowing each day what letter to use as my springboard. In my line of work you can't free lance - the text is sacred, written by the Holy Spirit and there is a curse if one were to add to or subtract form the sacred word. So, each week I know my assignment, read, observe, interpet, and apply the text.

    So I have like knowing everyday where the starting line was.

  28. hey Lee...

    you only have SIX more followers to reach 300. i'm unavailable for the next TWENTY-SIX weeks for any A to Z challenge:) anything else i will "consider" though.

  29. Marjorie -- your story was very nice and we didn't see her die.

    Glen -- I often think that I should do more visiting. I call my mother and some of my relatives regularly though.

    Maria-- thank you for stopping by. I look forward to reading more from you as well.

    Bud -- Yeah, people are busy--we all have things to do until we get too old to do them. Thanks for the Birthday info --

    Gregg-- It's been a great ride and glad you enjoyed it. You really made some great contributions.

    Bud -- you and me both. Maybe next year we can do another challenge, but I really have to start doing some other things I've been neglecting. But, Bud, you have done a wonderful job and check for an announcement next Tuesday 4/27/10

  30. I'll definitely try to make it to the end, we shall see how it goes. Still enjoy reading your posts!

  31. arlee, you captured the wistful essence that typically surrounds a milestone day of someone who has lived eight decades. Beautifully written - it brought back memories of my own father.

  32. Ginny -- Thanks. Now sleep tight and don't let the bed bugs bite ---ooo, that was bad, I know.

    Paula-- Thank you so much-- your opinion means a lot to me. I did loosely base this on someone in my life.

  33. A very touching story. Makes me think of how many things we rush into, get it done, be finished with...

    from our daily dinner with family, waiting for the kids to grow up, to the big holidays that take forever to get ready for. Over in a flash, and once it is over, you only can count the hours or days until it comes around again or just sadly look back to see it is done.

    Take time to slow down, enjoy the moment and the people every day, every minute. All too soon, the moments for celebration are over and we have moved to the next.


  34. Sig-- you really got the point of my story. After all I called it Time and not The Old Man and the Time


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