The Challenge

The old man sat in his chair, a book in his lap, but mostly dozing in the silence of the room.  It was his room, since he had come to live with his son and daughter in law.  It wasn’t terribly big, and he had had to forfeit a lot of his belongings to squeeze in here, but it was enough.  Truth was, it was nice to have family around but also a place to retreat when he needed some time alone.

He had been seeking his room a lot more lately, since that virus everyone was talking about had shown up.  Couldn’t watch anything on TV without being told to wash his hands. ‘I learned that as a kid’ he thought.  Seems like they could have one channel just for adults that understand that.

As he sat, he could overhear some of the conversation coming from downstairs.  The grand kids weren’t taking this well and were prone to letting everyone know.  They had been home schooling for two weeks now and the uniqueness of the situation was quickly wearing off.  Tempers were growing short and days long.

“Grandpa”, a soft voice said.  “You awake”?

“Of course I’m awake” he replied grumpily. “Just resting my eyes for a couple of minutes.  Been reading a lot”.

She knew he had been asleep, but she didn’t care.  She wanted to talk to him.  Downstairs, everyone was talking at once, mostly complaining about one thing or the other. She, Ellen, just wanted to get away from that and knew Grandpa’s room would be good place to go.

“I can’t stand it anymore Grandpa” she said, plopping down on his bed.  There is nothing to  do.  I am so bummed.  I’m tired of watching Netflix and Prime and texting my friends.  I can only watch so many movies.  We can’t even get a pizza. Mom says you don’t know who has been handling it.  Instead, we are stuck with casseroles and frozen stuff.  I miss having mom drive me and my friends to the mall and visiting Starbucks and stuff.

The old man chuckled. ” When I was your age, we ate what we had which meant a lot of casseroles and stews. To me, macaroni and cheese was a treat. Lunch was often a cheese sandwich. Dessert, if we had one  might be jello or pudding.

Ellen made a face. “Jello”!!!  “Yuck”.  “I’d rather have ice cream”.

“Yup, I liked ice cream too. In fact every once in a while my dad would get out the ice cream maker. You didn’t plug it in though.  You all took turns cranking it until your arm got tired.  It was the best ice cream in the world”.

“Why didn’t you  just go buy some” Ellen asked.

“Why would we want to do that”, he asked.  “Money was tight and we didn’t have to spend it on something we could make ourselves”. If you wanted to buy something, you had to have cash, so we saved what we could. We didn’t own any credit cards.  We didn’t have a TV either, so there was no such thing as Netflix.  If you wanted to watch a movie, you went to the theater Saturday afternoon for the matinee.  I loved Westerns.  Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers.  That was some fun.

Ellen made another face.  “But what if you hadn’t been able to go out?  Then what”?

“Well, I spent a lot of time in my room anyway.  I built model airplanes and kites that I flew in the back yard.  I’ve always liked to read so I had a lot of books. And I also liked to draw. I liked my room then just as much as I like this one now.  In here, I am in charge.  I get to decide what I want to do.

“But don’t you get tired of being inside, up here, alone”?

“But I’m not alone” he said. I have my imagination to keep me company. After all, I grew up me, and I lived me.  I am a product of that same imagination, so I am comfortable spending time with me.  I was young like you once and I guess I would have had trouble staying home if someone told me I had to.  But I have learned to enjoy what I have instead of complaining about what I don’t.  You see, when I was a boy, what I had is whatever I created. My imagination was my best friend.  You on the other hand, for the most part, have only that which you have been given.  There’s nothing wrong with that, but for me, it will never have the value of something that came from your own head and hands.

He thought for a minute, then continued. “Back when I was a boy, times were a little different.  If you wanted to talk to a friend, you jumped on your bike.  Many houses didn’t have a phone at all and those that did, you had to be home to use it.  It didn’t seem like much of a price to pay for the convenience back then.  We spent a lot of time outdoors, making up our own games.  Pickup baseball and football, playing cowboys and indians and soldiers and pirates, climbing trees, and fishing. We would go from morning til night and never run out of things to do. Our expectations were ours to invent”.

“So what do you think I should do Grandpa” Ellen asked.

“Well, if I were you, the first thing I would do is sit down and ask myself ‘ if I didn’t have a cellphone, and TV and Facebook, and Twitter, and all of that other stuff that thinks for you, what would be the one thing you would choose to do.  Then I would do it”.  And my guess is that that one thing would lead to another until you were chasing your own imagination”.

Ellen didn’t answer.  She just looked at her Grandpa, then slid off the bed and started to leave the room.

“Where are you going” her Grandpa said

“I’m not sure yet Grandpa” she said.  “I won’t know until I get there”.



About oldmainer

I am a retired manager living in Southern Maine and a would be writer of poetry, narratives, short stories, and random opinions, and that's how Oldmainer was born. Recently, I decided to try an experiment. I added photography to the mix, using only a cheap cell phone with a limited camera and the editing software that came with it, and added the blog site Inklings at to showcase the results. So, feel free to use whatever you find interesting or worthy, but please honor the terms of my copyright when and if you do. They may not be much, but they are still a piece of me. I appreciate your checking me out and hope that you find something that will encourage a return visit. Thanks for stopping by.
This entry was posted in Aging, Children, Coping, Family, Friendship, Generations, Home, Journey, Kids, Life, Relationships and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Challenge

  1. Miriam says:

    Oh how I love this. So much truth in his wise old words. This will be a time of great learning for the younger generation. And maybe for people of all ages. The power of the imagination. It just can’t be beaten. Thanks for a wonderful post. Your words are truly golden. 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  2. quiall says:

    I wonder . . . Will the younger generations now rediscover their imagination?


    • oldmainer says:

      Oh Pam, if only. I am reminded of a cartoon of a man standing in front of St Peter who is saying “actually you had a very good life. However, you were staring at your phone and missed it”.


  3. George says:

    LOL…I love this especially that last line. It gave me chills and made me smile. So much hope in those last words. Thanks, Bob.


  4. Al says:

    The perfect cure for the virus blues….grandfathers!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Osyth says:

    Oh how we need your voice! We always did, of course but in the heat and now HOW we need it. And the great thing is that we might even stop long enough to listen and we might even be open enough to hear it. I loved this beyond any meagre words I may have in my armoury. May I share it to FaceBook where not bloggers exist, please?


    • oldmainer says:

      My thoughts and words are for anyone that may wish to share them. I have no problem with you forwarding them. Actually welcome the opportunity.for. their desemination more broadly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        Lovely. I always check before I share anything on other platforms. I will share to my FaceBook Page (which is directly linked to writing and blogging – my own and things I share from others) and to my personal FaceBook for the benefit of those that don’t engage with the page (dreadful rhyme, apologies).


  6. Bob, one of your best.
    So many kids should read this.


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