So I started writing this yesterday, but managed to lose what I had written due to computer stupidity. Anyway, I had an appointment to help Charlie Manser install some antivirus software. I didn’t make any jokes about Charlie Manser sounding like “Charles Manson” because I’m sure he’s heard it all before. Charlie is 82 years-old. It was cool talking to Charlie as we downloaded the software over his uber-slow Internet connection. It always impresses me when really old people use computers. The whole idea should be foreign to them, because so much other stuff has happened in their lives already. It’s generally accepted that change is harder to accept as you get older, but changes as radical as computers and the Internet must spin the heads of the elderly. I found myself being blown away by the scale of change that this man has experienced. For instance, in 1922, the year he was born, insulin was invented. Speakers were invented in 1924! Speakers! There were no stereos before Charlie was born! The ballpoint pen was invented in 1938, followed by the atomic bomb in 1945. Ok. So the invention of the ballpoint pen is only loosely related to that of the atomic bomb (and by “loosely” I mean “only in this journal entry”) but you get the point. A lot of shit happened while Charlie Manser was alive.
Charlie told me about how he went overseas to fight in World War II, and got paid $1.30 per day to do it. Back then you could make a pretty good living on that. Charlie “took ill” on the 21-day boat ride over the Atlantic, dodging Nazi submarines. He didn’t get to see any fighting. He says his only consolation is that the guy they sent to replace him returned home safely. He looked kind of sad when he talked about the last reunion of his regiment in September 2002. Out of 900 WWII vets, only 15 remained.
Anyway, Charlie professed to knowing nothing about computers, but I found he knew just as little or just as much as the typical adult I talk to. He knows how to send and receive email, how to browse the Internet, and the general idea of antivirus software. Charlie can barely hear. I have to face him directly and speak loudly so he can hear me. But his eyes are still bright, and his wit is very sharp. Charlie says he doesn’t get out much. He used to go down to Florida every year, but hasn’t gone recently. He stopped going in 2000, a year after his wife died. He said it wasn’t as fun any more. He walks with two canes. Mobility isn’t easy for him. It must be lonely for him, puttering around his apartment by himself. This is why I put a lot more importance on fixing his computer than in doing repairs for some screaming idiot working in a financial planning office. For him, the computer is a lifeline, and the communications he sends and receives literally keep him alive and relevant. I used to fear getting old, and even old people themselves–exposure to the elderly reminds me of my own mortality–but Charlie Manser showed me there can be dignity to aging too. :nod: