Old People

The Rest Place is a retirement home in Boulder, Colorado, that caters to a group of old people as they live out their sunset years. Boulder lies just east of the Rocky Mountains foothills. Unlike most other retirement facilities in the area, it has seventy-five apartments for residents who are able to fend for themselves, for some who require some assistance in getting around, and for some whose spouses or partners can care for ones not fully capable of caring for themselves. It is one of the best of its kind.

Bittersweet Gambia was visiting her mother, Alice, who was a resident not yet in need of a caregiver. Alice was repeating a story that Bittersweet has heard many times.

“A few moments of excitement and pleasure, and then I was knocked up. That bastard wouldn’t use protection— ‘The church doesn’t sanction birth control,’ he said. Then, when I told him I was carrying you, he wouldn’t dream of an abortion. He said the Church prohibits it. He told me to go away until you were born. I did, and when I came back, he pressured me to give you up to Catholic Charities for adoption. Well, I didn’t and I raised you without any help except my mother’s. So that’s how you got here. And here you are. Who does a priest confess to anyway?” Alice Gambia asked her daughter, Bittersweet.

“Oh, Mom, we’ve been through this a hundred times,” Bittersweet answered, “I know that’s why you named me Bittersweet, not because it’s your favorite shrub.”

Rose began to cry again. “It’s just like on that British TV program, Waiting for God. You just want to shove me off to an old people’s home and forget about me. Who wants to be with a bunch of old men and women, with their diapers and canes, walkers, and wheelchairs?” she asked.

Isadore had no answer. As he got up to go, Rose asked him to replace some burnt-out light bulbs. It was a typical last-minute request to get a few more minutes of his time. When he left he asked himself, What will happen to me when I get old?

Eventually, Isadore convinced Rose. She fit seamlessly into the life there, telling everyone who would listen about how wonderful her Isadore was.

2084 The Secularist Revolution

How Technology Changes the World

It is a great mystery why some inanimate of this planet, or possibly any other planet, came together in reactions that led to life. The immediate question is “Did a supernatural being cause the reactions?”

Why did explorers and conquerors treat native populations as less human than themselves? Why did South African apartheid and the American laws treat black people as only partial human? Why did the explorers and conquerors of the Aztec, Incan, and Mayan, and the civilizations of the islands of the Caribbean Sea use missionaries’ conversion of natives to Catholicism and enslavement to justify their destruction?

The governments of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, while supported and often controlled by the wealthy, extend wide social benefits to their citizens. Their populations hold pragmatic views of sexual needs, fidelity, and divorce. They view celibacy as a personal choice, whether lay or pastoral. Demonstrations in Scandinavia against secularism attracted few attendees, many of whom came to see what the fuss was all about.

Becoming American

A Story of One of the Greatest Generation

Both families were appalled when the Tsar’s secret police arrested a young friend of Ivan’s for the crime of looking like a wanted radical. He was thrown into jail and held without trial despite the protests of family and friends. When the Tsar’s secret police discovered that they had the wrong man in jail, they summarily booted him out, without apology, and without returning his identity documents. His family nearly bankrupted themselves to pay the bribes necessary to recover his passport. This made the Abramovich and Yankelovitch children doubly careful and reinforced their belief that the system under which they lived was unjust and corrupt.

In 1905, there was an uprising throughout Russia. The Tsar’s troops repressed it with gunfire. The streets of Tula ran red with blood when the soldiers fired on demonstrators demanding bread. The Abramovich household was in terrible fear for Fanya who had not returned from school. It was a great relief to them when a breathless, rosy-cheeked Fanya opened the door to say that she had been helping the wounded. She told her family the story. Everyone listened intently. Pyotr exclaimed, “Tsarist murderers. We must take action.” Abramovich, fearful for the safety of his children, and suspicious that the secret police had been watching them, made up his mind to leave Russia for the golden streets of America.

Vlad worried. I’ve never seen so many black people. I hope no one will bother me. The Jewish kids in school call them Schwartzers, which I think means blackies. Pyotr had warned him to get a haircut. With the warm weather on the way, he decided on a crew cut, knowing it would please his father. Adjacent to the pet store was a barber shop. He went in. All the barbers were black. The head barber asked him, “Boy, you sure you want your hair cut in here?”

“Yes, sir,” Vlad replied.

He couldn’t understand why the barber broke into a big smile after he answered. Later it dawned on him. I said yes, sir, like dad tells me to do to grown-up men. But I don’t think white kids say yes, sir to black men. He was right.