Aunt Emily was nearing the end of her patience. After all, she had spent the
past 40-years taking intimate care of her husband, Rip Van Cruger, my uncle.
Rip had led a normal life; married by the time he was 20-years old. His wife Emily, my aunt, had produced two sons and a daughter
during the first 5 years of their marriage. He had a good job as a clerk in the local hardware store.
Then the disaster hit. It was 1965 and Uncle Rip was in his 19th year working at “Handy Andy’s Hardware Store.” He was placing some
new merchandise on an upper shelf in the back store room when a large ball peen hammer slipped off the top shelf conking him on the
top of his head, knocking him out, causing him to fall backwards, hitting the back of his head on the counter holding two large tubs
of Plumber’s Putty.
Andy Bilboa, owner of the store, heard the commotion
and immediately ran to the back room and found Uncle Rip unconscious, lying on his back next to the pick axes and garden hoes.
And that was the beginning of Uncle Rip’s 40- year confinement with what was diagnosed as “Semi-terminal Narcodroposis.” Uncle Rip
spent 2 months in the hospital and another 2 months in a rehabilitation clinic. The doctors were mystified, but Uncle Rip continued
to sleep. The diagnosis of “Semi-terminal Narcodroposis” meant that Uncle Rip wasn’t in a coma, he was just sleeping. The two blows
on his head had put him to sleep and nobody knew when he was going to wake up – if ever.
Four decades past with Aunt Emily devoting her life to caring for her husband. Year after year Uncle Rip slept. He was fed, given
drink and kept alive by his loving wife.
Then, as suddenly as the ball
peen hammer had fallen and removed his consciousness, Uncle Rip awakened. It was 2005 and he had been sleeping for 40-years. He blinked
for the better part of an afternoon, stretched his arms wide and asked Aunt Emily for a big glass of Canada Dry.
The doctors checked him and after 3 days of examinations pronounced Uncle Rip ready to face the world. He no longer had “Semi-terminal
Narcodroposis.” He was now an old man of 87 years. He was wondering what the world was like. Forty years had passed and he wanted
to see what had changed.
Uncle Rip, walking on unsteady legs, with
the aid of his faithful Emily, headed to the living room of their modest three bedroom, 2 bath home. He pulled up short when he saw
the 50 inch Panasonic television set in the corner of the room. “What the hell is that?” He asked. Emily told him, “It’s our television
set, Rip. It’s new. It’s a fifty incher and in color.” She turned the set on and Regis Philbin’s face came on, filling the screen.
“Damn,” Rip said, “His head is bigger than mine.”
“C’mon, Rip, I’ll take
you for a ride so you can see what things are like in 2005.”
year old Uncle Rip and eighty year old Emily walked to the garage, where he spied the first car he had seen in 40-years – a blue 2004
Chevrolet Suburban, a gift from their children.
“What the hell is that?
It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever seen. What is it?” “It’s our car, honey. It has plenty of room in it.” Uncle Rip let out a whistle
and said, “It’s enormous, do many people have things like this? How can the roads hold ‘em?”
“They’re everywhere, Rip. Half the people in town ride around in SUV’s now.”
“What’s a SUV,” Asked Rip. Emily replied, “It’s just a big car, Rip, just a big car.”
Emily and Uncle Rip climbed into the Suburban’s front seat and he asked, “What’s with these straps and buckles?” “They’re safety belts,
Rip, it’s a law, put them on.”
Emily started the engine and backed
out of the garage as Uncle Rip became wide-eyed as he saw the dozens of modern cars around him, most of them oversize SUV’s. He asked
Emily how anyone got to their destinations considering all the traffic on the roads. “They’re so big,” he kept repeating.
Emily drove Uncle Rip around the area for the next 4 hours. Then they went home and watched television. The next morning Emily
drove her husband up the freeway 20 miles. On the way home Emily bought Uncle Rip a handful of daily newspapers and a dozen news magazines.
Uncle Rip spent the next 3 days watching television and reading the newspapers and magazines.
By now, Uncle Rip had started to understand the changes that had taken place since that day in 1965 when a falling ball peen hammer
had stolen 40 years of his life.
One evening, two weeks after his
awakening, Emily and Uncle Rip sat down in their living room to talk about his new world.
“So, Rip, you’ve seen a lot of changes, what do you think of them?”
I noticed that hardly anyone pays using real money nowadays. They just hand the clerk a piece of plastic, sign their name and take
off. Doesn’t anyone use money anymore? I was shocked and happy to see that blacks go to school with white kids, even in the south.
And I read where a man actually walked on the moon. And the Berlin wall isn’t anymore and the Soviet Union is now Russia. And people
are walking around in public talking into little, tiny telephones so everyone can hear their conversations. I read where we’re now
fighting our second war in Iraq. Didn’t we learn from Vietnam? I read where we pulled out of there a long time ago. And that Nixon
guy resigned after that Watergate thing. People sure dress differently now. Baggy pants with pockets on their legs! I don’t think
I would have liked disco music. I’m glad I missed that stuff.”
actor, Ronald Reagan really became our president. Amazing. And everyone has a computer in their home. When I fell asleep a single
computer would fill a house with tubes and wires. And it’s sad about the kids and their drugs – terrible waste. I’m glad we didn’t
have rap and hip hop music in my day. Doesn’t make sense to me. They sound like angry, bitter young people.”
“I feel sorry for families now. The neighborhoods are disappearing. People don’t know their neighbors anymore. It has to be tough
to be a kid today. So many temptations. Everything is going by them so quickly. They have to grow up so fast now. They have so little
time to be kids and just play.”
Uncle Rip leaned back in his recliner
chair, took a puff on his familiar pipe and said, “Honey, a lot of things have changed in the past 40-years. Most of them for the
good, some not so good. I still miss working at old “Handy Andy’s Hardware Store.” I hear it’s not there anymore. Last year they made
half of it into a Starbuck’s. The other half is a Quizno’s Sandwich Shop. I guess that’s progress.”
“By the way, honey, who were The Beatles?”