On Wednesday I stopped by my mother's house, just for a moment, I swore. My mom's sick and I was bringing her some magazines, a little care package of sorts, and checking on her just to see how badly she's bungling up her medical treatment.
I promised myself I would not get roped into fixing her whole world at once, as I noticed the cacti in her front yard falling or dead but still propped up with huge slings and stakes, the ham radio antennae strung in the palm trees, and the broken locks on her front door. No, I would stick to the tasks at hand. Magazine delivery, medical monitoring.
My mission was accomplished, I was ready to leave. Suddenly, Stepfather came into view. A nice man, he's been my Stepfather now for nearly twenty years now. The secret to their marital longevity? Mom yells, he's deaf.
He said, "Linda, could you take a look at my computer for a second?"
A seemingly innocuous question from anyone else. But I'm not that dumb: this is a trap. If eighty-four-year-old Stepfather asked me to look at his computer for a second, I might just never leave their house. Stepfather can touch the wrong key on his computer and the power grids in three states go out. Maybe I'm remembering this wrong, but I believe he once fixed the light switch in my mother's bathroom so that each time we turned it on, the toilet flushed.
I gave him a weak smile, "What do you need help with?"
"Just a password."
So I went into Stepfather's lair, which is kind of his computer room and kind of my mom's sewing room at the same time. The printer was loaded with different colored paper from every flyer that had ever been dropped off at their house. He reuses everything. He was reducing his carbon footprint before it even became fashionable.
The computer was not as bad as I imagined. It was set up to make everything as hard as possible for him to find. Kind of like if you thought books were your main reference tool and the computer was a backup for the books instead of the other way around. I fixed the password and, I couldn't resist, I gave him a few shortcuts, and then, I was gone.
Past the broken lock, past the ham radio wires, past the falling cactus.