by Steve Van Auken
Being an older person is not all discount movie tickets and 50th high school reunions. We have our issues. Like, how much fiber is enough? How to know when it is time, already, to shut up about the days when the Browns could actually play football. And what to do about a 32-year-old kid who won’t move out.
A lot of older folks still find themselves struggling with parenting issues. Recently, I was talking with a friend who told me that she and her husband had come up with an innovative solution:
“You know we had been looking for just the right way to help Brandon find his passion. Ever since we finished paying his tuition for his Master’s degree in the History of Performance Art, he has been looking for work, but no luck. He did have a job at Taco Bell for a few days. But they let him go when he went to the Star Wars convention. He had to be there all that week because he was one of the main Ewok Elders. But his bosses didn’t even care. Brandon says they have no artistic sensibility. And they didn’t want to try any of his artistic innovations in their tacos, either. So we agreed that he couldn’t stay there without compromising his integrity as an artist.
“His Dad and I were a little worried about how much time he was spending down in the basement playing ‘Dragons and Maidens’. Brandon says it develops his hand-eye coordination and is all about networking. But Bob, my husband, said that Brandon was only networking with other liberal arts graduates living in their parents’ basements. And what would it take for him to network with somebody who had a job to give. It was a mean thing to say and he really didn’t mean it. But actually we were getting kind of frustrated.
“So we moved out.
“We thought at first it would be hard, but it really wasn’t. Brandon was out with his friends doing performance art every night. He had to go where the performance art venues are, and it turned out that is mostly bars. Then he would come home and he was asleep when we left for work. Then he was online in the basement when we got home. And he hates to be bothered then. We never actually saw him for weeks at a time. So he didn’t even know we were packing.
“After we moved out we could tell by his texts that he didn’t know we were gone. Brandon has always had a very good appetite, so I left a lot of food in the fridge for him. We didn’t hear much for about two weeks. Then he texted me because he was wondering when someone was going to buy more food. I could tell he still thought we were upstairs. I texted back that there was soup in the cupboard. He texted that I knew he didn’t like soup and why was I being so mean?
“Then one evening after about a month, he must have come upstairs to look for us. He noticed our car was gone from where we keep it in the yard; we only have a one-car garage and Brandon hates to get into a cold car. Then he couldn’t find the dog. Then I guess he noticed our closets were empty.
“And then the electricity went off.
“Do you think we were wrong? We stopped paying the bill. We didn’t even think about it because the post office didn’t redirect our mail. After that I got a lot of texts from Brandon. He said how could he be expected to get to Level 87 of Dragons and Maidens? Did he have to do everything himself? Couldn’t we even manage something as simple as keeping the electricity on?
“I did feel guilty then. I know he has worked hard to get to Level 86. There is a lot of pressure on him since he is the Grand Inquisitor. He is in charge of 100 Orcs and two Warrior Princesses. Which by the way, we thought would be a good chance for him to meet a nice girl, and for awhile Brandon thought so too. But then it turned out the Warrior Princess he had been talking to was really Nathan from down the street. He played such a good lead in ‘Showboat’ in the high school drama club. So that was a disappointment.
“But anyway, we forgot to pay the electric bill. Then Brandon let us know that the heat was turned off. He was going to actually stay home one night and tell us about it. Well that happened to be the night of the pool party at our new condo. So of course we weren’t there. And I think that was the first time Brandon realized we didn’t live there anymore.
“We did drive by the house and we saw Brandon cooking something over a little fire he built in the yard. Like Bob always says, your Boy Scout skills will come in handy someday. But Brandon was really mad by then. He said that he couldn’t go anywhere because he had no money. When he looked in the place where we usually hide money in the top of our closet, it wasn’t there anymore. And he didn’t like having to go to the Peterson’s next door to charge up his cell phone. They are very serious Christians and they think Ewoks are from the devil. One time Brandon went over there in his costume and they turned their dogs on him.
“And then I guess he didn’t pay his cell bill because his texts just stopped.
“Well, we only took a six-month lease at the Happy Valley Senior Condos. We made a lot of friends there. We still go back for Bingo Night and Tango Night. But by then we had driven past the house a bunch of times and never saw any sign of Brandon.
“So we moved back in.
“There was a note from Brandon. He said he moved in with some guys who are renting a big house down by the University. The landlord was letting him cut the grass there so he got a discount on the rent. We didn’t even know he knew how to cut grass. I found out later they let him come back to Taco Bell. Just until he gets on Dr. Phil’s show to promote his book about Ewok Culture and gets rich and doesn’t have to work anymore.
“Now when we see Brandon, it’s when he comes over for dinner. It seems like he isn’t wearing his Ewok costume as much. He even brought us some leftovers from Taco Bell. He was surprised when he found out we had changed the locks. But we explained it was just a security precaution because you can’t be too careful these days.”
People say that it takes a village to raise a child. My friend’s story suggests that for the perplexed older parent, just get out of the village.