We Boomers are getting older now--yes, the Generation Forever Young is now looking Long in the Tooth. Oh, yes, we still wear our blue jeans (we buy the "relaxed fit" now), we carry our smart phones (some of us--not I!--even attach Bluetooth devices to our ears), we keep up with slang and can drop into our conversations words like twerking and killer app. And speaking of killer app, I have a new one to suggest, but bear with me a minute: A story precedes ...
Joyce and I talk a lot about parenthood (do any parents not do so?)--reviewing mistakes we made (all mine), successes, visions and revisions. It's been an endless conversation since July 16, 1972, when our son arrived, mewling and puking and all that.
I noted in our conversation the other night that one of the things that make parenthood so hard--later--is that children move away (if not always on). We humans have evolved to be ferociously devoted to our children (they are helpless for so long--longer than they think, by the way)--and at the same time, we have evolved to break away from our families, to go off and start our own. So there is this endless tension in our adult lives: devotion to children, the certain knowledge that they will leave us, and (when we are adolescents) the passion to get away.
And then Joyce said that living longer makes it even more difficult, for children then must (should?) return to care in some ways for their aging parents. America is getting ready now for the care of its Boomer generation. Right here in Hudson a massive assisted living place is going up--and there are some Gray Housing Areas (little neighborhoods/developments designed for prudent Geezers and Geezeresses)--not to mention some skilled nursing facilities. All so expensive ... and, ultimately, depressing. What to do with all these Over-the-Hillers?
Jack London's story "The Law of Life" (1901) is about a tribe of Northern Indians who leave their aged--once they can no longer keep up--out in the wilderness with a bit of food and a fond farewell. The entire story (not a long one) is online--Link. But you might enjoy the final part of it; the wolves have arrived:
A cold muzzle thrust against his cheek, and at its touch his soul leaped back to the present. His hand shot into the fire and dragged out a burning faggot. Overcome for the nonce by his hereditary fear of man, the brute retreated, raising a prolonged call to his brothers; and greedily they answered, till a ring of crouching, jaw-slobbered gray was stretched round about. The old man listened to the drawing in of this circle. He waved his brand wildly, and sniffs turned to snarls; but the panting brutes refused to scatter. Now one wormed his chest forward, dragging his haunches after, now a second, now a third; but never a one drew back. Why should he cling to life? he asked, and dropped the blazing stick into the snow. It sizzled and went out. The circle grunted uneasily, but held its own. Again he saw the last stand of the old bull moose, and Koskoosh dropped his head wearily upon his knees. What did it matter after all? Was it not the law of life?
More recently, comic writer Christopher Buckley published Boomsday (2007), a novel about the political
And who can forget the "Death Panel" hysteria during the early Obamacare debates?
But I have an even better idea--one that blends the best of Trollope and London and Buckley and Obamacare--one that will save money for everyone, that will solve the health-care crises of the aging population. It's really a killer A.P.P.
You may be wondering about the periods and capital letters (why not just "killer app"?). Hang on; you'll see.
Here's my idea. We begin right now to breed a ferocious sort of creature (combining, say, some genetic material of a cheetah and a great white shark and, oh, an Arctic wolf?). We breed the critters carefully so that they are attracted only to the meat of a person sixty-five years or older. We will train them to kill as quickly and as painlessly as possible. (If they even think about younger flesh, they will die immediately.) We will call these creatures Aging Parental Predators (A.P.P.).
We'll also breed and train them so that little children adore them (and vice-versa). We will give the critters fuzzy, cutsy qualities--like kittens and puppies--so that little kids will neither fear them nor blame them when they dine on Grandpa out in the yard. In fact, the typical child response we're looking for when one does see such a meal-in-progress is a dewy-eyed, long-drawn Awwwwwwwwwwww--with the voice rising at the end.
Anyway, these Killer A.P.P.s will roam the neighborhoods of America, feasting on the Medicare generation. Those of us above the line of 65 will have to be careful if we want to live longer. We will have to be circumspect when we go outside. (I just realized: We will have to create a winged breed, as well--one that can get down the narrowest chimney to dispatch those who stay/hide indoors.)
We aged will have to keep our weight down; we will have to keep fit. The APPs (I'm dropping the periods--too much of a typing hassle) will attack without warning--well, without much warning. Sneak attacks are so un-American (drones excepted). So we will embed in the skin of each APP a tiny chip that, when the APP is actively hunting, will play the theme music from Jaws. That way, I (and my ilk) will know when an APP is nearby and will have a chance to take some precautions to save our lives for another day.
It won't be for long, though, that the warning will do us much good. We will have slowed sufficiently so that even when we hear John Williams' music we'll be too far away from our cars, our front doors, our APP Shelters (someone will make a fortune on these), and the APP will swoop in (the music soaring as it nears), and we will Feed the Beast, and no one will need to find us an assisted living unit or a new hip, and the investors in this Killer App will laugh all the way to the bank.
Until they're sixty-five ...