Sometimes, I think that my father-in-law is an 80-year-old man still existing in a world that stopped advancing for him decades ago. A world that didn’t include cell phones with data plans, cars that drive themselves, and Keurig coffee pods. Every morning when he puts that little Starbucks dark roast pod into the machine and pushes the blue button to get a “decent” cup of coffee, does he miss his 2 mile trip at 5 am to the gas station to buy an “okay” cup of coffee and say good morning to the locals?
I marvel at the life he is living in our modern home. His head must be spinning because every day I am reminded that not only did our world completely change by moving him in with us, but so did his.
The remote control confuses him the most. Until about 10 years ago he used a sliding channel changer that had a cord that stretched across the room. His television definitely wasn’t smart. Rather, it was a box tv with limited channels. Now he lives with us and has access to two smart TVs. He has over 600 channels, including Youtube, Netflix, and other streaming services. I DVR all of his NBA and NFL games so he can watch hours of football and basketball during the day. He can speak into the remote and find a channel. Sometimes he can figure it out, but most of the time he can’t. And when he does speak into the remote, it doesn’t understand his “Hillbilly” accent. When I can’t listen, for one more second, to the fans cheering and the whistles blowing, I put a pair of noise-canceling Bluetooth headphones on him. He’s never worn headphones before, and he doesn’t like it, but it gives me a break from the constant background noise.
He never had a phone other than a rotary dial and then later a push-button phone plugged into the wall. Years ago my husband and I bought him a cordless phone. He sat it next to the rotary dial phone and never used it. When I needed to be able to reach him this summer during his long stays at the hospital and rehabilitation, I got him a flip phone. The phone has no data or wifi. You cannot send a text. All he has to do is push the green button to answer and the red button to hang it up. My husband wrote the key numbers for him to remember on a piece of duct tape and laminated it to the back of the phone. His little phone is in a holster attached to his wheelchair and when it rings, he can answer it. It has provided the lifeline for him that he never knew he needed.
I also upgraded his bathroom facilities. Long gone is the standard plastic elongated toilet seat. It has been replaced with a fancy bidet. He has many options to choose from, but I have marked the automatic setting for him to use. He pushes the button and the heated seat washes and dries with an oscillating fan. I’m sure he never dreamed his trips to the bathroom would be so posh. Most of the time he doesn’t use the fancy settings because he claims he doesn’t have time. He is so funny.
For years he has been sleeping on his living room sofa in his little basement apartment in Kentucky. I’m not really sure why. He had a bedroom and a bed. But for some reason that even he can’t explain, he ended up on the couch. Now he sleeps in an electric hospital bed, with 750 count white cotton sheets and beautiful Rae Dunn bedding with matching pillows and a gray velour blanket. He never knew what he was missing with high-quality bedding, but he has taken to it and can’t or won’t go back to the couch. His blanket says “Blessed”.
For all the modern-day conveniences I have introduced to him, he has helped me remember a life of simplicity. His life doesn’t revolve around a calendar or the clock. He once told me he didn’t need a watch because he could just look at the sun. His ways are simple and basic. He is content to eat biscuits and gravy for breakfast every day, a chicken patty sandwich for “dinner” (lunch), and whatever I am fixing for supper. He doesn’t complain. But he always wants gravy with every meal.
Maybe he had the right idea by sticking to his old ways. He doesn’t need shiny new electronics and all the bells and whistles. His simple life had me confused for years just as my modern way of living has him baffled now. The life he used to live shouldn’t be taken for granted. It was easy.
I’ve been thinking about how my life can be simplified. #myfavoritehillbilly is the most laid-back person I know. Maybe I should be asking him to teach me his hillbilly ways instead of expecting him to embrace our 2021 lifestyle.
Whatever the answer is, his 80-year-old slow ways are starting to rub off on me. I find myself speaking more deliberately and taking a good nap in the afternoon. It’s not a bad way of living.