Happy Transition Day
by Charles C. Cole
Family den. WALDO, newly 80, pretends to read a paper. JUNIOR, his son, around 50, enters.
JUNIOR (Nervously): Not to rush you, but...
WALDO: Seems like only yesterday I was blowing out sparkling birthday candles. You were there. Remember? We had carrot cake and ice cream and confetti and a lovely foil banner. A big event. Lots of love in the room that day.
JUNIOR: And now you get to rest for all your efforts. Today’s the “day after,” Father. It had to come eventually, at least we gave you a rousing sendoff.
WALDO: You’ve been dying to say that, since you were fifteen years old and I found that smut under your bed. This is revenge for embarrassing you in front of your friends. That’s what it is.
JUNIOR: The law’s the law. I didn’t make it.
WALDO: Well, the law is just plain wrong. A blind man can see that.
JUNIOR: You never complained about it before, and you’ve complained plenty about other things. (Gentler) Come on: admit it, you’ve had a good life, better than most.
WALDO: It’s not over yet.
JUNIOR: Right: we’re just finishing one chapter and starting you on the next.
WALDO: I think you skipped ahead a few pages.
JUNIOR: We picked up the packet of pills at the town office for you. I don’t remember needing to show ID for Mom. (Holds out the packet.)
WALDO: You shouldn’t have gone to the trouble.
JUNIOR: Just add water, and you’ve got a powerful cocktail, or so I’m told. (Tries to hand it to WALDO.)
WALDO: You can flush them down the toilet for all I care. I’m not taking them.
JUNIOR: You have to.
WALDO: Says who? Big government? What are they going to do? Stop by and arrest me, an 80-year old man, for refusing to abide by an outrageous and immoral act?
JUNIOR: Don’t make a scene, Dad. Please, for Myrtle’s sake. You don’t want her to see you having a breakdown on your Transition Day. Go out with your chin held high. Can you do that?
WALDO: It was only yesterday that your mother was changing your diapers, her hands trembling the first time, you squirming and wriggling like a fish out of water, and now...
JUNIOR: Now I change yours, metaphorically speaking. Circle of life.
WALDO: All emotions, aren’t you? Like a blushing bride on her wedding day. Why the rush? I can ask that, can’t I? I suppose you’ve got big plans for my little room. Is that it?
JUNIOR: Our “plans” are irrelevant. I could go to jail, you know. Bridget could go to jail. I’d lose my job. We’d lose the house. Myrtle would be raised by the state, not by her family.
WALDO: Good. It would toughen you all up. You’ve never had to struggle a day in your lives. You’re welcome. When I was a kid, society wasn’t so genteel. Life was a struggle.
JUNIOR: I know: you walked barefoot to school, uphill both ways, in winter. Yes, you’ve seen some amazing changes.
WALDO: Now there are so many damn people. If they want to regulate population, why not limit everyone to one child? China did it for a while, more or less successfully. Or make intercourse illegal for anyone under 25.
WALDO: That would stem the tide, I think, legally restricting the whole baby-making act. But no! Might adversely impact the alcohol industry or fashion or perfume. I mean, why dress nice and smell nice if not to entice the opposite sex into a casual night of recreational romping?
JUNIOR: I see your point, but it’s not the way of the world.
WALDO: Thank you for seeing my point.
JUNIOR: Sorry, Dad. Really. Think of it this way: you’ll get to see Mom again.
WALDO: Your mother was an angel. If there’s any kind of afterlife, and I seriously have my doubts, there’s no way I’m going where she went. And, after all these months, she’s probably adjusted just fine to a life without me. A little of me goes a long way, so I’ve been told.
JUNIOR: Dad, this isn’t easy. Don’t make it harder. Remember what happened when the Wassermans refused.
WALDO: If I was spiraling out of control with health issues or dementia, sure: cut the cord, throw me out with the trash. Who could blame you? But I’m still me, dammit. I was a good soldier when they needed me. I was a good citizen. Hell, I was a great soccer coach. No denying it. So, haven’t I earned a long life?
JUNIOR: Eighty is long.
WALDO: Says who? I remember hearing stories of my great-grandmother turning 100! Can you imagine? Triple digits! Now there’s something to aspire to.
JUNIOR: Do you want a minute with Myrtle before you go? It might put it all into perspective, why we do it: for the next generation.
WALDO: Go to hell. Don’t use my granddaughter as a weapon against me. I know why we do it. Because we don’t want to do the hard work of creating a real solution. No, let’s just get rid of the old people, even make them do it themselves. Who’s gonna complain? Most of them have already been shuttled away out of sight. Their adult kids are tired of counting their pennies, of having their social lives cramped.
JUNIOR: I’m sorry. I am. If it’s any consolation, I’m sure I’ll feel the same way you do, when my time comes. Then you can have your revenge. I’ll probably yell and make a scene. And everyone will say: “Why can’t he be like his father? Remember ol’ Waldo? With quiet dignity. Doing the right thing. A role model for the rest of us. That was a man. They don’t make them like that anymore. A man of deliberate action to his last breath.”
WALDO: Okay. Okay. For Myrtle. You damned well better speak kindly of me when I’m gone. Don’t let her forget about me. You hear me?
JUNIOR: I won’t, Dad. You have my word.
WALDO: Give me the pills.
JUNIOR (Hands them to Waldo.): Thanks for doing this. I know this is awkward.
WALDO: I’ll be in my room.
JUNIOR: Can I have a good-bye hug? I’ll miss you.
WALDO (Glaring): Give my best to your wife. Thank her for putting up with me. Give me an hour. I want to shower first and put on my nice suit.
JUNIOR: The one from Mom’s funeral? That’s a great choice!
WALDO: Leave me be before I change my mind.
WALDO: Not. Another. Word. I sincerely hope when it’s your turn, we’ve come up with better choices.
Copyright © 2016 by Charles C. Cole