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    northie
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Never Too Late To Change - 10. Food For Thought

With Andy's help, Eric enjoys something he's not had for a long time.

As soon as Andy got in the car, he realised it would make more sense for him to go home and order the groceries online. Then he could grab what he needed for Eric's immediate needs and get back within a much shorter time. He didn't like to leave the old man for too long.

As he drove home, Andy considered what was on Eric's list. From a quick glance, it seemed to be his staple canned or processed stuff. He knew Eric would be unhappy if he didn't keep to it, but it wasn't enough. Particularly when the old man wasn't well – he needed good, fresh food.

By the time he parked up, Andy had progressed to menu planning. He let himself in. Dumping his keys, phone and Eric's list on the kitchen table, he went in search of his tablet. He came back and sat down, already tapping away, logging into the supermarket's app.

Andy picked up the list, put it where he could see it, and started adding things to the online basket. It took longer than he'd anticipated because it was stuff that neither he nor Adam bought, so none of it was in their favourites. That done, he returned to his menu planning. He considered buying enough extra food for two or three days' meals. Would that work? No more, otherwise Eric would feel that his life was being taken over. Some fresh soup would be good and any leftovers could be chilled or frozen. And perhaps a casserole? That could also be reheated.

He added a selection of root veg to the basket. This was swiftly followed by a pack of chicken thighs, a small ham joint, a couple of packets of mixed pulses. Then finally, some frozen stuff – a packet of mixed veg, and some potato wedges. Andy suspected just that would fill the tiny freezing compartment in his client's fridge. They would be good for emergency rations. Satisfied, he looked at the total for the basket. It was about fifteen quid more than Eric's basic list came to. That was fine – he could cover that, no problem.

While he had the supermarket's app open, he did a quick shop for himself and Adam. He just managed to stop himself from using his saved delivery preferences for Eric's stuff. He was lucky – he got the last early afternoon delivery slot for Eric. That was great. He'd be able to get on with making the soup in time for Eric's evening meal.

What should he take back with him? Without anything to eat for breakfast, Eric would need a filling, tasty lunch. Something easy and quick. Andy scrabbled around for inspiration. Welsh rarebit? The tang of the cheese would find its way through tastebuds dulled by a heavy cold. That would do nicely. Andy realised that he was also very hungry. Breakfast had been a long time ago, and it'd been a pretty eventful morning so far.

Quickly, he assembled the ingredients including, of course, the bread, as Eric had run out. He added some bacon as well to make the rarebit a little more substantial. He was nearly out the door when he remembered the books he'd got for Eric from the library. Leaving the carrier bag by the front door, Andy hurried into the living room. There they were, in amongst a heap of stuff on one of the side tables. He grabbed two of them, picked up the bag on the way, and headed out to the car.

Andy delayed setting out for a few seconds while he sent a quick text to Adam, telling him about the supermarket order, and giving him his whereabouts for the rest of the day and the reason why.


A little while later, Andy finished loading the elderly washing machine with the sheets from Eric's bed and set it going. Eric was upstairs, having his bath. Andy went back upstairs and looked in the airing cupboard for clean sheets. He found what he wanted, and they were as threadbare as the ones in the wash. Before he went to re-make the bed, he thought he'd better check that the old man was OK.

He knocked on the bathroom door. “Eric? You OK? Or are you ready to get out?”

There was an answering cough, followed by a croak. “I'll be fine for another five minutes or so. … God, it's so nice.”

Andy couldn't help smiling to himself – that such simple, everyday things were such a source of pleasure to the old man.

“OK. As long as you're still warm enough. I'll just make your bed, then I'll be back.”

He didn't get any reply, but he could hear a faint, tuneless whistling, interrupted by a cough or two. He grinned. Someone was definitely enjoying himself.


As he was making the bed and generally cleaning up, Andy considered the best way of helping Eric out of the bath. And just as importantly, how to respect the older man's dignity at the same time. He'd been in the bathroom earlier on, running the bath water. Eric had stood as far away from him as he could, while he started to take his clothes off. He made slow progress until he sensed that Andy was looking in his direction, at which point he'd stopped. Unsuprisingly, the old man was painfully embarrassed and self-conscious about undressing in the vicinity of anyone else. Andy had been very careful to keep his attention firmly fixed on filling the bath after that.

Eric had finally appeared by the side of the bath, naked apart from a frayed, well-used bath towel wrapped around his lower half. Together, they'd managed to get him into the warm water with the minimum of exposure.


Andy knocked on the bathroom door again and, after getting the OK, he went in. The old man smiled at him readily enough, but Andy was still aware of an undercurrent of embarrassment.

Eric sighed, then coughed. “I'd love to stay in longer, but my back's starting to hurt.”

Andy sighed in his turn. “I know. The bath seat would make it so much more comfortable for you. I'm sorry, the Adult Social Care people still haven't got back to me.”

Eric coughed again and spluttered. This was followed by a familiar grumble. “That's if there's anybody still employed there. Effing, bloody cuts.”

Andy silently agreed with him. Care requests for the elderly were growing at an increasing rate, yet the central and local government funding seemed to be diminishing despite small increases in the money allocated. Demand was manifestly outstripping supply. Which, of course, was where A Helping Hand came in – only they couldn't replace everything that the local authority should be doing.

He watched Eric carefully as he slowly hauled himself out of the bathwater, using the two handles attached to the bath. Once he was on his feet, Andy steadied him until he was standing properly. Quickly, he gave the older man his towel back and helped him wrap it around his middle. A steadying arm was enough to assist Eric out of the bath and onto the bathmat. The older man started drying himself while Andy drained the water and quickly rinsed the bath. He gave Eric a hand in drying those parts he couldn't reach himself, like his back, and his feet, particularly between the toes. His charge was compact, thin, and had obviously once been wiry with his outdoors work. Now, it was more like gnarled.

“There you go, Eric. I'll leave you to get dressed. D'you think you'll need a hand going downstairs again?”

The old man thought for a moment, assessing himself. “No … don't think so.”

“OK … Well, I'll be downstairs, cooking us some brunch. Give me a shout if you need a hand.”

Eric frowned, and spluttered again.

Andy grinned. “OK, shouting mightn't be achievable at the moment. How about … croaking loudly? I won't close the door on my way out, so I'll be able to hear you.”

Andy was just about out the door when Eric stopped buttoning up his shirt to ask a question. “What brunch? You said you didn't go to the supermarket in the end. They can't have delivered the order already?”

Eric had obviously forgotten. Not that surprising when he was full of cold. “Yes … and then I showed you what I'd brought from home. Welsh rarebit with bacon still sound OK?”

Eric's eyes widened. “God … so you did. Somedays I feel I'm losing whatever marbles I still have left.” He sighed and shook his head. “Old age and all that. Still … Yes, that sounds great. I'm bloody starving.”


Andy stood stirring the ingredients for the rarebit topping in a saucepan on the hob, while also keeping an eye on the oven's grill pan. He could hear Eric making his slow, careful way downstairs.

Andy stuck his head round the kitchen door. “D'you want to come and see how to make this? I'm having to make two batches 'cause the grill's not large enough.”

Eric nodded and followed him back into the kitchen.

Andy started the cooking lesson. “It's really easy to make, and the main ingredients are things that you usually have around. It'd certainly make a change from cold sandwiches.”

Eric watched as Andy heaped the savoury mixture onto the part-toasted bread, then spread it out evenly, and put the slices back under the grill. The rashers of bacon were already cooking nicely.

Eric sighed appreciatively. “Even with this bloody cold, I can smell it. God, there's nothing quite like the smell of bacon on the grill.”

Andy snorted his agreement. “Yours won't be long. Come over here and watch me make the mixture.”

He took Eric through the simple steps, and finished just in time for the first batch to come from the grill. They did indeed smell wonderful.

“Right. Why don't you go and sit down, Eric. I'll bring them out in a second.”


They were both sitting in the living room, gently digesting their food. Andy decided now would be a good time to give the subject of computers a go. Eric was much brighter than he'd been earlier in the morning. It'd be worth a try. He wasn't sure what approach would be best, but they had to start somewhere.

“Have you ever thought of using computers at all, Eric?”

The old man looked at Andy as if he was stupid. “What would I need from one of them things? Wouldn't know where to start, anyway. Far as I'm concerned, they're for folk who want to play games or watch smut.”

Andy sighed inwardly. He could hardly say he was surprised, but he wasn't going to give up yet. “You know already they're not just for that. I told you I did this morning's food order online, didn't I?”

Eric grunted moodily, and pulled a face.

Andy continued. “I'd hardly be able to run my business without my computer and the internet … that goes for my life, as well, really.”

He was interrupted by the doorbell ringing. Andy glanced at Eric for the OK, then he got up and opened the door. It was the supermarket delivery woman with the bags of food.

“Hi. Delivery for Eric Whitehouse?” Andy nodded, and indicated Eric. “Great. Sign here, thanks. … Bye!”

The delivery woman was off as soon as she'd handed over the bags. Andy carried them into the kitchen and started putting the fresh stuff in the fridge. He decided everything else could wait for a while – the cans and packets weren't going anywhere.

As he went back in the living room and sat down, he saw that Eric was flicking through the free newspaper, even though it was several days out of date. Eric stopped when he noticed Andy looking and brandished the paper at him.

“Don't know why I bother reading this. There's hardly anything that interests me. It's all celebrity gossip and tittle tattle nowadays. Or sport. I've no time for football and such. Is that really news?”

Andy saw an opportunity and seized it. “Well, that's something you could use the internet for. There're so many news websites.”

Eric tutted, frowned, then blew his nose.

Andy rolled his eyes, but carried on. “OK, yes, some of them are total crap. They carry the sort of dross which would make 'The Martians have landed' look like a mainstream headline. But there are many, many others which are like having a daily newspaper in your hands, only the print version doesn't keep on updating. I could show you on my phone. It's going to be pretty small though.”

There was a flicker of interest on Eric's face, but he turned down Andy's offer to show him the sites.

Andy took heart from the old man's response. He tried a variation on what he'd said before. “And there are gay news sites like PinkNews, and gay magazines like Gay Times. The news can be very straight in its orientation a lot of the time, you know, and maybe, you'd want to get a different take? One that would better reflect who you are, and what your world view might be.”

That was it. Eric was now staring at Andy with a mixture of disbelief and hope. “You're saying there are gay websites, proper ones? That paper seems to think they're just for porn, or dating, or whatever.” He pointed at the discarded newspaper.

Andy smiled at him with some affection. “Well, maybe that paper's not particularly gay friendly. Yes, of course, there are – lots. If you spent some time browsing through them, maybe they'd help you feel less alone, less isolated. Hopefully, you'd get an idea of what being gay means today. Wouldn't you like to feel part of a community?”

Eric nodded, but didn't speak. He was still getting used to the idea.

Andy thought of another hook. “Look, pretty much everyone on Earth can find something on the web to suit them. Amusements, information, stuff that's thought-provoking, enlightening … Take your interest in garden design. I'm sure you'd be able to find some stately home websites that have virtual walk-throughs of at least part of their gardens.”

Eric was looking totally blank by the time Andy got to the end of the sentence. So he explained the concept of virtual reality as simply as he could. When he'd finished, the old man's look of disbelief had only intensified.

“I wouldn't have to visit a place to see it? Blimey … I'd never have thought it.”

His expression suddenly darkened. Andy knew what was coming next. Eric now looked despondent, staring blankly at his feet. Andy leant forward, took hold of one of Eric's hands in reassurance, and waited until the old man looked up.

“Eric, there are people who can teach you, and the library has computers you can use. You're more than capable of learning the basics, I'm sure. Many people your age and older have learnt how to use a computer.”

Eric looked at him, silently asking questions, seeking reassurance. The spark that Andy had lit was still there, just. Andy went on to explain how the computers in the library could be used, and what the older man could expect in the way of personalised supervision. After several minutes, he'd covered everything.

“OK …I seem to have been talking for ages. We could both do with some tea. Yes?” Eric nodded. “Good.”

Andy was smiling to himself as he went into the kitchen. He was hopeful – Eric had almost agreed to try computers.

My thanks to Parker Owens for his input.

I always like to read your comments and suggestions, here or on the story discussion topic:

Copyright © 2018 northie; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Story Discussion Topic

This started out in late 2016 as my first attempt at a multi-part story. I remember pestering @Parker Owens for his agreement for me to start posting after I'd produced ... four chapters or thereabouts.   His wise counsel prevailed, and I've spent a long time both completing this part, and refining the writing so it comes up to my current standards.   The reception of the first two chapters has been such that I've ventured to start this story topic.   Feel free to discuss or
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Computers and the aged;  you do highlight a huge issue. And while hopefully anyone under say 65 now probably spent enough time on computers to use them as they age for basic stuff. Older than that and for many its a foreign world. 

 

Enjoying the read. Thanks

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Welsh rarebit ... haven't made that in a very long time. I wonder if Eric realizes that Andy overspent on the groceries. He not be well pleased but it was a kindness on Andy's part to supply more wholesome foods.

I'm finding that older folks don't trust themselves on computers. Too many horror stories of scams and such and a fear of falling victim. My own mum makes very little use of hers. Mostly email and catching up on the news back home.

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This story is really sweet and does highlight issues with the aging population. My mother used her computer mainly for email and card games. Then again, I mainly use it to read and play cards.

I do wish someone would just beat those snotnoses though. Christ on a cracker, I hate people.

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You have created two very special characters. I am really enjoying reading about how their relationship is growing and changing. Thank you. 

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My elderly (Lesbian?) Aunt and her ‘roommate’ used to have a computer, but they gave it up when they got tired of having problems just sending email. And their Tech Support (my brothers, since it was a PC, not a Mac) were 450 miles away. Smart Phones aren’t a good option for the elderly since their screens (even on the monster-sized models) are too small to see text clearly). The tech industry hasn’t really realized just how big the market is for a large-screen/large pixel display with a full-sized keyboard and minimal function computer.

 

Apple has the Mac mini which can be paired with a full-sized keyboard and your choice of mouse/trackpad/trackball and large display. But they don’t really market the model or update it very often. It does come with all the basic applications that most people need and there’s absolutely no preinstalled adware! Like all Macs, it’s particularly great for anyone whose first language isn’t English! During setup or with a few clicks, you can quickly and easily switch to a second language (or even multiples!) even if the language doesn’t use the Latin alphabet or is a Right-to-Left language! It also has a better set of Accessibility tools than the competition since they’ve been working on them longer. It’s very easy to change the size of the cursor so it’s more visible – if I jiggle the ‘mouse’ (wiggle my finger on my trackpad), the cursor temporarily increases in size to make it more visible when I’m not sure where it is on my screen(s).

 

My impression is that many elderly users prefer a desktop computer because of the larger display and because the computer doesn’t play as central a role in the lives of many of them as it does for many of the rest of us. Engineers think that everyone wants more, tinier pixels on their displays. They’ve only recently started to design displays with more pixels for easier to read text that’s larger (eg Apple’s high-resolution Retina products), a feature that’s part of the Operating System, not the physical screen.

 

 

I remember reading a story about Ford engineers who wore special fat suits so they could experience what it was like to not be able to bend as easily or as far. The goal was to make them more empathetic to their customers who had mobility issues. Clearly, the lessons still haven’t been applied across the entire model range since cars are getting sleeker, lower, and more difficult to get into and trucks & SUVs are getting larger, taller, and more difficult to climb into. Or maybe the product planners and designers need to wear the suits for a while too!  ;–)

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One of the problem with computers at public libraries is that they usually aren’t very fast and neither is the internet connection (faster is more expensive in both cases, and the library has other, higher priorities). Eric isn’t likely to notice, but virtual reality tours of gardens might not work with slow computers and a slow connection. The US has some of the slowest connection speeds in the industrialized world, partly because of our large physical size.  ;–)

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A tablet (iPad) might be the best option, as this is what the older generation in my family are using.

But I think right now the physical comfort is just as important. Feeling clean and warm, eating hot delicious food, and having someone to talk with, are things Eric has been missing for far too long.

A heart-warming chapter, and Andy is doing well on being respectful and considerate. I'm proud of him.

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4 minutes ago, Timothy M. said:

A tablet (iPad) might be the best option, as this is what the older generation in my family are using.

You can pair it with a Bluetooth (physical) keyboard too!

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Someone I knew, Brian (his Trick Name, but that’s what we all called him), had ALS and was depressed and isolating back in the ‘90s. A mutual friend encouraged me to visit him since we both had Macintosh computers and an interest in Beta/VHS/LD videos (he was thrilled to get naked pictures of men on his computer, video porn files were years in the future). There was an unidentifiable, but powerful stench in his house. It turned out he wasn’t laundering his clothing (because it was too difficult to go to a laundromat). The mutual friend washed all his clothing and the stench went away!  ;–)

 

At that point, the ALS was just becoming apparent, but was only slightly debilitating. It was a bother to pick things up off the floor, so the floor was covered with bits and pieces of all sorts of things. Whatever got to be too difficult to do, he just stopped doing. (My friends used to tease me that I was reminding them of Brian when they really wanted to annoy me!)

 

He was a hoarder, so some of us started to slowly clean things up for him. His relatives basically ignored him through this period. Eventually he needed a caregiver and one of the friends moved in to do that for him. When he died, we got rid of his enormous collection of pirated porn videos and other things that he wouldn’t have wanted his family to see. His niece and nephew swooped in to monetize whatever they could including his house.

 

His partner had been murdered around the time he was first diagnosed with ALS, so at least there were no issues with a partner getting kicked out (besides, as the younger partner had been more at risk for that happening to him).

 

He was in his mid-50s when he died.

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On 5/18/2018 at 4:25 PM, Puppilull said:

It actually brings tears to my eyes thinking about how Eric's world could open up, initing him to take part of events and meet people he never dreamed possible. I really hope he takes the plunge and gives it a try. 

Yes, the internet could really change his life. All he has to do is try it as you say. However that step is an enormous one to someone like him. We'll have to see ... 

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On 5/18/2018 at 4:29 PM, Canuk said:

Computers and the aged;  you do highlight a huge issue. And while hopefully anyone under say 65 now probably spent enough time on computers to use them as they age for basic stuff. Older than that and for many its a foreign world.

There are still a surprisingly large number of people under 65 who are strangers to computers. Educational and societal reasons come into play. And sometimes health issues. You wonder how they manage to live their lives without access to a computer.

 

I'm glad you're still enjoying the story.  :) 

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On 5/18/2018 at 4:56 PM, dughlas said:

I'm finding that older folks don't trust themselves on computers.

Not only they need education about using a computer safely. Perhaps the issues are different, but somebody who leaves their passwords at the default, and never uses anti-virus software is also at risk of bad things happening. Perhaps it's tied up with older people somehow being more trusting? They not only need to know how to use a computer, but also need to be aware that the internet is just like the rest of life where care and common sense need to be employed.

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On 5/18/2018 at 5:08 PM, Wesley8890 said:

Love these guys

Thank you! Eric in particular has a special place in my heart.  :) 

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23 hours ago, empresslovesreading said:

This story is really sweet and does highlight issues with the aging population. My mother used her computer mainly for email and card games. Then again, I mainly use it to read and play cards.

I do wish someone would just beat those snotnoses though. Christ on a cracker, I hate people.

It doesn't matter that you don't use all the things on your computer. You're aware that they're available should you need to use them - that's the important thing. 

 

Will the teens be back? Who knows?

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22 hours ago, JeffreyL said:

You have created two very special characters. I am really enjoying reading about how their relationship is growing and changing. Thank you. 

You're very kind. Thank you!  :) 

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On 5/18/2018 at 8:31 PM, Sweetlion said:

Getting Eric interested in the things around him will help reduce his isolation. 

That is certainly the hope and intention behind Andy's efforts.  :) 

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@droughtquake Computers in libraries are OK - they're certainly not the newest kit, but speeds are decent enough for people to stream stuff. i think even to see galleries of still images would be a revelation for Eric. Maybe he'll be satisfied with the library computers without wanting his own ...?

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On 5/18/2018 at 9:19 PM, Timothy M. said:

A tablet (iPad) might be the best option, as this is what the older generation in my family are using.

But I think right now the physical comfort is just as important. Feeling clean and warm, eating hot delicious food, and having someone to talk with, are things Eric has been missing for far too long.

A heart-warming chapter, and Andy is doing well on being respectful and considerate. I'm proud of him.

Yes, computers are only one facet of what is needed to make Eric feel he's truly part of today's world. A valued human being with purpose in his life. If he uses the computers in the library, they'll be your standard not very up to date desk top models. 

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2 hours ago, northie said:

Yes, computers are only one facet of what is needed to make Eric feel he's truly part of today's world. A valued human being with purpose in his life.

Maybe Eric could teach others about gardening? Help him feel needed and valuable. Andy should talk to that school about this!  ;–)

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7 hours ago, droughtquake said:

Maybe Eric could teach others about gardening? Help him feel needed and valuable. Andy should talk to that school about this!  ;–)

There you go with your suggestions again, drought!  :P

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At the moment I’m with Eric on this , damn , my 80 year old mother is more computer literate than I am. When she calls for help on the thing I’m lost before she finishes her explanation . Although I’m left with a feeling that under Andy’s guidance a whole series of new experiences are in Eric’s future. 

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On 6/14/2018 at 3:45 AM, deville said:

At the moment I’m with Eric on this , damn , my 80 year old mother is more computer literate than I am. When she calls for help on the thing I’m lost before she finishes her explanation . Although I’m left with a feeling that under Andy’s guidance a whole series of new experiences are in Eric’s future. 

Computers really aren't that scary, you know. Just utterly infuriating - like the past few days when my laptop has decided it doesn't like me ... :X  :angry: . Still, we'll see how Eric gets on.  😃

 

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