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Mr. Coldspot coughs up his antiques

The Young Girls -- my three daughters, who are older now in years but still frozen in time for me at somewhere around 14, 16 and 18 -- were home here with various grandchildren and sons-in-law and action over the Fourth of July.

Somehow or other, my refrigerator became the focus of attention. The thing about your adult children is, most of the time, you don't want their attention. It's best to stay under the radar as you grow old. But, try as hard as you can, little bursts of their attention toward you still pop up here and there.

Stifling that attention is like trying to herd balloons under water -- sooner or later one gets away from you. These little bursts of attention presage what I fear will later on turn into life-changing directives, the most dreaded of which is: "Well, dad, it's time to put you away somewhere."

There are less-dreaded things that come first. One is: "Dad, when's the last time you changed your underwear?" Or, "Dad, when's the last time you ate vegetables?"


Well, let me tell you, they've got their work cut out for themselves. They'll have to pry my cold, dead fingers off the steering wheel of one of my antique tractors first. There. They'll know where to look for me, at least, given that they're not downwind and that I have changed my shorts recently.

In the meantime, they're practicing by discovering little shortcomings here and there. I'm on my guard constantly, meaning I change my underwear if I know they're coming and such, but this situation snuck right up on me.

A Young Girl pulled a container of ketchup out of the fridge, scrutinizing the date on it as she did so. "Dad!"

Oh, oh. That tone. That was ominous. I had committed some infraction or other, and they were going to practice on me.

"Do you know what the date on this is?" She waved the container of ketchup at me. In reply, were I to reply, my only defense would have been that I don't have my reading glasses on when I eat, and therefore see everything within three feet as a general blur. Had I been given arms three feet one inch long, everything would be clearer.

Add to this the fact that one has to retain one's mind in order to find ones glasses, and I'm distinctly hurting here.

But I cannot say any of this. It would be severely incriminating. Better to just shake my head in reply.

"Well," she stated, with that tone of voice that only the human female has mastered, "it's March of last year!" There was more. Just in case I've lost the ability to add and subtract, she added: "This is over a year old!" And into the garbage it went. Also into the garbage went that hamburger with onion and dill pickles and ketchup that I was going to have once they'd left and I could abandon the fish and chicken diet they all seemed to believe would prolong my life indefinitely. That was one of my vegetables that they had just discarded.

Soon, The Young Girls were all in my fridge up to their middles, nothing showing except back pockets. Various utterances issued from the bowels of Mr. Coldspot, with whom I was going to have a severe sitdown once all the company had left. He was in charge here, after all.

"See who can find the oldest expiration date," said one Young Voice, and thus it began.

"Here's a jar of pickles, June 2008."

"I've got jelly, dated August '07."

"Oh man, look at this," said one of Them, as she brought out a container of yogurt that I vaguely remembered having last seen a long time ago. "Don't op--" I started to say. Too late.

There was gagging, and bad looks in my direction. Must have been over the expiration date, huh?

"Here, here! I've got pickled herring from '06," said one of them. She had intimations in her voice of winning this weird contest.

"Uh, uh, no way," said another one, her voice echoing from the bowels of Mr. Coldspot. "I've got salsa from '04." She was going to win, she just knew it. Entire shelves came out then, and stuff began to cover the kitchen floor. I hoped Mr. Coldspot was up to this. This was open-door surgery, and I don't think his condition is that strong.

I'll spare you the rest. The ultimate victor came up with olives from 1993. "Dad! This is from the last century!"

Well, Girls, so am I, I thought to myself.

I sure didn't say it.

I wonder: When will they figure that out?