Issue 16 – A Run-In With the Law

Charlie was in a foul mood. He was the most frustrated he had been in a while, almost as much as being stuck in bed after his “episode.” Upon returning from the doctor’s office, Hazel had asked him to turn over his license and car keys, leaving his car relegated to the garage indefinitely. He felt like a child, which was ironic given the fact that all this was happening because he was “old.” Even though he was now over 80, the term “old” was simply a word. It was something used to describe other people, certainly not himself. He knew by definition he was, in fact, in his older years. But he wasn’t “old”!

Until now. Now, in this exact moment, he felt “old.” Why was it that the term had such negative connotations? Every milestone in life was achieved through aging – graduating from school, getting married, starting a family, buying your first home, being successful in your career. Everyone celebrated these stages in life as accomplishments. Yet, once you got to the point you need to sell your house, move into a “home” and carry on with the next stage in life, you were looked upon with…pity? Getting “old” should be a badge of honour, Charlie thought. If you managed to survive to a certain age, you should get a medal, not car keys taken away.
Cleo was curled up in his lap. He could feel her labored breathing, which had Charlie worried. She had been like this for a few days and wasn’t acting like her normal self. She hadn’t touched her food all day. He had mentioned it to Hazel that morning before she had left for the afternoon with Marilyn. She hadn’t seemed overly concerned, but Hazel wasn’t much of a cat person.

He gently stroked Cleo’s back, and the cat let out a bit of a yelp and shuddered under the pressure. She wasn’t right. If only he had his car keys, he could run her over to the animal hospital in town. It was just down a ways on the other side of the highway. It would take less than 10 minutes to get there.

Just then, he remembered he had a spare key stashed away in his toolbox for emergencies. Hazel wouldn’t be back for hours, and he could easily run into town and still be back before she got home. Cleo needed to be looked at, and he would deal with any repercussions from Hazel later. She would understand. It wasn’t like he was going into Edmonton or anything. He scooped up Cleo and headed out to the garage….

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When Charlie pulled back into the driveway and saw Hazel’s car sitting back in its spot, he groaned softly to himself. After shifting into park and shutting the car off, he rested his head against the steering wheel and sighed. He could already picture Hazel sitting inside at the kitchen table waiting for him to get back, like a parent waits for their child who was out past his curfew. And although Cleo was already perking up from the meds she had been given at the vet, Hazel wouldn’t be happy when she heard how his afternoon had gone.

It should have been so simple. He had been driving carefully and responsibly as always, when he saw the flashing lights in his rearview mirror. The cruiser had been sitting just at the turnoff onto the highway. He had obediently pulled over to the side, despite his confusion at being stopped. He hadn’t gotten a ticket in nearly forty years! So he was flabbergasted when the officer told him that his registration was past due. He didn’t recall getting the notification to renew, but the officer informed him that the government was no longer sending out reminders via mail. Then the officer asked to see his license. Charlie had lied and said that he forgot it at home, galled at the depths he had been forced to. He knew perfectly well where his license was – sitting safely in Hazel’s purse. At that moment Cleo had let out a pitiful meow, and Charlie had explained that he was taking his cat to see the vet. After some discussion, it had been a small consolation that he had been let off with a warning and a notice to report to his local RCMP station within a week with his license and proof of registration renewal. If he didn’t, he risked getting a hefty fine.

How was he going to explain this to Hazel? She would be livid. This was going to be the start of so many things. He didn’t even want to think about it all. He pounded the steering wheel in a sudden moment of anger. He couldn’t help but feel useless, emasculated and depressed. He had once been a respected teacher, community member, parent and husband. But somewhere in the last few months he had become a burden and a bother. He fought back tears for the first time in a REALLY long time.

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Do you have any advice for Charlie? What should happen next? Should Charlie talk to someone about how he is feeling lately, or is it time that Hazel and Charlie make some tough decisions about their future?

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