At Seventeen

This post has nothing to do with Janis Ian. I just happen to be on Day 17 of my 365 project, so there you go. And this is my Day 17 photo:

Day 17
Although I bet at one time or another, Ian’s song blasted through this thing back in 1975.

Once again, I was considering abandoning the 365 project today, because I keep forgetting to take my camera with me and am tired as hell from the first week of school and generally not in the mood to take photos. I’m also tired from helping out with a relative who is elderly and unwell (although not nearly as tired as my husband, who is the primary caregiver). He lives over an hour away from us, and has just left the hospital after a lengthy stay, so regular visits are necessary even though he has several in-home health care companies stopping by daily. My husband and I are at that age where our elders start to fail, and caring for them is simply what we must do, which we don’t resent it in any way, but the fact is, it’s tiring.  I try to be as upbeat and helpful as I can when we make these trips to visit, but today I could barely keep my eyes open, and I had to remind myself that just showing up is sometimes enough and I don’t have to always be the biggest ray of sunshine ever. When caring for older relatives, sometimes you just can’t give 100%, and 85% is OK too. And that’s about all I had in me today.

But at one point I was in the kitchen helping my husband put up the groceries he’d just bought, and for the first time ever I stopped and looked at the old intercom system affixed to the kitchen wall and thought, damn, what a blast from the past that thing is, and right away I knew I’d found my 365 photo for the day – even though it’s another iPhone one because I forgot my camera againThen I started playing around with it and realized the entire system still worked. I thought that was pretty amazing; I bet that intercom system is well over 30 years old, and with one flip of a switch FM radio was blasting through the entire house, as well as on the front and back porch. My husband dashed upstairs to see if hitting the ‘talk’ button still produced results, and sure enough it did. According to him, his mother loved that intercom and actually used it all the time – to answer the front door, call the kids to dinner, wake them up in the morning by playing the radio, and even to spy on what they were doing in their rooms. It was a trip to try and use it now, given how much more intuitive communicative technology has become – you had to hit not only a ‘talk’ button to speak, but to have a conversation with someone after hitting ‘talk’ and speaking, you had to immediately flip the switch over to ‘listen’ mode, or you wouldn’t hear what the other person said in response. I really never did get it down, and in fact I think that might be a reason why more people back in the day didn’t get into the whole idea. My house growing up had the same system, but we sure never used it. And of course by the eighties, few people chose to install intercoms in their home. But Doug’s mom was an exception, apparently, and we all three spent some of time reminiscing about all the ways she would use theirs, and how much she loved it. I edited the hell out of that photo to give it a 70’s feel; in truth, my memories of childhood are all blurry and scratchy and tinted yellow and orange and avocado green. And for me, this photo captures that time even though I took it in 2014. I don’t know if takes anyone else back the way it does me, but whatever – it’s my 365 anyway.

So let’s close out with some totally depressing Janis Ian, shall we? Side note: I was a little pipsqueak in 1975 when this song was popular, and I always disliked it. I remember thinking it was really whiny and depressing; I’m sure I would have felt differently if I’d been a teen when it came out. But here it is anyway.


7 thoughts on “At Seventeen

  1. My parents had the same system in their home when I was growing up. When my dad died, approximately 40 years after buying the house with the intercom, it still worked too. Today, things are designed to last 5 to 7 years and then be replaced, not even repaired.
    I too went through what you are going through now. My mom had alzheimers for ten years before her passing, and me being the only child on that side of the family, it became my responsibility too care for her. Unfortunately some alzheimers patients become very nasty in the final stages of the disease. After 8 years it became impossible to care for her and she had to be placed in a home. We still visited 3 or 4 times a week, but you always felt that you should be doing more.
    Sorry for hijacking your blog, but the intercom brought back memories.
    Keep up your good work and also don’t stop the 365.

    • My grandmother had Alzheimer’s for 10 years and it was flat-out awful. She was such a gently soul but that disease made her nasty as hell – she tried to stab my grandfather and would always escape the home my mom had to put her in and fight like hell when they tried to bring her back. The consolation was that when she finally passed away, all those years of ugliness disappeared and in our memories, she was our sweet Granny again. I don’t know if that makes sense or not, I guess what I mean is we didn’t remember the years of illness just who she really was.

      And yes, the intercom really jogged memories for me and made me feel nostalgic. And here I’ve been going into that house for almost 15 years and never even stopped to look at that thing and realize what it was!

  2. We had the same one in our NJ house and of course every co-op in NYC has one of these, to this day probably. Same thing: talk or listen. The one we had in NY had a video feature so you could see who was downstairs before they came up. Even apartment buildings with doormen installed them so the doormen couldn’t be fooled by a potential marauder I guess, lol. I sure hope my MIL doesn’t become nasty — that is not her style. Her Alzheimers or simple dementia is proceeding but slowly and so far, it has just made her quiet and docile. Janice Ian is the ultimate Debbie Downer — I haven’t thought of her in years.

    I was so afraid that I would have to do what you and your husband are doing, for my grand uncle Harry but the VA is doing it and he has a caregiver that he pays to run errands. Thank heaven, because I am not good at that kind of patience and caring and he lives far enough away that I couldn’t commute to do it, either. I agree, just showing up is often enough. You are both being very kind.

  3. Been a million songs of this genre since. I found it very empathetic . But I’m a few “weeks”
    ahead of you on the age scale. As always, wonderful post, and thanks for the memories !

  4. Pingback: Birthdays can be a beach | Beth Byrnes

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