Charlie’s 65th birthday party was a rather subdued affair. Not that Charlie wanted it that way, but his two children, Mark and Ann, insisted he not do anything which could over-excite him. Just his son and daughter, their spouses plus six grandchildren, and his two elderly neighbours who showed up at his home to celebrate the special event. The low point for Charlie was when Ann poured him a small low-strength beer just before he blew out the one candle on the cake.
But it was all his own fault. Charlie had learned this ‘getting old’ thing well and played it like a fiddle. Any time he didn’t want to do something or was invited somewhere he didn’t want to go, he would say he was tired or his joints were aching. That would always get him off the hook. When he went shopping to his local supermarket he always had one of the young shop assistants help him with his trolley and take items from the shelves that Charlie said he couldn’t reach. At the checkout, he would put his hand to his chest and lean against the trolley which never failed to get him promoted straight to the front of the line. Every act he performed and every excuse he made was perfectly plausible given his age so nobody ever questioned him.
Mark and Ann believed all his maladies and wouldn’t let him do the things he actually wanted to do. This was frustrating for him because there was nothing actually wrong with Charlie apart from slowly deteriorating eyesight and hearing normally associated with old age. He had lived alone since being widowed ten years earlier and walked for miles every day. He cooked for himself, cleaned the house, bought himself a computer and learned to use the Internet and managed the gardening and his yard all except for mowing the lawn. He paid a young lad to do that once a month, not because he was physically incapable of doing it himself, but simply because he had always hated mowing.
But now Charlie was 65 and officially on the old age pension. The day after his birthday, Ann drove him to see his doctor for his six-monthly check-up. She wanted to come into the doctor’s office with him but he told her to wait outside.
Doctor Donald Benson had been Charlie’s doctor for fifteen years, as well as a good friend. After their mother died, Ann and Mark visited the good doctor and tried to convince him they should be informed of their father’s condition and be privy to his future medical diagnosis and treatment. When Doctor Benson told Charlie, he was livid.
“Don’t you tell them anything about me!” Charlie warned him. “If you do I’ll have you disbarred or excommunicated or whatever the hell they do to doctors who squeal.”
“Don’t worry Charlie. I can’t tell them anything without your permission, which I take I don’t have.”
“No you don’t!”
In the surgery, the doctor gave Charlie all the usual checks and then asked if he had any complaints or problems. Charlie replied that he felt fine, but then he added, “You know Don, I still get erections; during the night and even sometimes during the day. Is that normal for someone my age?”
The doctor laughed. “Charlie there is no expiry date on your penis. It all depends on your overall health and lifestyle. You are obviously a horny old toad.” He laughed again.
“Well what can I do about it?” Charlie asked seriously. “It gets embarrassing sometimes.”
“Get yourself laid. That’s my advice. Plenty of people would be jealous of you.”
“Don, I haven’t had a woman since … well, for more than a decade. Where am I going to find one who’ll jump in the sack with me?”
“Book yourself on a cruise,” the doctor answered. “There are plenty of ‘Over-50s’ cruises advertised on the Internet. I’ve heard that women outnumber the men twenty to one so even an ugly old coot like you could get lucky.”
“Don, I swear, if you weren’t my doctor I’d …”
In the car on the way home, Charlie told Ann the doctor had given him the all clear. She dropped him off and offered to make him lunch but Charlie declined saying he’d just make a sandwich and watch a movie.
Instead, he switched on his computer and got straight onto the Internet. Don was right; there were many cruises on offer for ‘singles’ over 30, over 50 and even over 60. Most didn’t leave from his town but he could easily catch a plane to meet the ship if necessary.
But while assessing all his options, something else caught his eye. It wasn’t a cruise but it had him surfing the Net for the next four hours to learn more.
Three weeks later, Mark called Ann to tell her he had been trying to call Charlie but the calls just rang out. Ann lived closer to her dad than Mark so, after she also tried calling him several times, she got in her car and drove to Charlie’s home.
Using her spare key to open the front door she noticed the house was in immaculate condition. She called out, “Dad!” as she went in the kitchen. It was spotless, with no dishes in the sink or crumbs on the benches. She noticed the fridge door was ajar and instinctively opened it all the way. To her horror, it was completely empty. Not only that, but the power had been turned off. She switched on the kitchen light and found the power to all the house had been switched off.
Starting to panic, she was reaching for her mobile phone to call her brother when she saw a note sitting in the centre of the dining table. It read: “Ann and Mark. Gone on holiday for a month. Take care. Love Dad.”
She called Mark at work and he said he would come over that evening so they could decide what to do.
When Mark and his family arrived at Ann’s house, she was visibly upset. To her surprise though, Mark was smiling. When she angrily asked why he thought the situation was funny, he asked if she had checked her e-mails yet.
“Just get on your computer and check.”
She opened her laptop and logged in to find an e-mail from her father sent that morning. It read: “Taking doctor’s advice I have just arrived in Pattaya, Thailand. I’ll see you in a month. Love Dad.”