[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ou wanna know what life is?” said ninety-six-year-old Burt. “I’ll tell you what it is. It’s one long process of adjusting.”


He nodded. “Yep.”

Whatever he meant, Burt would know. He’s the oldest man at the Magnolia Home. And he claims he’s happy, though you’d never guess it. Burt doesn’t show much emotion in his face anymore.

He’s a tough old bird. Independent. He insists on percolating his own coffee, on a hotplate, every morning. Even though last year, he burned the ever-loving Christ out of his forearm. Which still has a purple spot on it.

“Burt,” I said. “That makes life sound miserable.”

“Hell, life is miserable. Until you adjust to it. Then, it’s just wonderful.” He pointed to the coffee pot. “More coffee?”

I filled both mugs with lukewarm toilet water.

Burt went on, “My daddy made good money. That is, until he lost his fortune in the thirties, like everyone else. We had to move into a boarding house during Christmas, you remember those?”

“Boarding houses? No, sir.”

“This house had two families living there. One little old Christmas tree, one toilet, we all had to share.

“A hateful old hillbilly lady ran the place. In the mornings, she made coffee. She refused to brew tea, which is all my family drank. I couldn’t stand bitter coffee. I pitched a fit about it.

“One morning, Daddy sat me down and said, ‘Son, I wanna tell you something. Life is like a game. The ones who come out on top, have learned to drink whatever the Lord puts before them. Good or bad.’

“Well, I looked at my daddy, a fella who used to wear pinstripes to work. He had a pair of overalls on, blisters on his hands. I realized I was a spoiled little brat.”

“So, what happened?”

Burt sipped his mug. “I learned to like this crap, that’s what.”