The Exorcist at 80

During a mini–family reunion many years ago, my mother’s side of the family piled into cars and pickup trucks to go to the nursing home where my great-grandmother lived. When we got there, my great-grandma was still laying down for her nap, and we had to mill around in the common room waiting for her.

I had worked in a nursing home during high school and my first few years of college so I knew what to expect. Nursing homes are all about routine, getting up and laying down. The days are built around that and three meals, which are generally the most exciting things going on during the day. The conversation can go on for a whole hour between roommates, discussing what had been eaten for dinner.

I sat down in the TV/common room for a good, long wait, knowing the lifting, diapering, and denture scrubbing that would go on before my great-grandmother appeared. I can’t remember what was on the TV before the creepy intro music of The Exorcist came on, but this little old lady was just ecstatic when she heard it and pulled her purple chair up close to the TV, cooing, “Oh, The Exorcist. This is a really good one. It’s scary.”

She rose pretty high on my old-lady-idol list right there, because that’s exactly what I aim to be: eighty and watching The Exorcist. My mom had her camera out to take snapshots of her grandma, and I begged her, “Mom, please, please, please, take a picture of this.” She did, and in one of those moments of right-on timing, she got the nursing home residents gathered around the old-school TV set just as the title flashed for the movie. It’s one of my all-time favorite pictures, and I’ll be forever grateful to my mother who’s indulged my quirks since birth. Actually, she probably gave them to me.

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