“The Trade-Ins” (On Love)

Mitchell Brant has a problem.  Five years have elapsed between the end of The Eye-Dancers and the start of The Singularity Wheel, and numerous life events have taken place in the interim, but for Mitchell, there is still only one girl he longs to be with, one girl who has captured the secret inner chambers of his heart.  Heather.  The girl he met, five years ago, in the alternate town of Colbyville, the girl from a thousand universes away.  His friends tell him to let her go.  What’s the point of wishing you could be with someone so unattainable, so far away the mind cannot even begin to comprehend the distance?

 

But logic, practicality, reason cannot cut through.  Mitchell thinks of her all the time, imagines she is right there beside him, a smile on her face.  He cannot turn off his feelings, tell his soul to forget what it yearns for.

 

Love is like that.

****************************

In a third-season Twilight Zone episode called “The Trade-Ins,” a similar dilemma presents itself.  John and Marie Holt are an elderly couple–he is 79; she is 74.  What’s more, Mr. Holt is in declining health, often wracked by intense and ever-increasing bouts of pain.  But a new hope exists in the futuristic world where they find themselves.  The New Life Corporation shines like a beacon on a cold, dark night.

 

The New Life Corporation specializes in “youth, new life, rebirth,” the salesman at the office, a Mr. Vance, explains to the Holts.  They have the technology to switch an elderly person’s body, or a sick person’s body, with a new body, a body that is “perfect in composition, concept, and construction.”  All the while, the person who makes this anatomical switch will retain all of their memories, personality, and emotions.  As Mr. Vance tells the Holts, even after the switch, physiologically and psychologically they will be exactly the same.  The only difference will be that each of them will be placed in a younger body, “in the prime of health.”  They are told the average life span of a New Life body is 112 years.

 

And then he shows them the models.  All are attractive, in perfect physical condition.  But the Holts decide on the bodies of a young couple–a couple that, following the procedure, will be them.  Mr. Vance tells them they will have an entire new life before them–they will return to the beginning, in the full flower of youth.  Old age will be but a memory.

 

But then the price comes up.  Mr. Vance explains the model couple comes as a package deal of $10,000, surely a bargain, he says, considering all the Holts will gain.  Perhaps.  The Holts, however, only have $5,000.  And Mr. Vance will not accept it as a down payment.  There are rules, he says, government-mandated, that require the full payment, up front.

Mr. Vance then pitches a half-deal.  “One of you could get it,” he says.  The $5,000 the Holts have is enough for John or Marie to switch into a youthful, healthy body.  Marie encourages John to do it–he will be free of his pain, and she assures him, “I can wait”–until they can scrounge up the remaining $5,000 for her switch.

 

John does not commit, though.  “We can’t be separated,” he says.  “We’re no good without each other.”

Desperate, his pain worsening, John later locates a back room in a bar, where a high-stakes poker game is under way.  He has the $5,000, hoping he can gamble his way to the $10,000 he and his wife would need to acquire new bodies as a couple.  But John is out of practice, a naive and woeful poker player.  It is only the compassion and empathy of the gamblers he goes up against that saves him.  Observing the pain John is in, listening to his story, the gamblers allow him to leave with his $5,000, choosing not to “clean him out,” as they assure him they could.

 

His pain continuing to escalate, John decides to undergo the switch, by himself, with his wife’s blessing.  “Yes, yes, yes,” she tells him, over and over when they return to the New Life Corporation.  She wants him to be pain-free, to go through with the procedure.

 

And when he emerges hours later a young man, running and doing various calithsenics, amazed at how energetic and strong he feels, he joyfully tells Marie, “Do you know what happens now? . . . We’ll do everything we haven’t been able to do.  The big things, the little things, the crazy, illogical things that we were too old, too sick, and too tired to do.  Every day is going to be a wedding, every afternoon a reception, and every evening a honeymoon.  Marie, my darling, you and I are going to begin to live!  We’re going to–”

 

But here, Marie steps away, covers her face with her hands, looks at this strange young man in horror.  He is her husband, and yet . . . he is not.  Not anymore.  Their eyes meet.  She is 74.  He is 22.  They no longer match, no longer a unit, a team, lifetime partners.  The procedure has created a gulf between them, unspoken but undeniable.  John’s eyes are just as wide, just as understanding as his wife’s.

 

Mr. Vance tells John to come with him to sign some papers.  They leave.  And when, later, John reemerges, he is old again, the young body gone, the tired, pain-riddled body returned.

“Marie, my darling,” he says. “If I have to have occasion of pain, so be it.  I wouldn’t want it any other way, darling.”

When she protests, he stops her with a Robert Browning quote she herself had uttered earlier in the episode.

“Grow old along with me.  The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made.”

And then they walk off . . . together.

 

Rod Serling’s closing narration sums it up tenderly:

“From Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet: ‘Love gives not but itself and takes not from itself, love possesses not nor would it be possessed, for love is sufficient unto love.’ Not a lesson, just a reminder, from all the sentimentalists–in The Twilight Zone.”

*********************************

For a few weeks now, I have been AWOL on WordPress.  There is a reason for that.  I went back home, to Rochester, New York, the city where I was born, where I grew up.  But this time, I went back because someone close to me–so close to me–was, suddenly, near the end.  There were endless days in the ICU, walking the long, long hallway, turning the corner, calling in, visiting, hours spent by the bedside, the machines beeping, the respirator pumping air into lungs that could no longer breathe on their own.  Then there were funeral preparations, time spent with family, mourning a devastating loss, grieving.  Reflecting.

 

There were tears, so many tears.  Tender moments.  Heartbreaking moments.  Memories.  Discussions with doctors and nurses, trying to pry an ounce of hope out of a hopeless situation, seeking some possible path, some new and groundbreaking treatment.  But there was none.

 

And all I could do when it was over was to say–I love you, Mom.  I will miss you always.

*******************************

In the days leading up to this post, I had intended to end it there.  But then something happened.  Something remarkable.

I returned to my current home in Vermont recently, a day removed from the funeral and after being in Rochester for the better part of two weeks.  I had to try to get back into a routine, to go back to work.  To live and carry on.  But then, first thing the following morning, I noticed something in the basement.

Let me back up.  We have a walkout basement.  It leads to the garage.  Every time I leave the house or come back, I walk through the basement.  And in the back corner, there is an old light fixture, a simple naked bulb screwed in to a socket attached to the ceiling.  The thing is, last spring, the chain that turns this light on or off became stuck.  The light was on, but I couldn’t switch it off.  I yanked on the chain–too hard.  It broke, severed like a mowed grass blade, falling to the concrete floor.  There was no way to turn off the light.  So I unscrewed it, removed it from the socket, and replaced it with a dead, burnt-out bulb.  The socket was “on,” but the bulb was a dud, and so it stayed dark.

 

Until that morning–my first full day back in Vermont following the funeral.  When I went down into the basement, I was surprised to see the bulb was lit.  It had been dead when I screwed it in last May, had been dark all through the summer, fall, and winter.  But now it was on.  A dead bulb come to life.  An oxidized, broken-apart filament burning brightly. And instantly I knew.

 

It was a message, a very personal one, from a mother to her son.  An assurance.  A comfort.  A lesson and a reminder.

That of all things, and across all time and space, eternal, bridging dimensions, spanning life and death, gentle but unyielding, conquering the darkness with light, love remains.

Love endures.

 

Thank you for letting me know, Mom.  Thank you for showing me.

 

And thank you to everyone, as always, for reading.

–Mike

69 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Donna Gwinnell Lambo-Weidner
    Mar 08, 2018 @ 21:06:06

    Holding you in my heart, Mike. Be well…

    Reply

  2. thelonelyauthorblog
    Mar 08, 2018 @ 21:15:53

    Heartbreaking at the end. Wishing you all the best/

    Reply

  3. laurelwolfelives
    Mar 08, 2018 @ 21:47:46

    This is so poignantly beautiful. 😘

    Reply

  4. Carolee Croft
    Mar 08, 2018 @ 22:11:43

    I’m sorry for your loss, Mike. Send you lots of good wishes…
    And thanks for sharing these amazing stories.

    Reply

  5. ellie894
    Mar 08, 2018 @ 22:52:32

    What a lovely gift. Your writing brought tears to my eyes. My thoughts are with you. Take care, suzanne

    Reply

  6. jjspina
    Mar 09, 2018 @ 00:20:39

    Beautiful post, Mike. My heartfelt sympathy to you for your profound loss of your dear mother. Blessings, hugs and prayers going your way! 🙏😘🤗

    Reply

  7. Lyn
    Mar 09, 2018 @ 01:14:26

    Sending you hugs, Mike. Your post brought tears to my eyes. I remember the pain very well. My dad died when I was fourteen, and my mum died thirty-five years ago. The pain does eventually go, but it takes a while. The memories go on though. ❤ ❤

    Reply

  8. TheDreamGirlWrites
    Mar 09, 2018 @ 03:27:07

    I’m so sorry for your loss.
    The bulb being lit is very symbolic and I’m glad that was a sign you received.
    Lots of hugs and prayers ❤

    Reply

  9. A. Guanlao
    Mar 09, 2018 @ 06:11:25

    I am so sorry to hear the sad news about your mother passing away. I went through a similar situation with my mother. My family and I ended up taking my mom to the emergency room the day after Christmas. We did not know until she was admitted to the hospital that she had a heart attack. The doctors thought she would die that day, but she stayed in the ICU hooked up to different machines for about ten days before she died.

    It is good to know that you received a comforting message from her. I have heard stories of people who received phone calls or text messages from loved ones who have passed away. After my mom died, I got two messages from her, but they are hard for me to talk about here.

    My condolences to you and your family. Take care, Mike.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Mar 09, 2018 @ 12:58:42

      Thank you so much, Arlene. Your words are a comfort to me.

      Reply

      • A. Guanlao
        Mar 11, 2018 @ 09:13:47

        You are welcome, Mike. Eventually in time you will be able to think about your mom without being so sad that she is gone. It seems like you are on your way to recovery from grief thanks to your mom’s message. Her message was a nice and clever way to tell you that she is okay and that her love for you goes on.

        What was strange is on the same day that I responded to your post I received a strange call on my cell phone. Earlier in the day, someone tried to call me. It was a local number. When I tried to return the call, I received a message that the number I dialed was not a working number . . .

      • The Eye-Dancers
        Mar 11, 2018 @ 17:11:22

        Very interesting and Twilight Zone-esque! If you ever find out the story behind this mystery, please let me know.:)

      • A. Guanlao
        Mar 14, 2018 @ 18:32:24

        I was also curious about this call and did some research online. From doing a white pages reverse lookup, all I could find out is that this number is for a landline and that the carrier is SureWest Telephone. I also checked online and found out that you get the “not a working number” message if the number has been shut down because the phone bill has not been paid or if the number is canceled. I think I read it can also occur if the phone is turned off. I tried calling the number yesterday, and I still received the same message. Has the person kept his or her phone off for days? What is also weird is that I came across a website that offers the same message I heard as one of several “fake errors voicemail greetings.” I don’t think that I will be able to solve this mystery.

        By the way, I like The Twilight Zone too. 🙂 It was one of my favorite TV shows. I say was because I don’t watch much television these days.

  10. Trackback: “The Trade-Ins” (On Love) — Eye-Dancers | Fantasy Gift Sources: Book Reviews, Article Resources, News
  11. magarisa
    Mar 09, 2018 @ 18:01:17

    I’m sorry for your loss. What a beautiful, poignant post.

    Reply

  12. dancingpalmtrees
    Mar 10, 2018 @ 02:21:30

    First my condolences and sympathies on the passing of your Mom. I was in that place 20 years ago. Even though 20 years have passed I still miss my Mom and still have difficulty with holidays. Not that time completely heals all the grief and sorrow but it gives me time to reflect, memories, cope, and slowly the wound is not so painful. Acceptance. Adjustment. Knowing that in her Crossing Over, in her transition Love still endures and never dies. God Bless

    Reply

  13. reocochran
    Mar 10, 2018 @ 22:50:33

    Mike, my heart is full for your recent loss and my eyes are tearing up. This was a mixture of sadness and yet, in the end, there was happiness. 🌈
    You have a deeper understanding about the thin span between death and life.
    My Dad “died” in the hospital, Mom rushing down the hall to tell them he was flat-lining. They started his heart back up and he seemed peaceful the first night. In the morning, he was cheery and talkative. He told us he had “died and gone to heaven in a spaceship!” He told us we needed to be kinder to our neighbors, also be nice to those who are Irish. He said his British family roots had been mean to them.
    Anyway, when a star falls or one of us sees a shooting star we attribute this to my NASA Dad, “playing with the stars again.” He tested metals (for rocket parts) in their heat resistance. He also was rather cocky, “If I can make it into heaven, anyone can!”
    The lightbulb coming back to life is an even better proof of heaven. It is beautiful!

    Reply

  14. Rosaliene Bacchus
    Mar 11, 2018 @ 18:34:35

    Mike, so sorry to learn of your mother’s passing. Death is as certain as the sunset, yet we are never prepared when it visits our family home. What a beautiful message from the afterlife!

    Reply

  15. The Eye-Dancers
    Mar 11, 2018 @ 21:37:47

    Thanks so much, Rosaliene. I really appreciate your words.:)

    Reply

  16. Karina Pinella
    Mar 11, 2018 @ 23:01:18

    What a wonderful story about your experience with your mom and the light. The twilight zone episode was also a good one. I thought I’ve seen all episodes. Apparently not!

    Reply

  17. The Eye-Dancers
    Mar 12, 2018 @ 00:19:45

    Hi Karina.:) There is always another Twilight Zone episode, I think–they are endless, like individual leaves from a great imaginary tree. Always great hearing from you!

    Reply

  18. Ste J
    Mar 12, 2018 @ 01:39:24

    I’m sorry for your loss, it is a tough time and you have my thoughts. You have the support and anything you need from myself and many other people.

    This may not be the time but just to let you know I finally got around to reviewing The Eye-Dancers and will put up the review on Amazon(s) and Goodreads in a day or two.

    Reply

    • The Eye-Dancers
      Mar 12, 2018 @ 19:32:09

      Thanks so much–I really appreciate that more than I can say. And, in fact, I just read your review of The Eye-Dancers on your blog! Thanks! Really glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply

  19. renxkyoko
    Mar 12, 2018 @ 04:35:45

    My deep condolence for your loss.

    And the lit bulb at the end….. for some reason, I felt happy.. yes, I believe , that was a message from your mom..

    Reply

  20. Teagan R. Geneviene
    Mar 14, 2018 @ 16:53:42

    Ah Mike… sincere condolences for your loss. This post is a beautiful tribute to her. You ended it perfectly. What a powerful wonderful thing. Hugs.

    Reply

  21. europasicewolf
    Mar 14, 2018 @ 21:01:53

    So sorry for your loss…you are in my thoughts. This post brought tears to my eyes but also hope to my heart. Those we love really are never far away even when they can no longer be there in the conventional way. Big Icewolfie hug 🤗

    Reply

  22. The Eye-Dancers
    Mar 15, 2018 @ 00:13:59

    Thank you very much! Icewolfie hug gladly accepted.:) And you are right, of course. Loved ones are always close, for eternity, really . . .

    Reply

  23. carolineturriff
    Mar 16, 2018 @ 15:42:56

    What a lovely story of the old couple! And there I was cynically thinking that now he was young he was going to leave her in the dust and trade her in for a younger model. True love. If only I had it! Thanks for your support for my blog.

    Reply

  24. Mary J. McCoy-Dressel
    Mar 17, 2018 @ 14:54:18

    Well, now I’m in tears, both sad and happy tears. “Love endures.” I’m so sorry for your loss, Michael. Hugs.

    Reply

  25. K E Garland
    Mar 18, 2018 @ 23:54:41

    Wow. Sending my condolences. This is a beautiful “ending.”

    Reply

  26. Anna Waldherr
    Mar 20, 2018 @ 16:05:48

    I remember that “Twilight Zone” episode. Sadly, we as as society seem to have lost the ability to recognize real love. Oh, we idolize romantic love…that first rapture, especially if heavily sexualized. But love comes in a great many forms, as you’ve so clearly demonstrated. The fact that it endures is ones of love’s most amazing qualities.

    Reply

  27. MelHopkinsdotcom
    Mar 20, 2018 @ 20:09:20

    Beautiful truth. LOVE IS…

    My condolences to you and your family on the loss of your mom.

    My best friend, may she rest in peace, had a saying. “You can’t destroy LOVE, only the illusion of it (love).”

    Your mom gave you a beautiful gift to illustrate this message. ❤

    Reply

  28. Sherri Matthews
    Mar 22, 2018 @ 11:58:40

    Oh Mike, I am so terribly sorry for the loss of your beloved and dear mom. A beautiful, beautiful tribute to enduring love, true love. And take heart in your lightbulb gift, your mother’s love shining eternally in your heart, her dear son, as I do my robin who appears when I miss my dad. Thinking of you my friend…

    Reply

  29. cav12
    Mar 25, 2018 @ 03:21:06

    My condolences, Mike.I am sorry so to hear about the passing of your mother. Do make sure you take care of yourself.

    Reply

  30. The Eye-Dancers
    Mar 25, 2018 @ 15:33:42

    Thanks so much, Luciana.:)

    Reply

  31. Imelda
    Mar 25, 2018 @ 22:26:20

    Condolences to you. May the Good Lord grant your mother eternal rest. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply

  32. natuurfreak
    Mar 26, 2018 @ 20:52:27

    Een verhaal dat tranen in mijn ogen bracht.Mijn deelneming aan het verlies van je moede in maart.Dat treft je diep

    Reply

  33. VanessaAHarris5
    Mar 26, 2018 @ 21:09:47

    That last part was the best bit, Mike. Thanks for sharing it!

    Reply

  34. America On Coffee
    Apr 03, 2018 @ 00:37:22

    An amazing heartfelt share! All is in God’s time and plan. May your trust in Him lift you up.

    Reply

  35. Sheryl Wright Stinchcum
    Apr 09, 2018 @ 19:20:47

    Mike, so sorry for your loss. Mothers are very special. Mine passed in 2015, and I think of her every day. She saw the Lord a few days before she died and that has kept me going. Many passages in the Bible point to resurrection and eternal life including Job 19: 25-27; Isaiah 26: 19; Daniel 12: 2-3; I Corinthians 15: 1-58; also
    2 Corinthians 5: 1-8; 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11; and John 14: 1-9. Love and blessings to you.

    Reply

  36. Chic Mona
    Apr 21, 2018 @ 01:52:57

    My heart goes out to you and your family. May HIS love surround you now and bring some comfort and peace. Keep the light on and keep writing.{{{virtual hugs}}}

    Reply

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