When she moved into a rehab facility not far from me (she is making slow-but-steady progress, thanks for asking), the post office forwarded her mail to my address — catalogs not included. Finally, I thought, we were free from hucksters trying to sell her all sorts of unnecessary items.
How wrong I was.
After a couple of blissful, catalog-free weeks, they began to arrive — sent to her at her new address.
How did they know where she was? We did not notify them of a change of address.
We had not ordered something and had it sent to this address.
And yet they found her.
One of the catalogs had “Thank You For Your Recent Order!” boldly printed across the front, even though Mama had not ordered from them recently — or, as best she can recall, ever. A couple of catalogs were full of fall fashions, none of which seemed to me appropriate for a 97-year-old woman in rehab. If Mama was their target customer, the models in the pictures could have at least been, well, closer to Mama’s age.
One mailing even had the audacity to plaster across the front “We miss you!” followed by the kurt warning that if she did not purchase something soon, “THIS COULD BE YOUR LAST CATALOG!” (Apparently, exclamation points are a mail-order company’s favorite punctuation.) On the positive side, during the short time we were catalog-less, Mama missed the flood of Halloween promotions that usually begin arriving in August and keep coming until it is time to send out Thanksgiving catalogs.
However, they found her in time for Christmas, for the first of the celebrate-the-birth-of-our-Lord-and-Savior-by-buying-something catalogs has arrived. Now, Mama loves Christmas and is all for putting Christ back into it. But she does not buy Christmas stuff. This is not her protest against the commercialization of the season. She just doesn’t need anything new. The decorations she drags out every Christmas have been in the family since I was a tot and are as much a part of the holiday as her yeast rolls — which, by the way, are not found in a catalog.
In other words, when it comes to Christmas, Mama recycles.
But most intriguing to me were the catalogs crammed full of all sorts of “old folks” items — lotion to get rid of age spots, therapeutic house slippers and a multitude of cushions and braces to help an aching back.
One even had the audacity to address her as “Elizabeth,” when everyone who knows her calls her “Miss Lib.” “You’re on the A-List!” (exclamation point again) the writer announced, which meant that a free jar of “fabulous firming neck cream” was waiting for her if she would give it a try — “NO OBLIGATION TO BUY” (all-caps instead of exclamations this time).
Another offered “the most powerful anti-fungus” concoction available without a prescription to get rid of stuff that grows round old folks’ toenails. And “Grandma’s Lye Soap” to ease any painful itching you might have.
Some of the stuff, they proudly announced, was “FDA Listed,” though they carefully avoided telling you if it was the good list or the bad list.
Then the other day, two pieces of mail arrived and, taken together, they set me thinking.
The first was a letter to Mama from the Republican National Committee asking her to fill out the 2013 Republican Platform Survey. How a 97-year-old woman, resident of Alabama, registered voter in Alabama and a lifelong Democrat got on the GOP’s Florida mailing list baffled us both. The other was a booklet from the “Institute for Vibrant Living” out in Arizona, inviting her to try their “joint-healing miracle from the ‘Village of Long Life,’” a place where folks “routinely live into their 90s.” Since Mama has already routinely lived into her 90s and is sneaking up on 100, she wasn’t interested.
But I was.
Not in the “Village of Long Life” and all it has to offer, but in the connection between the GOP and these mail-order catalog companies.
Obviously, they share the same mailing list, ’cause Mama is on it.
And while Republicans are slamming Obamacare, the mail-order folks are touting all sorts of products and procedures that would make health insurance unnecessary.
And if health insurance is unnecessary, then so is Obamacare.
Got a health problem, a catalog can cure it.
Have I uncovered evidence of a vast GOP mail-order catalog conspiracy to offer an alternative to the Affordable Health Care plan?
Makes as much sense as some of the things going round these days.
Let’s see if Fox or MSNBC picks it up.
If either does, then I will know I am wrong.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is retired Eminent Scholar in History at Jacksonville State University and a columnist and editorial writer for The Star. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.