Philosophy, Elderly, Commentary, Aging, Advice, Counseling, Inspiration

EMBRACE OR ERASE

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Exactly two weeks ago, my beloved and favorite uncle sat down and hand wrote me a lovely two-page letter. He included, as he often did, an article of interest from the local paper. Then he mailed it, drove to a deserted parking lot, put a gun to his chest and pulled the trigger. And while I wonder if he aimed perfectly at his heart, I also wonder why he would never want to see his granddaughter’s face, taste the sweetness of a fresh-picked strawberry or even hear my voice on the phone again.

Aging is as hard as growing up once was. There is no vade mecum to tell you how. You stumble, fall and brush yourself off ad infinitum. You just have to keep going and learn how to take the curves. That mindset was especially hard for my uncle who had always been an avid and highly competitive athlete. Too many botched hip and shoulder surgeries later, he was a shuffling shell of himself and he knew it. Plastic surgeons are skilled at raising our faces, but it is our minds that need the real ‘lift.’  In the end, that is something that only we can do.

The only real way to prepare a ‘face for the faces that you meet’ is to strengthen your inner thoughts. Bench press your brain when your limbs fail you. Pull up your focus on the beauty of today. T. S. Eliot said, “April is the cruelest month,” but I choose to find it the loveliest—even now–as spring begins to unfold after a too, long winter. Dogwood flowers burst into bloom from the backyard and daffodils shake their heads in the breeze out front. It is hard to find spring when the mind is mired in darkness. We are our thoughts. Ultimately, they become our actions. May you make them ones you want to embrace, not erase.

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Advice, Inspiration, Philosophy, Teenagers

THE SECRET OF LIFE

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Met an 18 year- old today who knows it. He was sitting in the lifeguard chair while I swam laps. Never seen him before. Here he was overlooking a pool full of old, white-haired ladies but he just seemed happy up there. He even gave me a big smile and a wave as I was leaving. So, I stopped to talk to him. Turns out he graduates from high school in a few months and has decided to go into the service. Figures it will give him some good training and then help pay for his college.

“Ah, to be young,” I said as I left.
“I really LIKE being young,” he replied.

I stopped for a moment and thought about that. I know a ton of kids his age right now who are scrounging around for phony ID’s and trying to be older than they are. I also know a ton of older folks getting plastic surgery and lying about their ages.

“Wow.  You’re a smart young man,” I finally said. “If you are happy being young and just who you are NOW, you will be equally as happy being old when you are old, as well.”

He paused a moment to think about that, too.
“Yeah,” he replied. “I probably will.”

Somebody bottle this kid and sell what he has to all those folks at any age who always seem to want to be ahead of or behind where they are. There’s no going back and you sure can’t skip ahead. Better love who and where you are right now. Frankly, it’s all you really have. He knows that. Do you?

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Advice, Aging, Alzheimer's, Commentary, Dementia, Elderly, Humor, Inspiration, Philosophy, Teenagers

BASS ACKWARDS

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Ready for this?  Do you know what the 3rd major cause of death is in the US right now?  It’s listed right there after heart issues and cancer:  Alzheimer’s.  Why?  Because once that amyloid plaque gums up your neural connections your brain shuts down.  Once that happens, here comes pneumonia, falls that lead to operations, and a host of other ills that befall our elderly.  So while that death certificate may have said, “Pneumonia,” Alzheimer’s was behind it all.

So, you would think that in our infinite, scientific wisdom we would be doing everything we could to prevent that plaque buildup in the brain in the first place.  Instead, where are those billions going?  Into ‘miracle’ pills that are supposed to remove the mess once it has already begun tangling the wires in our thinking.  It’s like telling a teenager:  “Oh, you’re pregnant?  Well the abortion clinic is down on 21st street.”

 As my aunt used to say, “We have it all bass ackwards.”  As a kid, I actually thought that was a real word.  Didn’t know until the day I told my geometry teacher that the stupid theorem had it all “Bass Ackwards.”  He glared at me and said, “You watch your mouth, young lady.”  ‘Hard to do without a mirror,’ I thought to myself but didn’t dare say out loud.  Thought he was an idiot.  Then I looked it up.

 So let’s just cut to the chase:  young or old here are some things you should be doing NOW—not once you forget your own address or how to tie your shoelaces.

  1.  MOVE—no, not out of state, off your butt.

2.  THINK—not just about your next errand but make meaning in your moments.

3.  EAT WELL—you already know what that means so I won’t bore you with broccoli.

4.  GET SUNSHINE—or take Vitamin D.  Better yet, plan a trip to the Caribbean.

5.  CONNECT WITH OTHERS—no, not at the bar or hooking up at rock concerts.  Something that makes you connect in a REAL way with others:  sports, games, and regular volunteering will do the trick.

6.  BE GRATEFUL for the time you DO have.  You never know when it will be up.  Just be sure that when it is your lights aren’t already out.

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Advice, Aging, Alzheimer's, Caregiving, Commentary, Dementia, Elderly, Inspiration, Philosophy, Youth

GOING, GOING. . .

going, going, gone

Much ado has been made about Alzheimer’s.  In the Netherlands there is even an entire, self-contained village where people with dementia live like ‘normal’ people.  Denmark has a community called, “Life in the 50′s” for those boomers who want to retire in nostalgia.  However, while championing the cause of the moment, we are neglecting entirely the real problem facing us right now:  our elderly.  Every 7 seconds someone in the US turns 60.  In 5 years, one-third of the population will be over 55.

 So what are we doing?  Building thousands of nursing homes instead of designing our present cities so that we can age gracefully in them.  I live in a lovely, long-established neighborhood but there is not a single sidewalk so that I can walk through it safely.  I could move to one of those retirement communities where everyone drives around in golf carts but that would get ‘old’.  Besides, I would miss seeing and learning from young people and though they don’t know it yet, they would miss me, too.

Since one-third of us will soon be in that special milieu just how ‘golden’ will those years actually be?  Our culture STILL has a fascination with all things young and Madison Avenue continues to sink millions into glitzy Cosmopolitan advertisements.  But who wants to be sold high heels when they have trouble climbing the stairs?  Who will buy the next high-tech gizmo that takes 20-20 vision and fast, nimble fingers to operate?  And while collagen may plump up your lips, it takes joy to really make them smile.  That feeling springs from a nurturing community, not a divisive one.

 We need to stop creating separate spaces that divide us and design ones that incorporate both young and old.  Imagine a park where Maya Angelou strolls with Miley Cyrus discussing poetry as Jack Nicklaus shows Justin Bieber how to swing a 9 iron. Hard to imagine?  Yes, but not so long ago that was how life in America looked.  People were connected face to face—not cyberspace.

Am I sounding political?  You bet.   If we continue devaluing the old while placing premiums on the young we will create a restless, impatient and mentor-less society.  Unemployment figures would shrink to zero if focus were put on aiding the elderly:  building one-level homes, designing smaller cities that are walkable, creating abundant parks, planting greenery and simply caregiving our real ‘antiques;’ the ones so priceless they cannot be sold at auction.

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Aging, Baby Boomers, Commentary, Humor, Inspiration, Teenagers, Youth

LOOSEN UP!!!

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Do you know who the most uptight people are??  The young.  Go figure.  While they are telling the rest of us to, “Chill out,” they are trying so desperately to, “Fit in,” they can’t see straight.  There is NOTHING more anxiety producing than trying to get somewhere fast without a map.  Worse?  Most of them don’t even know where they’re going yet.

 Do you know who the most ‘chill’ people are?  Us.  Yup.  You and me baby.  We don’t need Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or Instagram to affirm our self worth.  We figured that stuff out a long time ago.  We also figured out that most of it useless and utterly unimportant.  We KNOW where we FIT—and it isn’t “IN”—and frankly, we don’t give a D—.

 So now that we have that straight, how are we flaunting our chillness?  How are we showing the world (and those young people) what it’s like to be totally cool and groove in your own skin?  Are we dancing to the music wherever it plays?  Are we waving to strangers and starting up random conversations?

 Last night I was dancing in line at Chipotle.  Couldn’t help myself.  The music was loud and had a great beat.  By the time I got to the counter, the whole crew was giggling.  So, I said, “Hey, you guys.  If I lift my leg straight up over my head right now, will you give me the guacamole free?”  They looked askance.  Probably thought I had been drinking but frankly, liquor can’t hold a candle to my own ‘spirit.’  “Sure,” one dreadlocked kid said.  “Go for it.”  I did.  Got a double scoop—for free.

 Now tell me the last time YOU had that much fun?  Go ahead.  Feel free.  Post it right here.  Right now.  Be BOLD:

 “Kissing Tomatoes,” is now available in paperback.

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Aging, Commentary, Elderly, Grandmothers, Grandparents, Humor, Inspiration, Philosophy

GET OFF THE ROAD, GRANDMA!

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Pushing my grocery cart towards the automatic doors, I can’t help but notice the older man just ahead of me.  He is tall and spry, and the bright, yellow sweater he wears sets off his sharp, new haircut.  I observe these details because when the automatic doors open, he doesn’t budge.    

“Waiting for the light to change, huh?” I laugh, making light of his hesitation.      

“Nope.  Just waiting for my wife,” he sighs.  “Apparently, I’m not allowed to drive anymore.”  The heavy loss of independence sits deep in his eyes.   

“It was just a little fender bender,” he explains.  “The guy ahead of me just stopped too fast.” 

His son took away his car keys.  Now he has to be driven everywhere like a school boy.  He’s mad but mostly he’s sad.  I would be, too.  No more jumping in the car on a moment’s whim and letting the world swirl past your windows.  From here on out he will just be a passenger.  I imagine him raising that son; the one who took his first steps as Dad looked on with pride.  Now that boy will watch him take these last ones.

Having seen my share of retirees motor through 4-way stop signs or suddenly stop for seemingly no reason, I get it.  Many shouldn’t be behind the wheel in the first place.  Right now, there are one million licensed drivers over the age of 80!  And while one could say the same for teen drivers, statistics don’t lie:  drivers over 85 have four times the fatality rate of teenage motorists. 

At 17, I drove almost the entire California coastline in an old, Chevy Nova.  Still remember the hairpin turns approaching Big Sur, the scary, high cliffs where mammoth waves crashed on the rocks below.  It was a thrilling and heady ride and I was the master of my fate.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”  No wonder.  That’s where all those wild and free memories first ignited in us; the ones we thought would last and last with just a turn of the key.  I would like to believe that someday I will be in that one percent still cruising in their 90‘s with the top down.  Praying, of course, that I never hear: ‘Get off the road Grandma!’

 

 

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