TIME FLIES SO WALK THE MINUTES WISELY

alz-clock

Amazon is now selling a special clock just for those with Alzheimer’s. Apparently, the big selling point is that it spells out the day since those with dementia struggle with abbreviations. But here’s the thing. Just because you can say what time it is doesn’t mean that you’re ‘all there.’ It simply means that you can mimic a clock. It’s the minutes that really count in life, particularly the ones you spend making friends.

 A few days ago, I reunited with three women whom I first met when I was only 13. Our re-connection was seamless, as if little time had passed at all. However, having lived 50 more years since then, we now have much more to share with each other. Yes, time has changed, re-arranged, shrunk, expanded, puffed and wrinkled us in ways that we never dreamed possible at 13! That’s probably a good thing. One should feel fresh, fearless and free in youth but we tend to lose those qualities as both time and experience wear us down.

 That’s where friends come in. If you choose them wisely when you are young they will help keep you young as you age. They will remind you of your earlier self while encouraging your present one. They will forgive your youthful missteps and help you up the steps now that you are older. Most of all? If you choose friends with attributes that you wished you had yourself, you will receive the benefit of those very qualities albeit indirectly.

 My ‘old’ girlfriends still have the gifts that I once envied as a child, but now deeply admire. One was gregarious and accepted others just as they were even all those years ago. She still does. Another was an artist who could fill a blank page with beauty so breathtaking that you simply stared in awe. Today, she is a talented interior designer. The last had a rebellious, adventurous spirit that even now keeps her freshly on the edge of things au courante. So, dear readers, should I ever lose my mind, kindly put the faces of my friends in front of me, not a clock!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

STANDING TALL

saguaro

 My granny raised me in Phoenix, Arizona. My most vivid memory of those years was always trying to make friends with someone who had a pool. Otherwise, you spent your summers trying to uncap fire hydrants, stand under sprinklers or stick your blistering feet into six-inch, deep creeks that held more crawfish than water. By the time I was 18, I fled to California in my VW bug, swearing that I would, “never, ever return to a land of nothing but cactus and old people.” Well, two weeks ago (and 45 years later), I have returned to that desert once again.

 This time, though, I am one of the ‘old people,’ and that’s fine by me. No more shoveling snow or slipping on ice. No more bundling and layering against the cold and watching the sky grow dark by 4 PM. No more hunkering down under blankets in front of the fire or turning on the faucets at night so the pipes don’t freeze. At last, I’m warm under a wide, open, bright sky and it’s heaven.

 One Christmas, shortly before I graduated from high school, Granny gave me a Smith Corona, portable typewriter, along with a silly joke book about saguaros. I LOVED the typewriter. The book? Not so much. Inside were silly pictures of saguaros with goofy captions. At the time, I remembered thinking, ‘I hope I never have to look at one of these old, prickly things ever again.’

 Now? I love their weaving arms and the holes that birds have made in their trunks for nests. I admire how they rise from desert rock with seemingly no water or nurture whatsoever. I applaud the statuesque beauty with which they carry themselves. Mostly, I wish that I had that old, silly book back. It told me that saguaros don’t reach their full height or produce their first blooms until they’re 70 and that they don’t even grow their first arms until they’re close to 100!

 Next week, I am hosting four girlfriends at my place for Thanksgiving. Some of them I have not laid eyes on since Granny gave me that typewriter and saguaro book. I worry they might find me old, wrinkled and gray. But if they are worried about the same, I shall remind them that if we were saguaros, we have not yet reached our full height! For now, I am thrilled THAT we are all still here, standing tall and upright!!

 

      

WHATEVER

I

american-flag

It is almost unbelievable for me to imagine that my own daughters, who will be voting this year, actually have a woman to consider as candidate for President. When I was their age, the idea that a woman would ever be elected to that office was inconceivable. I was raised believing that a ‘good’ profession for a girl would likely be a teacher or a nurse—certainly nothing much higher. Women at the time weren’t even doctors or lawyers, let alone Presidents. Title 9 had not yet taken effect, so my high school had only, one softball team for girls!  Your only other choice was to be a cheerleader.

 Oh, how things change. But it isn’t just the rising of the glass ceiling. Change is everywhere and not just in technology. As a teen I thought ‘gay’ simply meant, ‘happy.’ I was oblivious to the idea of homosexuality. It simply didn’t register. A boy in our high school, whom I rather liked and thought was sweet, was often teased by the other boys. I never understood why. Years later, I would learn that he killed himself because he could not take the persecution from others for being homosexual.

 But those days are gone as clearly as the recent presidential race shows. Frankly, I’ve not watched the TV or followed the polls. After that first debate, I had enough. Why? I’ve lived long enough to know that it doesn’t really matter who becomes President. What matters are all of us underlings holding up the flag. What matters is who WE are. We rose above Vietnam. We rose above the World Trade Center and we will rise above whoever walks into the Oval Office tomorrow.

 God bless America….and God bless the people who make her great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

driving

Remember that liberating feeling you had the first time you slipped into the seat behind the steering wheel all by yourself? That moment when you pushed down on the accelerator and there was no one there to tell you to, “Slow down?” Recall the way the breeze felt as you rolled down the windows and cranked up the music? It was liberating, exciting and powerful all at once.

 As the years pass, that kind of moment becomes more muted. Even graduation from college, while notable, didn’t quite send my heart into the stratosphere. Getting married was exciting and magical but not exactly liberating. Having children was awesome and miraculous but again, keeps one on the course of restraint not emancipation.

 Having spent my life making commitments, taking on responsibilities and gathering possessions, this was the year to let much of that go. I began with the ‘stuff.’ Craig’s list sold fully a third of the house from tap shoes and teacups to basketballs and the barbecue grill. Two garage sales and friends carted off the rest. 

 My grandmother’s antique, bedroom set, which I’ve moved for some 40 years, now sits in an 18 year-old’s bedroom. Her mother wanted to surprise her with ‘real furniture’ when she returned from her first year in college. The sleigh beds my daughters once slept in, are now in the home of a woman who has suddenly taken in two teenage boys. Our unique, metal bookcase graces the showroom of a woman starting her own design business. Our old, fire pit lights up the backyard of a house full of college students. Even my houseplant of 10 years happily sits in the windowsill of a 23 year-old’s very, first apartment. She bought it because, “My dad was always growing something and I wanted to show him that I could do it, too.”  Occasionally, she even calls me for advice on how to keep it healthy.

 Now that my possesions have been scattered, the house sold and the movers have gone, I am driving west. The windows are open. The music is pumping and there is a big smile on my face. It is even bigger than the one I had all those years ago when I was first behind the wheel. This one holds years of wonderful memories along with the ones that others are yet to make with the things I once treasured but no longer need.  I feel liberated, excited and powerful all over again!

 

 

LOVE STORY

love-story

Forget Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal.  Randall and Joan have a love story far more poignant.  They have been married exactly as long as I have been alive:  63 years.  When Joan’s mom first laid eyes on Randall back in 1952 at church, she whispered in her daughter’s ear, “That is the boy you are going to marry.”  She was right.

 Three children, several grand and great-grand children later, they are still together.  They still hold hands.  Despite the fact that Randall uses a walker, he still holds the car door open for Joan when she gets in, then shuffles to the back, folds his walker into the trunk and eases into the driver’s seat.  Every afternoon, he drives Joan to Starbucks and they each get a simple coffee and sit together at a table in the center.  They love people watching and being, “out in the world.”

 A few months ago, their three daughters decided that they needed to sell their home of 40 years and move into an assisted-living facility.  That was probably a good decision.  However, Randall, having once studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, absolutely HATES the food there pronouncing it, “tasteless as cardboard.”  As a result, he has demanded the food portion of his bill back from the facility and instead, takes Joan out for most of their meals. 

Clearly, Joan is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s and each time we meet, asks me the same, exact questions as if she were a 33 1/3 LP going around in circles.  When I ask Randall how he is coping, he confesses that he is, “worried I will outlive my retirement savings.”  Then he adds, “Look, I know I’m not going to get any better than I am right now.  So, every night when I go to bed, I pray, ‘Lord I am ready whenever you are.’  But at the same time, I also pray that I will be able to care for Joan as long as she lives.”

 There is no greater love I’ve witnessed than his for her but here is what distresses me most.  Their daughters have told him “several times” that they, “don’t like” his going to Starbucks every day.  They complain that, “It is too expensive.”  If I ever meet them, I will give them more than a piece of my mind.  I might just turn them over my knee and give them a good spanking.      

 

 

 

 

 

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HOME ALONE

scrabble

 Much ado has been made about all the things we are supposed to do to help us as we age: daily exercise, take Omega-3’s, create lots of social networks and eat our leafy greens. We know we’re supposed to train our brains by doing puzzles or learning new languages. But here’s the thing: no one talks about the solitude of old age and many of the elderly are now solo.

 Most are not alone by choice. Some have lost their spouses and others their friends. Add to that the fact that younger people simply don’t ‘see’ or interact with them. As a result, they ‘feel’ alone even when they’re not. Now many retired folks will tell you that they value their ‘alone time.’ There’s good reason: they’ve spent the majority of their lives working with or caring for others. Having to “do nothing” is a relief. However, they quickly lose their footing in the bustling world of others. Gone are the carpools, business lunches, golf outings and European vacations. In their place? Not much.

 This year, more than 20% of people over 55 are living alone. That percentage has doubled since 1999. So what does science have to say about that? Who’s going to know if you slip and fall or go off your meds? Pretty much no one and there’s the rub. What’s the remedy for that? While 75% of men over 65 are married, 25% are still alone.  Only 45% of women are married so more than half of them are solo, too!

 Millions of elderly people are now finding themselves, ‘home alone,’ but unlike Macaulay Culkin, no one is going to rescue them if they get into trouble. They are literally ON THEIR OWN. Now some do this with a breeze. Others? Not so much. They curl up in front of the TV, don’t eat well and wither away.  If a tree falls in the forest and you don’t hear it, does it make a sound?  You bet.

 Recently, my husband was out of town for several weeks. I noticed that our Scrabble board was still set up in the den. So, I decided to play against myself. It was quite fun. Not only did I get to use all the letters, there was no scorekeeping, which meant that I won no matter how poorly I played! All along, I kept up a lively conversation with my imaginary partner. Good thing no one else was there or I might just not be home alone but in a loony bin instead.  Well, at least I’d have company.

 

DON’T TAKE IT LYING DOWN!

Sky lying down

 Three unconscionable things happened to me this week and I want you to be aware of them so that they don’t happen to you. And if they do? Take action! The first was a series of phone messages I received from the IRS, informing me that I had done, “something illegal on my taxes and they were going to file suit,” if I didn’t call an 800 number. I knew it was a scam but I DID call that number.

 The woman who answered said that there was, “a problem” with my taxes and she needed my social security number. Over my dead body. I told her that I KNEW this was a scam. My taxes were honestly prepared and I was reporting her to the BBB and the IRS. She hung up abruptly. Imagine how many have fallen for her scam and given out their personal information!

 The second was my AVIS rental at the Denver airport. I prepaid my car online for $149. After an hour wait, the agent had me sign a contract, which totaled $289. “What’s this?” I asked. “Oh,” he said, “You said you were driving to Breckenridge and since that altitude is high, I gave you an SUV because it will handle the drive better.” “I don’t want an SUV. I want my $149 car.” He wrote a new contract. This time, the total was $199. “What’s this?” I asked. “Oh, I added our $50 gas package. That way you won’t have to fill the tank.” “Take off the charge,” I demanded. “I always fill my own gas.”

 When I returned the car with a full tank of gas, my receipt said “$199.” I stormed back to the counter, went straight to the first guy I saw and demanded my money back. He complied. Several days later when I called the corporate office to complain, my 20 year-old daughter overheard the phone call. “Gosh, Mom,” she said, when I hung up. “Are you going to get that guy fired?” “I sure hope so,” I said. “Imagine all the people he has taken advantage of. It’s criminal.”

 The last happened in the Kroger parking lot today. I was waiting with my blinker on for a woman to pull out of her space. Finally, she backed out and as I pulled in, a car raced around the corner, cut me off and pulled into the space ahead of me. Fuming, I jumped out of my car and walked right up to the driver’s door. A man twice my size and half my age, emerged.

“That was rude,” I said. “You saw me there waiting and you cut me off.”

“Yeah,” he said, with a smirk. “I did and I beat you to it. Now, get your damn ass back in your car and don’t talk to me.”

“Don’t you DARE tell me what to do,” I seethed. “You’re a complete jerk!”

 His eyes looked scary as he suddenly started towards my passenger door.  Fortunately, my dog went ballistic and barked at him so loudly that he fled into Kroger’s.  Apparently, at only 10 pounds, she’s scarier than I am.

 Moral of the stories? Stand up for yourself no matter your age or size. If nothing else, it will make you feel better at the end of the day. And who knows, by speaking out you may just save someone else from the same fate.