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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAKE ‘GRAY’ THE NEW ‘GAY’

 

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When I heard that Hillary Clinton recently had a NYC salon closed to patrons while she had her hair colored, it made me feel pretty sad. It wasn’t that she paid $600 for the dye job. It was the fact that she felt she had to do it at all.

 For years, women have been given the message that ‘gray’ is not acceptable. Even my grandmother once fell for the TV ads that encouraged her to, “Rinse away the gray.” When the first rinse didn’t last, she applied some gunk that resembled shoe polish on her gray streaks. I watched her perform the task in front of the bathroom mirror. A few hours later she looked at herself and said, “Oh, dear. I look ridiculous.” And she did.

 Now I have many friends who would not dream of letting 6 weeks go by without a visit to their colorist. They tell me that it makes them feel better, “not to look so old.” But I believe that if we lived in a culture that accepted us as is, we would be lots happier AND richer. We don’t need something superficial to make us, ‘feel better.’ Our culture should make us feel good about ourselves just as we are–at every age.

 Isn’t it odd that in this day of political correctness, we accept every, conceivable minority group yet still consider aging, graying and the old negatively? And you know what’s really weird? The elderly are not even in the ‘minority’ anymore. We are the majority now. We need to change the lyrics to that ‘old’ song:  “Nope, the old grey mare ain’t what she used to be. She’s even more glorious now.”

 40 years ago I lived in a condo with a walking path that passed by my living room window. Every afternoon, an older lady took her daily walk. As she passed, I always stopped what I was doing to watch her. Her posture was straight and elegant, her stride, long and smooth and her hair? It was solid gray and swept back into a very, long ponytail. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Someday when I am THAT old, I want to look JUST like her.’ Looking in the mirror, I can see that I am well on my way.

 

 

 

 

FALL WELL

Boomers and Teens Hit the Segways!

When Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, war broke out. When I crossed mine, I merely landed flat on my back, upside down under a clump of trees. The Segway I had been riding just a few seconds earlier continued motoring backwards, back down the hill, off the side of the road and only stopped because it was hopelessly ensnarled in bushes.

I laid still for a moment, just long enough to realize two things: I was not hurt and the mosquitoes found my bare legs and arms irresistibly delicious. Just as I realized the latter, my husband began yelling, “Don’t move! Stay right there!” No way. I gathered myself upright, madly brushed leaves, twigs and bugs away and grinned. “Don’t worry,” I assured him. “Nothing’s broken. I fell really, really well.”

In fact, during the 4 seconds or so that I knew for certain that I was going to fall, I aimed for the dirt, heaved myself off backwards and to the right, while shoving the 100 lb machine away from me and to the left. And, when I hit the ground, I rolled to absorb the impact, just like they taught me in skydiving school 40 years ago!! Boy, was I proud of myself.

The Segway tour had been my idea. What better way to keep up with two teenagers than to have equal horsepower? Our guide had given us a brief lesson on how to ride the machines before we started. “Lean forward to go forward and lean gently back to stop.” The idea was to stay balanced so that you never had to come to a complete stop. Seemed easy enough and at first it was. We whipped around corners, sped down sidewalks, across streets, and giddily waved at passersby. Then we hit the park. The paths began to turn sharply and I lost a bit of steam and fell behind. Then came that long, steep hill.

Now I often advise my aging boomers to, “try something new,” “get out of your comfort zone,” and “stay active.” But after this week’s experience, let me add this: “If you’re gonna fall–aim for something soft,” “When you hit–roll” and “When it’s over–be grateful if nothing is broken.”

 

P. S. While researching Segways for this blog, I learned that I am not the only one to have taken a tumble.  Presidents Obama and Bush have both fallen, and the owner of Segway was killed a few years ago when the one he was riding plummeted off of a cliff. 

YOU’RE OLD. I’M NOT.

 

 

 

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In the middle of a heated discussion on gender equality this evening, my 21 year-old, exasperated with my stance, suddenly said, “Well, you’re in a state of cognitive decline. I’m not.” I thought about that for a moment but said nothing. Technically, she is right. The interesting counterpoint, however, is that I STILL have 40 years experience on her and that is a HUGE difference—in MY favor.

Granted my neurons don’t ‘fire’ as quickly as they used to but I have a whole lot more embers to choose from than a kid who has yet to graduate from college and live on her own yet. That alone is a game changer. She’s never paid rent let alone a utility bill. Her first one will be a shocker: I won’t be running around after her turning off lights and raising the AC temp! And a box of raspberries in the fridge will no longer be a quick snack waiting to be scarfed up. It will someday be for her, what it is now for me: a luxury.

Isn’t it strange how ‘old’ and ‘grown up’ we feel when we are young and how ‘young’ we think we are even when our hair is gray? Apparently idealism isn’t just the bastion of the young. A recent AARP study found that 85% of people over 50 don’t think they are ‘old’ yet and half of them believe that their peers are clearly ‘older.’ Translation: You’re old. I’m not. My favorite finding is that almost half those over 70 think it’s fine to “make jokes about old people.” Only 25% of 40 year-old’s agree. Translation: age also makes you less uptight.

Which brings me back to tonight. I love that my daughter has strong opinions and voices them. I admire her passion and zeal. I also know that one day both will dissipate with time and experience. 40 years from now, I hope that she, too, will quietly smile if some youngster refers to her ‘cognitive decline’. She will know better by then of course, because she is my daughter!

**Helen Hudson speaks around the country on Aging and all things Alzheimer’s.  Visit her website at http://www.helen-hudson.com for upcoming events.

FIVE THINGS YOU DON’T DO OVER 50

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1. Fluff your hair and reapply lipstick when the cop pulls you over for speeding. (You’re desperately trying to remember where you put the registration).
2. Cut in line. Anywhere at any time. (At your age it just looks bad).
3. Laugh out loud at something on your cell phone while intimately seated in the company of others at a restaurant. (The light’s too dim to read your screen.)
4. Imagine your life 50 years from now. (You know you won’t be here.)
5. Take nude selfies on your Snapchat. (You don’t have a Snapchat.)

Five things you might do:

1. Fluff your hair and reapply lipstick after you get a citation. (You’re stalling so the cop will pull away first.)
2. Move ahead in line when the youngster in front of you is distracted by their cell phone. (If they do notice, you’re old enough to pretend you didn’t see them.)
3. Laugh out loud when someone else does while they are reading something on their cell phone. (If they notice that you laughed, too, they’ll wonder how you saw their message from that far away).
4. Remember moments of your life over the last 50 years. (Ah. . .there are so many.)
5. Sign up for a Snapchat. (If only to remind your kids you’re still HERE!)

 

‘OLD LOOKING’ YOUNG

skype helen

Striding into my sixth decade, I have finally accepted the fact that I am no longer 21. Looking in the mirror has not convinced me because I still see my younger self in that reflection. I can do the math: my own daughter just turned 21. That wasn’t the clincher either. Even my husband insists that, “the obvious eludes (me).” So why, have I only come to this realization now? Well, if other people and Mother Nature weren’t constantly reminding me, I might still be oblivious. This week alone, these things happened:

1. the bag boy asked if I “needed help” carrying out the tiny sack that held only grapes and yogurt.
2. Looked at a photo of a trip I took last summer and recognized everyone in it except for ‘that woman with the gray hair.’ Then I put on my glasses.
3. In Pilates, the girl next to me admired my splits and asked for help after class. As we stood facing the mirror, I noticed that I might easily pass for her grandmother.
4. Realized that Menopause is already a distant memory.
5. Beamed to see that my muscles are strong from daily workouts, but frustrated that my skin flat-out refuses to hold on tight! It sags sleepily from my thighs and swings like small hammocks when I wave my arms.
6. Laughed REALLY hard when some dope said that “60 is the new 40.”
7. Realized that my husband and I don’t try to get our kids out of the house so we can have ‘alone’ time anymore. Instead, we strategize how we can see them more.
8. Calculated how many years the dog and I have left together. Wondered also, if she goes first, will I outlive another one?
9. Noticed that my AARP card is wrinkled.
10. Figured out that the “Lifetime Membership,” our gym offers is actually a lousy deal.

However, just as I accept the fact that I’m not a kid anymore, I feel like one again. I’m in Starbucks with my daughter when suddenly, the cute, long-haired barista who often serves me, turns to her and says: “Hey. I hope it’s cool with you that I’m dating your mom.” She goes wide-eyed. I look at him in utter disbelief. He, however, keeps such a straight face that for one brief moment. . .the obvious eludes me!

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.

TIME CHANGES EVERYTHING

Everywhere you go nowadays you see ‘kids’ taking care of their elderly parents.  That wasn’t the case when I wrote, “Kissing Tomatoes,” 10 years ago.  At the time, publishers said, “Love the writing but no one will buy it.  Who cares about Alzheimer’s?”  Well, time changes everything. 

Just today, the woman in front of me at the pharmacy counter was waiting for her mother to write a check.  Dowager-humped and small, her shaky hand extended from a wrinkled, arthritic arm.  The wait for all of us was almost interminable.

Every few seconds, the daughter looked around nervously, then straightened her shoulders as if to keep herself from getting the hump her mother has.  She was so embarrassed holding up our line that I made small talk.

“Well, looks like you get to do all the shopping while Mom pays the bills.” 

She brightened slightly.  “Yes, we’ve always loved shopping together.  Just takes longer now.”

“No worries,” I replied.  “We’ll be there ourselves one day.” 

An hour later I dashed back to the same store for something I had forgotten.  The man ahead of me was turning his pockets inside out for change and holding a single bottle of water.

“I just need twelve more cents, right?” he asked in a nervous voice.  He was sweating and his face so flushed, that I feared he might be having a heart attack.

“Goodness,” I said to the clerk, “I’ll pay for his water.”     

“Oh no.  Can’t let you do that,” the man said.  “I have it here somewhere.”  He began searching his back pockets.  “I’m taking care of my mom,” he suddenly blurted.  “Never thought it would be this hard.  She’s driving me crazy.”

“How wonderful,” I replied.  “After all of those years she raised you, now you are caring for her.”

“Yeah, but the only problem is I can’t spank HER!” he laughed.

His car was parked next to mine.  As he jumped behind the wheel, I waved at the old gal next to him.  “Mom!” he yelled, “This lady just paid for my water.”  “How nice,” she said.  “And how nice that your son is looking after you,” I added.  “Oh, not for long,” she confided.  “The doctor said this thing I have will be over very soon.”  I glanced at the man.  He shook his head.  Yeah, time changes everything—especially us.

HELEN HUDSON HERE: BABY BOOMER SANDWICH ON WRY

     I never made it to Woodstock.  I was too young, didn’t drive and lived in the Arizona desert.   I listened to the music though, with a volume guaranteed to blow out eardrums for miles.  Couldn’t get enough of the music.  Dragged the needle back, over and over, to replay my favorite songs.   Wore lovebeads, went braless and flashed the peace sign to total strangers.  Pretended I WAS Janis Joplin in the shower with the door closed.  And while my generation did sing its share of romance & heartbreak songs, the REAL message of that era was:  FREEDOM. 

     At Woodstock, Tim Hardin sang, “A Simple Song of Freedom.”  Joan Baez, AND Joe Cocker sang “I Shall Be Released.”  The Who cranked out, “I’m Free.”  Crosby, Stills & Nash even asked us to, “Find The Cost of Freedom.”  My all time fave was Richie Havens,” singing “Freedom” with a passion and abandon that shook up my insides.  But who would ever have guessed that those barefoot, pot smoking, long-haired, free love children would find themselves so unfree 40 years later? 

     Our generation is not only finding their own kids still at home but now are facing the prospect of Mom or Dad also moving into that spare room over the garage.  Why?  You might blame the economy for the 20 something’s moving back.  You might shake your fist at science for making sure we live longer but the truth is we really didn’t prepare for the prospect of aging.  Nursing homes have long waiting lists & the price tag is steep. 

     Every 70 seconds someone will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  No, it wasn’t the drugs.  It’s our high tech, lazyboy lifestyle and it’s catching up with us.  What to do?  Move pops into that spare room.  You’ll save a ton of ‘bread.’  The kids are ‘free’ to keep their music blasting.  He might be a bit hard of hearing but music is good for the soul.  Feel free to put some black light posters up in his room.  Visual stimulation is healthy for the aging brain.  Take him everywhere you go & listen to his stories, no matter how often he repeats them.  Nothing makes an old heart happier. 

Then, if you’re real lucky, YOUR kids will put up with YOU when you start telling those Woodstock stories over and over and over again.  I finally found the cost of freedom the day we moved Granny in with us and it was worth every, single penny.  (From “Kissing Tomatoes,” http://www.helen-hudson.com)  P. S. Just read that 20% of us should EXPECT to get Alzheimer’s.

ALZHEIMER’S AND “KISSING TOMATOES”

     Spoke last week at the American Counseling Association’s national convention in Pittsburgh.  My topic was, “There’s No Place Like Home:  Caring for the Alzheimer’s Patient At Home.”  Having cared for my grandmother for 13 years in our home, this is an issue both personal and philosophical. 

     In 20 years, the US is predicted to have 11 million people diagnosed w/ the disease.  Add that number to the families & caretakers that will be involved & you have some idea what lies ahead of us.  If we don’t figure out how to care for our elders in their final years with both dignity & compassion, as other cultures have done for centuries, America will be sadder for it.  So will we.  We are all going to die.  If we are fortunate, we will all live to old age. 

     Our LAST chapter should be just as important as our FIRST one.  Indeed, by then one hopes we will have added something real and of value to the world at large.  Our babies, while precious and sacrosanct, have yet to offer us anything.  That will come with time.  Our elders have given us EVERYTHING and yet we abandon them in their last chapter.  It is their loss.  If they have Alzheimer’s, they will likely not even know it.  But we know it and ultimately it is OUR loss.  (http:// www.helen-hudson.com.  Read the first chapter of, “Kissing Tomatoes,” my memoir of those 13 years with Granny).