DO OVER

What Would You Change?  by Rich Paschall

If you could do your life over, what would you change?  Would you choose a different career?  Would you choose a different house or apartment?  Would you consider living in another town?  Another part of the country? A foreign country?

Would you travel more?  Would you see other towns, other regions, other countries?  Do you have adventures that remain unfulfilled?  Do you wish to do more exciting things?

Here’s a big one for you to consider.  Would you change your mate?  Would you have more or fewer children?  Would you stay single or get married, depending on what you current circumstance is?

Contemplative

Many people like to say that they would not change a thing.  They would do everything the same way.  Some say this defiantly so, as if defending the life that they have led.  That may be just a front, however, for certain family or friends.  Would we really do things the same way?

No matter what we insist to others, we all have made mistakes that we regret.  Would we not change these mistakes, if only we had the chance?  Would we not make better choices if we had the chance to choose again?

Do you recall a statement that you said you wish you could take back because it was insensitive?  Do you recall the gossip that you took part in, only to realize later that it was just a way to put down a coworker, neighbor, or family member that you just did not like at the time?  Wouldn’t the passage of time make us wise enough to refrain from such things?  If we took part in these things with the knowledge of our lifetime in front of us, would we not take a different course?

Perhaps you have seen the article, frequently reposted on social media (I have seen it a number of times, anyway), that talks about The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. These were collected by a nurse and published in a book.  It is summarized on Collective Evolution website. The list indicates that if these people could live their lives again, they would not take the same paths.  When they looked back from death’s door, there was plenty to change.

Top on the list was having the courage to live your own life, rather than that which was expected.  As we grow up, there are expectation of parents, grandparents, other family members, teachers and even our communities about what we should do in life.  Our roles are frequently defined by others and we, as loyal children and friends, take the path expected of us.  Would we now decide on “The Road Not Taken?”

Every male patient wished that they had not worked so hard.  They missed family events or other adventures while they worked extra hours.  From the perspective of the end of life, the choice was clearly a wrong one.  Yes, many need to work harder to support their family, but did we choose work, when another choice would have been better on a particular day?

Many wished they had the courage to express their true feelings, or that they had stayed in touch with old friends, or that they allowed themselves to be happier.  Perhaps they regretted all of these things.  So I ask the question again, what would you change if only you could?

If time and health are on your side, then you can still do many of the things you missed earlier.  You can still make amends for bad choices, thus undoing some mistakes of the past.  Of course, we can not now change everything, but that is no reason to be sad about the past.  We can use what we learned to move forward with better choices.

I think the desire to make up for missing some things in the past is one of the emotions that gives rise to the “Bucket List.”  Of course, you may put things on the list that are new to your thought processes, but how many of the things you would list now would actually be things you feel you missed out on in the past?  Is there some adventure you should have pursued in the past that you can still do now?

While there are many decisions I regret from the past, and some that I regret now actually, I have one basic problem with a “Do Over.” If I had made different choices in the past, would I still end up in the same place? You see, there are many things about the present I like as they are.  If I had gone a different route, would I eliminate some of the things I like about today?  Would some of my close friends be missing?  Of course, I would not know they were missing if I had gone another way.

Friends meet up in Strasbourg
Friends meet up in Strasbourg

My jobs in recent years have allowed me to make new friends in other countries.  In fact, one of my best friends lives in France.  We have travelled to France, Germany and England together as well as much of the USA.  I can not now imagine a life that does not include him.  I never thought of these travels or friendships when I was young, so I could not have consciously made the choice to end up where I am.

Because of my love of my current adventures and friends, I guess I really do not want a “Do Over.”  I just hope the knowledge I have gained from past mistakes will allow me to make better choices in the future.

From where you are right now, do you wish to go on with the knowledge you have gained, or would you rather have a “Do Over” realizing it may take you to a different place?

FLUMMOXED AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

Flummoxed by Life, Rain, and Dawgz

It’s a great literary word and I love what it means. To be completely (pardon the expression) bamboozled. Stunned. Lost in the complexity. Wandering mentally aimless. Made mentally woolly by the ghosts of the past.


”Naked and alone we came into exile,” Thomas Wolfe wrote. ”In her dark womb we did not know our mother’s face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth. . . . Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?”


And then he said … and he repeated it throughout the book: “Lost, o lost. Ghost, come back again.” By which he was remembering his dead brother.

I read this book– all of his books, actually — when I was 14 and 15. Those were my serious reading years.  Wolfe really spoke to me. “Look Homeward, Angel” was nearly 1000 pages of poetry. I don’t think I’d get through the first chapter today. My taste for poetry has withered on its vine. Even so, a really good poem grabs me by the heart.

A beautiful poem isn’t just words. It’s a cry to your soul and all of “Look Homeward, Angel” was a soul’s cry.

Duke on a rainy day

The thing that makes me bring up a book I haven’t read for nearly 60 years was that the main character in all of Wolfe’s books — especially his three early ones — was permanently flummoxed. The world meant little to him. He was never clear on where the boundaries between real and ghostly began or ended.

Gibbs

That’s how I felt then and sometimes today. It’s not dementia. That’s when I can’t remember a perfectly simple word because it has flown my mental coop and I have to find it on Google (how could I survive without Google?) … or just write around it until later when the word just shows up. Like a lost kitten who was hiding under the bed, the word looks at me and says: “What’s your problem? I was just under the bed. Didn’t you look there?”

This morning it was raining so hard I thought there was a strong wind blowing. I looked outside and realized the trees were shaking from the weight of water falling on them.

Gibbs was never housebroken. He got here, doped out where shit went and proceeded to become housebroken. Unless it rains. None of our three dogs likes rain, but Gibbs truly loathes it.

Snow? Not a problem. Cold? No worries. Light rain? Can handle that.


“HEAVY RAIN?
You want ME to go out THERE?
You go out. I’m home until it stops.”


Gibbs had already left a load for me in the kitchen, right next to the trash can. He’s very neat that way and never goes for a rug or anything soft. I threw the dogs out. Gibbs lay down in front of the doggy door and went limp. I had to lift his front end, push it out the door, then lift his butt (which seems to be growing) and pushed it out, too. Then I locked the door while I cleaned the kitchen and gave them fresh water.

They stood in front of the house. Dripping. Looking at me. Daggers to my heart. I let them back in, went to the bathroom and came back. Gibbs had saved a pile to remind me he is a proud, stubborn terrier. Amazingly, he also looked guilty and has spent the rest of the morning giving me his best “sad-eyed” look.  He knows he has done wrong, but if it rains like this again, guilt will not change him. At 11-years-old, this is not a dog with a lot of “give” in his nature. Much love, but little flexibility.

I could have gotten up earlier and tossed them out. I was tired. The bed was warm. Excuses, excuses.

I wasn’t flummoxed. I was tired, warm, and cozy — the lethal “stay in bed” potion. Pushing reluctant dogs out a dog door wasn’t on my list of “things I wanted to do.”

Life keeps getting livelier and I don’t understand how two long-since retired people could get so godawful busy this late in life. Life never seems to go where we want it to do, though sometimes —  maybe even often — it does something more strange, but better.

DREAMING OF LOTTERY WINS – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP #3 – IMAGINATION

I’m imagining my life if I really won the lottery. Would I fix this house, or knock it down and build a new one? What kind of car would we get?

I’m imagining spending the worst months of winter in a warmer climate … like … Arizona maybe? I’m imagining getting my teeth properly fixed and Garry getting whatever is on his wish list. Being able to afford to get the dogs groomed — which would require that they find the time to take them. I don’t think more money would help with that!

What does Duke dream about?

I’m not imagining how this would change my body because — other than my teeth — it won’t. We are what we are. With all the money in the world, we aren’t going to be doing vast amounts of traveling, although I suppose flying first class might beat out Economy. Okay so maybe a little better.

The ultimate non-repairable problem is you can’t buy youth or health. These matters are in the hands of larger powers than the lottery.

This is my favorite form of dreaming — the one where we get all the money we need and imagining how we can use it. Who we can help. How many others we can help dig out of the holes getting older has pushed them into.

Then I realize we have a problem.

We never buy lottery tickets. We intend to buy them, but we forget.  No danger of winning. Or losing.

No tickets, no bushels of bucks. Next time?

BROKEN? ALSO, DISCONNECTED – Marilyn Armstrong

Broken

I got up this morning in a pretty good mood. Bright sun, not humid. Looks like a nice day as spring heads into summer. Put up the coffee, gave the dogs treats. My son came over to install the new router and that’s when things started to go downhill.

The new one is exactly the same but bigger.

I hate new routers. It means everything which connects to WiFi is going to need a new password and a full restart. The phone started ringing … and that was when I realized we still have one, single hard-wired WiFi item in the house — my husband’s caption phone. I couldn’t get it to hook up and it turned out that this was because I had not yet fully installed the router itself.

To make this just a little more difficult, Garry’s phone is at the back of the house in his office. The router is in the middle room which used to be my office. And my computer is in the living room where I mostly live. I needed my computer. I needed information off the bottom of the previous router and I needed the serial number from the new router. It’s easily a dozen numbers long and probably 6-point type. Does anyone try to read those numbers?

I unplugged my computer and kept moving me and it from room to room.

Of course, this is the week that I had to reinstall everything on my computer and that meant I have new passwords and I don’t remember any of them. Although I used to have a NetGear account, I’ve apparently changed email addresses since then, so I had to register as if it were the first time.

I did that. Then I had to reinstall Garry’s caption phone and of course, it had a whole set of new software on it (we don’t reinstall it often, so inevitably when we do this, there’s always new software). Yet, I got all this done and somewhere in here, I vacuumed the floors, too.

I still hadn’t gotten a cup of coffee — was cruel and unusual punishment. I needed coffee!

The doctor’s scheduler called and lucky for me, that was exactly when Garry emerged from the bathroom. I set up his dates for pre-op and the surgery. Plus the first follow-up post surgery — and realized, I also had to arrange for him to get a meningitis shot. Which, it turned out, I have to get at the pharmacy, but not our usual pharmacy because the vaccine for people over 55 is different than the one for everyone else and requires a nurse practitioner. Which means CVS. Which I couldn’t speak to because they only have recorded messages. No humans.

I tried to call the hospital, but kept getting disconnected. By now, I’m breathing slowly and deeply because this is stuff I simply must get done, no matter how aggravating. It’s important. In the case of the vaccine, also expensive!

For reasons best known to our government, vaccinations (except flu) are NOT covered by medical insurance. Don’t ask. I don’t have an answer. A lot of our medical care is senseless and this is one of the more irksome items.

Garry wants a list of grocery to get and I feel brainless. I can’t give him an answer because my head is swimming with vaccinations and appointments and computers and I really, really need coffee.

It’s two in the afternoon. I still haven’t cleaned Bonnie’s eyes and I have no idea where I’m getting $150 for Garry’s vaccination. Some credit card, I assume. Lord knows how I’ll pay for it. I also have to change the post surgical checkup because it’s on the only day Owen can’t drive us there.

If I drink some coffee, I’m sure this will all work out. I’m sure of it. No, really. I’m sure.

It’s all about the coffee.

I MIGHT LIKE LIVING IN A BUBBLE – Marilyn Armstrong

LIVING IN A TRAVELING BUBBLE

I don’t like to talk about pain. So many people are in pain and many are worse off than me. My problem is mine is constant and can’t be fixed. The repairs they did back in 1967 crumbled decades ago. No one is willing to go back in there. It’s messy.

It hurts, but so would a surgical replacement. Take your pick. Naturally growing pain or surgical pain. I think I’ll go with natural. Because the cut to my septum (to repair my heart) never healed (that would be the cartilage that didn’t glue itself together  — the bones are fine) hurts when I breathe, when I lift, and sometimes, it just hurts.

It’s movable. Sometimes I can press here and there and make it settle down for an hour or two. Again, nothing they can do for it except open me up, cut it loose and wire it tighter. Somehow, I don’t think that is going to make me feel better. I’m a bit resistant to more surgery. I can’t imagine why.

An awful lot of people tell me it’s all a lack of exercise. The exercise I get is cleaning. The house. Washing the floor. Vacuuming. Changing the covers on the sofas. Hefting my  10-pound PC 100 times a day from my lap to the side table. I have strong upper arms, but my wrists are fading.

Constant pain is tiring. I walk. I could get a wheel chair but there’s no ramp from up here to down where it would need it. The chairs are not good on grass and other “rough” surfaces, so it wouldn’t take me where I want to go.

As long as I have legs that get me moving, I’ll will have to use them.

Some stuff doesn’t improve, especially at this late stage, but if I’m lucky, it might not get worse.

Medication helps, but there’s only so much I can take. Prednisone helps a lot, but it’s dangerous. It lowers ones ability to heal from injury, even very minor injury. I have problems with that anyway because of the heart surgery. Prednisone would make me feel better temporarily, but it wouldn’t cure anything. Though I think I deserve a two-week Prednisone break at least annually. Like a vacation, you know?

There was a time when a shot in both hips and my spine would give me weeks — sometimes a month or two — of living normally. It was heavenly. The more often one gets the shots, the shorter the relief from them. Despite rumors, they wear off. Unless you are dealing with a temporary injury or irritation, one day, the pain is back.

I hate the disappointment of the shots wearing off. I feel like Charlie in “Flowers for Algernon.”

I could also take pain medications earlier in the day, but they make me drowsy — which I don’t like — and they also wear off. Addiction is not on my agenda this year.

Some problems don’t go away. I get tired of people telling me it’s all “mind over matter.” These days, it’s too much matter and not nearly enough mind.

About that bubble. If I could get a bubble to carry me around, wouldn’t that be cool? A traveling bubble. A trans-continental bubble. An up and down the stairs bubble.

We aren’t going to be Mr. and Mrs. Popularity like this, I’m afraid.

And here the final irony: the thing that hurts most is just standing around. Not working, digging, lifting or walking. Standing in one place, waiting. If I am moving, even slowly, I can make my body do it. But standing still and waiting is a killer.

That and miniature golf.

A “NEW” OLD FRIEND IS AN OXYMORON

 

The red finches are back – old or new friends?

We were watching a show on TV last night and someone was about to dump one of his old friends from childhood. His father pointed out that as you get older, “old friends” become fewer, so if you want to still have anyone to talk to as you age, maybe you want to think about that.

“A new ‘old friend'” said dad, “Is an oxymoron.” Like “senseless violence” (when is it sensible?) or “an instant tradition,” you can’t have a new “old friend.”

Other favorite oxymorons —  if it’s “free for just $5,” it costs five dollars. Even if it’s “free” with shipping and handling, it isn’t free. When AT&T offers you a “free phone” and then tacks on $75 in taxes and fees … it’s not free.

Free means “costs no money.” Not “costs less than it would at retail.”

Probably, so is an upgrade that removes half the functionality you used to depend on. The people who run WordPress should ponder that.

MR. CASTEN’S CLUTTER

Stuff, by Rich Paschall

Only his neighbor Jorge knew the old guy was sick.  In fact, Mr. Casten had been failing for almost two years.  Whenever Jorge saw the old man, he asked if there was anything he could do to help.  When Mr. Casten was not seen for a week, Jorge would go knock on his door.  If the old guy felt well enough he would stand in the doorway and talk for a while.  If it was morning, he would invite Jorge in for a cup of coffee.

By the time Casten had passed away, Jorge probably knew him as well as anyone.  Their little chats on the stairs, in the doorway or at the kitchen table revealed a lot about an old guy who had lived alone in the same small apartment most of his adult life.  The place was stuffed with memories and memorabilia.

Mr. Casten had collected and saved things throughout life, but in the last few years he tried to de-clutter his small existence.  He gave things away to charity resale shops.  He sent pictures he had from his parents on to other relatives.  He even sold some items on eBay.  It was all too late to clean up the house, however.  Mr. Casten’s small efforts were not enough after a lifetime of accumulation.

Since there were no siblings, no children, no mate, the matter of cleanup and disposal was left to a crew of cousins.  Jorge know just who to call as Mr. Casten had prepared a list of contacts in case of his untimely demise.  Although Mr. Casten was only in his late 60’s, his death arrived right on schedule the way Jorge saw it.  Mr. Casten has gone as far as he could.

When the cousins arrived one Saturday morning to clean out the apartment, Jorge was waiting with the key that had been entrusted to him by Mr. Casten.  Four cousins and two of their teen age sons figured they would make fast work of the four room apartment.  They figured wrong.

“Oh my, who knew one person could collect so much stuff,” cousin Raymond declared.  “This could take all day!”

“Mr. Casten said to tell you guys to be sure to take for yourselves anything you want, then give anything else that is still good to charity.”

“And did you take something, Jorge?” cousin David said in a rather accusing tone.

“Yes,” Jorge replied calmly.  “I took the coffee cup he always gave me to drink out of.  It was the only thing I wanted.”

“Well, I heard he had a good baseball card collection,” cousin Jeff chimed in.  “I would like to have that if we can find it.”

“He’s got a lot of CDs here,” Raymond said in amazement.  “I think I will see what I need.”

“Hey dad,” one of the teenagers shouted out to David.  “He’s got a lot of DVDs. I am going to see if he has anything decent to watch”

As they randomly picked through the goods, cousin John grabbed one of the teenagers and said, “Let’s get to work.  With those guys working so hard out there, we will never get out of here!”

So John and a bored teenager went to the kitchen in search of large garbage bags.  “Under the sink,” Jorge instructed.

Armed with a box of bags, Jorge, John and the teenager went to the bedroom to empty closets and drawers.  John told the teenager to take everything in the closets and put it in bags for donation.  If it looked in bad shape, he should put it in a separate bag for the garbage.  John decided to do the same with the dresser.

As John and Jorge took items from the dresser, they found many new things in each drawer.  There were clothes with tags, new socks and underwear in packages, pajamas that were never worn and sweaters that looked new.

“I thought the old guy could not afford much,” John said in amazement.

“I think he was always afraid of running out of something,” Jorge said.  “He told me more than once that he was afraid to be poor and have nothing, so he kept everything and did not use anything until he needed it.”

“If he lived another 10 years he would not have to buy any clothes,” John said somewhat incredulously.

“Yeah, I think that was the idea,” Jorge noted.

Mr. Casten’s mother had grown up in the Great Depression.  She had nothing, so in her adult life she saved everything.  Anything that had value or possible use, she would save for whenever she might need it.  Of course, she had many things she never used, but they were there “just in case.”

When Casten was young, he knew they did not have much and he saw how his mother managed to get through the years with what they accumulated.  He naturally took on the same habits.  While everything may have seemed a jumbled mess to outside observers, especially cousins who never came to call, it was an organized home for Mr. Casten.

After many runs to the resale shop and the outside garbage cans, the crew had made a good deal of progress.  John declared he would return with one of the boys to finish the job the next day.

“That box in the corner marked pictures should also say ‘Cousins’ on the top,” Jorge remembered to tell them. “You should take that with you.”

“What would we want with a box of old pictures?” David said rather sarcastically.

So Jorge explained that collection.  “Mr. Casten thought that maybe someone would want to see them at a wake or service to remember how he looked, since he had not been invited to any family event in years.  I would guess you guys would be in a lot of those pictures from long ago.”

The cousins said nothing.  John grabbed the box on the way out.

Jorge closed the door.

See also: “The Accumulation of Stuff,” Reducing Clutter