ROCK AND ROLL NEVER FORGETS – Rich Paschall

But Sometimes We Do, Rich Paschall

You may have run into someone at the mall or in the supermarket who looked a bit familiar, but you were sure you did not know him. Then he comes up to you and starts talking as if you are old friends. If you are lucky he will say his name or give away a clue to help you place him. Of course, you do not want to admit you do not know the guy’s name, but sometimes you just have to fess up. If it does not seem important to you, the conversation may end without you know who you just talked to.

It can be particularly embarassing if it is someone you recently worked with. I seem to put a lot of people’s names out of my brain as soon as a leave a job. The problem with that is you keep running into the same industry people at industry events and other jobs. Sometimes you just can’t seem to leave a job behind.

It’s not just former colleague names that can be a problem. You can forget  family names too. After all, how can you be expected to remember cousin Harvey or Harry or Hargrove or whoever, if you only see him at one holiday party a year? Sometimes it is better to forget old Harris or Harper anyway. If you are lucky, Harlin or Harlow doesn’t remember you either. Maybe it’s Harpo.

Foggy?

Anyway, we all seem to suffer from the case of walking into a room and then forgeting why we went in there. If it is the kitchen, I may just grab some food. If it is the front room, I may just decide to turn on the TV. If I have gone to the basement, I usually get distracted by the cat, so I can blame any forgetfullness on him. If I go to the bathroom… well, I usually remember why I am there.

Unlike many people who fear their memories are fading with age, I just think I have too much on my mind and I let it wander. I don’t give into the notion that I am “losing it.” I know plenty of young people who forget names or why then went into a room.  OK, I know a few.

Some of us can’t remember what we had for lunch 30 minutes ago, but can remember all the words to a song from 30 or 40 years ago. I have seen people do karaoke from memory, and not by looking a the small monitor with the lyrics. It is in this spirit we bring good news.

In case you have forgotten some of the best rock and roll songs, we are here to prompt your memory. This weekend we will have the top 10 Rock and Roll songs. That’s right! The best Rock and Roll songs. What do you think they are? No need to worry your grey matter over this. We are on the case.

I have been searching for weeks to bring you this list, Righteous Brothers! We will work The Kinks out of your brains and restore you to The Human League. No need to go down to the Beach, Boys, because the memories will wash over you. We will bring the Top 10 and you can Kiss a few bonus plays too. The work was a Risky Business, but we managed to dodge the Silver Bullet. Set your channel to SERENDIPITY Sunday.

ONE THING I DID NOT WANT TO BE – Rich Paschall

Old, by Rich Paschall

When you think of all the things you want to be when you grow up, “old” probably is not on the list.  You may think about being a doctor or nurse.  You may consider lawyer or politician.  Fireman or police officer may be on your list.  In fact, in your elementary school days you may have changed your mind many times. It is OK to dream about the future and fantasize about what you should do some day.

If superhero is on your list, you may have to give that one up rather quickly, unless you are Robert Downey, Jr.  He is still playing Iron Man past the ripe old age of 50.  I guess that is a commentary on keeping yourself in good shape.  Of course, he is just play acting, like we do as kids, and he certainly has a stunt double.  Your own life does not come with a stunt double, sorry.

If we give it any thought at all while we are young, of course we want to live a long life.  Therefore, we do want to get old.  If accident or disease does not rob us of life too soon, then we will indeed get old.  It is all the things that go with it that I am not too pleased about.

Contemplating the years

Contemplating the years as the sun sets.

I did notice the changes in my grandparents as they got older.  I am certain that I threaded needles for both my grandmothers at some point in time.  I knew they could not see as well as when they were younger, but I never thought about that being me some day.  Yes, I can still thread a needle, but I probably have to hold it at just the right distance in order to do so.  In fact, I really need trifocals, but I have settled for two pair of bifocals instead.  The bottom part is the same on each, but one pair is strictly for the computer.  The top part of the glasses are set to optimize the view from where the monitor should be, a little more than arm’s distance away.

This is not fooling anyone, of course, not even myself.  People can see I switch glasses in order to see.  I should have gotten the same style glasses so it would be less obvious.  When I am on Skype, and can see myself back on the screen, I really do not like the look but I am stuck with them for a while.  At least glasses have gotten better and these are not as thick or heavy as ones I wore years ago.

72-LensCrafters-Auburn-Mall_22

As my grandfather got older, I noticed he sometimes used a cane to help him get up, or walk around.  When he was in his 80’s, he never left the house without the cane.  He just might have too much trouble walking while he was away. Sometimes when I walk past a window or mirror, I think for just a moment the reflection I see is my father or grandfather.  My stepmother once said that I should take it as a complement that people see me as my father, since he was so handsome, but I began to think they saw me as they saw him later in life.  That is, old.

When you see pictures of me, you generally will not see the cane.  I set it down for the shot.  Years ago my doctor sent me to a sports medicine guy for a foot problem of still undetermined origin.  Maybe I was playing sports in the park long after a time when I should have moved on.  Maybe I suffered some trauma that came back to get me.  Maybe it was related to some disease I contracted.  In any case, I had it operated on, which did not help.  Years later I had another operation.  That did not help either.  I had many procedures in between.  Was it just an issue of getting older?  We will never know for sure.

I have heard it said that the aches and pains we feel as we get older are not a natural part of life and we should not just accept them.  Perhaps some accept them when they could feel better, but I have never accepted them.  I have spent a good deal of time getting to know my doctor and all that goes on in his business.  Yes, I might as well interview him a little, he interviews me a lot.  Together we have looked for solutions to my various problems.

The Gabapentin for the foot nerve pain does not seem to eliminate the problem, even if it lessens it.  The Lidocaine patch may numb the pain, but I cut the patch down because a completely numb foot is not a good thing for walking and creates a dull pain, which actually is not much better than a sharp pain.

My doctor does not like my diet or my cholesterol.  He seems to cast a skeptical eye at my insistence that I watch the cholesterol rating on the food I buy.  That does not include restaurant food, however.  Or what John cooks for dinner.  Statins did not work.  They created muscle and joint pain I could not stand.  The non-statin anti-cholesterol pills are not as effective, but hold less side effects, apparently.  Other problems and medications have come and gone. Parts wear out, you know.

Recently a high school class mate of mine wrote to say he had finally gotten in to a senior center he had applied for a while ago.  He had a variety of health issues in recent years and needed to get into such a community.  I wrote back that I could not imagine that any of us would be talking Senior Center, because it seemed like just a few years ago we were in high school together.

With any luck at all, old age will catch you some day.  You will probably feel it coming.

Related: Share If You Are Old Enough To Remember (humor)
To Not Grow Old Gracefully (Sunday Night Blog)

FATE IS IRREFUTABLE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Irrefutable

Bonnie has been changing. The relentless barking. Her unwillingness to sit with us on the sofa. She seeks out dark corners and no longer hears me when I call her. She also can’t see well and the other night, one of he teeth just fell out. But she sure does sleep well.

It was vet time yesterday. There was too much that seemed wrong and so un-Bonnie. We learned immediately that her teeth were awful — and considering we had them done twice in a row two years ago, they shouldn’t be that bad. But the teeth of small dogs go very quickly as they age. We have seen in it other small terriers and even though our vets are the most reasonably priced in the area for this work, she’s going to lose a lot of teeth. And she also needs senior dog bloodwork because, as the vet rather gently pointed out (he’s not always a very gentle guy), dogs change, much like aging people change with their years … and they don’t change back.

She isn’t the dog she was been for all the years we have had her, which is from baby dog — 9 weeks — to now. I trained her in the deep snow of winter and she was always the most charming of our dogs.

The vet delicately pointed out that since she is going deaf, is partially blind and to top it all, she appears to be getting a bit demented. Which is probably what all the barking about. These days, all she seems to know how to do is shout.

We need to consider her quality of life, the vet’s polite way of saying “That time is coming around again.”

We’ve had Bonnie longer than any other dog and while I know  — knew — always knew — this moment would come, I always dreaded it. Especially because we are getting too old to take on a young pet and too poor to manage old ones.

We’ve got a few months to think about it. To square up our elderly hunching shoulders and get it together.

I don’t think we’ll be getting more dogs. We are now at the point where our dogs are likely to outlive us. We don’t really have anywhere to send them, either. There’s no one to care for them if we are gone.

We have both throughout our lives had a morbid tendency to wait until too late to deal with the end game properly. We don’t want to let go. There’s nothing easy about it and even though we have two other dogs in the house — and I know part of the reason we got Duke was that the other two were getting old. We were not talking about it, but we knew. We didn’t want to know.

I’m quite sure Duke will be our last dog. I swear, he knows. Dogs know a lot.

I’m not going to make this a crying and wailing post. I have been through this too many times. It’s the worst when there’s no lethal ailment to make it inevitable but just a general winding down of a life.

I thought she would live longer. She’s small. I had hoped for a good solid 15 or 16 years from her, but she has been aging faster than seemed reasonable for the past couple of years. I could see it in her coat turning so quickly gray and odd changes in her behavior.

Technically, Gibbs is the same age but seems much younger. I’ve always wondered if he was really the age on his papers. He was kenneled and they lie about their dogs. So I think he’s good for a while … but I wonder how Duke and Gibbs will get on without Bonnie. She has always been the sweet spot between the two boys.

Talk about irrefutable. The passage through life always ends the same way. It doesn’t matter how well we feed them or how sweetly we love them or how they care for us. Time does what time does. Why do the best ones always seem to go first?

YEARS OF BRASS, YEARS OF GOLD – Marilyn Armstrong

I’m not one of those people who romanticizes the “old days,” but there are some truths worth remembering and revisiting.

I grew up in a different world. Play meant imagination. Physical activity. Jump rope, hide and seek, tag, Stickball because no one owned a real bat. Stoop ball, jacks. Building a “fort” or climbing a tree. Cowboys.

Toys were simple, not electronic. Getting a new doll was a thrill. She never needed a reboot, unless you count having to find her lost shoe. Almost nothing except flashlights needed batteries.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

If you were having a hard time with the bullies in school, you got up, got dressed and went to school. It didn’t mean you weren’t scared. I was plenty scared. It simply wasn’t a parent problem … it was mine. Yours. Ours.

You didn’t get a lot of pats on the back for “trying hard.” You might get an “attaboy” for doing exceptionally well, but you were expected to do your best. Nothing less was acceptable. Doing your best was your job. You took it seriously.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

You learned your lessons in elementary school so you could go on to junior high school and then high school. You had to do well in high school because if you didn’t, you couldn’t get into college. We all knew — with 100% certainty — if you didn’t go to college, you wouldn’t go to heaven.

Pretty much every family has members who didn’t make it. The ones who never found a decent job or formed a serious relationship. Or accomplished much of anything. If they happen to be our own kids, it makes us wonder what we did wrong. Usually, we have a sneaking suspicion the problem isn’t what we didn’t do. More like what we did do — too much.

I don’t think we should be mean and uncaring to our kids, nor am I an advocate of corporal punishment, but I think it’s important to recognize we didn’t get strong by being protected from every pain, every hurt. We didn’t get everything we wanted the moment we wanted it. Or, at least I didn’t. If I got one really cool present, that was a big deal. Now kids get so much, it’s meaningless. They don’t appreciate anything because there’s always more where that came from.

So, in memory of the good times, the bad times, the hard times, and the great times. For the schoolyard battles we fought and sometimes lost and the subjects we barely passed or actually failed — and had to take again. For the bullies who badgered us until we fought back and discovered bullies are cowards and for the terror of being cornered in the girls’ room by tough chicks with switchblades, wondering how you can talk your way out of this.

Being the only Jew, Black kid, Spanish kid, fat kid, short kid or whatever different kind of kid you were in a school full of people who didn’t like you. Getting through it and coming out the other side. Being the only one who used big words and read books when everyone else was watching American Bandstand. Being the klutz who couldn’t do the dances and never had the right clothing or hair. Then, finally, getting to college and discovering the weirdos and rejects from high school were now cool people.

Magically, suddenly, becoming part of the “in-crowd.” Metamorphoses. No longer outsiders. Whatever made us misfits were the same qualities that made us popular. And eventually, successful.

The fifties and early sixties were not idyllic, especially if you weren’t middle class, white, and Christian. Yet, whoever you were, it was a great time to be a kid. Not because we had more stuff, but because we had more freedom.

We had time. Time to play, time to dream. Whatever we lacked in “things,” we made up for by having many fewer rules. We were encouraged to use our imagination. We didn’t have video games, cable TV, cell phones and computers. We were lucky to have a crappy black and white TV with rabbit ears that barely got a signal.

We learned to survive and cope. Simultaneously, we learned to achieve. By the time we hit adulthood, we weren’t afraid to try even if success seemed unlikely.

We had enough courage to know if it didn’t work out, we’d get up, dust ourselves off and try again — or try something else. We knew we would make it, one way or another. When we got out into the world, for at least a couple of decades, we had a blast.

Here’s to us as we limp past middle age into our not-so-golden years. We really had great lives. We’re still having them, but slowly.

HOW GO YOUR YEARS? – Marilyn Armstrong

When I was in college, two of the women with whom I became friends were suicides. Neither of them was happy, but I would never have guessed either of them was suicidal.

One of them was just 19 when she killed herself. The other was 21.

For this reason, I have never assumed “everything is fine” for anyone. Even when you ask, you will only know what you are told and that is rarely the entire truth. People are secretive about their deepest fears and thoughts.

“How are you?”

“Everything is fine.”

“You don’t sound fine.”

“No, really. I’m fine.”

How many times can you ask before you realize you aren’t going to discover more? When people mention that aging makes them “think about mortality” I realize I began thinking about mortality when Karin died and then again when Anna jumped. Also when a young couple, just married, crashed their car into a truck and died on the highway.

Yet again, when my first husband got kidney cancer at 34 and lived, but still died young of heart disease and medical errors. Then my brother died of pancreatic cancer at 61. One of Garry’s colleagues — in her early 40s — died while waiting for a bus in Cambridge. When my first husband’s father died of his second heart attack at 52, I was pregnant and sorry he never met his grandson. For that matter, Jeff died at 53 and never met his granddaughter.

I knew a young person who died of a heart attack before age 21. Another internet friend, Rosa, died last year of a heart attack. I only found out when her mother called to tell me. She wasn’t yet 35.

And of course, there are all the friends our age who are battling cancer, dementia, heart conditions, not to mention the ones who have “beaten” cancer, but of course, you never really beat cancer. You are remitted and that will have to do.

When people complain about not being as active as they were when they were many years younger, I think they are missing the point. Age or disease can do you in at any point in your life. You don’t have to get old. You can be 21, an athlete, and collapse on the court.

The Dark Lord will have his way. When and how it hits you is partly how you used your body and your DNA. Depending on your constitution, your ability to walk, run, ride, or whatever you do may be compromised. Even eliminated.

Then again, are you breathing on your own? Do you get out of bed in the morning, even if it is a struggle? Do you find joy in your life? Do you laugh? Are there people you love who also love you? Is life interesting? Are you still curious to know what’s going to happen?

If any of these things are true, yay for you. You are alive.

Mortality is always with us, whether we are old or young. We may not be paying attention to it, or we may be under some delusion that we are exempt from “the end” because we exercise and eat right. But there will be an end.

Maybe, as Jeff used it say, it’ll be a runaway beer truck. Or something unexpectedly medical. It may be tomorrow or in 60 years. Whatever time you have, be gracious and grateful. Many people don’t get a life full of years. Others get the years and manage to be miserable anyway.

Enjoy your years, however many you have. And while you are at it, be nice to the people you know and especially those who love you and who you love. Kindness is the least expensive and most valuable gift we have to give.

HOW ARE YOUR YEARS? – Marilyn Armstrong

When I was in college, two of the women with whom I became friends were suicides. Neither of them was happy, but I would never have guessed either of them was suicidal.

One of them was just 19 when she killed herself. The other was 21.

I have never assumed “everything is fine” for anyone. Even when you ask, you will only know what you are told and that is rarely the whole truth. People are secretive about their deepest fears and thoughts.

“How are you?”

“Everything is fine.”

“You don’t sound fine.”

“No, really. I’m fine.”

How many times do you ask before you realize you aren’t going to find out anything more? When people mention that aging makes them “think about mortality” I realize I began thinking about mortality when Karin died and then again when Anna jumped. Also when a young couple, just married, crashed their car into a truck and died on the highway.

Yet again, when my first husband got kidney cancer at 34 and lived, but still died young of heart disease and medical errors. Then my brother died of pancreatic cancer at 61. One of Garry’s colleagues — in her early 40s — died while waiting for a bus in Cambridge. When my first husband’s father died of his second heart attack at 52, I was pregnant and sorry he never met his grandson. For that matter, Jeff died at 53 and never met his granddaughter.

I knew a young person who died of a heart attack before age 21. Another internet friend, Rosa, died a month ago of a heart attack. I only found out yesterday when her mother called. She wasn’t yet 35.

And of course, there are all the friends our age who are battling cancer, dementia, heart conditions, not to mention the ones who have “beaten” cancer, but of course, you never really beat cancer. You are remitted and that will have to do.

When people complain about not being as active as they were when they were many years younger, I think they are missing the point. Age will have its way. How it hits you is partly a matter of how you used your body and your personal DNA. Depending on your constitution, your ability to walk, run, ride, or whatever you do may be compromised. Even eliminated.

But then again … are you breathing on your own? Do you get out of bed in the morning, even if it is a struggle? Do you find joy in your life? Do you laugh? Are there people you love who love you too? Is life interesting? Are you still curious to know what’s going to happen?

If any of these things are true, yay for you. You are alive.

Mortality is always with us, whether we are old or young. We may not be paying attention to it, or we may be under some delusion that we are exempt from “the end” because we exercise and eat right. But there will be an end.

Maybe, as Jeff used it say, it’ll be a runaway beer truck. Or something unexpectedly medical. It may be tomorrow or in 60 years. Whatever time you have, be gracious and grateful. Many people don’t get a life full of years. Others get the years and manage to be miserable through all of it.

Enjoy your years, however many you have.

SOUP AND SANDWICH – RICH PASCHALL

There were many stories about Harold, the great planner from the Midwest who retired to an orderly life in Florida.  This was the first.


Everyone who knew Harold would agree; he was an orderly man.  Everything about his well-ordered existence was, well, “orderly.” That would perhaps be the only word to describe it.  He firmly believed in the adage, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”  That did not just include things, but it also included time.  Harold ran on a strict schedule and parceled out his time for maximum efficiency.  He was dependable, likable and predictable.

72-StPetePostcard-soft

Harold had been chief mechanical engineer at a plant that made small motors for big applications.

This work demanded designing a wide variety of parts for the many specialized applications.  Harold was up to every task.  He drew his special parts the old-fashioned way at his drafting table.

He kept copies of all his special drawings in a filing cabinet, organized by type of part.  His methodical brain could recall all the special requests to modify the little motors to power everything imaginable.  While you would have no idea all the appliances and machines and gadgets that required little motors, Harold could see them all in the depths of the storage places in his mind.

When Harold was approaching retirement, he knew instinctively that it was time to move on.  More work was being done by computer, and while Harold mastered the technique, he could not set aside his love of the drafting table itself.  A desk and computer were okay, but his computer-like mind held all the gigabytes he needed.  As for manufacturing the parts, that was now being farmed out to other places. He could no longer watch his creations made real in the machine shop.

The next phase of life brought retirement on the gulf coast of Florida.  This was not a retirement were you could just be lazy and do nothing.  Harold had imposed an orderly routine on his life.

There probably would have been no other path to happiness.  Harold’s road was clear and free from clutter.  His home was so neat and clean you would swear he had a helper.  There were few items out and on display as everything had a specific place to be put away and that is exactly what Harold did.  As for things that Harold did not think had a practical use, he threw them away, gave them away or recycled them.  He owned nothing that he could not imagine using in the near future.

For his weekly schedule, Harold chose Mondays for a walk on the beach.  A few moments admiring the Gulf was a retirement activity Harold felt worth scheduling.  If the weather was inclement, he drove into Sarasota for a little stroll through a shopping area.  He might look for items he previously recorded on a list.  Monday was the appointed day for picking up requirements, there would be no unplanned or hasty trips to the store.  Time was too valuable to spend wandering to and fro.  The only wandering of the week would be down the beach on the appropriate Monday morning hour for such things.

Tuesdays and Thursdays were spent in town at the local library.  Harold maintained a list of books he felt would be worth reading and set out to read as many as he could find.  If he did not finish the book at the library, he would check it out to make sure he had it on his next visit.  On a rare occasion he might continue reading at home when his schedule for the day was completed.  That only came when something he was reading really caught his fancy.  There certainly were a few good books on mechanical engineering and anything he discovered on the topic was a delightful find.

Fridays were for sports.  He read about the local high school and college sports in the morning.  He watched reports on the cable news channel, Sarasota Now.  In March, Harold carefully planned which Major League Baseball spring training games he should attend.  His love of sports was not quite the same as his love of mechanical engineering, but it came close.

lunch 2

While Harold might declare Sunday to be his day of rest, it was anything but that.  He cleaned the small townhouse on Sundays and checked many of the drawers and boxes to make sure everything was put away properly.  He reviewed the contents of the closets to determine if there was anything that no longer belonged.  Cleaning and inspecting everything could take Harold most of the day, but he did not mind.  It gave him a great deal of satisfaction.

Perhaps most special of all the scheduled activities was Harold’s trip to the Wild West Restaurant and Sports Bar every Wednesday and Saturday for lunch.  When Harold arrived at 1 pm sharp, cane in hand and smile on his face, every one greeted him warmly.  “Hello Harold,” the manager on duty would shout with glee, calling attention to his arrival.  At that the waitresses, would call out his name and people would turn around to see who entered.

“Hello Harold,” the bartender would say loudly so her “hello” was heard with all the others.  The broad smile on Harold’s face got even wider at all the attention.  It seemed the entire crew felt a bit sorry for Harold.  He was always alone.  He moved deliberately, carefully placing his cane down with his left hand every time his right foot took a step forward. While they considered Harold a simple, maybe even dim-witted but likable old-timer, and just wanted him to feel good, Harold was well aware that he got the added attention due to his apparent simple nature.

Once Harold found his table near the window, his usual waitress, Tiffany, came over to give him a hug.  “Would you like the soup and sandwich special?” Tiffany began.  “Yes, please, and I will have the chicken noodle soup.”  There was no need to ask Harold what he wanted.  It was ham and cheese sandwich with chicken noodle soup on Wednesday and vegetable beef on Saturday.

He enjoyed a bit of ESPN, a lot of attention and a good lunch. Then Tiffany brought the bill and wrote her name and put a big smiley face next to it.  So, twice each week Harold purchased attention and friendship for the price of the soup and sandwich special.

LIMPING INTO THE GOLDEN YEARS

I’m not one of those people who romanticizes the “old days,” but there are some truths worth remembering and revisiting.

I grew up in a different world. Play meant imagination. Physical activity. Jump rope, hide and seek, tag, Stick ball because no one owned a real bat. Stoop ball, jacks. Building a “fort” or climbing a tree. Cowboys.

Toys were simple, not electronic. Getting a new doll was a thrill. She never needed a reboot, unless you count having to find her lost shoe. Almost nothing except flashlights needed batteries.

If you were having a hard time with the bullies in school, you got up, got dressed and went to school. It didn’t mean you weren’t scared. I was plenty scared. It simply wasn’t a parent problem … it was mine. Yours. Ours.

You didn’t get a lot of pats on the back for “trying hard.” You might get an “attaboy” for doing exceptionally well, but you were expected to do your best. Nothing less was acceptable. Doing your best was your job. You took it seriously.

You learned your lessons in elementary school so you could go on to junior high school and then high school. You had to do well in high school because if you didn’t, you couldn’t get into college. We all knew — with 100% certainty — if you didn’t go to college, you wouldn’t go to heaven.

Pretty much every family has family members who didn’t make it. The ones who never found real job or formed a serious relationship. Or accomplished much. If they happen to be our own kids, it makes us wonder what we did wrong. Usually, we have a sneaking suspicion the problem isn’t what we didn’t do. More like what we did too much.

I don’t think we should be mean and uncaring to our kids, nor am I an advocate of corporal punishment, but I think it’s important to recognize we didn’t get strong by being protected from every pain, every hurt. We didn’t get everything we wanted the moment we wanted it. Or, at least I didn’t. If I got one really cool present, that was a big deal. Now kids get so much, it’s meaningless. They don’t appreciate anything because there’s always more where that came from.

So, in memory of the good times, the bad times, the hard times, the great times. The schoolyard battles we fought and sometimes lost. The subjects we barely passed or actually failed — and had to take again. The bullies who badgered us until we fought back and discovered bullies are cowards. Getting cornered in the girls’ room by tough chicks with switch blades, wondering if you can talk your way out of this.

Being the only Jew, Black kid, Spanish kid, fat kid, short kid or whatever different kind of kid you were in a school full of people who didn’t like you. Getting through it and coming out the other side. Being the only one who used big words and read books when everyone else was watching American Bandstand. Being the klutz who couldn’t do the dances and never had the right clothing or hair. Then, finally, getting to college and discovering the weirdos and rejects from high school were now cool people.

Magically, suddenly, becoming part of the “in crowd.” Metamorphoses. No longer outsiders. Whatever made us misfits were the same qualities that made us popular. And eventually, successful.

The fifties and early sixties were not idyllic, especially if you weren’t middle class, white, and Christian. Yet, whoever you were, it was a great time to be a kid. Not because we had more stuff, but because we had more freedom.

We had time. Time to play, time to dream. Whatever we lacked in “things,” we made up for by having many fewer rules. We were encouraged to use our imagination. We didn’t have video games, cable TV, cell phones and computers. We were lucky to have a crappy black and white TV with rabbit ears that barely got a signal.

We learned to survive and cope. Simultaneously, we learned to achieve. By the time we hit adulthood, we weren’t afraid to try even if success seemed unlikely. We had enough courage to know if it didn’t work out, we’d get up, dust ourselves off and try again — or try something else. We knew we would make it, one way or the other.

When we got out into the world, for at least a couple of decades, we had a blast.

Here’s to us as we limp past middle age into the so-called golden years. We really had great lives. We’re still having them, but more slowly.

HOW HEMINGWAY FELT – RICH PASCHALL

The Final Sentence, by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


In a cold and sterile room, Ernie sat on the end of a table. He waited in brutal silence for someone to enter.  He studied the floor intently through his boredom.  The light-colored tile was clean.  He could find no dust in the corners, although he examined the areas closely.  One small window that could not be opened allowed a little sunlight to fall to the floor.  The counter along the wall was clear.  The cabinets were labeled with the contents.  And a small chair awaited an occupant.

Ernie did not feel well.  He had not felt well for months.  Perhaps it was longer.  He had been somewhat in denial until recently.  His body could no longer ignore what his brain had tried hard to conceal.  The persistent aches and acute pains had become a fact of life.  Now there was this, the reason for his waiting.  His vital signs had been taken, and he was made to sit on the end of a rather hard surface, trying not to think of what was to come.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door.  The person on the other side announced himself and then came in.  He was a man in his mid 50’s according to Ernie’s way of thinking.  He was as official as official could look.  He sat in the small chair, put a file folder on the counter and began.

“Hello Ernie.  How are you doing today?” the businesslike gentleman asked.  He studied Ernie’s face for his response.

“Hello Dr. North.  I am doing OK, I guess,” Ernie lied in a tone that was not at all convincing.

“Really?” The doctor responded.  He had been treating Ernie’s ailments for over 15 years, so he knew all too well what were the complaints and attitudes that went with Ernie’s comments.

“Well, I guess it is not that good,” Ernie confessed.  “My neck and lower back are almost always in pain.  My right leg and arm sometimes get numb.  If I sit too long, it is hard to get up.”

This admission of his problems was a hard thing for Ernie.  He was only 61 and ardently believed that he should still be leading an active life.  He wanted to do everything he had done in his thirties.  As a bit of an adventurer, he wished to be off to foreign lands in search of new and exciting things to do.  He wished to climb mountains and paddle canoes down rivers.  He wanted to fish and to swim.  He wanted to ride a bike through small towns and villages of Europe.  In other words, he did not want life to change.  His hopes for the future could only be achieved with a time machine, however, and he did not have one of those.

The doctor proceeded to make a quick exam of Ernie.  He focused mainly on his coordination, flexibility and strength.  He was not pleased with the result.  He did not have to say that.  It was written all over his face.  Ernie knew it.  He was a good reader. Doctor North sat back down in the little chair and made notes in his folder.  Then he wrote a prescription and wrote down some phone numbers for Ernie.  He began with a voice that could only be described as sad.

“Ernie, I am sorry to say that your strength and flexibility are not what they used to be.  Some of this should be expected as we age.”

Ernie sat motionless and expressionless as Dr. North went on.

“The MRI you had last week revealed acute cervical spine disease.”

His patient did not react, so the good doctor continued.

“You have degenerative discs.  That is to say your spine is in bad shape.  That is why you have these pains and the occasional numbness.  We will treat that with some prescriptions now.  Here is Prednisone.  And you should see a specialist for this.  These are my recommendations.  This is what we can do in the short-term.”  At that, the doctor handed Ernie some papers.

“And in the long-term, doctor.   What about that?”

Dr. North looked down to avert his eyes.  He thought a moment and spoke without looking up.  “It’s not good.  This is something we can not make very much better.  It will get worse in time. I want you to get all of your treatment options from a specialist.  He maybe able to relieve the pain for a while.”

“I see,” Ernie responded.  “I guess I know how Hemingway felt.”

“Huh?”

“Ernest Hemingway.  I understand the end of his life now.”

The doctor was not exactly sure what Ernie meant.  He was not a student of American classics and their authors.  Ernie was and he just understood something he could not grasp from high school until now.

“Fill the prescriptions and make an appointment with the specialist today,” Dr. North advised.  “Call and let us know when you have an appointment and we will send records to the rehab specialist.  Make an appointment to come back here in two months. And Ernie, I think you should stop driving.  Get someone to take you to these appointments.”

The doctor left the room and Ernie got up slowly.  As he stood his right arm and leg began to tingle.  It was as if he had slept on them and cut off circulation.  He carefully left the exam room and walked to the reception desk.  He handed the doctor’s charges and appointment instructions to the receptionist and began to walk away.  She called after him.

“Oh, Ernie.  The doctor has you down for an appointment in two months.  Would you like to schedule that now?”

Ernie responded with an odd grin and a simple reply, “No, thanks.”

At that, Ernie carefully walked to the door, opened it and went out into the quiet hallway.  He was never heard from again.

NINETY AND MORE: “IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE OBIT, EAT BREAKFAST”

A couple of nights ago, Garry and I watched an HBO show called ‘If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.” It was put together by Carl Reiner and it features his gang of over-90 year old friends from show business. Many of them are enjoying what you could only call extraordinarily good health, but not all. It’s a pretty good show and if you get a chance, you should watch it. It’s funny — it’s Carl Reiner with a dollop of Mel Brooks, so why not? But it’s also good sense.

Courtesy: HBO

Listening to these guys talk about getting very old — not just regular old — brought up a lot of consistent themes. All of them were busy. All computer literate. Most of them are writers. All of them felt the quality of their work was as good or better than it had ever been. Many of them said how grateful they were for their computers and being connected … and at least one of them commented that he hoped to die with his fingers on the keyboard.

From left, Mel Brooks, Norman Lear and Carl Reiner in the HBO documentary “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.” Credit HBO

There were other commonalities. All of them were healthy eaters. None of them were smokers. If they were ever drinkers, none of them are currently is. All of them exercised as much as life allowed. No one seemed resentful of having to give up fatty or fried food. No one felt that life wouldn’t be worth living if they couldn’t overeat or keep hold of their old bad habits. I got the feeling that most of them hadn’t had all that many bad habits anyway.

And all of them were enthusiastic and excited about life, even though — obviously — all of them had lost many friends and family to death. Because at that age, that’s the way it is. For that matter, at our age, that’s also the way it is.

Courtesy: HBO

It was the energy and enthusiasm which was so striking. And the writing.

I have always thought writing is one of those things that keeps your brain alive and working. When people ask me why I do this — blog — and why I write so often, I just smile. What else would I be doing if not this? What else could I do that would make me feel as involved and alive as writing does?

Young people assume that all very old people must be creaking along, barely able to walk, much less think. Some of us may have trouble walking, but mentally? I don’t think there is a smarter group of people anywhere.

A FACE-TIME FUNERAL – BY ELLIN CURLEY

On February 2, 2017, I wrote a blog about my husband, Tom’s, Aunt Helen. We went out to Rochester, Minnesota to celebrate her 100th birthday with her incredible and devoted extended family. Aunt Helen luxuriated in three generations of love and support from her two daughters and son-in-law, her four grandchildren and in-laws and her seven great-grandchildren.

Everyone loved Aunt Helen. Feisty and full of life at every age. A Red Hat party girl to the end. But after the big 100th Birthday Bash, she seemed to lose steam. One of her grandchildren many years ago told her that she had to live to 100. She made that her goal in life and achieved it. But having achieved that landmark goal, she stopped eating, lost contact and started to deteriorate. On April 12, she died.

Our Favorite Aunt

Of course Tom and I planned to go to the funeral. We knew in January that the next time we saw the Minnesota gang would be on this sad occasion. We bought airline tickets that got us in the night before the Saturday 11 AM funeral service.

Thursday night I woke up with a sore throat. By Friday, the day we were scheduled to leave, I was coughing non-stop, despite generous doses of cough medicines. I knew I couldn’t make the trip. So I drove Tom to the nearest airport and went home and got into bed.

A short time later, the phone rang. It was Tom. They were on the plane but there had been a delay. Some baggage apparently dented the outside of the plane and they had to wait for approval to take off. He was worried that the delay would cause him to miss his connecting flight in Chicago.

A half hour later the phone rang again. The flight had been canceled! Tom was now on a long line of irate passengers, all waiting to be rebooked on another flight to their destinations. Okay. Bad situation but probably not fatal.

The next phone call, at around 6:00 PM, had the really bad news. There was no other flight, direct or connecting, that could get tom to the funeral in time for the service the next morning at 11 AM. Not on any airline, from any airport in the tri-state area. Now neither of us was going to be with the family to officially say good-bye to Aunt Helen! Tom was dejected.

I picked him up at the airport and we drove home. A few hours later, the phone rang. It was one of Aunt Helen’s daughters, Tom’s cousin Barb. She had a brilliant idea. Barb’s daughter, Lisa, a pastor, had recently been able to watch her son’s basketball game in Minnesota, while she was on a mission in Africa, by using Face-time! We could watch the funeral by Face-time! The glories of modern technology! What a great idea!

So Tom in Connecticut and the pastor in Rochester coördinated their computers. Tom hooked his iPad up to the television in the bedroom so I could watch from my sick-bed. It was awesome! We saw the family and heard the beautiful eulogy that two of the granddaughters, Lisa and her sister Jennifer, presented together.

To top it off, they quoted my February blog about Aunt Helen in the eulogy! I was so touched! I had referred to the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. After watching Aunt Helen’s family in action, I had realized that it also took a village to get someone to the age of 100. They agreed.

Another grandchild sang a hymn in the magnificent voice we had heard about but never heard. It was wonderful to be able to be part of the service, long distance. Later in the day, Lisa texted photos of the family out celebrating Helen with a beer. Her favorite drink.

I’m not very tech savvy. But I’m in awe of what can be done today to connect people through their personal devices. Maybe it’s the strength of this particular family that makes connecting so much easier. It is fantastic to be a part of this warm, welcoming and wonderful family, through sickness and in health, in person and by Face-Time.

YESTERDAY WAS ANOTHER COUNTRY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

“Yesterday is another country, all borders are closed.”

300-garry-kitchen-interiors-02012017_018

It was a wonderful piece of dialogue from “MidSomer Murders.” In the episode, Chief Inspector Barnaby is questioning a murder suspect about his whereabouts the previous day. The suspect tries to dodge the questions with thinly veiled irony. “Yesterday, Chief Inspector, is another country. All borders are closed.” Barnaby ultimately opens the borders and nails the suspect. Still, I liked the perp’s style.

Now that the new year is ending its first quarter, many folks would prefer not to think about the last year. Here, in the United States, many of us think of 2016 as another country with all borders closed. We don’t want to recall the epic long Presidential campaign and the result. Regardless, we’re in it now — and it’s every bit the nightmare we feared.

Reality bites. It has fangs, claws, and power in congress. Reality is taking a big ugly chunk our of our flanks this time around.

Our yesterdays are always subject to border closings, depending on how we remember them. I often write about legendary people I’ve met in my professional life. Those are pleasant stories to recount.

There are parts of my past I choose not to share. Those borders have remained closed. Rich Paschall, a fellow blogger on Serendipity, wrote a touching piece about heroes and icons we lost last year.  It jogged my mind to return to this piece that I began writing last week. Thanks, Rich!

A lot of the borders to yesterday are closed because we don’t want to revive the memories. I certainly don’t. They aren’t happy memories. They make me sad. I’ve never been good at handling emotions.

Someone recently wrote a Facebook piece about the pain of seeing a loved one pass away, deep in dementia.  Quickly,  I tried to blot out the images of Mom, whose last years were diminished by dementia. No luck. I could clearly see the woman who used to be Mom.  Strike that.  That’s what I was thinking in the moment, especially during the final months of her life. She was still Mom but she didn’t know me.

I struggled during those final visits. In  part, I struggled because I felt guilty I couldn’t come to see Mom more often. It was a four (or more) hour drive from Massachusetts to Long Island. During the drives, my mind would fill with images of a younger Mom. I could hear her laugh and see her smile. I remembered the things we did together over the years. In my mind, I saw her wedding pictures — Mom and Dad in the prime of their lives.

By then, Dad had already been gone for five years, yet I hadn’t been able to cry for him. Now Mom was slipping away. In what turned out to be my last visit, I tried my best to reach through the dementia, to reclaim a few moments with Mom.  I failed.

A few weeks later, in the middle of sub teaching a high school class, the principal and Marilyn entered the classroom. I instantly knew Mom was gone.

I was the main eulogist at Mom’s funeral. I’m a wordsmith. I could see people crying and smiling as I recalled my mother’s life. My stomach was tight, but I couldn’t cry. Not a tear.

I’ve talked to Marilyn about the grieving process. She understands and at least in theory, I understand too. Yet, it troubles me. I’m such a sucker for sentimental old movies, but real life is something else, something I find very difficult to share, even with myself.

72-Bette'sPix_05

I’ve tried to shoebox the frailty of life. Keep the anxiety behind one of those closed borders. Marilyn was 70 in March. I’ll be 75 in  a few weeks. We have lots of health issues and we work hard at not worrying about them. As the character in Bridge of Spies” said, “Would it make a difference?”

Would worrying more fix something?

Instead, we use our energy to enjoy each other and our life together. We feed off each other. The borders are open. For both of us.

TREMULOUS CONVERSATIONS WITH MY BODY – THROUGH THE YEARS

TREMBLE | THE DAILY POST

It’s not that I’m so terribly old. I may tremble when I walk and need support on rough terrain, but I still remember where I’m going and why I’m going there, at least most of the time. My once solid footfalls are shaky and tremulous, but if my body would be more cooperative, I could overcome this, I’m sure.

My body has developed a very bad attitude. I used to be able to count on my body. It would come through for me. Support my decisions. Help me to achieve my goals. Then, it began to need a coaxing and ultimately, outright bribes.

MIND: Hey, Body?

BODY: Yes?

MIND: I’d really like to go horseback riding.

BODY: I don’t think so.

MIND: If you let me do it, I’ll take you to the spa and get you a massage.

BODY: I will also need chocolate. And coffee. Lots of it.

The years have continued to roll along. Now, there’s no reasoning with that recalcitrant body. It has gone on strike and isn’t coming back to work without a substantial pay raise and vastly improved working conditions.

180-marilyn-body-mind-040217_03

Like I said: Really bad attitude!

YESTERDAY IS ANOTHER COUNTRY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

“Yesterday is another country, all borders are closed.”

300-garry-kitchen-interiors-02012017_018

It was a wonderful piece of dialogue from “MidSomer Murders.” In the episode, Chief Inspector Barnaby is questioning a murder suspect about his whereabouts the previous day. The suspect tries to dodge the questions with thinly veiled irony. “Yesterday, Chief Inspector, is another country. All borders are closed.” Barnaby ultimately opens the borders and nails the suspect. Still, I liked the perp’s style.

As we begin the new year, many folks around the world are thinking about the events of the past 12 months. Here, in the United States, many of us think of 2016 as another country with all borders closed. We don’t want to recall the epic long Presidential campaign and its result. We’ll have to open those borders in less than three weeks with the swearing-in of the new President.

Reality bites and this time, it has fangs and claws.

Our yesterdays are always subject to border closings, depending on how we remember them. I often write about legendary people I’ve met in my professional life. Those are pleasant stories to recount.

There are parts of my past I choose not to share. Those borders have remained closed. Rich Paschall, a fellow blogger on Serendipity, wrote a touching piece about heroes and icons we lost last year.  It jogged my mind to return to this piece that I began writing last week. Thanks, Rich!

A lot of the borders to yesterday are closed because we don’t want to revive the memories. I certainly don’t. They aren’t happy memories. They make me sad. I’ve never been good at handling emotions.

Someone recently wrote a Facebook piece about the pain of seeing a loved one pass away, deep in dementia.  Quickly,  I tried to blot out the images of Mom, whose last years were diminished by dementia. No luck. I could clearly see the woman who used to be Mom.  Strike that.  That’s what I was thinking in the moment, especially during the final months of her life. She was still Mom but she didn’t know me.

I struggled during those final visits. In  part, I struggled because I felt guilty I couldn’t come to see Mom more often. It was a four (or more) hour drive from Massachusetts to Long Island. During the drives, my mind would fill with images of a younger Mom. I could hear her laugh and see her smile. I remembered the things we did together over the years. In my mind, I saw her wedding pictures — Mom and Dad in the prime of their lives.

By then, Dad had already been gone for five years, yet I hadn’t been able to cry for him. Now Mom was slipping away. In what turned out to be my last visit, I tried my best to reach through the dementia, to reclaim a few moments with Mom.  I failed. A few weeks later, in the middle of sub teaching a high school class, the principal and Marilyn entered the classroom. I instantly knew Mom was gone.

I was the main eulogist at Mom’s funeral. I’m a wordsmith. I could see people crying and smiling as I recalled my mother’s life. My stomach was tight, but I couldn’t cry. Not a tear.

I’ve talked to Marilyn about the grieving process. She understands, but it still troubles me. I’m such a sucker for sentimental old movies, but real life is something else, something I didn’t want to share.

72-Bette'sPix_05

I’ve tried to shoebox the frailty of life. Keep the anxiety behind one of those closed borders. Marilyn will be 70 in March. I’ll be 75 in April. We have lots of health issues.

We try to enjoy each other and our life together. We feed off each other. Today, the borders are open.

GRAVITY IS A HARSH MISTRESS

I watch my feet and watch my steps. No more casually trotting down the stairs to pick up the mail … or anything. Mostly, it’s a balance problem. Especially going down. I have a tendency to lurch.

deck stairway steps down

I have fallen on steps. I’ve caught myself before hurtling to the bottom, but in my sense memory, I can feel my bones crunching as I hit the ground. Ouch.

Of all the indignities of getting old, my clumsiness and slowness is the most aggravating. I move like a giant sloth in a rain forest. I have to keep track of where my limbs are lest I knock things over, then have to search for them. Getting down on the floor is easy. Getting up requires knowledge of physics and considerable strategic planning. Until I learn how to use reverse gravity, “up” is a challenge.

Some days are better. If I’m on a smooth, flat surface, I can move reasonably well. Not a picture of grace, but I can do it. On uneven ground — a dirt path or a rough sidewalk — it’s not pretty.

72-bonnie-stairs-scotties-073016_027

It wasn’t that long ago when I could move normally, or mostly normally.I was downright spry back then. Maybe five years ago. It wasn’t that things didn’t hurt, but I could push them out of my mind and move through them. Can’t do that anymore.

So I’m careful. Slow. Watching where I put my feet. Very careful about footwear.

The world is designed for the agile and fleet of foot. I am neither.

CAREFUL | THE DAILY POST

NOT CHERRIES

A man, determined to find the meaning of life, sets out to climb one of the highest peaks in the Himalayas. He has heard that atop that peak, living in a cave, lives the wisest man in the world, the one who knows the truth of all things and the meaning of life.

After a long and nearly fatal climb, the exhausted man reaches the top of the mountain. He finds the cave and presents himself to the elderly gentleman residing within.

What life is not.

“Oh Great Wise One,” says the climber, “I have come to hear your words of wisdom. Enlighten me. Tell me the meaning of life.”

“Life,” says the Wise One without hesitation, “Is a bowl of cherries.”

The man is outraged by this facetious answer. “Bowl of cherries!!” he shouts, “What kind of answer is that?”

“You mean,” says the Wise One, ” … it’s not a bowl of cherries?”


They say when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I am not that tough. When life starts to overwhelm me with questions for which I have no answers, I tuck the problem on a mental shelf. I buy a pink plastic flamingo and name him Fred. I take some pictures. Or I write something.

None of this solves the problem, but every so often, if I procrastinate long enough, the problem goes away. Sometimes.

When you don’t have any other brilliant ideas, denial and delay are always worth a shot.