Darling I am Growing Wiser

I never planned on being old.  I took it for granted that I would die before my 60th birthday…no, scratch that…I planned on dying at 58 because my mother died at 58 and I knew I would never live to be older than my Mother. How or why I arrived at that particular bit of  wisdom I haven’t understood since I turned 59.

I turned 60 and I was convinced that I had miscalculated.  What I was not convinced of is that there was the possibility of sticking around to 93  Yet here I am, seemingly living up to everyone else’s opinion that I would “out live us all.” People actually applaud my cleverness in living this long when really,, all I have done is not die.

There is a rumor that “with age comes wisdom” I believe it.  Unfortunately the thing I have learned most frequently is that an awful lot of the things I congratulated myself on were wrong.

Now who wants to learn that at 93?  Certainly not I.

I DO realize that I am a lot luckier than an awful lot of people. For instance I DO know that that particular sentence is really poor. It is not a number of awful people…numerous would be better or a large number would suffice…but I knew that before I hit 93 so that is a bad example.

Let’s start again.

I spent a great deal of my life using the phrase “People are no damn good,” as my mantra. I am now going to admit that I was – well – exaggerating, and the proof, unbelievably, frequently lies in the behavior of millennials.

It’s my damn cell phone. We, my cell phone and I, are not very frequently in sync.

Just recently I sold my car and began a life of Ubering or Lyfting All by itself, giving up driving is a blow to the heart…an admission that you are, if not old, at least getting there.

Then you add the cell phone. You can’t have one without the other.

My daughter was patience personified trying to teach me the ins and out of summoning a car, and after every lesson I felt sure I knew what to do. But no. Son John and his extremely patient wife, Eileen, offered to make the calls for me, but I was determined to overcome.

And I Have.

Here is a perfect example of wisdom and aging. These days when I go shopping and need to summon a car to pick me up – and for some unfathomable reason I cannot connect with my cloud, I casually but confidently, hold out the phone to any available young person and say…

“I need to call Uber. Can you do that for me?”

The young person smiles. And conjures my Uber. The young person does not ignore me, nor, shockingly, turn to stone in the process. More importantly, I do not turn to stone in the process.

Being able to ask for help is a certain sign that you are – finally – growing wise.uber

Don’t Even Think About It!

I am, on the whole, a good patient.  I have a high tolerance for pain and enough

of my mind left that I can participate in my own care. So, when my doctor says to me , “Betty, you need to get more exercise,” –  I am willing to try exercise.

Something I must admit I have avoided with amazing success up to this point.

But, what to do?  

“Join a gym,”  friends say, which I could  but never would  do.

One well-meaning friend suggested golf. ³ “You get to spend some healthful time out doors, the walking is good for you, and it¹s immediate

gratification whacking that ball and watching it arch through the air to land on the green so far, far away.” I would happily join in that kind of euphoria, but it ain’t gonna happen. The one time a friend took me to a practice green so that we could enjoy this wondrous experience together, I was so bad that people around us stopped practicing their own swings in order to watch me miss that damn ball.  Finally one of the spectators came over and suggested to my companion that he should take me home because nobody could get any practice in. They were mesmerized.

I used to be a rather fine horsewoman...rodeo riding and all, but these days no stable will let me near even one of their more benign horses.  I might fall and break. Disney won¹t let me on his toys for the same reasons. 

Okay, so the question still remains: what to do?

Walking is good.  Everyone agrees to that it seems.  My doctor certainly thought it was my best option. “You can control your own pace and distance. You get to admire the blue skies and breathe deeply of the fresh air,” he said.

But wait!

Fresh air?  This is California.  Southern California! Remember fire and ashes in the air and the dreadful heat?

I point this out to the doctor and I can see him rethinking that advice. But he seems to have his heart set on this walking-thing. He quickly adds,:

“Just don¹t go out until the fires are under better control. And until the record setting heat has gone. AND – don¹t go out in the noonday sun.”

And I, always ready with a song title, fill in the rest of that line with Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Noon-day Sun.”

However, my doctor, like many of my readers, is much too young to remember that classic bit of music frivolity by Noel Coward. He looks a bit disconcerted and makes a hurried note on his computer.  He tries to explain to me what he means but at the same time, I am busily explaining Noel Coward, so I didn¹t listen. We blink at each other and he tries again.

“The best place until the air clears,” he says, “Is probably in your own home.”

 He asks if I have good air conditioning and I assured him that I do.Š

BUT…”I begin.Š“He doesn’t listen for the “but” part.  He takes a deep breath and hurries on “Why don¹t you just map out a path that takes you all the way around the house and through all the rooms.  Do it for about a half hour, stopping for a drink of water when you think you need hydrating.”

He looks so relieved at having arrived at this master stroke that I don’t have the heart to explain my Tiny House to him. But the fact is I have already mapped out the exercise room available to me within the four walls of my own T.H.

I can take 17 steps north and 17 steps south.,. so, in order to achieve the 10,000 steps I have heard real enthusiasts mention as a healthful daily goal, I would have to make

Oh good lord, I don¹t even want to think about it! 

So I won¹t.

Traditions

Age-old traditions are falling by the wayside. Gentlemen do not have to rise each time a woman enters the room, or walk on the side of the pavement closest to the ongoing traffic just to be in position to save his ladylove from the galloping horses that might threaten her.

Women are allowed to wear slacks to church, fairly secure in the knowledge that the priest, minster, guru, whomever, might embarrass her with a statement that at one time, was actually said by the man (who, these days, could be a woman) officiating:

“Any woman,” he said, “who is wearing pants, will kindly leave this church!”

But that WAS, strictly speaking, the traditional stance of the church.

So traditions change.

I don¹t believe my grandmother would believe half of the marriages conducted today should be allowed.

I can hear her now!

“What do you mean she isn¹t getting married in church!”

“What do you mean the bride is not going to wear white!”

“What do you mean that woman has the nerve to wear white?  Everyone knows about her and Mr. Smith!”

and, finally:

“I DON¹T KNOW WHAT THE WORLD IS COMING TO!”

But some traditions survive despite all.  One of my personal favorites was triggered by the wedding recently of my granddaughter Celia, Jr., to her love, Rodney.

Everyone knows this refrain:

Something old, something new,

Something borrowed

and something blue.

I don¹t now why it lingers, but linger it does. And the single thing that makes that so very important to me is that Celia chose – as her “something old” – to wear a bracelet I gave to her a few years back.

It is a simple, gold band.

Not a show stopper – just a lovely bit of decoration. But its history is long, and the fact that it has survived and goes on is important.

Okay, now this is not a change of topic, just some background:

When I went to Temple University in Philadelphia so very long ago, I developed a warm and ultimately wonderful friendship with a girl named Zelda.  Zelda Goldich.  The name probably tells you that Zelda was Jewish. She was my first Jewish friend as I was her first Catholic.  Her grandmother was a wonderful older lady who cooked all kinds of great foods for me, but wouldn¹t eat with me because I wasn¹t KOSHER. Zelda was a bit vague on the details and I was wary of asking too many questions.

But I knew Grandmom liked me. She would introduce me to any visitors in the house.

“This is Betty Sex,” she would announce.  “She isn¹t Jewish but she¹s a good girl.”

The name came from Bubba¹s inability to understand my name, which was Steck, so ‘sex’ was the next best thing.

And now, back to the bracelet.

By the time Grandmom died, Zelda was in New York and I was

in Philadelphia.  Zelda was an independent woman in an era when everyday was a fight for women¹s rights. She confounded her family by living alone in a fifth floor walk up for years – up until the time, in her fifties, when she called me to tell me she was sick and needed help.

I raced to New York, hired an ambulance and brought her back to her family in Philadelphia.

Now, the fact is, Zelda was a rather difficult person to know. But I knew her, and loved her and spent a lot of the next two years helping her.  She lived alone in an apartment in Philadelphia, but her mother was in the same apartment building as were her uncle and aunt. Everyone worked to making life as good as it could be for my friend. But for a woman like Zelda, it was often easier to let her guard down around me, because she thought we were a lot alike.

Unavoidable, and not soon enough to avoid the horrors of a ravaging disease, Zelda died.

She left me that bracelet.

In her last goodbye she told me the story of the bracelet.

Zelda¹s grandmother came here from Russia as a bride – probably somewhere in the late 1800s. They were not rich but were always able to take care of their needs.  She brought very little from Russia.  Some linens that had been carefully embroidered by either Grandmom, herself or her family members.  Apparently they were not allowed to bring much of value with them and the bracelet was hidden somehow so whenever police-type persons checked for things would not find it and take it from them.

Zelda wrote that, while she had very little of great monetary value, she did have the bracelet, and she wanted me to have it because I cared.  Those were the word she used – I CARED.

A few years ago I decided that the bracelet needed a new life to keep it moving. After all am not going to live forever – though it sometimes seems I might.

So I chose to give it to Celia, and to trust that she will bring it the honor of living with someone who is choosing a life aimed at helping others.

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Doing good.

Offering kindness.

AND CARING.

 

 

 

Ode to David Traub

david and jay for blogIt’s been a little over a year since they told me.

“David is dead,”  they said.  But in my hospital bed, drunk on the pain killers and whatever else it was doctors were using to keep ME alive, I felt nothing.  I remember looking from the face of my son John who had said the words, to Ron who was watching, warily, wondering if I could take it, to Jay, David’s beloved husband and my dear friend, who looked as empty as I felt.

Ultimately the emptiness was replaced with pain and pain with fury.

It wasn’t fair!  I should have been there!  What kind of a God would take David away from me without giving me a chance to say goodbye?

And then one quiet evening, Jay knocked on my door.  He didn’t say anything – or at least that’s how I remember it.  He just held out a lovely card,  and smiled.

I took it and read it and then I cried

God, whoever and whatever he means to you, HAD given me my chance to tell David I loved him.

And I had used it as well as I could.  I wrote it down.  In RED ink.  Because everyone knows that things written in red are VERY important.

It was about 10years old this card, but if I were writing to him today, the message would be the same.

Dear David

I want so much to write something really clever here.  I want it to say how much I appreciate having you in my life and how aware I am of all you do for me. – so quietly, so selflessly.

You make it so easy to accept help that one might take it for granted.  And I do sometime.  But I don’t mean to.  Ever!

I am forever aware that you have brought something kind and wonderful to my world,  You make it possible for me to believe there is still grace in the world.

In the past, when I would do something nice for someone, I frequently felt unappreciated.  Then someone would say to me, “What goes around comes around.”  Personally I felt you had to   do good things because you want to – or have to – to live with yourself.

Then you arrived in my life – and if you are my payback, I won the jackpot.

Thank you so much for all of that.

I love you dearly.

Betty.

AMEN

Bowling with Watermelon

 

The old adage “If someone gives you lemons, make lemonade” makes a lot of sense.  But God didn’t give me a lemon. He gave me a watermelon. From Ralph’s.

There are many, deceptively easy things you have to do before loading one of those green beauties into you cart. 

For example: I have watched people – usually men people –  attack the problem. 

First they study the display and try to figure out just how to get to that third melon from the left without sending the entire display flying and splattering over the store.

Then, satisfied that they can do it if they are careful, they make their move. They manage to get the thing up so they can sniff at it, pound on it, and listen for a sound I don’t hear. If there is a god, the first one is the charm, otherwise, they do the whole damn thing again.

But there is an easier way.  Find someone who works at the store, preferably in the Fruit and Vegetable department, and ask his expert opinion.  Most people, and again I say men people, are eager and willing to display their expertise in such matters. If you think about it, you are really doing him a favor by offering him an opportunity to show off under the guise of being helpful. I don’t actually see many Fruit and Vegetable women-experts, so I have not had to formulate a theory about them.

Sticking to men.

Anyway.

It took a few minutes, but I did find a very helpful, and possibly even more beautiful than the watermelons, young man who did all of that pounding and listening, and placing of watermelon into my cart, for me.

Checking out was easy.  The cashier and her assistant moved all the groceries from my cart and repackaged them for the trip to my car.  

The helper even insisted on taking the trip with me.  She placed the bags, heavy laden though they were, into my car and I drove home.

Up to this time I hadn’t even touched that watermelon. But now, alone in my driveway, It was all up to me.

Okay.  It WAS a thing of beauty.  Shiny and bright and tremendously green.  But it was also on the floor of my car, and when I tried to lift it, I discovered something.  The freaking thing must weigh 30 pounds. I wanted to cry.  But I don’t approve of crying.

This is where having my kind of mind comes in handy.

I keep, on the side of my driveway, a cart for just this purpose: to carry things from the car to the door.  So all I really had to do at this point was shove the thing into the cart.

Unfortunately, it didn’t shove.

Now it was MY turn to study the problem mentally.

GOT IT!

I opened the car door as wide as I could, then got back in the driver’s seat and kicked the watermen – fairy hard.  Hard enough to get it through the door, so it fell right into the cart.

YEA Me!

I got out, grabbed the handle and dragged the cart up to the doorstep.

The. Doorstep. I forgot to plan on the doorstep.

But I’m not down yet! 

I opened yet another door, this time into my tiny House.  Ahead of me lay a surprisingly long corridor.  Long for a Tiny House that is.  But it IS straight and it has very little wobble room.  

Using the cart handle as a lever, I tipped the cart up, onto the step and propelled the watermelon straight down to the kitchen. Like bowling. With a green ball.

Attachment-1[1].jpeg

Now, all I had to do was get it off the floor and into the sink.  

Okay?  No.  Not okay.  It still weighed 50 pounds.    I know I said it weighed 30 pounds, but that was hours ago.  It was now 50. 

Closer to fury than tears, we challenged each other. My house.  My rules.

I decided to slice the thing in half before even trying to get it up off the ground. I grabbed a large serrated knife and plunged it directly into the heart of the watermelon.

Now all I had to do was slice!  I stood up and gave the knife its first twist. It did nothing.  I tried again…Nope.  So I pulled it out.  Ooops.  No I didn’t. It would’t move.

Now I was outnumbered.  I had TWO enemies.  The watermelon AND the serrated knife.

United they stood.

Alone I fell

Stay Calm and  Carry on.

I have a plan. 

I will sit here and wait for Jay.

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Forget Me Not…Forget It!

Every time I mention one of those dreadful “Senior Moments” that seem to dog very day of my now rather ancient world, some well meaning, but clueless friend attempts to sooths me by smiling gently in my direction and saying,…”Don’t worry about it. I have those all the time and I’m only 59.”

Actually folks 59 or 120, the fact that you have senior moments too is of little or no comfort to me.

I don’t think I’ve missed any. The dash in to the kitchen. The sudden stop when I realize I have no idea why I’m there until I smell the burning eggs and toast that was supposed to be breakfast.

The lost keys that I know I put on their hanger in the kitchen but which have mysteriously migrated to – who knows where.

I have, on too many occasions, jumped in to my car ready to go…but I can’t recall where I was headed. Oh wait. Ralph’s. But why? I went to Ralphs last night. So I head back to the house and get ready do the laundry. Which reminds me of why I was going to Ralph’s. I’m out of…something. Laundry soap. No. Fabric softener. Nope. Sock clips…Nope. Bought those last week.

Got it. I want to wear the red dress tomorrow and I have to wash it in especially gentle soap and cold water because it runs and I have to wash it separately.

Back to the car. Didn’t bring the keys. And I forgot that I gave the red dress to the local thrift shop on Thursday

You getting the idea?

I have tried many times to “get organized.” I have had serious conversations with me about it. I have bought books and magazines that assure me that getting organized is really child’s play And FUN!

Those people lie. ORGANIZING ONES SELF IS NO FUN AT ALL!

You know those heavy duty magnetized notebooks people hang on the fridge? I have three of them…all with pens attached.. One is for everyday shopping, one for appointments – social, medical, whatever. And the third one…wait. What? It’ll come to me.

The thing is, that in order for those to do You any good at all, you are required to read thEm. Not just occasionally, but every freaking day.

Take last week for example. I forgot to check the social notebook, and a former friend gave up on me just because I forgot to meet her at Monty’s for Happy Hour. Incidentally, I think she ought to thank me – a lot. She got happy with a really nice guy she met while waiting for me.

And now to the newest and probably most annoying of Senior Moments.

Did I or did I not take the morning pills…or,for that matter, the pills from the night before? It isn’t that the pills are not organized. They rest snuggly in their brightly colored plastic cases, all neatly labeled by day and, if necessary, time limitations.

You know about time limitations on medicines…take this one two hours before or six hours after eating, Which, of course brings you into direct conflict with the pink one which has to be taken six hours before or two hours after…or something like that. Come on world…most of us are assigned fifteen pills a day, each with its own rules.

I swear to you. I take all of those damned pills every day. I am more faithful than Big Ben in my dedication to the tyranny of the pill box. And yet…and yet…too many days those little square containers are refilling themselves and it is left to me to figure out should I take a chance on over or under dosing by taking them again?

“It is”, as the King of Siam once said, “A PUZZLEMENT.”