Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Perils of Growing Older

For years I've related to friends, doctors, dentists, nurses --practically everybody I've conversed with - that I'm planning to live to be 140 years old. I didn't announce this because I was attempting to equal or compete with the oldest man in the Old Testament; no, I needed a goal.

Yes, I saw those within my bragging circle grin  slyly when I announced the high number. I knew the age was unattainable, that no way in this world I'd reach that goal. I felt enthused, full of life, until that day arrived when I turned eighty years old.

You don't look eighty, says the cashier at Walgreens, as she notices the anti-wrinkle cream I'm buying; Are you sixty? asked the movie ticket seller when I ask for the discount ticket; or former students from the 1970s and 1980s whose eyes turn the size of plates when we meet at a 60th reunion.  I acknowledge I take after my mother who remained young looking.through her eighties.

The years following eighty seem to plow through my life like a runaway car with me in the back seat. There's this sniffle, that leg pain, this fatigue, that catch in my knee.  Why, I ask myself, why is this happening to me?

I retired at age sixty. The first appointment I made was for an exam to understand  how good or bad my body was behaving. I entered the waiting room of a new doctor and what did I see? Everybody over the age of ninety -- or so it seemed.  I asked the Doc "Hey, I've never seen so many old bodies in one waiting room. What goes?"  I went on to say "I thought when we reached retirement age we had a yellow brick road to skip down."

He smiled. "Every illness and pain you had as a child returns in your later life. Most of those folks out there can relate their troubles now to what a they suffered from as youths.  I'll bet after our visit here you'll agree."

Later at home I dug deep into my mother's diary. Her words reminded me of the illnesses that plagued me since birth. Stomach problems heads the list.  No local doctor could tell her why my stomach ached so often. Mother found through a friend of an Indian doctor south of town who could "cure" anyone. So we traveled to Magee to see this doctor from India. He wore his turban, which to my four-year-old eyes made him interesting, not scary.  As I recall he turned off he lights in his exam room, sat opposite me on a stool. After a few questions he reached over and punched around on my stomach, saying "Does this hurt here? Here? Here?"  I shook my head no.

As we drove home Mother said the Doc told her I had worms. Well, I did go barefoot often. I don't recall any medicine I had to take but to this day I know "worms" wasn't my problem. The term for my  problem was not found until I was thirty years old. And it was in a magazine advertisement.  Prior to that my internist of 20 years insisted I drink less milk. Milk was my favorite. drink, especially in milk shakes.  But the advertisement claimed a new over the counter pill would solve disgruntled stomachs. Lactose. I sent the coupon in for a free trial, used it after that for many many years. Voila! I had been lactose intolerant since birth.

Beginning with  junior high school years I had aches in my joints. No MD seemed to know why. I'd never heard of arthritis in the 1940s, but a visit to an ophthalmologist one summer in NC where I was a camper, revealed his opinion that my weak eyes (I'd worn glasses since grade one) caused the aches. I took tons of pills which seem to ease the pain. The aches lasted through college and suddenly disappeared. At age 65 joint aches rejoined my seemingly healthy life.

A point I want to make is that those of us who were born before medicine had a good foothold and prognoses depended on the Doc's education, most of us didn't know what we know what was w wrong with us unless it was heart trouble. As we age if the Doc doesn't tell you what is wrong with you,  you'll find your answer your on Google!



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Fleeting Invention Ideas



We had the greatest idea. Our imaginations ran wild. We’d have tee shirts, buttons, flags with our logo. Logo. What could we use as an identifying reminder of our idea?

The above conversation began after a birthday dinner in which the family sat in an upscale restaurant (for our area it was “upscale”.). The members turned to me and said, “Did you hear our conversations?” I replied “No, but I got the gist of it.”

Son 2 said he knew then how difficult it was for me to hear (a) between walls (b ) in a crowded place (c) around corners (d) and everywhere in which no one was facing me. So began the process of helping me enjoy family get-togethers in the future with ideas flying left and right.

After figuring out what the logo would be, Son 2 went to Google, “Just to be sure there’s not one already.” There was - - not just one but variations of the standard logo for impaired hearing. We were disappointed but happy. Disappointed we didn’t think of printing tees and buttons and signs and whatever forty years ago when my hearing problem was in its infancy; disappointed that we hadn’t learned the symbol wasn’t used more often in public; disappointed that I had lost so much enjoyment in the myriad of table conversations.

We found a company that printed anything you want on tees and buttons. I ordered several buttons with nifty statements. From the logo alone to a few words. Each button makes clear the message I need to convey when the cashier babbles incoherently (I think) “Thatistwentythirtytwo.”  Maybe she’ll read on my lapel “Speak a little louder and more clearly.”I won't have to ask for a repeat several times.

  What would you as a hearing-impaired person choose to wear?


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Making Choices

Today's market of giving the customer his/her choice in whatever is offered, especially in restaurants, is becoming too much for an old lady who grew up taking what was offered. Take for example:

I drop by a sandwich shop for a quick pick-up . I order a tuna melt -- do  I want lettuce, tomato or not? wheat, rye or sourdough? I ask for iced tea -- do I want lemon or not? I add a cookie,-- do I want it in a bag or not? I pay for the order thinking that if I'd  shaken my head si or no, I'd leave with a headache.

However, if I were to buy a car, the scene would be about the same. Do I want a 4-door or a 2-door? Do I have a preference of make/model? Would I prefer a particular color? What about mileage? and the list goes on. The next time I purchase a car I'm going to hand the salesman a paper written with my preferences:

 white, specialty wheels, gas saver. soft top, white or black, leather seats, stick shift, automatic windows, compass, bright interior lights (did I leave out something important?)

A quick glance and if the salesman is a good one, can immediately inform me yes, no, or maybe. This time he makes the choice.

Of course, life isn't that easy. Next time you go somewhere, check yourself how many times in one trip you have to make choices. 

I Know I'm Getting Older

On two occasions when my husband and I wanted an item from a store, no clerk seemed to know what we were talking about.

R ran out of cotton handkerchiefs. He went to a large store, WM, found a clerk and asked, "Where are men's handkerchiefs?" The clerk looked into the air, apparently searching for an answer, then said, "I think you can find them in the bedding section."

Had handkerchiefs gone out of existence?

I ran into our popular McAllister's for two sandwiches one evening. I gave R's order, a tuna on rye; then I said "Let's see (thumbing through my mind of what I can eat, ignoring that fact and ordering anyway), " I'll have a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on white." The youthful clerk wrinkled her brow and said, "I don't think we have those." The older clerk standing nearby said, "Hon, that's a BLT." "Oh," she smiled sheepishly and completed the order. I learned a lesson on keeping up on vocabulary.

R found his cotton handkerchiefs online. Six for $4. A steal. He didn't have to shop in person any more.

The kind of vocabulary I seem not to understand or use relates to the computer. After many hours spent with a tech online following instructions, I have to stop him and ask, "Now what is a router? Is it the big box connected to my screen?" or "Let me repeat your instruction so I understand: you want me to unplug the black cord from the big box and keep it off for 30 seconds. How fast can I count?"

I know I'm getting older.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Remembering One Friendship

This time of the year I receive a call from my friend G who lives in Texas. The other day I thought, "I'll surprise G with a call from here." Then I remembered: G died from cancer in the summer. I knew I should make the call to check on her husband, B.  Their daughter answered to say that her dad had died a month after her mother of an aneurism. Gone, two special people.

I'd met G during classes in 1959 at Mexico City College in Mexico, D. F. There was a six-weeks session given in Spanish. She and I shared one grammar class and  ate together for lunch. This was the only time we could speak English. She'd tell of living with a Mexican family and I'd share my living experience in a motel-like setting with a huge dog who only understood Spanish.

At the time she was a college student and I was married and expecting my first child. The ages didn't seem to matter. We shared the fun of learning.

When we separated we stayed in touch via letters: her graduation, her marriage, her children. Then emailing developed and we kept in touch more easily. We both  continued to learn. We  planned to have a reunion 25 years later at Mexico City College, which had changed its name and moved south of Mexico City. I couldn't spare the six weeks, a disappointment for me. She went alone and kept me up-to-date on her experience.

I saw her after that reunion-that-didn't happen, when our family traveled to Dallas on our way west for vacation; she in turn with her husband visited us years later on their way home from a conference.  Then it was back to emails.

Her last contact with me was by telephone: "Vivian, I'm calling to let you know I'm dying. I don't have long to live. I want you to know how much I've appreciated your friendship."  I found few words to reply, but I did with, "Are you OK with this situation?" She said she was surprised that she was. She worried about her husband who wasn't well.

She entered hospice and died a month later. Her husband called and that was the last time I heard his voice.

Dying is difficult on those who remain alive.  I miss my dear friend.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Autumn Photos


One of my Facebook friends lives in Maine. She often posts landscape photos to emphasize what all her friends and relatives are missing. I admit the windows looking onto the front of our house peer at a quiet street and a wooded lot across the street.  In the fall there is no exciting display of color from the tree leaves, only curled up, fallen leaves. Even the tree branches cast a wicked look on dreary days.  Here's one announcing fall:



Compare it with scenes of the season we spent in the Delaware area of New York.
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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lying Down on the Job

We don't often have to buy necessities that have a 10-20 year warranty. Refrigerator, check; freezer, check; washing machine, check; dryer; microwave, check.  Mattress??

Husband decided we needed a new mattress. The last one we bought was hardly five years old. When R decides to change a necessity he goes forward with such enthusiasm, it fizzles within 24 hours.

He spends hours perusing a model, checking his copy of Consumer Digest, musing about the size, the ability to perform.  And that goes for mattresses, also.

Everyone last Saturday who were shopping in the mattress department at a local store were serious enough to spend a lot of time lying down. One lady we met scrunched on a king-sizer, said she had been in the store every weekend lying on this and that mattress. She was determined to make a decision that afternoon. Every time we looked around she was splayed on another mattress. She had fibromyralgia, and it was important to her to get the right "feel" for her muscles. She was so educated on the type we were interested in, her testimony was as good as any salesman. This type was the all foam modeled after those developed by NASA.

Then R lay down on the first mattress guided by the sales clerk. He lay this way and that way, on his stomach, on his back. I lay down on my back and declared, "Not for me!" I was giving him the prerogative to choose which softness or firmness was best. I figured I could adjust with a board under my side. After several hours and the impending store closure, we left without a decision.

As I waited for R to decide, I glanced around the mattress area to fill my time. Sure enough, there were many couples and families lying around. I thought I'd snap their pictures and put a few on this blog. You'll notice how they choose to lie.

This is the lady who spent weeks resting on this mattress to be sure her money and body would benefit her choice.


This couple spent only awhile resting without coming to a decision



Saturday, September 06, 2014

Birthdays Come and Go Without Fanfare

You don't see many photographs in the newspaper these days of the celebration of a birthday, unless the celebrated one is 100 years old. We can't imagine ourselves getting to that point in life where someone else takes care of us and all we do is sit and watch TV. Too weak and weary. Enjoying fewer interests. Sitting and sleeping.

I have reminded my dentist, doctor, and opthlamologist that I plan to live to be 140 years old. They will have to resist retiring because I don't want new doctors at my age. I turned over the birthday leaves 82 times now. Do I want to be weak and weary, enjoying few interests, sit and watch TV all day? Absolutely not. I have chosen 140 as a far-reaching goal in which to keep myself healthy, learning, participating, and keeping in touch with my friends.  I refuse to say "I'm ready for the Lord to take me."

My birthdays are spent being remembered by a few close friends who continue to send cards I cherish and my children finding something hand-made or a book to read.  I now own a lovely hand-made frame holding a relaxed family in our front yard.  No perfume, no night out on the town, no elaborate gifts of any sort.

Because I was reared in a frugal  household, Mother always saw my sister and I had a new dress, or shoes, or socks. We didn't ask for expensive items. However, Mother's job as backstage manager for Merrill, Lynch Stockbrokers allowed her to earn a good salary when we were teens, She gave us small gifts we called "happies." When the Disney movie was shown in the theaters, one of the songs had a line, "We wish you a very happy unbirthday, to you, to you". And we began to call those happies, our unbirthday gifts.

I don't want to be 110 before I pass on. I won't be able to accomplish what I'm doing now. I'll find some reason to sit in a comfy chair and read or watch a movie on some new-fangled electronics, which I will try to understand the mechanics. No one will call me because I'll be so deaf I'll have to have a chalk board hanging around my neck for communication. I won't be able to eat out with friends because I'll be drinking only Ensure. The kids won't be able to stay around me long.

I've painted a dark side of my later life. There will be no dark side. I have too many friends and sweet-loving kids to help me avoid being nothing but bright.