Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Changing Gears

Our house was built in 1968.  Today inside has numerous spots that need improving: painting here, plugging holes there, repairing this and screwing that.  To say our house is falling apart -- no. It's in need of a makeover.  R is too weak to worry; I'm too weak to worry.  What a spot we're in.

When we built the house we had two sons and one daughter living with us. We arranged the rooms to give the kids their own space with two exits to the back yard.  Our area had none. We had to go into the living room, through the dining room to two exits.  Perfect set up.  We planned to live in this house forever --whatever that means.  We didn't take out nursing home insurance nor life insurance.  We planned our demise in this home with its now too large of a yard.  One weekend our daughter and son-in-law visited us and announced, "We want to buy your house." Like manna from heaven, those words seemed.

We whipped out some plans. R and I had space to live in until we moved out.  No big changes would occur unless we all agreed.  A lawyer drew up the papers.  Our daughter began her plans to move into the area she and her brothers once inhabited: two bedrooms and a bath.  We'd have the same area we used: bath, study, bedroom.

However, we had the responsibility to pare down our belongings. You've had to do that also, haven't you? Loads of clothes, books, souvenirs from previous travel, collections of dishes --all disappeared within weeks.  The most difficult goodbye was to dishes I'd collected from my mother's day, some she'd used. Nothing fancy.  She bought them at the grocery store. Yes, even in the 1940s grocery stores offered dishes a piece at a time.  Long before this time I had given away our orange juice glasses that once held jellies; my first set of dishes, picked out before our wedding; vases and pots picked up at some Indian post out west; all difficult to whisper  "goodbye."

Several years ago I gave to oldest son the set of Lemoges china my parents bought directly from the factory in Paris on one of their last trips abroad. I was always afraid to use the pieces because if one broke there was no replacement, so I thought.  A few years ago in a shop in New Orleans I watched as the clerk in a china shop unpack a set of the same pattern of Lemoges I owned.  Their price for a set of six, with all serving dishes was $100.  I was anxious to buy the set.   I'd always have a replacement.  However, the wise old man with me put his foot down.

I've not decided what to do with my crystal dishes.  They are beautiful.  They mostly are for serving.  There are some dessert cups and small plates.  Right now they are lined on every surface of my bedroom.  In fact, the bedroom has everything I've no other place to store.  We sleep surrounded by mountains of down comforters, precious books, high school and college yearbooks, boxes of snapshots taken over fifty years, and loads of memorabilia saved for genealogy.  In short, our bedroom is a MESS.  However, since we are asleep most of the time while there, we don't worry about moving anything --yet.

Separating oneself from precious collections is no easy feat.  The easiest ones leave in boxes bound for Goodwill, the dearest ones sit quietly and unobserved until the pass-along fever hits. Not one to sit dripping from heat during a garage sale. In a few days I don't remember what I once owned.

In fact, this situation happened when my parents no longer could take of themselves. They moved in with us and said farewell to those ugly lamps, a collection of salt and pepper shakers,  pots and pans, dishes, and Daddy's clock repair tools. Occasionally, one would say, "I can't find that book on the Civil War." and I'd remind that a it sold at a library sale. So now R and I are repeating their experience and everyone else's who've had to move and pare down.

This move is no different from the need of our having to change environments.  What's important is to cooperate with our new owners, share in housework, eat what is served, and not worry about a dripping faucet, the failure to mow the yard, put out ant poison, or any of those natural responsibilities.  As our daughter says often, "It's your turn to sit back and relax. We'll take over."

Truly a beautiful feeling.

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.

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