566 posts categorized "Journal"

Ollie the Cat: 2004 – 2018


That's Ollie the cat in the bedroom late last year, healthy if a bit too fat. A few months ago, he got sick, made it obvious over time that he no longer liked his regular food and nothing else we tried was satisfactory to him. He'd have a few bites and walk away.

There had been no definitive diagnosis and even with the veterinarian's best efforts, Ollie continued to lose weight until his bones were sticking out. Last Thursday morning, he took up residence in a dark and comfy cupboard hidy-hole in the dining room – a place he otherwise had never shown the slightest interest.

On Friday night, I dragged out blankets and pillows from the bedroom and tried to sleep on the floor next to Ollie discovering, in the process, that I am officially too old now to sleep on the floor, even with carpeting and a couple of blankets for more padding.

I lasted there a couple of hours before returning to bed but as far as I could tell in the morning, Ollie didn't mind my having been in another room overnight.

He also didn't mind when I pet him but he didn't really care either – no purring and only the slightest acknowledgement of my touch.

His once bright green eyes had become dull and so on Saturday, another veterinarian from an organization called Compassionate Care came to our home so that Ollie's departure into the great kitty unknown could be done in peaceful, comfortable and familiar surroundings.

Our home feels so empty now and I am so deeply sad.

Here is Ollie in our New York City home early in 2005, when he was six months old.


In those early days, we jockeyed for position over whose living requirements would prevail. Sometimes I won, sometimes he did but overall we accomodated our preferences fairly well, if you don't count his biting my ankle if I didn't prepare a meal fast enough.

This is Ollie in 2010 helping with the packing to move from Maine to Oregon.


And here he is four years ago checking out the front patio/porch where local cats and the occasional squirrel sometimes show up.


Ollie was a Savannah cat, a relatively new hybrid breed, a cross between a domestic cat and African serval. Ollie was one-sixth serval with the gorgeous coat similar to a leopard's.

I don't know if it is typical of Savannah cats, but what anyone who ever met him commented on was his direct, almost human-like gaze into a person's eyes. In the beginning it was unsettling how he looked at me with such intensity. It didn't take long to get used to it and and I loved that connection between us every day of our life together.

Here is a photo that almost catches that feeling:


Many, many years ago, my then-father-in-law told me about how, on weekends, he and his wife might not bump into one another between breakfast and dinner as they went about their pursuits. But what was important is that they each knew there was another heartbeat in the house.

And so it was with Ollie and me but now, that other heartbeat is gone and it feels so empty here today.

As undoubtedly is true for you, I've been through this grief before with people and with beloved animals. I know that – as has already happened once – for awhile I will think I see Ollie out of the corner of my eye as he trots by. But that's just a mirage, right?

And someday I will be able to remember Ollie without weeping. But not yet. He always made me feel that to him, I was the cat's meow. To me, he was my best buddy for 14 years.

I'll leave you with a link to one of my all-time favorite blog posts that long-time readers will probably recall: the adventure of Ollie's disappearance from our second-story deck in Portland, Maine, in 2007. I titled it How Ollie the Cat Lost His Outdoor Privileges, a heart-pounding, scary tale with a lot of photographs and, at the end, my revenge.

Farewell my Ollie. You gave me so much joy. I will always love you.


Everything Takes So Damned Long When You're Old

The latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show is at the bottom of this post.

* * *

As noted here in the past, until I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer nearly a year ago, I was lucky enough to be disgustingly healthy.

There were colds and other minor ailments now and then but nothing that kept me down and out for long, nothing that left me with permanent changes to my capabilities.

Not so much anymore. Yes, the doctors say I am now cancer free (whew!) but recovery from the Whipple surgery lasted many months, chemotherapy took its toll on my energy, I had to slack off workouts for too long and recent hospital stays for internal bleeding, a blood clot, placement of a stent, etc. haven't helped.

The bottom line is that everything – everything takes longer than it once did. Yes, yes, I know: just getting older, even without any health difficulties, slows down everyone. Bodies wear out, muscles don't work as efficiently, we tire more easily.

But until this bump in my personal road of life, slowing down wasn't an issue. As far as I could tell, I walked as fast as I always had and particularly after I lost more than 50 pounds some years ago, I could blast through housekeeping chores leaving plenty of time for whatever other plans I had.

No more.

When we get old, I think we understand as never before that our greatest gift is time. Each day now is precious and anything boring that takes up any of that time is stealing hours – even days, cumulatively - from us.

Here are some of the new tasks that eat up even more of my time than a year ago:

Tracking daily medications, keeping the chart up to date as doctors change meds, getting refills on time and filling the pill holders (plural!)

Actually remembering to take the pills at the right times of day (Post-it notes are my friends)

Arranging other events in life around medical visits

Keeping daily records of health information for the physicians

Napping (a lot recently) when my body tells me to stop for awhile

Tracking the cat's medications and trying to get pills down his throat when he would rather shred my skin than swallow.

And those are only some time eaters I can identify. Mysteries abound, such as this one: I thought I could vacuum the entire apartment in 30 minutes. So why does the clock say an hour has passed when I'm finished?

Or why does changing the beds seems so much harder – and therefore slower – than it used to be?

There is only one solution to this time annoyance – something many of you identified last week in that marvelously wise and interesting discussion about aspects of growing old: acceptance.

As Anne said on that post:

”Having just turned 78, maybe I should accept this and live at the tempo I can manage.”

I am not any good at all at this kind of acceptance. You?

* * *

Here is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show recorded on Monday 7 May 2018.

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests after me, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.

Crabby Old Lady Watches the Academy Awards

Did you watch the Academy Award show last Sunday? Crabby Old Lady did. There wasn't much else on the tube then and it's the sort of program Crabby can watch here and there that doesn't much disturb the reading she's doing in between.

If you didn't watch, don't go getting all snobby about it. The Oscars are an American tradition – admittedly fading, probably with Crabby's generation – but still kind of fun to see the pretty ladies all dressed up in ways almost no one does anymore.

And having produced a lot of TV shows in her past, Crabby likes watching the production values on a program that's more lavish and complex, especially live, than most of what's on television.

This is an eye candy type of show. It doesn't take any special attention or thought – just let it wash over you. Or not.

It was heartening to Crabby from the start to see the diversity and inclusion of the landscape: Muslims, immigrants, a better mix of skin colors than usual and (drum roll) women, lots of women. Crabby thinks that might be something we can thank Harvey Weinstein for.

And then Sandra Bullock showed up as a presenter. Until that moment, it hadn't occurred to Crabby to think anything one way or another about old people's participation.

Bullock is 53 years old. She looked wonderful – gorgeous, in fact. So why did she think she had to say this?

“Wow, it’s bright,” she said. “It’s really bright. Guys, the set looks amazing, everything looks really great. The lighting is really well lit, but can we just dim it just a little bit so I can go back to my 40s? A little lower, 39, keep going, 38, 38, 38, no, 35, now that's the sweet spot!"

Did she think that was funny? It wasn't to Crabby Old Lady. It could have been if we lived in a different world, if old people were generally treated with the same respect as Ms. Bullock is at mid-age. But instead of inclusion, Bullock chose the opposite.

This disparagement of elders didn't stop with Bullock. In fact, it had started at the top of the show.

Host Jimmy Kimmel's digs at 88-year-old, best supporting actor nominee, Christopher Plummer, began with this gem directed at Plummer sitting in the first row: “How does Lin Manuel-Miranda compare to the real Alexander Hamilton?”

And Kimmel (age 50) didn't let up on age jokes directed at Plummer throughout the rest of the broadcast.

Crabby sat up at attention yet again when Jane Fonda (age 80) and Helen Mirren (age 72) took to the stage together. Mirren opened with, “Jane and I are very, very honored to have been asked to present together on Oscar’s 90th birthday.”

Okay, that's nice enough for an awards show but then Fonda responded, “Yeah, especially when we found out he’s older than we are. Right?”

No, Fonda, you're wrong. Crabby Old Lady thinks she looked lovely at the Oscars but ruined it the moment she opened her mouth.

Having spent several hours in the company of Hollywood actors on Sunday evening, Crabby could rant on about how plastic surgery plays a big part in perpetuating ageist behavior toward old people, but she will hold on to that thought for another day.

Even with all the age “jokes,” there were some magnificent bright spots involving old show biz folks. Start with Rita Moreno, age 86, who showed up wearing the same dress she wore – wait for it – 56 years ago, in 1962, when she won the Oscar for her role in West Side Story. Here's a little video of Moreno in that dress from the red carpet:

(That's Rita Moreno's daughter standing next to her.)

Ninety-three-year-old Eva Marie Saint was stunning in all ways as she presented an award - and she didn't make any ugly age jokes.

Agnes Varda, 89, was among nominees for best documentary feature, and James Ivory, also 89, became the oldest Oscar winner of all time for best adapted screenplay, Call Me By Your Name.

So Crabby response was mixed. She was pleasantly surprised at the diversity in general and specifically at the number of old people featured at the 90th Oscars. But she was terribly disappointed at the entrenched ageist beliefs that even some old people themselves won't let go of.

And don't go thinking this is a small thing. That it happens throughout the country in media and in everyday life thousands of times a day is what makes it so awful, these small insults aimed at old people - their looks, their behavior, their supposed slow-wittedness.

Every incidence of it perpetuates the indignities and makes it safe for others to join in. Crabby no longer believes this will change in her lifetime.

The Question of a Loneliness Epidemic

Just last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May created a new government position: Minister for Loneliness.

According to a 2017 report, more than 9 million people in Britain often or always feel lonely. May, quoted in The New York Times, said in announcing the new ministry,

“For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life.”

“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones — people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”

(More about how the Ministry will tackle the problem is reported at gov.uk.)

It's not just a British problem. According to a U.S. study of 218 studies, loneliness is not only a social problem, it is harmful to our health:

"They discovered that lonely people had a 50 per cent increased risk of early death, compared to those with good social connections. In contrast, obesity raises the chance of dying before the age of 70 by around 30 per cent,” as reported in The Telegraph.

As the American Psychological Association [APA] reported on the same study:

”Approximately 42.6 million adults over age 45 in the United States are estimated to be suffering from chronic loneliness, according to AARP’s Loneliness Study...

“'These trends suggest that Americans are becoming less socially connected and experiencing more loneliness,' said [researcher Julianne] Holt-Lunstad.”

I do not doubt for a moment that there are millions of old people who are lonely but I think there is something else at work on this topic that the researchers won't understand until they are old: that many old people voluntarily withdraw from social life to greater or smaller degrees as the years pile up.

I can't prove that and I haven't seen a single study that addresses it, let alone agrees. But a growing body of anecdotal evidence, just in my own small circle, seem to indicate something the loneliness researchers don't know.

A reader named Albert Williams left this note on a TGB post about making friends in old age. It's a bit lengthy but worth it:

”Whew! I'm glad I found this site,” wrote Williams. “I was beginning to think that I was the only person with such problems, and that, perhaps, there was something wrong with me.

“However, after a bit of introspection, I realize that this is not completely true. (Completely? Try old, ugly, curmudgeonly, short-tempered, cynical, and a few more applicable adjectives...)

“Time has, indeed, taken its toll. I am now an old man. Most of my life-long friends are gone. I've never had any kids; I've outlived two wives; and almost all of my family on both sides have already died.

“I find it very easy to make new acquaintances, but these seem to never develop into the deep, trusting, abiding friendships I had when I was young. Loneliness, apparently, has become a permanent part of my remaining days, and my best friends nowadays are my dogs and my computer.”

In addition, a long-time internet/blog friend, Cowtown Patty, recently wrote in an email:

”Found that as I age, while I enjoy people to a degree, I am happier when I am at our 'farm' out puttering in the 'garden' or in the house somewhere alone. Even Kent, who is the easiest person in the world to get along with, can be an irritating intruder sometimes.

“Do you think we 'cocoon' as we age? Protection? Preparing? Insulating ourselves from a world grown too noisy?”

That may be true for me. Although I have always seemed to need a lot more alone time that many people I know, in recent years I've purposely chosen fewer social engagements in exhange for time alone (reduced energy may be a contibutor too).

It's not that I don't like people or don't enjoy time with them. I do. But as I follow my innate nature these days, I am eager for less of that than during most of my adult life and as far as I can tell, the biggest change that would bear upon the desire for fewer social engagements is that I've grown older.

Which doesn't sound too far off from Patty's “cocooning” idea – perhaps even subconsciously, we begin separating ourselves from a world we know we will be leaving much sooner than people who are younger than we are.

There is an interesting entry at the Wikipedia Old Age page on this subject (emphasis added):

”Johnson and Barer did a pioneering study of Life Beyond 85 Years by interviews over a six-year period. In talking with 85+ year olds, they found some popular conceptions about old age to be erroneous.

“Such erroneous conceptions include (1) people in old age have at least one family member for support, (2) old age well-being requires social activity, and (3) 'successful adaptation' to age-related changes demands a continuity of self-concept.

“In their interviews, Johnson and Barer found that 24% of the 85+ had no face-to-face family relationships; many have outlived their families. Second, that contrary to popular notions, the interviews revealed that the reduced activity and socializing of the over 85s does not harm their well-being; they 'welcome increased detachment.

The researchers spoke only with people 85 and older. I strongly suspect that if they talked with 60- and 70-somethings, the trend would be there already.

Certainly there are millions of old people yearning to make connections with others who are having trouble doing that.

But as with all things related to elders, I don't believe you can bundle all of us into one handy explanation for any issue and it could be that what looks like loneliness to younger researchers is a personal choice some elders make.

What do you think?

Senior Discounts: A Rite of Passage Redux

EDITORIAL NOTE: This week got so busy I couldn't find time for today's story so I have resurrected a post from the second year of TGB, 11 November 2005, about senior discounts.

In the penultimate paragraph, I mention that I was then working on becoming as comfortable with being an elder as I was for so many decades as an adult. Now, 13 years later, I have no doubts. I am an old person and that knowledge has come to rest easily on my shoulders.

* * *

Earlier this week, Colleen of Loose Leaf left a comment about having recently received a ten dollar senior discount.

As serendipity in timing would have it, last Sunday I got my first senior discount too – at a movie theater. I had never asked for one before – hadn’t even thought about it - so I don’t know what possessed me to say at the ticket window, “one adult and one senior, please.” (ASIDE: I wish I’d said “elder.”)

It turns out that discount is no small change in New York City where movie tickets go for $11 a pop. The “elder” ticket cost only seven dollars, a savings which almost covered a grossly overpriced small bag of popcorn.

Colleen, who is about ten years younger than I, admitted to being a bit shaken by her first discount for age. I, on the other hand, sailed right through it without a quiver and have been wondering since then what other discounts I’m missing.

These two little rites of passage remind me that we don’t become old – or seniors or elders – in our minds overnight or on a certain birthday. Our perception of time is flexible, moving along at different rates of speed depending on circumstances, and minds can be hard things to change. We back into new definitions of ourselves slowly, I think, becoming accustomed to them gradually as other people and traditional markers outside ourselves – like photographs and senior discounts - reflect to us our passing years.

In the 20 months I’ve been writing Time Goes By, I’ve accepted my status – at least on paper – as a person of age, as an advocate for ending ageism and age discrimination, and for exploring what getting older is really like.

But what I had not done is feel that status of elderhood viscerally. I have yet to make it my own, so a part of my being that I don’t need to discuss it anymore - what Jill Fallon of Legacy Matters says Buddhists call “the ever-present awareness” of our inner selves.

I sense now, however, that I’m beginning to close in on it. Asking for the senior discount without a hiccup and taking pleasure in Elisa Camahort’s redefinition of me as “ElderBlogger Ronni Bennett” seem to be indications that acceptance in the wings. It took a long time in my youth to get past the feeling I was play-acting at being a grownup. The goal now is to become as certain an elder as I became an adult for so many decades.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll look into what other senior discounts are available. Saving a little money is a powerful incentive to attitude adjustment.

Housekeeping Notes for This Blog

On Saturday, TGB reader and frequent commenter, Simone, left this message in answer to a comment from Ana on a 2008 post about being old without children:

”Ronni has set the standard here. It's a safe place, and we all like to share our thoughts, ideas, struggles and experiences openly, without reserve and with no rancor toward another.”

Thank you, Simone. God knows I've tried to keep it civil here and for the most part the effort has been successful. This is one of the best, smartest, most interesting conversation spots in the blogosphere where no one need feel shy about speaking up or speaking out.

Well, except for a few who overstep and Simone's comment reminded me that I've been meaning to do this housekeeping post for a month or two – as a reminder.

Let's start with what I consider obvious but apparently is not so to everyone:

  1. Comments containing defamatory, bigoted or hateful language about me or any commenter will be deleted. You get only one shot at this and if it happens, you will be permanently banned without notification or recourse.

  2. Argument, disagreement and opinion are good. Just keep it to the point(s) you dispute, not the writer, and maintain a civil tone. You get two shots at this after which, see the second sentence in number one above.

  3. We are all grownups here and sometimes it's hard to make a point without a bit of colorful language. Go for it – just don't overdo. Deletion or editing of the comment is at my discretion.

  4. Comments that are off-topic are deleted.

Advice, suggestions and recommendations in any of these areas are not allowed and are deleted. I don't know who you are, what your qualifications are nor do I have the time to vet whatever is being touted.

Time Goes By has been an advertising-free zone on the internet for many years and commenters may not include advertising or promotion for any commercial product or service. No exceptions. They are deleted.

The comment form has a space for a URL. If you include the address of your blog or other non-commercial website, your name at the bottom of your comment will become a link to that URL.

A few years ago, I stopped allowing links in comments. There are a number of reasons: some people link to their business websites (see immediately preceding item); others post the wrong URL and/or don't know the html to make a proper link; and most of all, I don't have the time to check (and correct when needed) every link.

So, no links in comments. You are welcome to name the website or news article or whatever might make it easy for readers to search what you are referencing.

These are mostly to make your comments easier to read so that more people will actually do that.

  • Please use standard capitalization. All-lowercase text is difficult to read and your comment is less likely to be noticed.

  • Even more so, long blocks of uninterrupted text are hard on the eyes, especially old ones like mine. Please leave a blank line between paragraphs by hitting “enter” twice after the last sentence in a paragraph. This is for your benefit too; no one reads two or more inches of solid text.

  • As always, in email and anywhere online, messages in all capital letters are considered shouting not to mention that, as with the first two suggestions, they are hard to read. Please use all caps only for emphasis of individual words or phrases.

  • Finally, if your comment does not appear in the comments section right away, please don't jump to the conclusion that you have been disallowed. Sometimes it takes a few minutes for the host server to publish the comment and sometimes it can be user error – yours. Other times, it might be a program glitch or it can be a server slowdown and on extremely rare occasions, it might be a server shutdown. Try again or give it some time before you start yelling at me via email.

If you want to comment and are reading TGB in the email feed, DO NOT click "Reply." Remember, you are reading an email and your comment will appear only in my inbox. To comment from the email feed so everyone can read it, you must go to the website:

  • Click the title of the story - it will open in your browser.

  • Scroll to the bottom of the story in your browser and click on the word "Comments". A new page will open with a form for your comment.

  • Write your comment, type your name (it can be any name you want) and, if you want your name to link to your blog or other non-commercial website, type in the URL, although this is not required. You are required, however, to include your email address but it is never published.

  • Click "Post" to publish your comment and you're done.

Several times a week I get a notes from some email subscribers complaining that they are not receiving the email feed.

This happens because the subscription service was originally via Feedburner, owned by Google, which abandoned it six or seven or more years ago. It just sits out there on the internet now gradually deteriorating, and eventually remaining subscriptions fail.

When Google announced they were jettisoning Feedburner, I switched to Feedblitz, a commercial newsletter delivery service for which I pay hundreds of dollars a year. Please use it. Here is how:

  1. Subscribe via the simple form at the top right of every TGB page.

  2. Follow the equally simple instructions when you receive the confirmation email from Feedblitz.

  3. You will then begin receiving TGB in your inbox.

  4. If the Feedburner delivery shows up again in your inbox, use the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the email to avoid duplicate deliveries.

There are other things I'd rather be writing about and I'm sorry to take up your time, too, with this note particularly since only a few readers need it. But there has been an uptick lately in over-reach so maybe this is a useful clarification. Thanks again, Simone, for the reminder.

A Small New Years Potpourri

During these end-of-year holidays, I've mostly kept it light in these pages and sometimes, too, let others do the telling for me. And so it is again today as we head into 2018.

The senior center in my town is called the Adult Community Center (ACC) where I have volunteered in various ways, meet friends there for lunch now and then, and I currently host a twice-monthly public affairs discussion group.

Too many old people reject senior centers and they are missing a lot. You can read about that in this TGB blog post, Are You a Senior Center Snob?, from 2013.

I'm telling you this today because Nicolette Hume is the new volunteer coordinator at the ACC who is also the webmaster of the center's brand new blog. She just launched the first story in what will be a continuing web series titled “Everyday People of Lake Oswego – Life Stories from our Exceptional Community.”

And guess who is the first interviewee? Yay. Me.

A few weeks ago, I spent a couple of hours with Cliff Newell, a recently retired reporter from the weekly paper, The Lake Oswego Review and he did a fine job of making sense of my ramblings.

You will find Cliff's story, Time goes by...A conversation with Ronni Bennett, here. Nicolette is the photographer.

Be sure to leave a note for them on the page.

doctafil is a long-time reader and commenter here at Time Goes By. She Canadian, lives in Montreal, travels a lot and then, under her real name Brenda Henry, writes wonderful little short stories about where she's been.

Her most recent collection is titled Weirdo Parfait which you can read about in this Interesting Stuff post from May 2017.

That is by way of a short introduction. doctafil has a way with words and she left this wonderfully fanciful description of Time Goes By on Wednesday's post this week. I am so charmed by it, so certain that if, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, I just believe hard enough it will be true. Here's what doctafil wrote:

”Ronni, your blog is like a NYC coffee spot- friends drop by for java, conversation and good times. Ronni's Place is solid dark brick and stone outside, oak tables and a fireplace inside. There is a small stage with open mike nights for local writers, poets, blues singers.

“You're at your favourite table surrounded by your cyber pals. You're back in the city that never sleeps. Your apartment is upstairs. Ollie's looking out the window. He's smiling like he knew this would all happen. Fat snowflakes are falling.”

I'm pretty sure that from this day forward, I will always picture Time Goes By as this perfect, New York City coffee place.

Looking Back at 2017: Trump and Cancer

From any point of view, the year 2017 was one of the most momentous in my life.

The last time I lived through something of as much significance, I think, would be in 1992, when I moved to Sacramento for several months to care for my mother during the final months of her life. (Story of that experience is here.)

At least as consequential as the death of a parent, however, is life in the United States these days under President Donald Trump. It's not like I need to explain it to you:

The man is disgusting in word and deed. He daily trashes the norms of civil society, politics and, possibly, the law. He has so defiled the tenets and principles of a democratic republic that scholars, historians and journalists worldwide now regularly warn of parallels to 1930s' Germany.

And he may yet find a way to dodge special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation.

Is there any other news these days besides Trump? Only monumental hurricanes seem to qualify and then just briefly.

Remember the days when the daily White House press conferences were broadcast live only during crucial events? When presidential speeches interrupted prime time TV only for declarations of war or resignations from office? When the president actually spent his days working instead of sending obnoxious and ignorant tweets in between golf outings?

Nowadays, the only time we don't see Trump on camera is when he wants to hide what he's doing, as when he has signed a few unpopular executive orders behind closed doors.

It is bad enough knowing there is nothing I can do to change anything. Worse, it has become apparent that members of Congress will not do anything to stop him either. Big talk, no action and that's unlikely to change.

By June, worry about the future of the United States was never far from my mind. I was and still am frightened for all citizens and immigrants, for the spillover into the rest of the world, and for the uncharted future.

As many of us have discussed in these pages, the political turmoil has been exhausting with hardly any way at all to avoid it every day. And then. And then in June...

“They” told me I have pancreatic cancer. If our lives are pretty well divided into public and private sectors, suddenly every aspect of mine was fraught, and on a particularly large scale.

I'm lucky enough to have been eligible for the Whipple surgery, am getting through chemotherapy now and will know in March 2018 if any of it has been effective against this dread disease.

Meanwhile, there have been some changes. When my surgeon first explained the Whipple surgery to me six months ago, he said it involves a long, six-month recovery period. I have not believed that for at least two months; my external incisions are long healed and unless I forget a pill, there is no pain.

Then, a week or so ago, internal processes seem to have at last settled down to normal, pre-surgery function for the first time.

To explain, a good chunk of my pancreas was removed along with the entire gallbladder, the duodenum, a small amount of stomach and nearly two dozen nearby glands. Then, of course, all the various hoses among these organs had to be reconnected in new combinations.

The way the health professionals track how well all these internal changes are healing is to ask me questions about bowel movements. I was shocked and quite a bit embarrassed when beginning on the first day after surgery, every person who walking into my hospital room ask some version of “Have you pooped yet today?” “Have you farted yet?”

And they haven't stopped asking since then. These folks talk about bowels the way you and I discuss the weather and they want to hear about size, shape and color. Geez – no one told me how hard it would be to get used to that conversation. I'm still not quite there.

Because my much smaller pancreas can no longer produce the amount of enzymes my body needs, I take a pill to replace those enzymes before eating anything – even a small snack. When, on occasion, I forget, the pain is not pleasant and it had been turning up occasionally even when I had taken the pill.

That is, until about 10 days ago. Since then, pain is almost non-existent and those damned bowels I've struggled with to get right since June are at last as normal as anything I had experienced before the surgery.

Here is the weird kicker: this change arrived almost exactly six months to the day of the Whipple surgery – the amount of time the surgeon had said it would take my body to recover.

So you won't catch me questioning a world-class expert ever again.

These two events are the whole of my personal 2017. Trump and cancer cover it for me and if anything else of note happened, I can't recall. What I wish for now is that both are overcome in 2018.

Now it's your turn to tell us about your 2017.

Merry Christmas To All – 2017

This blog has been around long enough now – there was a first, tentative appearance in 2004 - that some traditions have been formed.

At U.S. Thanksgiving last month, there was the fifth annual rendition of Arlo Guthrie's epic monologue, Alice's Restaurant.

So it is only fair that today, for Christmas 2017, I have for you the sixth annual playback of Penelope Keith's marvelous reading – as Miss Cynthia Bracegirdle – of And Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree: A Cautionary Tale for Christmas Showing That it is Better to Give than to Receive.

In the comments on the Christmas 2015 post, the writer, Brian Sibley, left a note for us about the recording:

”You might like to know that I wrote this piece and that it was first broadcast on the BBC (Radio 4) on 25 December 1977.

“You can hear the original recording on my Soundcloud page here. You can read the script here.”

That's enough intro – here is the wickedly funny Penelope Keith with And Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree.

Penelope Keith - And Yet Another Partridge in a Pear Tree

Whatever you celebrate this time of year, Ronni, Crabby Old Lady and Ollie the cat thank you for the fine community you create and sustain here all year every year and we wish you a big, fat, bright red


Inspiring Trees That Refuse to Die

At the beginning of this long holiday weekend, it feels unseemly to write about any on my long list of topics about elders and politics. Celebration and camaraderie and love should be the focus of these few days once a year. It may be just aspiration to do so but a good enough respite, don't you think?

Just in time, Darlene Costner sent an email with photographs of a bunch of trees that refuse to die. They continue living in ways that few could anticipate, but each used the circumstances it found itself in to prevail.

As you may suspect, given my big cancer event during this past year, it awes me to ponder the obstacles these trees overcame to keep going. Before I post the video of the photographs, here's what Darlene Costner said when she included the still shots in her email:

”You have deep roots so maybe you are a tree. Just refuse to die. Do you think that would work for us?”

They say that trees have been on earth for 370 million years. No wonder. I found the series inspiring to the point of teariness, and also soothing. Maybe, if I'm willing to bend to the circumstances of my changed life as these trees have done, I can survive longer than expected too.

(I found the inappropriate music mildly annoying. Like me, you may want to mute it. It was nice to watch in the silence.)

Downsizing and Old Love Letters


You might imagine that given my age (76) and with the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, I've been thinking lately about clearing out some of the detritus here in the ol' homestead.

Not that I've done much about it but it has come up in conversation recently with a couple of friends.

One of them, in New York City, tells me he tried arguing logic: “It's not like anyone is going to write my biography,” he said to himself and to me.

Too true, but I've had just that conversation with myself about my old love letters. In one case, a long, long time ago, the man I was dating spent a year in Europe as publicist on a TV miniseries while it was shooting in several countries there.

Back then, 1970s, there was no email, phone calls were problematic and expensive, and snailmail was oh, so slow – weeks even.

But he wrote me a letter every day – every single day - numbered them on the envelopes and saved them up until one of the actors was furloughed back to the U.S. for a few weeks before his or her next scheduled shoot.

Then I'd get a phone call: “Hi Ronni. I'm here in New York. Let's meet for coffee. I've got a batch of letters for you from J.”

Now, honestly, how can anyone expect me to toss 300 or so love letters with a story like that go to with them.

The fact remains, however, that no one cares and it's not like I've read them in the past two or three decades or will do so anytime soon. Why, then, am I keeping them?

Another friend here in Portland, Ken Pyburn, noted that without the fact of the letters themselves, one is free to fictionalize old stories from our pasts. I know what he means. We may change the details over time so that a story not entirely “true” to the details of what actually happened, but it's my experience that the essence remains. And maybe it becomes more true in its own way.

Most of us here are old enough to remember when snail mail was the only written communication we had and I have quite a collection – from lovers, a lot from my father, mother, great Aunt Edith, brother and friends too.

As I've been thinking that it's time to get rid of them I've also thought I should give them all one last read. And yet I have resisted. I don't know why.

It's been a long time now that email has mostly taken the place of hand-written letters and I've kept most of those too, the ones that were more than a quick exchange of information. They don't feel as substantial as words made with ink on paper and I've definitely not given them as much thought as those old ones.

Maybe all this is different if one has children, which I don't.

In the greater scheme of things, letters hardly matter, do they? I should really be getting rid of all the bigger stuff, all the duplicates, the too much kitchen equipment, old electronics and such, but so far have not done.

Chemo Brain and Bravery

[To be clear, I want to assure you that I don't intend to turn Time Goes By into a cancer blog - I have plenty of other interests in regard to aging.

But for the two weeks I was stuck on that prehistoric laptop with the speed of a slug, I could not bear to spend more than an hour at a time on it so it was less irritating and easier to write from current experience than about anything that needs backgrounding and research.

At last, on Saturday afternoon, my computer was returned to me in pristine condition, all my files intact and with normal computer speed restored, thanks to an ace tech guru a friend found for me.

I'm now in the process of putting my files in order, catching up on the real work of Time Goes By and I expect to be back to full production by the end of this week.

Meanwhile, I know that during the computer hoo-haw, I missed answering a lot of reader email and lost some of it due to the hinky email program I had to use. So if you were expecting a reply and didn't get one, my apologies.

* * *

For three or four or five weeks after my cancer surgery in June, I was stuck with what hospital personnel called “anesthesia brain” which can apply after especially long surgery – mine was 12 hours. It was frustrating.

Just putting simple sentences together took more effort that I often had. There was a small hiccup of time between someone saying something to me and my understanding of it. And ordinary kinds of focus were almost impossible, in general and particularly on reading as I inexplicably lost interest after a sentence or two.

After that first month, the fog lifted rather swiftly over one weekend and until recently, I didn't notice any of those symptoms again.

Now, apparently, I have intermittent “chemo brain” which is defined differently in different medical circles. One of the nurses at my chemo clinic seemed thoroughly familiar with the phenomenon and implied that it does not necessarily disappear when chemotherapy treatments are done. Oh joy.

The Mayo Clinic, on the other hand, reports that little is known about chemo brain and seems to say that it occurs in cancer survivors, which I am not (yet).

”Chemo brain is a common term used by cancer survivors to describe thinking and memory problems that can occur after cancer treatment. Chemo brain can also be called chemo fog, chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment or cognitive dysfunction.

“Though chemo brain is a widely used term, it's misleading. It's unlikely that chemotherapy is the sole cause of concentration and memory problems in cancer survivors. Researchers are working to understand the memory changes that people with cancer experience.”

In my case, it appears during the three weeks I am “on chemo” when I can tell my thinking gets fuzzy, although it is not as debilitating as it was after my surgery. On the week off from chemo the brain fog gradually lifts and then I start the routine over again.

There is no byline to the Mayo Clinic story, just “Mayo Clinic Staff” which can mean anything and anyone so there is no way to make a judgment about it. There are a lot of unanswered questions in the realm of cancer.

I want to talk a bit about cancer and bravery. Last week, on my post about how busy cancer keeps patients, a reader named Barbara who blogs at Frugal Juice - Life Begins at 70, commented that

”...you are teaching me to be brave as you are so brave to meet each day.”

Barbara is far from the first or only reader, in these months since I was diagnosed, to mention how brave I am. It is not possible for me to express how much your repeated encouragement, love, concern and caring means to me as I tackle this new and unexpected journey.

But brave? We've discussed what it is or is not in these pages in the past and it was clear then that there are many definitions.

This time I am not so interested in what it is in the dictionary or philosophical senses. I care more about why (however many are the ways I might personally define bravery) I don't believe the word, the idea, the intention apply in my current situation.

Was it brave to undergo a 12-hour surgery that has required months of recovery to feel almost normal again? When I asked the surgeon what would happen if I refused such a dreadful-sounding intrusion of my body, he said I would be dead by the end of the year.

That's not bravery, that's survival, the inbred imperative of all animals to avoid death at nearly all cost.

Some readers have attached the notion of bravery to my willingness to write about my cancer experience. Well, here's one secret about that: whatever I said at the top of this post about other interests in life, cancer does tend to take up a lot of space in one's mind often leaving little room for much else so you get these missives.

I write as much to winnow out some meaning and understanding for myself while trying to find some universal significance for readers. That is not bravery and it embarrasses me to be included in the category.

I'm a fairly simplistic thinker and the first thing that comes to mind about bravery is, for example, the soldier who rushes into a hail of bullets to save his buddy – the kind of person to whom we award the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Or, that person who stood in front of a convoy of government tanks in Tienamen Square during the protests of 1989.

Or a parent who runs into a burning building to rescue their child. You know what I mean, and I say that even understanding other, less dramatic but equally stunning forms of bravery.

What I have chosen to do in this circumstance, as I see it, is to endure. To persist. To persevere. For as long as that may be possible.

And if you don't count the annoyances I have given full voice to here, it's not really a big deal what I'm doing because, as I often ask myself (more rhetorically now than otherwise) is what else am I going to do? What else is there to do?

The only answer I have is: just what I'm doing. Just what I did before this with the addition of those damned annoyances.

Oh my, this got much longer than I intended. See what happens when you give me back my working computer. I'll stop now.

It's Friday. That's the Best I Can Say For the Week

As Olga, who blogs at Act Three, posted in the comments on Wednesday,

“And some days are like that, even in Australia.”

And sometimes, Olga, whole weeks are like that here in the U.S. Australia too?

Today's public event in my life was supposed to be a simple little dental checkup in the morning.

Not so simple during this bad week. I took a wrong turn, got horribly lost on the way to his new office on Thursday and was nearly an hour late. The wait for my delayed turn and the work took a lot longer than expected and it was past 4PM when I got home.

In recent years, it is usual for me to lose all energy, physical and mental, by early afternoon so I have to get all necessary work - blog writing, household, errands, appointments, etc. - done before then. It's a challenge but I've learned how to live with it.

Nevertheless, trying to write even something this easy, is difficult at this time of day. So I'm just going to wander around here a little bit, say a couple of things to not leave anything hanging from previous posts and call it a day.

What happened, if you're not one to check in here regularly, is that Crabby Old Lady complained bitterly on Wednesday's post. (And, she insists still that it was fully justified). It was about how her computer died, that her cheapo laptop is so slow it may as well be on a dial-up connection and she had been worried for a week that the suspension of her chemo infusion last week might mean dire news for ongoing pancreatic cancer treatment.

But that last item turned out to be the single bright, shining moment of the week. On this Wednesday, when I went for blood tests and possible infusion, the numbers were all back to normal, the physician assured me this is a common experience with chemo and all was on track.So they poured that medicine into the infusion port and I felt fine. Forward Ho!

Isn't it weird to say that the way things are going this week, cancer treatment is the one good thing?

Also, apologies to those of you who mentioned feeling fearful for me at the headline on Wednesday. I probably went too far. Won't happen again.

That brings us to computer problems. A number of readers have emailed suggestions for a reliable computer fix-it folks. After some thought I'm going with a local freelancer (as opposed to corporate repair services) that a friend I trust on such things has used twice with excellent results at a fair price. Unfortunately, he's out of town until next week so I'm booked for that Thursday.

It means excruciating psychic pain in dealing with anything on this screen until “miracle guy” fixes the computer or I learn I need to get a new one. Bear with me please. It's going to be irritating in that way only computers can be, so posts may a little strange during the disruption because it is so difficult and so time-consuming to get around the web and even the computer itself to find what I need.

Adapting to the Changes of Old Age


Being about midway into old age now, it seems to me that changes great and small come barreling down the pike lickety-split – that there are many more arriving at a much faster rate than at previous ages of life.

I can't prove that with facts and figures and numbers and charts but it feels about right and I've come to believe it is an important job of elderhood to learn to adapt as we are buffeted front and back, up and down, left and right and around again with each new, often unexpected development.

It's not easy. As you know, my life was upended three months ago with a cancer diagnosis. I'm still trying to find a way to make the large number of restrictions that control my days now as commonplace as, for example, brushing my teeth has always been.

It's frustrating that I'm not there yet. I have other things I'd rather do than try to remember if I took those pills after breakfast or treated my hands with that special lotion.

Although I've fought hard on this blog during its 14 years of existence against the generally accepted perception that there are no positives about growing old, it shouldn't be denied that loss is a part of it – more than most of us would like.

There are the ones to which we adapt with relative ease: eyesight and hearing can be successfully treated now; dental implants, if affordable, are almost miraculous; there are many ways to deal with graying hair and hair loss depending the degree of one's concern.

If you try to track down information on the internet about the changes that come with old age, the only things you will find are about health and debility. To the not yet old - the ones who make the rules and decide who is worthy - old people are defined entirely by failing health. Period.

(Keep that in mind as, in the next two months, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, will do his best to dramatically increase what old people pay for Medicare. Cuts to Social Security are being crafted too. Stay tuned for information here about these proposed changes soon.)

But there is much more to growing old than health and although there is crossover among them preliminarily, I have placed these changes into five general categories: Physical, Emotional, Social, Calamitous and Cultural. In old age, all of them take away something we have been accustomed to for a lifetime and, usually, enjoy.

The physical is obvious as our bodies wear out, we slow down and we collect a group of manageable but annoying conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, balance difficulties, even living with cancer, etc.

Emotional issues range from such things as my obstinance about accepting daily changes caused by cancer to sadness from losses as old friends die or move away, and recognition of our own approaching death – among others. These are no small change.

We lose a lot of social engagement when we retire or don't get out and about as easily as we once did or reduced income prevents us from past social pleasures such as theater and travel.

The calamitous, of course, has to do with dire health risks to oneself, a spouse or other people we love. Only a few days ago did I realize that if the chemotherapy is successful and I am pronounced cancer-free at the end of six months, I will still need to be tested every three months for the rest of my life.

Four times a year I will hold my breath waiting for test results to tell me something good or not good. I remember what that feels like from years ago when, a couple of times, I waited a week for answers from breast biopsies.

There are, of course, many other tests of our resilience in old age than these.

Oddly, given the last two paragraphs, it is the cultural category that most aggravates me. In the 20 years I've been studying ageing, the American attitude toward old age has not changed a whit: youth is perfection and old age is a personal failing worthy only of fear and pity.

It comes to each of us, the day when we step over a line in the sand that no one told us was there, the day when the world rejects us, ignores our knowledge and experience, maligns and scorns us.

And no, it doesn't cheer me that the people doing the maligning and scorning will join us soon enough. They have still robbed me of basic dignity - in their eyes if not my own.

Even so, I have found these years of growing old the most engaging, interesting and exciting time of my life. I may not get out and about as much as in youth and adulthood. I have lost interest in keeping up with the latest fads and fashion that I once had fun with. And at last, I have outgrown caring what anyone thinks of me.

But I am more passionate than ever about the two things that most engage me these days: our terrifying politics and what it's really like to get old.

It may not surprise some of you that I've been reading Cicero again, his Cato Maior de Senectute or On Old Age written in 44BC. There is much to learn from Cicero but two things come through strongly about my time of life:

To focus on what I have and can do rather than what I don’t have or can’t do

That age is no barrier to remaining engaged with life: intellectually, physically, socially

There are good reasons mankind has been reading this treatise for more than 2,000 years. Cicero advises us that wisdom is to accept the limitations of old age and look for opportunities to work around them:

”Nature has but a single path and you travel it only once,” writes Cicero. “Each stage of life has its own appropriate qualities - weakness in childhood, boldness in youth, seriousness in middle age, and maturity in old age. These are fruits that must be harvested in due season.”

By the way, Cicero is also the man who said, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This has been rolling around in my mind for several days and easily could have been 20 pages longer. I've spared you that and feel confident that you will add and subtract from it as you see fit.]

Chemotherapy School

One day last week, I spent an hour and a half at chemotherapy school, given at the OHSU (Oregon Health & Science University) clinic where my chemo will be administered.

They handed out a large Powerpoint deck at the class and I already been given a giant binder the week before with pages and pages and pages of lists and commentary on what to expect, what to do and other instructions to follow during chemo treatments.


Huh? Why didn't you guys who've been through this (and according to your comments here, there are quite a few of you) tell me that chemo is a full time, 24/7 job for the next six months?

Until now, I thought it would make me tired and maybe sick for a couple of days after each treatment. But oh no. All kinds of terrible things can go wrong and there are a dozen or more preventive measures plus a lengthy list of side effects a few of which require immediate emergency attention.

For that last item, they prepared a page to post on the refrigerator door for easy reference. Oy. I had no idea.


Of course, these are generalized documents meant for all chemotherapy patients and which side effects an individual is subject to varies with the chemo formula. Some people escape with none or hardly any difficulties. Nevertheless, it is daunting. Among the possibilities:

Decreased blood clotting ability
Irritation of the entire gastrointestinal tract
Nausea and vomiting
Constipation or diarrhea
And my personal favorite (that's snark, folks), Hand-foot syndrome

That's when the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands become red, can crack and develop blisters. The prevention, they tell me is to take tepid, not hot baths and showers, and to wash dishes in tepid water.

That goes with the admonition that chemo compromises the patient's immune system so to avoid infection, one must wash, wash, wash hands constantly.

All that washing, of course, exacerbates hand-foot syndrome so there is a specific kind of lotion to gently rub on hands and feet several times a day. I can't wait – recall what I said above about chemo being a 24/7 job.

All right, I know I'm whining and I shouldn't. For someone with one of the scariest of cancers, I'm incredibly lucky. I am among the only ten percent of pancreatic cancer patients eligible for the Whipple surgery I had.

And now that I am facing chemotherapy soon, they tell me my “dose” will take about an hour to administer. Some people need six or eight hours each time. I am so grateful for these two pieces of luck.

Plus, all these and many more additional instructions, warnings and admonitions come with the care and concern of the medical staff based on their collective years of experience with chemotherapy patients in one of the best cancer centers in the United States.

But still, you could have mentioned this stuff to me. Okay, I'll shut up now.

Are Children an Elder Hazard?

In the nature of callow youth, when I was a teenager - and maybe a young woman too - I noted with some disdain that the homes of old people I knew were often in need of a design update.

If the décor fashion of the day was Danish modern, for example, I felt a kind of contempt for the people who were not keeping up.

It's not that their homes hadn't been cleaned but threadbare upholstery, nicks on chair legs and permanent stains on table tops pointed up some shabbiness. Oh, my disdain knew few bounds.

I've noticed through the years that a lot of children can be as judgmental as I once was and on some reflection, I wonder maybe that it's okay – as long as they aren't rude about it.

It takes a long time to form one's tastes and discernment and young people generally prefer the new to the old – and maybe that applies people as well as furnishings for them (I THINK that's a joke).

And, of course, there are a lot of understandable reasons an old person's home can seem dated to the young. It's expensive to reupholster an otherwise perfectly good sofa and money is generally tighter in retirement.

My latest reason for not spending much time thinking about replacements for whatever is worn is realizing that it probably isn't worth the effort for whatever time is left to me on earth. (I THINK that's half a joke.) Here's an example of one thing I won't be replacing.


When Ollie the cat first came to live with me 13 years ago, from day one he used a leg of my desk to hone his claws. It was a new desk then and I was concerned about what he was doing. At least he wasn't shredding the sofa upholstery, I told myself, but it was a nice desk that he was ripping into.

When I asked a friend what she thought I should do, she had a couple of questions: Is the desk an antique, Ronni? Are you planning to leave it to me in your will?

No to both. And my friend said, “So why do you care?”

She was right and I have not cared ever since nor do I have any intention of replacing the desk even if there are young people who, like me at one time, would see the desk leg as a sign of senile neglect.

All that is leading up to a more serious issue with children, mostly younger ones in this case.

At the hospital where my surgery took place, there is a long, wide hallway between the check-in lobby and the exterior stairs. A nurse was pushing me in a wheelchair as we navigated that space on the day I was leaving.

I was still shaky, in some pain, and acutely aware of my sore midsection where the long incision is. As we moved forward, an old man using a cane with one arm while holding the arm of woman I guessed was his adult daughter, walked past us in the opposite direction.

Suddenly, two boys – maybe seven, eight or nine – ran full tilt down the hallway, brushing the old man's cane arm as they scooted by and then, making a course correction, nearly bumped into my wheelchair.

I don't recall any previous time when I was frightened in just that way. I immediately pictured myself and the wheelchair tipped over on the floor of the hallway, my incision ripped open with blood pouring forth.

Okay, perhaps I was being dramatic but I was hardly myself yet with the effects of 12 hours of anesthesia still muddling my brain. And anyway, in the circumstance it was not an inconceivable accident.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago while shopping at the Saturday farmer's market an almost identical situation took place: I was wandering the stalls when a couple of young boys, playing tag or running just for the fun of it, almost set me off balance as one of them brushed my arm in passing.

I wasn't as vulnerable that time as I had been in the hospital hallway, but it frightened me in the way that pretty much all old people are afraid of falling (as we should be at our age: one-third of Americans 65 and older fall each year. Some of them die from the fall).

These two almost-accidents are a new phenomenon for me. Before them, I had never thought of young kids as an elder hazard.

It is one thing for young people to ridicule how old people live in their homes – most of them, like me, will outgrow it. It is quite another for them to endanger the lives of old people - and you cannot help but wonder where their parents are.

In my case, I came to my newfound feelings of vulnerability via a massive surgery but in time it would have happened anyway with the normal debilities of age.

But I know that from this moment forward I will give all young children a wide berth. They are not safe for an old person to be around.

Eclipse Day Reveals Some Personal Changes


I don't know about everyone else but if, like me, you live within the path of today's eclipse or within easy driving distance, the event has been a local news story to rival President Trump.

All right, that's not quite true but it was the second or third lead many days during this past month and it has been a common topic of conversation.

A week or so ago, at a gathering on the deck of a neighbor one lovely evening, we discussed the upcoming phenomenon. We live about an hour's drive from the path of the total eclipse and not one of us had plans to make that short trip to experience it.

Even those of us who had never seen an eclipse shrugged. “A partial eclipse is fine for me,” or “I'll watch it on television,” we said. Certainly the expected 1.5 million visitors from out-of-state who are clogging the roads affected my decision.

All of us at the gathering are retired, ranging in age from about 70 to mid-eighties and our relative disinterest in the eclipse got me thinking about how age has changed my behavior. Maybe yours too.

There was a time when I would have weathered any amount of traffic to be on the spot when the mother of all lights goes out but that was a long time ago. Because I can, I arrange my life now to avoid being stuck in traffic, among other annoyances.

In recent years, I have become a dedicated homebody under most circumstances. Even two or three hours away from the house for a restaurant meal, a doctor appointment, a meeting or errands and I'm eager to return.

And although I enjoyed all my business trips throughout my work years to almost every one of the United States along with world destinations and saw places I never otherwise would have, airline travel has become so dreadful, I am not sure what could compel me to do that now.

Not to mention that travel generally doesn't fit in my retirement budget.

Many people use their retirement for travel. Some go on cruises (have you seen those prices?). Others buy RVs to take their homes with them. Those vehicles interest me in the same way that boats and tiny houses do (so clever how every inch of space is used well) but not enough to live in one, and certainly not enough to drive it.

Obviously we slow down as the years pass. When I worked, I could clean the house (well, a New York City apartment) from top to bottom in one, three-hour swoop on Saturday mornings. Now I spread it over an entire week.

It's possible that I could still get it done in one go, although not three hours, but I just don't want to. So it's a room or two a day.

One of the oddest developments for me in old age is that as my time on earth becomes demonstrably shorter, the more willing I am to put off all kinds of things until tomorrow and beyond whether it is an onerous chore or a pleasure. I don't understand that but it feels like there is always more time.

In today's case, it's not as though there will be another total eclipse in my vicinity during my lifetime, but I'm staying home anyway.

Years ago, I believed elastic waists were for old people. Now that I'm an old person, I thank god for stretchy waistbands.

I also don't try to hold in my tummy anymore. I sleep when I'm tired. And before this newly enforced meal schedule thanks to my recent surgery, I ate when I felt like it which often had nothing to do with the three usual meals a day.

It's been a couple of years since I watched a movie in a theater. The last two or three I attended, in different theaters, punched up the audio so high it actually hurt my ears. Suggested ear plugs are useless – they either don't work or irritate my ears. And sitting farther away from the screen doesn't help since there are speakers all along the walls.

So I watch movies I am interested in after they show up on television via Netflix, etc. and I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

There's more but you get the idea.

As with today's eclipse, very little feels compelling enough these days to require that I discompose myself by leaving home for too long. And anyway, there is so much to do here: books, movies, cooking, the cat, this blog, good neighbors, visitors and there is a lovely park along the river just steps from my door. Even the weekly farmer's market is only a five-minute walk.

I wasn't always like this but I'm pretty sure I am not alone in my cleaving to hearth and home in my dotage. Nevertheless, I am equally convinced that plenty of others feel differently. How about you?

Today is Millie Garfield's Birthday


More people are living longer these days than when we were young but it is still remarkable to have lived 92 years and counting and today we celebrate Millie's birthday here at TGB.

Millie is the first friend I made on the internet after I started this blog. I no longer recall the circumstances but we've been talking and emailing and phoning and keeping in regular touch with one another for about a dozen years.

Millie started her blog, My Mom's Blog, 14 years ago. In fact, she may have been the first elderblogger– she was doing it at least a year or so before me. Here's how she explained the beginnings of her blog:

”It was thirteen years ago when I asked my son Steve an innocent question, 'what is a blog?' He explained it to me and asked if I would like to have my own blog. I said 'Yes.'

He helped me get started, encouraged me and also introduced me to video blogging. I thank him for that!

All this has got me thinking - maybe I could post something once in a while. Life is different for me now. What would I write about? Who knows?”

Millie stopped regularly posting to her blog a year or two ago but she sometimes posts at Steve's Facebook page where you can check out what they're each doing.

For a long time, Steve produced a couple of video shows with Millie. Here's one from her “I Can't Open It” series:

Steve also shot several Yiddish class videos with his mom. Here's a short one:

Undoubtedly, Steve and his wife Carol will be celebrating with Millie today. Here is a photo of the three of them from a couple of years ago:


The thing about Steve is that I've never seen him – in photos and a couple of times in person – that he is not grinning. He's a really happy guy and he probably owes that disposition to his mom.

For the past two years, we've celebrated Millie's birthday by adding up all our ages in the comments. Here's how I explained it last year updated for 2017:

Take Millie's years, 92. Add my years, 76, and we've got 168. Now, the next one of you, in the comments, should add your age to that, then the next of you add to that total and then the next and so on.

Of course, because more than one will comment at a time, the total will get all screwed up – but that's part of the fun at birthday parties, just being silly. In 2015, the final count was 6,414 collective years. Let's see if we can outdo that this year.

Happy Big Deal Birthday, Millie. I so treasure our friendship and I am privileged to know you.

Focus and Concentration Deficiency

It's really annoying. Since my surgery four weeks ago, I've lost focus. I can't concentrate long enough to get through an average news article or sift through a simple Google search results page and certainly not a book chapter.

Sometimes, when I read a sentence, there is a delay before I understand it. Not much; I've been describing it as the length of a slow finger-snap – just enough time so that the slippage is obvious to me.

When that happens with each sentence in succession, concentration drifts away and meaning is lost.

As it turns out, there is a name for this phenomenon as it occurs after general anesthesia. It's called Post-Operative Cognitive Disorder (POCD). TGB reader Linda commented about it here on 7 July.

She quotes from the American Society of Anesthesiologists:

"Confusion when waking up from surgery is common, but for some people – particularly those who are older – confusion can last for days or weeks..."

It's not exactly confusion for me. In fact, I never doubted that the gazillion bugs I saw crawling up the walls of my hospital room for a day or two following surgery were anything but hallucinations.

However, some other changes Linda tracked down that affect the process of cognition definitely apply to me:

”Cognition is defined as the mental process of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment. Typical complaints of those people reporting POCD are:

Easily tired

Inability to concentrate. For example, they cannot concentrate sufficiently to read a book or newspaper

Memory dysfunction. For example, they have a reduced ability to remember things recently said or done

Reduced ability to perform arithmetic. For example, they make mistakes with normal money transactions while shopping.”

I'm doing fine with arithmetic but the first three are definitely present in my life although I'm heartened to learn they are temporary. Meanwhile, I'm mostly annoyed by it but it does make napping and resting easier than it would be if I were eager to be reading.

ASIDE: Perhaps you have noticed in these blog posts since the surgery that they are all generated from my head alone - no research, no outside links, no facts and figures. That's unlikely to change until my brain fog (POCD) clears.

It is experience rather than reading and research that is making this months-long recovery period a sharp learning curve for me, and I expect there to be more of it.

For all the many years I've been studying ageing, I see now that I have never fully appreciated the difficulties old people face whether from a bodily assault such as my surgery, the natural progression of growing old or “just” managing a chronic disease or condition.

Only last Friday, after being home from the hospital for two weeks, did I finally get a usable grasp on my medications, their dosages, frequency and times of day. Food restrictions add another layer of complexity.

It took several hours to make a chart I can follow until my brain, out of daily practice, will finally know what meds to take when without consulting a list – and double-checking it to be sure I'm correct each time.

Fatigue requires daily management not only of one's own energy level but recognition of it by family members, friends and helpers. I tire so easily that I've given myself a routine of one hour up and about, one hour lying down or napping.

Even the normal activities of life are draining – the small amount of cooking I do, washing up the few dishes, paying bills, sorting the mail, answering email, etc. take their toll.

If there is an “event” in my day – a doctor visit, a physical therapist session at home, a friend stopping by, even phone calls with my medical team or friends – I need the next day to myself, to quietly regain my energy.

Until now, I did not realize how crucial the home assistance tools of recovery (see this post) are and it took a while longer for me to understand that for many elders, they are not temporary, that daily life without them can be nearly impossible.

It's hard to be old, something I've said in the past but did not know until experiencing it first hand how much effort goes into it every day.

That takes nothing away from the pleasures of life and it might be that the difficiulties make them even more precious.

Happy Thanksgiving 2016, Everyone

Some of us may have worried a bit about the outcome during the presidential election campaign but I doubt many – and certainly not me – could bring ourselves to deep-down, really believe our country would be where it is on this 2016 Thanksgiving.

Nevertheless, here we are, and developments from the transition team of the new regime have done little (well, read: nothing) to reassure that the American values reliably trusted (mostly) during our lifetimes still apply.

It is hard to be thankful when the bedrock of the greatest democracy history has known may not hold for much longer. But because, this week, we are only on the cusp of what is yet to be, let us be thankful for what we have. Here is a starter list:

Favorite foods
Good books
Add your own items to the list in the the comments below

Also, in my case, I am grateful for the best blog readers and commenters on the internet. Without you, I would not do this or, at least, I wouldn't enjoy it much. You are the best.

In 2013, I vowed that due to my delight at rediscovering Arlo Guthrie's epic Thanksgiving fable, Alice's Restaurant, after the decade or two it lay somewhere in memory limbo, I would make the song the annual holiday anthem of TimeGoesBy.

As I noted that year, I was equally delighted to discover that with a couple of minor lapses, I still knew the entire monologue by heart. I can't say why but it gives me a great deal of pleasure to sing along for the entire 18 minutes, which I took the time to do (with gusto again this year) before readying this post.

Maybe you would enjoy doing that too.

It's a fine ol' song, don't you think.

Just because I can and it's a holiday, I am giving myself a vacation from posting not only tomorrow, Thanksgiving itself, but Friday too (unless something comes over me and I change my mind). Enjoy your holiday and I'll be back here on Saturday with the latest list of Interesting Stuff.

For everyone who honors me year 'round by reading, commenting and/or generally hanging out here,