Stumbling Along Toward an Ending

In the time I have been writing here about my approaching demise [counting from the Whipple surgery, it is more than three years] I have felt a need to be upbeat and positive about it in these pages.

The source of this pressure is more confusion than mystery. It is a natural bent of mine to seek the bright side in everything from disappointment to catastrophe. But no doubt I am also influenced by reader input that often favors pluck and fortitude in facing the inevitable destruction that is our mutual fate.

In addition, I am a realist. I do not engage in impossible fantasy as our president does and neither do I ignore difficulties. Most of the time I deal with issues head on and work them out as much as is necessary in the moment, sometimes leaving harder aspects for later.

Well, later has arrived and the truth is, it's not so easy now being my old perky self. The odd thing is that it's not about death itself that has me down some days. It's the deterioration on my way to the end.

Remember a week ago when I wrote about how I look like the Rodin sculpture of The Old Courtesan first thing in the morning? That's just the beginning of the day.

Maybe it's the “worst air in the world” in my neck of the woods due to the wildfires, but when I stand up first thing in the morning now, I can barely breathe. I was doing fine lying down and sitting, but not on my feet so I head (slowly) straight for the oxygen concentrator and plug myself in.

Who knew brushing one's teeth could be such an energy drain. Or walking to the kitchen or measuring out the coffee.

Actually, pretty much everything can take my breath away – in the literal, not exhilarating sense.

I gave up making my bed a few months ago and as of this week, I have hired a cleaning service because it is no longer a matter of taking three rest periods to change the bed; it's that I cannot do it at all. Nor can I push the vacuum cleaner anymore.

Taking out the trash is hard too. It's amazing how heavy those under-the-counter kitchen bags can get so I've taught myself to fill them only halfway before taking them out. Now I have taken to putting them in the car, which is closer to my apartment, and drive the 100 feet to the trash and recycling bins.

At first, I felt stupid making that short drive. Now it is a necessity.

Washing dishes, once a boring chore to me, has become one bright spot among all the stuff that exhausts me. It is the one thing left (aside from sitting) that I can easily do without losing my breath.

Even though I took care of my mother 24/7 during the four or five months she was dying and watched her become weaker day by day, I had no idea it would someday be so hard for me to do the household chores I took for granted for more than 70 years. Or, I suppose, I just didn't apply such decline to myself.

In healthy midlife, I think we can't imagine that we will ever become weak and tired and dependent. Oh, all right, make that “I couldn't imagine it when I was in midlife.” Maybe you knew better than I did.

Did I mention that even bending over is almost beyond my capability now? Do you remember that old joke about the old man who knelt down to get something off the floor and said to himself, “I wonder what else I can do while I'm down here?”

That's me now. Actually, it is not a matter of what more I can do. It's that I'll be heaving for breath for four or five minutes after the two seconds it takes me to retrieve a dropped pencil. I try to hang on tight to things now.

My long-winded point today is that the growing impediments to the simple way of life I have nowadays leaves me tired, weak and then dejected, asking myself, why not use those end-of-life drugs right now?

It's a good question. Except. Except. Another thing I didn't know in my mid-years is how strongly life insists on coursing through a body even as damaged as mine is now. A night's sleep (when I can get it) coupled with coffee and the nebulizer puts things right for a few hours and once again, I cannot imagine not being here.

Last week I discussed some of all this with my palliative care provider in a video call. That day, I was also lamenting that using the end-of-life drugs when the time comes deprives me of the final act of life I had wanted so much and we had previously discussed: to experience in my last moments what death is like.

As he often does, he had a good answer for me. Explaining that death doesn't happen all at once, but over a period of time, perhaps I could transfer that desire for knowing the last moments into tracking my physical and emotional transition to the day when I decide it is time for those drugs. To shadow myself down that road.

That surely animated me and made the hard stuff I'm going through worth the effort – for now or for as long as it does. And sometimes I'll tell you about it here.

There I go again, finding the bright side.


A TGB READER STORY: Memory of a Summer Day

By Janet from Minnesota

On this beautiful summer day, my heart is filled with memories of a lady I used to know. It makes sense that I use the word lady because it implies a gentle manner and is a word that seems to embody who and how she was.

I think we must have met long before my first recollection of her. Nevertheless, the first time she appears in my memory is on a summer afternoon. Her white-grey hair is carefully combed, as always, and she’s wearing one of her floral cotton summer dresses. The pink and white one, I think it was.

She’s standing in the doorway of her tidy little house holding the door open for us, smiling and chattering cheerfully. We would come to repeat this ritual many times over several summers, but that first time and how she looked on that day has stayed with me for all these years.

She always seemed genuinely happy to see us, greeting my mom with a big smile. “Oh, Patsy, how are you? Come on in. Look at all these nice kids. Oh, and here’s my little Jeanne!”

My mom and I and some of my siblings had made the two or three mile walk to her house - an easy trek because it was all downhill (and because I didn’t have a toddler to pick up and carry every so often like my mom did).

After taking our shoes off at the door, we respectfully made our way into her house. It was a curious place to me, simply decorated with old fashioned furniture and knickknacks.

I remember a figurine that sat on a small table by her green and gold lamp. It was of a woman with a fancy hat and gloves and a very glamorous smile painted across her porcelain face.

In the dining room was a corner shelf that held several elegantly flowered teacups with matching saucers. I can still see the bright colors and delicate handles of the teacups and how pretty they looked against the dark wood of the shelf.

I didn’t think about it then, but today I can imagine her placing each teacup in just the right spot and how she must have dusted them one by one, carefully returning them to their proper place on the shelf.

Her windows were always filled with plants. She was a prolific and gifted gardener; one of the many sweet things about her I didn’t truly appreciate until it no longer was.

I’m lucky after all these years to have vivid memories of her flower garden and of her walking gracefully in and out of the rows of beautiful flowers like a butterfly who didn’t want to miss out on a single one of them.

She was at home in the middle of all those flowers, chatting happily about which ones were doing well, which would bloom next and what colors they would be, stopping here and there to select just the right blossoms for a pretty and colorful bouquet to send home with my mom.

After a visit to her flower garden she would send us to the neighborhood store for vanilla ice cream. Carefully opening the ice cream carton from the side, she would slice the frozen treat like a loaf of bread; a thick, delicious square for each of us.

It was a special delight when raspberries were in season. Fresh from her garden, she’d spoon them onto our ice cream in a most generous fashion, the bright red berries atop the sweet ice cream slices making my mouth water with anticipation. I’d be hard pressed to remember having a better treat before or since.

As I write this, my heart overflows with memories of this kind, sweet lady - too many and too tender to write about in one sitting. So just for now, on this beautiful summer day, I will remember her the way she was on those summer days of long ago, greeting us with a smile, making sure our visit was pleasant and special the way a gracious hostess does, and sending us off with more smiles, happy chatter, some homemade raspberry jam, and of course, a bouquet of beautiful flowers. Here’s to the precious memory of you, my dear Aunt Vickie.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


Random Thoughts on Daily Life While Old

WILD FIRE UPDATE: Fires continued over the weekend producing in my neck of the woods the worst air quality in the entire world, they said. Even healthy people – those without such lung disease as I have and who are young – were cautioned to remain indoors on Saturday and on Sunday.

None of the fires in my area have been contained but there is no imminent danger to my town. In fact, as I was writing this on Sunday afternoon, I received a fire alert that my town has been dropped from the Level 1 evacuation order to Level zero or normal.

Just in case, my bag is still packed and ready to go. The weather people say we may have rain tonight or tomorrow or the next day. If so, that should help the fire fighters.

* * *

Today's post is a few short takes on some thoughts and ideas I would like to develop further but haven't mustered the concentration to do so yet. Or, more likely, am just too lazy to get the work done right now.

DIVERSITY
Since the summer of Black Lives Matter demonstrations, there has been a lot of talk in public conversation and in polls about diversity indicating support for including more people of color, ethnicity and gender.

That is a good thing but I wonder why diversity discussions don't include old people.

LOOKING BACK ON NEARLY 80 YEARS OF LIFE
Being in hospice is a pretty clear indication that my life is on the wane. Nevertheless, I have spent little if any time casting a backward glance over the life I have lived.

Certain episodes come up but they don't linger and when I have tried now and then to find a thread runs through my years, nothing comes to mind. Even so, in general I feel that I have had a good life. Perhaps it is that I have lived as singer Elton John once said he had:

“If you let things happen, that's a magical life.”

That's how it has worked for me. I never had a plan, I just followed my nose from one day to the next, one month and one year to the next. What about you?

THE ESSENCE OF LATE LIFE
If you have a serious disease or two, as I do, daily life gets reduced to its essentials: rest, meals, medications with remaining time devoted to one's individual kinds of pleasures of old age.

I've made a schedule for myself. Medications at certain times of the day, cooking and cleaning up at other, mostly specific times, resting for awhile two or three times a day, moving slowly due to breathing difficulties for such chores at getting the mail, taking out the trash, doing the laundry.

The trick is to leave large enough chunks of time to answer email, do some research, write a blog post or two and include some pleasure reading.

One night of poor sleep and it's all gone to hell. Then it's two days until old age normal routine returns. Surprises are not among my joys these days.


ELDER MUSIC: ...and Poor

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

We’ve been rich, just last week, and now we’re poor. I don’t know what happened, something to do with the economy, I imagine. Today we have the poor songs.

I’ll start with the poor boy who became very rich indeed, ELVIS.

Elvis

Elvis performed the song Poor Boy in his first film, Love Me Tender. Unlike later films, there weren’t enough songs to release them as a soundtrack album. Instead they were released as an EP (remember EPs?).

Neither the song nor the EP went to the top of the charts. That was about the last time that happened with Elvis. The song is Poor Boy.

♫ Elvis - Poor Boy


JOHNNY RIVERS isn’t as well known today as many of his ilk.

Johnny Rivers

He had several chart topping songs in the sixties and seventies and also wrote a bunch of really good songs. One of those is Poor Side of Town that was covered by Mel Tormé and Ray Charles amongst others.

♫ Johnny Rivers - Poor Side of Town


On his “John Wesley Harding” album, Bob Dylan had a song called I Pity the Poor Immigrant. JUDY COLLINS recorded that same song, but truncated the title to Poor Immigrant.

Judy Collins

This was from her album “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”, probably the most country sounding of hers, but not really a country record.

♫ Judy Collins - Poor Immigrant


CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL didn’t get the respect of some of their colleagues when they were first popular.

Creedence

That was probably because they produced well-crafted songs that the general public really liked, and bought by the millions. However, time is the great arbiter and their songs are still admired and loved today, unlike the 20 minute noodlings their original critics used to indulge in.

Their song is Down on the Corner, which is about Willy and the Poor Boys, from the album that shares that name.

♫ Creedence Clearwater Revival - Down On The Corner


The EVERLY BROTHERS sing an absolute tale of woe about their girlfriend.

Everly Brothers

It seems that our lads took Jenny to a party that got out of hand. She was assaulted, the cops were called, they left her in the lurch and Poor Jenny was banged up in the clink. They don’t seem very contrite; I don’t think this relationship will continue.

♫ Everly Brothers - Poor Jenny


From around about the same time, there’s no mistaking LITTLE RICHARD on this song.

Little Richard

However, it isn’t one of his usual frantic songs. Well, not entirely. It’s a mid-tempo (for him) song called Poor Boy Paul.

♫ Little Richard - Poor Boy Paul


There’s probably an interesting story behind GORDON LIGHTFOOT’s contribution today. That’s because with Gordie there’s always a story that leads to his songs.

Gordon Lightfoot

This one is called Poor Little Allison.

♫ Gordon Lightfoot - Poor Little Allison


Linda Ronstadt had a huge hit with the song Poor, Poor Pitiful Me. This was written by WARREN ZEVON and he recorded it first.

Warren Zevon1

This was from his early self-titled album that had many of his best songs on, many covered by Linda (and other lesser musicians). Here’s what Warren makes of it.

♫ Warren Zevon - Poor Poor Pitiful Me


VAN MORRISON teams up with TAJ MAHAL on an album where Van rerecords some of his songs helped by other singers.

Van Morrison & Taj Mahal

That album is called “Duets - Re-Working the Catalogue”, a fairly obvious title for such an endeavour. Of course, anything by Van is worth the cost, and if we have Taj along as well, that’s a bonus. They perform How Can a Poor Boy.

♫ Van Morrison - How Can a Poor Boy


I always liked RICKY NELSON. I still do.

Ricky Nelson

He had the advantage over other similar performers early on in that he was on television each week, always ending the program with a song. An added bonus was that he had the best lead guitarist around at the time, James Burton, playing for him. Here’s Ricky with Poor Little Fool, written by Sharon Sheeley.

♫ Ricky Nelson - Poor Little Fool


I’ll go out with a blaze of glory with the lesser known and underappreciated blues man JOHN PRIMER.

John Primer

Before going out on his own, John was a guitarist for the great Muddy Waters. You really had to be good to get that gig as Muddy could get anyone he wanted by the time that John played with him. Here’s John with Poor Man Blues.

♫ John Primer - Poor Man Blues


INTERESTING STUFF – 12 September 2020

UPDATE ON OREGON WILD FIRES: So far there has been no order to evacuate but I was busy Friday packing so today's Interesting Stuff seems a bit short.

* * *

SURPRISE OPERA IN A SCHOOL LUNCH ROOM

TGB reader Ali in Seattle sent this great surprise at a Buckinghamshire primary school where an impromptu Opera was staged in the canteen one lunch time.

“Four secret opera singers, disguised as canteen staff, broke into song bringing the room to a standstill with a rousing medley of the Italian classics by Verdi, Puccini and Rossini.

“From soaring soprano to booming baritone, the singers’ stunning performance thrilled the unsuspecting school children whose shocked and surprised reactions were captured on camera by a six strong film crew behind the scenes.”

RIDING A 115-FOOT WAVE

I never even tried to learn how to surf and I am undoubtedly too old to start now but this sure looks exciting. TGB reader Mary Evans Young sent it.

You can find out more about the surfer and his ride here.

AS WE GET OLDER WE TEND TO FORGET THINGS

From Ali in Seattle.

As we get older...

RARE WHITE DEER

This is another from Mary Evans Young. What a magical creature.

You can read about this deer and some other animal rarities here.

WINDOW-SWAP

This is so much fun – windows of places from all around the world. Each video is about 10 minutes long. If you're tired of the view from you own window, it is an interesting respite.

Take a look here. Just click on the image for a new window. The location is in the upper right corner of each frame.

Read more about the website at The Verge and maybe record your own video out your window and upload it.

ONLY A HARMONICA

I promise you never heard a harmonica player like Buddy Greene. Joan McMullin sent this video and the location appears to me to be Carnegie Hall.

There is a whole lot more of Buddy Greene on YouTube.

YOUR CLICK OF ZEN

That headline is what an Oregon Public Broadcasting email called the link to this video of eight or 10 of the most gorgeous insects flying in slow motion while a scientist explains. And it certainly is a lovely few moments of Zen.

ANONYMOUSE

Some years ago I featured Anonymouse here and it's worth doing again. Huffpost published a recent story about the creators, explaining that they are

”A secret group of creatives from Malmö in southern Sweden [who sneak] stunning miniature installations for mice into public spaces in the dead of night.

“The clandestine collective ― called Anonymouse ― incorporates everyday objects into its painstaking recreations, using matchboxes for desks and postage stamps for paintings.

“The group has installed 25 pieces, mostly in cellar windows, in its home city, across Sweden, in France and on the Isle of Man.”

Take a look at this video:

Read more at HuffPost where there are still shots of the interiors of several of the installations.

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog.


Blog Housekeeping: What's Not Allowed Here

UPDATE AT 10:20AM PDT: OREGON WILDFIRES
Several readers have asked how I am doing in regard to the Oregon wildfires. Short answer? I'm freaking out.

Longer answer: The air here is awful and the sky is some ugly color for which there is no name.

In Lake Oswego, we are at a level 1 evacuation order which is the lowest and means pack up while you've got the time. (Level 2 means to pack up and be ready to leave at a moment's notice. Level 3 is leave now, no foolin' around.)

Did I mention I'm freaking out? Well, as much as a person who can't climb a single flight of stairs without stopping three times to catch her breath can freak out.

I'm half packed and as soon as I finish this blog note I'll get back to it. My wonderful neighbor Judy will drive and she has it all planned about where we will go. There is no expressing how grateful I am to her.

Here is the thing – if I had any doubts, I know for sure that I am old now and big surprises all but paralyze me. Yesterday, Judy dropped off a list of what to pack in such a situation as ours that she had printed off the internet and she did it just when I was trying to sort out that particular question.

I perfectly well know how to search the internet for such information. I've been doing that every day for 40 years. But while I dithered yesterday before she arrived, it hadn't occurred to me. I consider that the sign that I am officially old now in every way, dependent on others to think for me - at least in new situations.

Have I mentioned that I am freaked out? If my home burns down, I have nowhere to go. Worse, my mind simply will not pay attention to that question. Just call me Scarlett O'Hara on this point.

* * *

Am I really expected to tolerate a certain type of Christian who feels entitled to publicly hector, lecture and threaten with damnation everyone who does not believe in his or her god?

I think not.

Before I go further, let me congratulate the TGB readers who either responded with restraint to or ignored the recent comment intruder spewing irate Bible talk at what she perceives as heresy. You did better than I would have, or will today.

What is it about some kinds of Christians? You know the type: they are always angry, usually snide and seem eager for those who do not toe their particular line of religiosity to roast in hell.

They talk a lot about love but show not an iota of it to those who believe differently from them.

This one, Sue by name, jumped in on 2 September's story about Canada's ruling on psylocybin use, advocating scripture instead of mushrooms because “psycho-drugs are known to open portals - that need to stay shut.”

Oh lordy, look out for those open portals because – what? Monsters will crawl out? That is what she implied in a response that same day to Celia Andrews, some nonsense about “the use of these to open the third eye portal? Yikes.”

What is in that portal, do you think, that is so terrible and why don't those of us who have used psychedelics know what it is or been dragged down into the primordial swamp?

Sue had something to say, too, on Tuesday's Reader Story by Carole Leskin about faith in a time of horrific, worldwide upheaval.

I had argued with myself about publishing it. There have been troubles with a few religious comment trolls here in the past and I have always had to shut them down.

But Carole's story is not overtly religious, she does not solicit belief in whatever her god is and leaves plenty of room for non-believers or other-believers to think about faith without defining it by her values.

Nevertheless, there was Sue:

”Faith. And i thought there'd be atleast a phrase about whatever happens, the Lord is sovereign and or something along the lines that it's the grace of the Lord Jesus that's getting me through the drama. Shoulda realized the posts would be all about (temporal) salvation by ones own works.”

Besides being offensive, Sue appears to be unaware there are other definitions of faith beyond the religious.

On Wednesday's post about the two lovely children's books, Sue was back to warning of the godly wrath to be rained down upon anyone who does not believe in Jesus.

And with that, Time Goes By is done with Sue. Without notice or recourse, she has been permanently banned.

It makes no difference to me what religious beliefs people hold as long as they do not impinge on anyone else's freedoms and in the case of this blog, they do not disrupt the conversation.

You see, the thing about Time Goes By is that there is a great, good group of smart, interesting, knowledgeable people who take the time and make the effort to comment on the day's topic with original thoughts and ideas that I always look forward to reading.

So I'll be damned (yes, I chose that word purposefully) if I'll let a disruptive, little pissant spew her religious venom. That's not allowed here.


Two Children's Books About Death

It might not surprise you to know that I think about death these days. More than sometimes, less than every day, but not infrequently.

Actually, that has always been so – that I think about dying. Maybe not as pointedly as now that it is almost close enough to touch but it has shadowed me for all my years. Maybe yours too.

For most of my life such thoughts were accompanied by heart-pounding fear and for two or three decades, I pretended I was the one immortal. You would die, but not I.

Of course, such fantasy is unsustainable past middle age even without a terrible disease. Psilocybin late in 2017 smoothed out the rough edges of my dread. (It really does do that).

Or, perhaps living with a terminal illness for three years now one comes to think of death as a not unfriendly visitor – even, at times, a companion.

There's a book about that – about death being a not unfriendly visitor. Cry Heart, But Never Break is classified as a children's book but as with many of them, writing for children sometimes seems to be a way of reaching adults more easily.

I had given my original copy to a friend with a young daughter but recently realized I want to read it again (and, probably, again etc.) so I tracked down another copy online. (Not so easy these days; it is often out of stock.)

It seems to be about how to say goodbye to loved ones who die – and it is that. But it is also reassuring to the one doing the dying (to me, anyway). It is written by Danish children's author, Glenn Ringtved, illustrated by Danish artist, Charlotte Pardi.

Here is a reading of the book I found on YouTube:

Of course, death in inextricably linked with life along with the reverse, and The Fall of Freddy the Leaf makes that clear. It is written by the late Dr. Leo Buscaglia who died in 1998.

A friend dismissed Freddy the Leaf as sappy and unoriginal. But you know, death itself is unoriginal – it happens to all of us, even planet Earth itself eventually, and in my current predicament, I find it soothing to read.

Here is a lovely and well-done reading of The Fall of Freddy the Leaf from YouTube:


A TGB READER STORY: When Faith Is What I Need Most

By Carole Leskin

I tried to write something to post today. Something sweet, gentle, funny, or hopeful. But I could not.

Today all I could do was sit and grieve. Overwhelmed. Where am I? What is happening to the imperfect, but basically kind country I knew? Cities and even towns all over the US are burning, looted and destroyed. The military are being used to disperse peaceful protesters. George Floyd is murdered and four policemen, the people who take the oath to stand and protect, are accused.

A Central Park bird watcher is reported to the police. More than 100,000 people are dead from COVID-19 with more every day, as the necessary supplies to help treat it are still not fully deployed.The pandemic rages on.

The number of people unemployed is as great as during the Depression. We cannot get close to people. We wear masks. Our loved ones die alone and have no funerals. Social distancing, a necessity, has become painful isolation, and depression and suicide is a daily occurrence.

The list could easily be longer - but this is enough. And so, many of us spend our time inside and afraid.

There is a terrible irony in what has become the slogan we hear chanted and see on placards everywhere as protesters by the thousands march day after day. Not since the 1960s have we seen anything like it.

"I CAN'T BREATHE!”

George Floyd's dying words. But also one of the last things people of all ages, colors, religions, genders say as they die from covid19. The same can be said by people where air and water pollution is once again killing our environment. And when peaceful protestors are dispersed by gas. There is more - but you all know examples.

The murder of George Floyd has become more than a chant decrying racism and police brutality. It is the cry of the people of the United States - once thought to be the greatest nation on Earth - the slogan for so many in 2020.

I turn to the place - the only place - where I find comfort. Faith.

It's not that I believe G_d can miraculously solve all of this distress. For me, Faith means that there is hope. It asks me to wake up each morning and consider how I might be helpful. Sometimes, Faith is the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.

It encourages me to get on with life as best I can, recognizing it is a gift, and knowing that good people are everywhere. Faith is purpose. Faith is potential. Faith is possibility. But it is up to me to do more than pray for help. What happens daily is my responsibility. There are days when I fail.

Somehow, I am still often optimistic. And that, I believe, is Faith.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


Elder Bodies (Again)

Thanks to the advance of my two diseases – cancer and COPD – I am a great deal slower these days than I was just a few months ago.

Recently, after I wake in the morning, I have found myself sitting on the edge of my bed for quite awhile – three or four or five minutes or so. It is not that I am worn out from getting into an upright position or that I am thinking about anything, it is – well, I can't tell you why. I don't know.

But one day last week, as I sat there, it occurred to me that had anyone been watching, I would appear much like Auguste Rodin's sculpture of The Old Courtesan (La Belle qui fut heaulmière):

707px-The_Old_Courtesan_(La_Belle_qui_fut_heaulmière)_MET_11398

So, on that morning, I took a good look at myself in the full length mirror and saw that I wasn't far off in my comparison. In fact, she is even in nearly the same position as I had been sitting on the side of the bed looking down - at nothing really.

The image of the courtesan and my reflection in the mirror stuck with me that morning. Surely many, maybe most people would find the courtesan – and, therefore, me – to be ugly. But I don't.

Part of what was rolling around in my head is how interesting the old courtesan is and how many times I had sought her out when I visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art during the years I lived in New York City.

I was younger in those days and recall wondering if she presaged my eventual appearance. Now I know: our bodies are nearly twins and for some reason I'm rather pleased with that.

Here is the text from the page for The Old Courtesan on the Metropolitan Museum's website:

”Incorporated into the left pilaster on The Gates of Hell, the withered old woman evoked a moral connection between sin and the ravages of time. The harrowing veracity of the independent sculpture accords with a statement of Rodin’s: 'Character is the intense truth of any natural [sight], beautiful or ugly.'”

Yes. I'll take intense truth any time.

I was going to have some more to say in this post about our culture's insistence on youth as the ideal of beauty. Then I recalled that I had written about this back in 2013, and it holds up rather well. So I will just link and you can follow if you wish. Here are How to Accept Our Aging Bodies Part 1 and Part 2.


ELDER MUSIC: Rich

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

We have a couple of columns about rich and poor. Today it’s rich songs. I imagine that most people would prefer to be rich but alas, most people don’t get to be that way. We can appreciate rich songs though.

SAFFIRE, THE UPPITY BLUES WOMEN hung up their guitars, pianos and basses in 2009.

Saffire

Unfortunately, they won’t be getting back together as founder member Ann Rabson has since died. We still have their records though and really good ones they are too. To kick off the rich list here they are performing The Richest Guy In The Graveyard.

♫ Saffire The Uppity Blues Women - The Richest Guy In The Graveyard


Here is an old song by TONY BENNETT and it’s one of his biggest hits.

Tony Bennett

Given the topic most of you will figure out that the song is Rags to Riches. The young Tony’s voice was in terrific shape when he recorded this one.

♫ Tony Bennett - Rags To Riches


The next song was written by Mississippi John Hurt, and he does a fine version of it. However, I think it should be performed by a woman, and the one I have in mind is MARIA MULDAUR.

Maria Muldaur

John had a really lovely laid-back style of guitar playing and Maria employed her old friend John Sebastian to emulate him on her record. This is one of my favourite of Maria songs that’s not on her first two albums.

Mississippi John called his song variously Rich Woman Blues or Richland Woman Blues. Maria used the latter name.

♫ Maria Muldaur - Richland Woman Blues


The first song I thought of for this category is by DARYL HALL AND JOHN OATES.

Hall & Oates

It’s another big hit, one of their biggest. It’s also something of an earworm, or at least it is for me. See what you think, it’s Rich Girl.

♫ Hall & Oates - Rich Girl


During his lifetime there was not another cooler performer than TONY JOE WHITE.

Tony Joe White

He could entertain an audience with just his guitar and himself singing, I know because I’ve been there. Alas, he died a couple of years ago so you won’t be able to experience his magic if you haven’t already. There are still records though, and videos.

There were few more enjoyable performers than Tony Joe in my opinion. Let’s hear Rich Woman Blues.

♫ Tony Joe White - Rich Woman Blues


PATSY CLINE could have fitted in both rich and poor columns with her song. It was just a matter of how the songs panned out.

Patsy Cline

So, here she is trying to decide which one to go for. Listening to the song, I found that she thinks she’d go for poor, so perhaps I put her in the wrong category. It doesn’t matter, any appearance of Patsy is fine by me. A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold).

♫ Patsy Cline - A Poor Man's Roses (Or A Rich Man's Gold)


Many, many years ago I went to a one man show by Nehemiah Persoff. He talked about his life, his acting and many other things. It was an extraordinary performance.

He mentioned the stage show “Fiddler on the Roof”. If I Were a Rich Man was a song from the musical. I don’t have Nehemiah performing it (if he ever did). In his place I’ve found a rather good version by ANTHONY NEWLEY.

Anthony Newley

Anthony was the all round performer – singer (many of his songs hit the charts), songwriter (quite a few film scores), actor (more than 50 films) and writing plays, some of which he performed in.

I liked the line in the song that seems just relevant today: “It won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong, when you’re rich, they think you really know.”

♫ Anthony Newley - If I Were a Rich Man


I mentioned above what a great live performer Tony Joe White was. In concert there was one that might just have been better. If any of you, like me, had the pleasure to see MARTY ROBBINS live you are blessed.

Marty Robbins

We all know what a fine singer he was, possibly the best in country music, but that’s not all he sang. He could do anything as far as I’m concerned. His contribution to today’s topic is Little Rich Girl.

♫ Marty Robbins - Little Rich Girl


THE BLACK SORROWS is the most successful of the several bands founded by Australia’s living national musical treasure, Joe Camilleri.

Black Sorrows

The Sorrows started as a reggae band but expanded to become a rhythm & blues, rock & roll and pop band. They could play anything really, with a bunch of superb musicians and singers. I’ll let you consider who The Richest Man in the World is.

♫ Black Sorrows - The Richest Man In The World


The DESERT ROSE BAND was essentially a vehicle for Herb Pederson (from The Dillards) and Chris Hillman (from The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers).

Desert Rose Band

These days they don’t even bother with the band, they perform as an acoustic duo, and mighty fine they are. However, back when they were still a band, here is For the Rich Man.

♫ Desert Rose Band - For the Rich Man


C. J. CHENIER is a zydeco musician; he plays the accordion and sings. He’s the son of the most famous zydeco accordionist, Clifton Chenier.

CJ Chenier

C.J. was brought up in Texas and was more into jazz and funk. Rebelling against his dad, I suspect. However, over time he absorbed his father’s music and became a master of that style of music, bringing his own musical influences into it. Here he performs Richest Man.

♫ C. J. Chenier - Richest Man