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Next Stop, Portland Maine

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Militarycemetary Today is the 62nd anniversary of D-Day – the first day of the Allied invasion of Normandy (codenamed Operation Overlord) in 1944. It culminated, less than three months later, in the liberation of Paris and eventually in the victory of the Allies over the Axis powers on 8 May 1945, ending World War II.

When people my age and older speak or hear the phrase “the war,” it still means World War II to us. There have been Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the current Iraq War and dozens of military skirmishes in between. But “the war” is our war and it colored everything about our childhoods, even those of us who were too young to have strong memories of the war years themselves.

I was only four years old when the World War II ended, but I have little flash pictures in my mind of blue and red ration stamps, blackout curtains, letters from Daddy who fought in the Philippines and New Guinea, and that there was no chewing gum available then except what Daddy sent from overseas in those letters.

Habits of the war years hung on throughout much of the rest of my childhood. We recycled food tins for a long time after the metal was no longer needed for the war effort, and continued to hold paper drives too. Those practices faded sometime in the 1950s until, decades later, they were resurrected for environmental reasons.

Aside from the fact that is important to remember, there would be no reason to mention D-Day at TGB except that for the rest of my life, the 6th of June will also be the day I left Manhattan for a new home in Portland, Maine. I didn’t plan it to coincide with the military anniversary, but it pleases me that such an historical marker will from now on be personally important for another reason too.

I’m driving off this morning in my little red car 37 years, one month and 29 days since I arrived in New York in 1969. I couldn’t tell you why and it is kind of silly, but it seemed important this morning to work that out that length of time on the calendar.

See you soon – from Maine.


Between Worlds

category_bug_journal2.gif My friend in Pennsylvania – Neil, the one who found my beautiful, new, red car which I picked up and drove back to New York on Sunday – made a remarkable observation while I was visiting with him and his wife, Donna, over the weekend.

He said that for these few days between closing on the sale of my New York apartment and moving into my new home in Portland, Maine, on Friday are like a stepping through a science fiction time warp – moving from one world, one kind of life, into an entirely new one. It’s a clean slate, Neil noted, on which I could remake myself, if I want to, into a different person.

That’s unlikely, but it does feel like a period of limbo; being poised on the edge of a dramatic change in, fully aware of its approach and having the time, between dimensions, to take a deep breath and live neither life for a few days before stepping into the unknown.

It will be much like a literal suspension of time because I’ll be in a hotel room for three nights in Portland, and all hotel rooms are the same – innocuous pictures on the walls so not to offend anyone, the same arrangement of the same furniture – one bed, one desk, one chair - little shampoo and conditioner bottles neatly lined up in the corner of the bathroom vanity. There are never surprises in hotel rooms and nothing to identify one’s location. While you are in the room, you could be anywhere - Portland, Maine or Singapore.

Births. Marriages. Deaths. And their anniversaries. Going-away gifts when people leave. Welcome home parties when they return from being away a long time. We recognize the life-changing qualities of these events and mark points on our journey from cradle to grave with celebrations of them.

This one comes for me at a propitious moment: the 65th year of my personal life journey which is the traditional dividing line between the waning of adulthood and the onset of elderhood. How lucky I am to be celebrating that passage with what, for me, is an unexpected adventure, not something I planned for many years to do at this time in my life.

I’ve always liked surprises.


Elder? It Fits Nicely

Last Thursday, Leah left this comment on Why Aren’t There More A-List Bloggers:

“But "elder"? Makes me feel as if I should be wise, and that will never happen. Perhaps we can do away with identifiers altogether? It's what we say and do, and not our age, that counts.”

Let me explain…

We’ve discussed the many “names” elders are given in several posts here over the past two years. Some, such as geezer, biddy, fossil, fogey and coot, are just rude. Others are too cutesy to be at all tolerable: golden-ager, third-ager, oldster.

The standards – senior and senior citizen have become pejorative with overuse. Pensioner, retiree and mature person suffer from being inexact and also carry a negative feel.

When I started Times Goes By, I deliberately used the words old and older in the same way that young is used – as a neutral modifier – intending and hoping that it would, in time, become less negative, but it was never quite right.

I had toyed a few times with the word elder – which has fallen out of use in the past century. Then, one of the Blogher founders, Elisa Camahort, labeled me “elderblogger” and it was a Eureka moment. Elder felt just right.

Certainly, Leah is correct that what we say and do is what counts. But we cannot prevent others from labeling us and it’s important that elders, not others, decide what that label is.

Language matters. It was crucial to the success of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, that the people who were then commonly called Negroes insisted that henceforth they be called blacks. “Negro” carried centuries of negative baggage, but black was new and neutral and it made a big difference in the advancement of the cause.

And so it is with old people. “Elder” has been in disuse for so long that we can adjust its meaning now. It doesn’t need to mean wise, although on experience alone, elders have gained more judgment to draw on than younger people have for no other reason than they haven’t lived long enough yet. And maybe that is a step toward wisdom. But in the use of elder at Time Goes By, “wise” does not automatically attach.

When a term is new, it is always awkward or uncomfortable for awhile. But with regular use, it becomes commonplace and I haven’t found any other word I like as much as elder.


Ageism: Look Unto Thyself

category_bug_ageism.gif While looking over a blog post just before publishing it a few days ago, I found myself thinking for a moment, “yeah, well – that’s just an old woman’s take” – the point being that no one would therefore care.

That thought was swiftly followed by “Whoa! Hold on there just a minute, cowgirl. What’s wrong with an old woman’s opinion and why shouldn’t it be taken seriously?” How could I, having ranted and railed here for two years against our ageist culture along with those who perpetrate and perpetuate it, reflexively surrender to a feeling of futility about the value of an elder opinion?

I had dismissed my own thoughts as unimportant based on my age.

It is a startling moment - if you run such a blog as Time Goes By and flatter yourself a defender of the rights of elders - to be confronted with your own, kneejerk ageism. And the question naturally follows: what other ageist beliefs and perceptions are lurking about in my mind unnoticed and unattended to?

The reason for the “slip” in thinking, of course, is the culture’s inherent bias against elders. Taught from the cradle, none of us is free of it effects.

Who pays attention these days what Jimmy Carter thinks; he’s an old man now, decades removed from power.

Who listens to Bill Moyers now that he’s an old man, so old he gave up his PBS program.

Who cares what Betty Friedan caused to happen for women. Young Wall Street mistresses of the universe types don’t even know her name and refuse to be labeled feminists.

There was a time when what these people said was front-page news. Their opinions once swayed beliefs and that led to public policy changes. But no one seriously listens to these people anymore because they committed the ultimate sin; they got old.

No one cares what old people think. They’re all going to be dead soon anyway. Or, as a recent TGB commenter who identified himself only as “bob,” baldly states:

“Fuck all the old fogues in this world. all they do is anything slow, boring or talk about the good old days. Live for today you miserable old shits!!!” [Spelling and grammar are bob’s.]

Until my inadvertent moment of clarity a couple of days ago, I had put only the most minimal thought to my own ageism or that of other elders. No one is completely free of bias. The important thing is to recognize it in ourselves and not let it keep us from doing the right thing.


One Closing Down, One To Go

category_bug_journal2.gif At last, yesterday, a day late, my New York apartment was legally handed over to a new owner.

Anyone who has ever bought or sold a home knows the ceremony: a bunch of people – lawyers, brokers, bankers, title company representative, buyer, seller and usually one or two unidentified others - gather in a room to sign a whole lot of documents and exchange little rectangular pieces of paper that represent money. A property is then legally and officially transferred from one party to another.

People who deal in real estate for a living experience no sentiment in these transactions. But for someone selling a home, which is more than a house, there are emotional entanglements. Attachment. Devotion. Affection. Memories.

I hadn’t understood how a building, a wood, brick, stucco, etc. structure devoid of living qualities, can worm its way into your heart until, years ago, I made curtains (over several winters) for all 35 windows in a house I had in upstate New York. Until I had refinished several oaken cabinets overlaid with layers of cheap paint that came with that house. And reclaimed the gardens that had lain fallow for half a decade or more.

I had no idea until then that the more of yourself you put into what is, in reality, only shelter, the more it becomes a part of you. Even more important are the memories of people – family, friends, incidents funny and sad, parties, dinners, joys and sorrows - that build up over the years and move a home way out of the shelter category and into something much more – a personal sense of place…

And I didn’t experience a whit of those feelings in letting go of my New York home yesterday, not a drop.

I’m surprised and I’m not surprised. It’s taken a year to effect this move from New York to Maine and it’s mostly relief I feel in at last getting it done. In an hour, I trek off to Pennsylvania to pick up my nifty new car and then Tuesday, a farewell to Manhattan as Ollie the cat and I make our way north.

There is one more closing, next Thursday, to purchase our new home in Portland – an apartment free of attachment yet with a world of new memories to be created there.


A New Presidential Election Idea

category_bug_politics.gif There’s a new organization afoot in the land called Unity08. The idea is to take back presidential politics from big-money interests and corporations by using the internet to develop a viable third ticket for the 2008 presidential election.

“America is in some big trouble. While crucial issues cry out for leadership, Washington’s parties and politicians are polarized and paralyzed.

“But help is on the way if we the people do our thing again.”

- unity08.com, 30 May 2006

The founders of Unity08 have the chops to understand how to do this. They are

“…Democrats Hamilton Jordan and Gerald Rafshoon, who gained political fame for their role in electing Jimmy Carter 30 years ago, as well as Doug Bailey, a media adviser to former president and representative Gerald R. Ford (R-Mich.). They are being joined by former Maine governor Angus King, an independent.”
- Washington Post, 30 May 2006

Their goal is to field an alternative to the two corrupt Republican and Democratic party tickets in 2008, you know – those guys who’ve run a rubber-stamp, do-nothing Congress for six years beholden only to large corporations, lobbyists and wealthy donors.

Unity08 is not a new third party. Instead, they seek a mixed ticket, some combination for president and vice president of Republican, Democrat and independent.

They intend to do this by holding secure, online balloting of registered voters throughout the country to select this third presidential ticket. The organizers believe that if they can get 20 percent of voters to sign on to the project, the 2008 election will be decided by the people instead of the Supreme Court playing legalistic games with dangling chads.

It’s a big goal, but as was proved in 2004 the internet is now a force in politics, one that is, so far, uncontrolled by establishment politics. Take a look. Read the unity08 website and the Washington Post piece and there's more in a thoughtful essay in Newsweek this week.

See what you think and if you're so inclined, stop back here and let us know.