Elders Online
Good Old Television

Birth and Rebirth

category_bug_journal2.gif It's nice having a springtime birthday. After having been hunkered down while the earth rests from last year's summer exuberance, we emerge from the monochrome months together – the Earth and I – ready for a new season of activity and color.

Just this week, the crocuses bloomed on my block. Already, there are buds on some tree branches and before long, daffodils and tulips will burst forth. It has happened this way all my life – as though Earth is reborn just for me, just in time for the annual celebration of my arrival - 68 years ago in today's case.

Birthday parties are mostly the province of children – party hats, games and cake – and on one hand it seems silly, toward the end of one's seventh decade, to make anything special of another year's passage. But for about 50 of those years, whatever else I've done to mark the day, I have made room for some private, quiet time to look at where I've been for the past year, what's changed, what hasn't and perhaps make a mental note or two about what's next.

There are two big changes this year. The first is a new president – almost the polar opposite of the previous one – who is smart, thoughtful and already working hard to lead us out of the darkness of the past eight years.

The second change, our collective economic abyss, is more personal and, as is true for so many, it has altered my plans. I know for certain that my choice of Portland, Maine to live out my late years was a mistake. Since I can't afford New York City, I'd rather be in that other Portland, in Oregon. That's unlikely in the near future due to the loss of so much of my savings and the slump in home sales. Nevertheless, I'll do some fix-up and painting this spring in anticipation of figuring out how to make the move.

Other than that decision, there have been no momentous personal changes, so I decided to look way, way back this year. I dug out my baby book which I doubt I've opened in 10 or 15 years. How good of parents to keep such a record – it's filled with stuff about yourself of which you have no memory. Here are the basic facts of my birth recorded, apparently, by the hospital. (My birth surname was Haist.)


There is no first name yet. My mother, so the story goes, was certain I was a boy (no tests in those days for the sex of babies) and intended to name me Gregory Michael. She was so surprised to have produced a girl that it took her three weeks to think up a name.

In 1941, as now, the hospital attached a wristband to “Babe Haist,” including the doctor's name so they wouldn't confuse me with some other baby. Nowadays, wristbands are made of plastic; 68 years ago, they were made of cloth and my mother saved it.


My mother also made a notation that I had “a lot of dark hair” and preserved in an envelope is this lock of it. Do people still do this?


According to my mother's notes, my first word was “pretty” when I was nine months old, and I was walking – at one year and two months – four months before I said “mama.” That must have irritated her.

At about the same time, August 1942, there is another note: “Says 'hello' and 'bye-bye' to everyone on the street and stops to talk to everybody.”

And she hasn't stopped talking since except these days, at least it's more often silent – in print on this blog – which I'm certain my mother, if she were here, would be grateful for. I can still hear her saying repeatedly, “Ronni, give your brother a chance to talk.”

As I grew older, my mother asked each year what I wanted to do for my birthday. It was always the same: an outdoor birthday party in the back yard, and my mother always agreed with the caveat, “if it doesn't rain.” It always rained and some things never change; it's raining today.

But that's the irony, isn't it. Without spring rains, the Earth and I would not celebrate our rebirth together.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz recounts another birth in The Day Chris was Born.]


Happy Birthday Ronni!

I'm certainly one of those who are glad you haven't stopped talking!

Happy, Happy Birthday!

I enjoyed reading your birthday/rebirth commentary.

Certainly understand your decision and sense that you will putforth your best efforts to achieve the goal of moving. As a born on Long Islander who realized shortly after the relo what a serious mistake was made. I, like you, could not move back to NY. I have found comfort in visits to NJ which I live close enough to do this.

It is been my belief that when a right decision is made, the pieces fall into place somehow - time and patience seems to be a main ingredient as well as staying in motion to a plan.

Imagine all of us for whom you have provided so much as we surprise you with a celebration in a very, very large backyard in cyberspace. All the best wishes, Ronni, on your birthday.

Happy birthday, Ronni! Many happy returns!

It is wonderful to look through those baby things again. Just the other day I was looking at my birth certificate -- amended because the hospital misspelled both my first and middle names. I had forgotten about that!

We didn't cut locks of hair from our children, but I wish we had now. And we didn't keep their baby books with the care my mother kept mine. I hope our children don't curse us for it some day!

Again, happy birthday!

Ronni Another Happy Birthday is sent your way. Your blog one of the first I read 2 years ago. It started a whole new adventure for me. Thank you and have a great day.

Happy birthday Ronni, my blogging guru!

Happy Birthday, Ronni. And what a delightful way to reminisce. Good for you. Dee

Happy Birthday!

And wishing you much luck on moving to the other Portland. The Rose City is one of my favorite places; one that I visited half a dozen times a year in my previous life. Obviously, it is your favorite place and with good reason. Perhaps you can tell us some of your favorite memories of Portland?

Happy Birthday Ronni!

Each year at this time you become the older of the two of us....but in six months it will even out again! :)

Happy Birthday, Ronni; and Thank You, Thank You, Thank You.

When you're ready, I'll come over and drive the truck back!

Happy Birthday, Ronni
I, too, am really glad you're still talking. Keep it up. Thanks.

Happy birthday, Ronni! I read your post this morning with special interest because it's my birthday, too. I had forgotten we share April 7th! I'm sorry you have come to the conclusion that the move to Portland was a mistake. We learn as we go along, don't we? Sometimes I wonder how my life would be now if I had not gotten a divorce and moved away from France. I always think of the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken. But here I am, running a B&B, living on Cape Cod, married to Sven, and life isn't so bad. Just different. I, for one, am glad you live in Portland because it's close enough for you to come visit us again.

Ronni, Happy Birthday. I keep wondering why you couldn't move to a different part of NYCity. Aren't there some cheaper and safe parts of the city you can live in with the lower costs right now? Or am I just a dreamer? Montreal has so many safe and cheaper areas in which to live, and they have safe subway systems for getting around. I so wish you could get back to the city you love best. Damn, someone out there in NYCity, take a look and show Ronni the way home. Come on. Birthday gift. Now. Do it.

I was like that as a child - always talking - and still am. I'm glad we share that. I am sorry to know that you think you made the wrong decision about moving, and I wish you luck in getting where you want to be. But how do you know you'd like it any better?

Happy Birthday, Ronni!

Ditto to all of the above...
You have interesting things to say, and say it well. Your efforts on behalf of the older and wiser ones is well appreciated.
After all the snow you shoveled last winter, I'd want to move too.

May you have the happiest of birthdays, Ronni, and may your dream of moving back where your brother is come true.

Wherever you live, please keep blogging. We all look forward to your posts.

Happiness to you on your special day, Ronni.

As you plan the future, we are secure in the knowledge that we can tag along and enjoy the adventure.

Best wishes.

Happy Happy Birthday Ronni! What a wonderful post for your birthday....and thank God you never stopped talking. Just think what everyone who has been lucky enough to cross your path would have missed out on. Your beautiful words and how you express them are your gifts to us....every day. I wonder if your mother could have ever imagined that her little girl would be such a talented and giving lady. It's a sure bet she found that out as you grew up over the years.

I hope you make it back to the other Portland Ronni...where your brother is. You made the move to where you are now for reasons we all know. It was a most difficult move for you...for many reasons...especially emotionally. I admire you so much for doing it. I honestly don't know if I could have done it; and you did it so beautifully. At least from our viewpoint...it seemed that way. I truly hope you can make that move to the other Portland for your sake...you deserve it so much.

May you have a most WONDERFUL birthday Ronni my dear, sweet friend. God bless your beautiful heart, your stellar wit, and your golden words.... Love, Joy

Happy Birthday, Ronni. Eat cake; drink wine; be happy.

I looked for a while to find a blog about elder issues, and then I found you. Thanks so much for your good blog.

I find looking at paint chips to be very therapeutic! Hope doing that lifts your spirits as well.

Portland OR is a great place. I like what Linda says: when the right decision is made, things eventually fall into place. May it be so for you.

Happy Birthday Ronni

Next year in Oregon!!!

Making "room for some private, quiet time to look at where I've been for the past year, what's changed, what hasn't and perhaps make a mental note or two about what's next." How wonderful! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Happy Day! Ruth

Ronni, keep on talking, I'll keep on listening.

There is something for you at my place, take a look.

Happy Birthday!! ;-)

Happy Birthday, Ronni! Thanks so much for you fabulous blog, always part of my daily read even if I don't often comment. May the year ahead be a good one.

Have a wonderful birthday Ronni!

Happy Birthday Ronni! I had one on Sunday and, like you, love having it in the spring when everything seems renewed. Here, in Eastern Washington, we are finally seeing wildflowers and sunshine.

I hope you are able to find a place that is right for you.

Thinking of you.

Happy Birthday, Ronni!!!!! Funny that you and I both started out at 6'4" (in April) but you were taller than me then! Times change!!!!!! My dad always said when the doc slappec me on the bottom, he didn't know what he started. I haven't shut up since. LOL

It snowed a bit in Ohio this morning so you never know -- you may see snow yet. rrrgggh!!!!!!!

I hope you have a wonderful day -- and that you keep talking!!!!

Here's to better days ahead and a birthday in Portland next year!!!

How neat and Happy Birthday. I hope the year ahead is a good one for you and improves our country's situation to enable you to make the change you want.

Incidentally, I was also born in Portland's Emmanuel Hospital but two years later :)

Happy birthday Ronni,

Hope your plan to relocate comes to pass. It's a city I love. One of my sisters was born at Emmanuel, and all three sisters live there. I too wish I had retired there. Hard to undo but not impossible.

Anyway, joy to you on this day.

Happy Birthday, Ronni. I am sorry you cannot have a backyard birthday party this year due to the rain. Here is a magical spell to stop rain. My mother taught it to me when I was very young.

"Rain, rain, go away,
Come again some other day."

It is not that reliable but it really does work sometimes. I hope it works for you.

(Raining or not, have a wonderful day.)

Huh. My younger son is Gregory Michael...

Happy Birthday, Ronni!

Happy Birthday Ronni!

Thanks for sharing your special day.

Although I wasn't yet sleeping (that didn't come until after 5:00 AM), my PDA lit up and beeped at Midnight--in celebration of your birthday. It took me a while to make it online, today, but HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

You'll start a whole new chapter in life when you get yourself across the country to OR. Best wishes on the transition.

I have a birthday wish for you at my blog.

Happy birthday! I wish you a warm day and warmer weather.

Happy Birthday! Hope your year is filled with surpris and wonder!

Happy Birthday Ronni!

"It's my birthday too, yeah!"...It's not really but that's how it feels after reading your wonderful post. Thanks for sharing your day. You've made mine in doing so. BTW it will, you understand, most probably always rain on your birthday here in the PNW but it will rain on the daffodils and budding tulips and bring the spring you crave in an abundance! All the best and many happy returns of days of wonder.


And many more..... Thank you for always making us feel so good about ourselves when you write to tell us you have received a story.. You deserve all of the Birthday Greetings you are receiving today...


Happy B-Day!

Ronni, my birthday wish for you is that you could be magically transported into the perfect new life in Portland, Oregon. Life is more complicated than that, we all know.

Don't beat yourself up about having picked the wrong Portland. An amazingly huge percentage of late life moves are gigantic mistakes. It's just harder to fix them in a bad economy.

I lived in Florida in two different life situations (I was young at the time; jobs were involved). BOTH times the movers joked about how easy it would be to pick up a return load among the many unhappy retirees packing it in after a few desolate months in the Sunshine State.

I'll never forget my husband's dentist--so energetic the first few months after relocating from Long Island. Then he got bored and picked up a part-time dental job, where we met him. He was a wonderful dentist but we could watch his mood and spirits steadily wilt over the months as the reality sunk in that, even with a part-time job, much of his time was going to be spent playing golf--day after day til the end--with people who barely knew (or cared) who was president. We were not surprised that within six months he had vanished from the dental practice--moved back home to Long Island.

Not that everyone will--or should--hate Florida. However, it's not for everyone, it's not paradise all the time, and a state full of relocatees looking for fun all the time is not likely to attract hoards of deep thinkers. These things seem obvious but when it comes to big life changes, fantasy often rules over our own knowledge of ourselves.

Think about doing the following:

1) Declutter. You never know; you could be packing for a move sooner than you think.

2) Subscribe to Portland magazine (yes, there definitely is one) and start mentally shopping for a neighborhood.

3) This is a paradox: Bloom where you're planted, however temporarily. I have made a LOT of unwanted moves (husband's jobs). The choice is: Exist there and be miserable. Or live. There really are nice people and enjoyable experiences everywhere--even if you have one eye on the exit all the time.

Generally speaking, there is more misery in the town than the chamber of commerce wants anyone to know, so volunteer somewhere you can make friends. In this economy, I'm thinking the food bank is a good bet. Another usually-true axiom is that the animal people (shelters, rescue groups) are the nicest in any town.

I'm not urging you to consider this entirely out of altruism. If you meet enough people, you may encounter someone who falls in love with your apartment, or is a realtor who knows someone...and you're on your way to the Rose City in a flash.

Oregon is a good place for elders (I know; I live there now. It's my sixth state).

Good luck!

Wow, wonderful post and wonderful comments, especially from Paula. I second her thoughts on animal people! The best and most giving of the bunch. Good words all.

Happy Birthday Ronni! First, I'm jealous. Being the last of five children, there are no baby books for me. No locks of hair or first words written down (sniff).

I don't post often, but you are a daily read. Being single and turning 50 this year I'm always eager to read and learn about living and aging. And, that is what your posts are, learning about the current bills in Congress to medicare/medicaid issues, to surviving a nasty neighbor and living with a sweet cat.

I'm not sure if I had read before, and if I did promptly forgot it...why did you decide on Portland, Maine. I know it is obviously cheaper and you (like me) prefer colder climates to warmer. But why Portland? And why is it a definite mistake? Enquring minds want to know (well, at least I do)

Enjoy what's left of your day.

Happy Birthday!
Being the last of three and my father left to be a Lt. in the 2nd WW a month before I was born. Returned almost 3 yrs. later. Baby book? One entry. Where the weight was to be, Mom put in 22. For length there was 9.6. When I saw it as an adult, we all laughed. But it was sad for her and for me and for my brother and sister.

Happy birthday, Ronni, and I join in wishing you an especially good year ahead. May the universe help arrange things so you can live where you would prefer. Thank you for your words of wisdom and encouragement to us elders. Wherever you are, please keep on "talking."

Absolutely! Without the rain, we'd ALL be gonners!

Happy, happy birthday, Ronni, and thank you for sharing yourself with us!!

Happy Belated Birthday, Ronni! I loved this personal post, and appreciate your mother (all our mothers) for preserving special baby memories.

I am excited that you plan on ultimately living in Portland, Oregon. With Naomi Dogen Bloom planning on moving there also, I am thinking about the fun and interesting things we can do! Portland will be the better for having you home!

A belated birthday wish, but no less sincere because of its delay. (I've been off the computer for a few days.)

Hope your day was special. My wish for you is that economic conditions provide an opportunity to regain savings lost enabling moves or changes you desire whether to NYC or OR., though you may be delayed in doing so.

Happy Birthday, Ronni, and many more to come.


A few of the commentators, like Paula, have asked why Portland, ME has not worked out as I am sure you hoped it would.

As a New Yorker who has bought a home in Portland, ME - soon to make the move up here permanently with my wife - I have followed your blog over the last few years and have enjoyed those posts discussing your life in Portland.

So, I am interested in also knowing your reasons for wanting to leave. I sense that one of the reasons maybe something that you never discuss - I think - in your Portland posts: romantic companionship.

In Italy, on your birthday, you give a party for your close friends to celebrate life and friendship. Our mobility, dare I call it "transiency" in this country means that most of us leave friends behind as we move about the country. So the older we get the smaller the party until one day- you're all alone on your birthday and unbirthdays.
It's on my birthday that I miss my old friends - many are dead and many lost in the constant shuffle.
Maybe I should move back to Italy- they understand how to live there.

Happy belated birthday, Ronni. I wish you had gone to Portland, OR, too; I would be more likely to meet you one day.

I'm sorry to hear, however, that you've taken a bad financial hit making it impossible for you to relocate.

I've also taken a hit at 71, but my house is paid for and that makes a huge difference. I don't intend to sell it anytime soon as it would be worth far less than it was a few years ago.

Love all your mementoes your mom saved for you. I have a similar set of "stuff" which I greatly cherish.

Happy Birthday, Ronni. Your blog just gets better and better.

I enjoyed the baby book memories. Maybe because I am a baby nurse. things have changed...I did not have a baby book, but my mom kept cards, etc in the cigar box that I guess my father passed out to everyone.

IN HEBREW THERE IS A SAYING "AD MAYAH V'ESREEM" - WHICH MEANS "to 120" may you go from strength to strength and keep writing...you are a gem!!!

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