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Bringing an Old Woman to Tears and...

UPDATE 2:40PM I have just finished a telephone call with a representative of Dotster who has promised me that he will set up a session with their tech team to work on the problem by taking control of my computer, checking all the settings while working at their end too for a solution.

It's Friday afternoon here now so this may or may not happen over the weekend. But I want you all to know that your efforts have borne fruit and I appreciate your help so much. I'll let you know how it goes.

Again, thank you, thank you, my friends.

...why I'm telling you about it.

I had planned to write about sex today - that would be fun - but technology and the people assigned to handhold those of us who are unschooled in the ones and zeroes of digital electronica have thwarted me.

Wait - I take that back. It has gone way beyond thwart. On Wednesday, when one of those so-called technology helpers said he couldn't help – that is, could not do what I pay his employer for – I burst into tears. Let me explain.

For more than a month, no email, none, sent during the night hours when my computer is off or asleep has arrived.

I won't bore you with the gory details and I am definitely not looking for suggestions from you. But there is a story to tell – an amazing and unbelievable story - and a request to make of you.

In the early weeks of this difficulty, I emailed the support site of my domain registrar, Dotster, with an explanation. In each instance, I received an answer that there was no problem and email being delivered properly - something that was patently untrue.

After too much of this, I switched to the telephone support service.

On Wednesday morning when for the 30th or 40th day in a row no overnight email arrived, I again called customer service. For the gazillionth time in these several weeks, I explained the problem to another new “helper” (I have never spoken or emailed with the same person twice).

The man listened and then said he couldn't help, admitting that he didn't know how. Awful answer but giving him points for honesty, I asked to speak to the next person up the line.

Here comes the unbelievable part:

He said he could not do that; he said he didn't have phone numbers for them. Stunned for a moment, I then found my voice and asked what I should do next.

He said he did not know.

Now you would expect someone who, in some circumstances, refers to herself as Crabby Old Lady to go ballistic and most of the time you would not be wrong. Even I would expect that of myself in such a Twilight Zone moment.

But this time, I shocked myself. Unexpectedly and unbidden, with no volition on my part, tears poured forth.

Right there on the telephone with a man whose body undoubtedly is shaped exactly like a brick wall, this 74-year-old woman, competent in all manner of things, did not just cry. She wept and wailed and moaned and could not stop herself.

This was no dainty little shedding of a teardrop or two. Oh no. It was a loud, honking, uncontrollable lamentation on the order of a death in the family.

(I blame frustrated exhaustion for the sudden tears. This has been going on for at least six weeks with no overnight email, no help and no apparent concern from Dotster.)

Many men are frightened of women's tears and perhaps that is what gave the man on the telephone Wednesday morning a swift kick in the butt because I then heard him say that he would get his supervisor on the phone (so much for an honest man earlier in the conversation). And he did.

Aki carries himself – at least on the telephone – in a manner of calm capability. My tears subsided.

Over the next hour, a seemingly useful exchange of information led to a suggestion for another solution – the sixth or seventh by my count – along with a promise that if by the next morning it had not worked, to ask for him by name on the support phone line and he would take my call.

Alas, when I booted up yesterday morning nothing had changed. The latest fix was another dud; there was no overnight email. When I phoned and asked for Aki, I was told he was in a meeting but had said he would call me when he was free.

As I finish writing this late in the day, there has been no call from Aki nor from anyone else at Dotster. I have sent some technical information asked of me via support ticket by yet another helper I've never heard of although he (she?) says the email is being delivered to me properly.

(To be completely fair, I suppose it is possible all this lengthy mess could be something wrong with my with my email program but I have now made so many changes at their direction, there is no way for me to know. And even if that is so and it is not their problem, certainly the company that handles my domain registration is obligated to tell me more than "I don't know" and not return calls they have said they would.)

Actually it is two parts.

All the email that has never been delivered to me is permanently lost they tell me. Unrecoverable. Thousands of them in these many weeks. That means:

Undoubtedly stories for The Elder Storytelling Place that have gone missing.

There are messages from friends and acquaintances responding to my emails I have never seen.

There are appointments unconfirmed (hello, Jan Adams).

And uncounted questions, Interesting Stuff suggestions and more from readers.

As you now know from all the above, I am not intentionally ignoring anyone. So here is an interim fix:

1. If your message(s) was sent between the hours of about 4PM and 4AM Pacific Time (I don't know why you would recall this, but there you are), and the message is important to you and/or me, please write again.

2. Because the problem (hereafter referred to as the torture) is ongoing, I have set up a short-term, webmail address. It is ronnib[at]outlook[dot]com

3. That address will be available for only a short time - a few days. Please be judicious in choosing to email or not. I'm already spending excessive amounts of time tracking such time-critical items as electronic bills, notes from dentists, doctors and insurance people, banking and other personal matters.

4. I will respond if necessary, as soon as is reasonably possible.

Here is the second thing, if you are up for it. In such extreme circumstances as I believe this is, sometimes shaming a company that has behaved badly helps resolve the problem.

Dotster has a corporate Facebook page that is regularly updated with sales information and not much else – the point being, someone at the company monitors it.

You might go there to ask why, for more than a month, they have been torturing this nice old woman who has faithfully paid for their service for more than a decade. Then link to this post. If you do that, please be polite.

Whatever happens with this debacle in the next few days, we'll get back to that subject of sex on Monday.

Vanity, Oh Vanity, Thy Name is Elder

As I announced several weeks ago, I have cut my Time Goes By publishing schedule from six days a week to four. This simple change has made a remarkable difference in daily life, a great deal more than I had anticipated.

For the past 11 years or so I have lived with a daily blog deadline that, even if of my own making, was arduous.

When, on occasion, I took time to read a novel or watch a movie or spend an afternoon with a friend, for example, it meant playing catchup later when, had I been smarter and less vain, I should have been done for the day.

But for a long time, I actually savored it. Daily – sometimes hourly – deadlines were my literal bread and butter for most of my working years. I thrived on them.

(Actually, if you want to know the truth, I welcome deadlines because there comes the moment when there is no choice but to stop and in that way you never need blame yourself for less than a job well done. “It's the best I could do,” you tell yourself, “in the time allotted.”)

And in fact, during the first year of blogging, I was commuting more than four hours a day to and from work while meeting that daily deadline. But I was a decade younger than now and until this latest change in routine, I flattered myself that my energy, focus and attention remained as strong at age 74 as at 63.

I know differently now. In these weeks of increased down time, I feel like a fog has cleared from my brain and I am aware, as if these were new phenomena (they are not), that I am often distracted from the task at hand and that it takes longer than in the past to sort through information for the best, most important and/or useful items.

Further, I have failed to give enough attention to a lifelong stamina shortfall that has certainly grown in recent years: I have all the energy I am going to have – mental and physical - in the first half of the day. Each morning, I leap from bed ready for bear, starting with an intense, 40-minute, at-home workout while ideas for blog posts and whatever else is engaging my mind flit around at neuronal speed.

In those first hours of the day, I feel like Superman. But there is a price: I am done with any worthwhile brain work and physical activity after 2-3PM.

It has always been this way. So much so that a woman I worked for in the late seventies noticed. “If you need Ronni to get anything done before the day it over,” she once said, “be sure to ask her before mid-afternoon.”

Now. It is almost ritual among the newly retired to profess to anyone who will listen, “I'm so busy I can't figure out how I ever had time to work.”

This declaration is a point of pride, of vanity: “See how full my days are. My years don't show on me the way they do on those other old people who sit around playing cards or watching television.”

Of course, no one says this out loud; they barely admit to such a feeling to themselves. But among elders whose health holds up better or longer than some others, it is there to observe by anyone who cares to notice.

That's what my reduced blogging schedule is giving me (among other things) - time to notice, and time to make something of what I am noticing.

Proclaiming one's busy-ness in retirement is not much different from the struggle to attain a crude illusion of youth via surgery, Botox, creams and lotions and potions, although it requires some psychological contortions.

Take me: I have spent more than a decade pretending not to pat myself on the back for how well I am ageing even as I bloviate in these pages about acceptance of getting old.

That doesn't make me wrong about ageing but does prevent me from living my own old age to its fullest and most conscious.

Slowing down, making time for reflection and for sometimes doing nothing revealed my own unnecessary vanity and that gives me breathing room think about a larger view of what it's like to grow old.

Physician Assisted Suicide and Old People

Remember last year when Brittany Maynard moved from California to use Oregon's Death with Dignity act to end her life on her terms after she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer?

Four U.S. states allow some form of physician-assisted suicide – Oregon, Washington, Vermont - and Montana which has decriminalized it. One county in New Mexico has legalized it but that decision is under review, and several other states are considering physician-assisted suicide. Here is a Wikipedia map of the current status in the U.S.


Ms. Maynard was 29 when she died, by her choice, on 1 November 2014. Undoubtedly, physician-assisted suicide is more common with people in elder age groups and it gives me some peace of mind, living in Oregon, to know that if I am faced with the extremity of a difficult death, I have an alternative, one I control.

Physician-assisted suicide is settled law in Oregon. It's been around, surviving attempts to repeal it, since 1994, but it is, of course, not without opponents everywhere.

In its announcement of Ms. Maynard's death, the Chicago Tribune succinctly reported one of the most common complaints:

”Opponents of assisted suicide say some people who are ill, especially among the elderly, might be unduly influenced by people close to them to end their lives and that other ways exist to ease the suffering of the terminally ill.”

Well, that last reason - “other ways exist to ease” - isn't usually true and Oregon has good safeguards, as the Wikipedia page explains:

”[The] law requires that patients of sound mind may request a prescription for a lethal dose of medication. Two doctors must confirm a diagnosis of terminal illness with no more than six months to live.

“Two witnesses, one non-doctor unrelated to the patient, must confirm the patient's request, and the patient must make a second request after 15 days. The 2008 Washington law is closely modeled on the Oregon law.”

In any event, it doesn't seem that an excessive number of people in Oregon are rushing to do themselves in. At the time of Ms. Maynard's death last year, the AP published some statistics on how many have used Oregon's law since it went into effect in 1997:

People who have used the law since late 1997: 752 (396 men, 356 women)
People younger than 35 who have used the law: 6
Median age of the deceased: 71
Median minutes between ingestion of lethal drug and unconsciousness: 5
Median minutes between ingestion and death: 25

There are additional statistics at the AP story.

I have some personal experience with end-of-life suicide. When I was caring for my mother full time after she was given a terminal diagnoses of cancer with three or four months to live in 1992, she asked me, as she stated it, “to help her die.”

”She told me she was too tired to go on. She was worn out from her body failing her a little more each day, and she wanted to go to sleep one last time. 'Please help me do this,' she said.

“Deep breath. I hadn’t seen that coming and it hit me like a smack in the face. She’s asking me to kill her, I thought. Here on this bright, warm, normal, spring afternoon in Sacramento, California, with the sun streaming through the windows and leftover birthday cake sitting on the table, my Mom is asking me to off her. How can that be?”

After some serious consideration and investigation into whether I could get the drugs to do it, I agreed but she died before it was necessary. (You can read more about that here.)

What brought this all to mind last week was my surprise at the results of a new survey from Gallup: a majority of people in the U.S. approve of physician-assisted suicide if a person has a terminal illness and is in severe pain.

That solid majority is 68 percent! Even though I've long been familiar with the idea, believe it should be available to anyone and have lived through the prospect of it (illegally) with my mother, I would not have guessed even a small majority, let alone 68 percent.

You can see full-sized charts at Gallup. Here is my own chart of the breakdown by age group and political affiliation – statistics from Gallup.

The question was, “when a person has a disease than cannot be cured and is living in severe pain, do you believe a doctor should or should not be allowed to be allowed by law to assist the patient to commit suicide if the patient requests it?”

Age May 2014 May 2015
18-34 62% 81%
35-54 57% 65%
55+ 56% 61%
Political Party May 2014 May 2015
Republican 51% 61%
Independent 64% 80%
Democratic 59% 72%

It is much more bipartisan and crosses age groups more closely than I would have guessed and there has been a large jump in approval in just one year. The news coverage of Brittany Maynard may have contributed to that; it was the sanest, least shrill public conversation of assisted suicide I can recall.

There is a part of the physician-assisted suicide legislation I object to. I don't believe “severe pain” should be a requirement. First, who can measure another's pain and, in addition, a life can be so acutely diminished without pain that some would find it no longer worth living. My mother's case was such.

In addition, someone in severe pain is probably being treated with narcotic painkillers and I fail to see how, in that case, the patient can meet the legal requirement of having a “sound mind.”

But I quibble. Those are details that can be fixed in time. For now, we have come amazingly far.

Years ago, I used to wonder, should I find myself in such dire circumstances as wanting to die, if I could find a friend willing to help. It is a good thing to not need to worry about that now.

There is information about physician-assisted suicide in other countries at Wikipedia along with the names of organizations that support it and those that oppose it.