Previous month:
April 2020
Next month:
June 2020

ELDER MUSIC: Together at Home 2

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.

* * *

Starting with a few people performing at home and putting their songs out on the internet, it’s now become a flood of music. There are so many people performing in all sorts of genres of music that it’s hard to keep up. Here are just a few I’ve found and really liked.

I’ll start with LUKAS NELSON with one of his songs, Just Outside of Austin. He’s joined by his brother MICAH and his father, some little-known journeyman named WILLIE who I believe he is also a singer and songwriter of some renown himself.


BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and his good lady wife PATTI SCIALFA get into the act with two songs. The first of these is one of Bruce’s, Land of Hope and Dreams.

The second is one of Tom Waits' that Bruce has performed regularly over the years, Jersey Girl. It really sounds like one he could have written himself.


BRIAN MAY makes quite a few of these videos. I originally had him with Shuba (down below), but then I discovered this instrumental he did with master double bass player, BOŽO PARADŽIK.

They perform one of Queen’s songs, usually sung by Freddie Mercury back in the day, Love of my Life. Back then Brian usually played a 12 string acoustic guitar, but here he plucks an electric.


THE DEAD SOUTH is a blue grass band from Canada. They perform the traditional song, This Little Light of Mine. This will get your toes a’tapping.


A feature of this venture is discovering musicians I didn’t know about; there are several in the column today. Another couple of those are SIERRA BOGGESS and JOSHUA DELA CRUZ. They perform the song, One Day from the musical “Dancers at a Waterfall”, written by Richard Maltby and David Shire. Brad Haak plays the piano.


JACK JOHNSON performs his song, Better Together on his front steps. This is a nice gentle piece with Jack playing acoustic guitar. The song first appeared on his album “In Between Dreams”.


Here is the talented and gorgeous MISSY HIGGINS accompanied by TIM MINCHIN on the piano performing one of Tim’s songs. Missy said that she put on her wedding dress for the occasion just because she could.

I don’t think that’s Tim’s wedding outfit, but you never know with him. The song is Carry You.


I featured NEIL FINN on the first of these columns, but I thought he deserved another go. Here he is accompanied by his sons LIAM on guitar and ELROY on drums.

They perform the Crowded House hit Better Be Home Soon. Of course, Neil was the founder and leading light of that group.


Until today. I hadn’t heard of SHUBA. She has certainly bored into my brain after discovering several of her videos, especially the ones she performed with Brian May.

Here she is on her own with something completely different from what she does with Brian, Samjhawan, written by Sharib-Toshi, Jawad Ahmed, Kumaar and Ahmad Anees.


It doesn’t get any better than this. This being the METROPOLITAN OPERA ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, performing Va, pensiero from Verdi’s “Nabucco”.


No matter what governments might say, this thing isn’t over and won’t be for a long time. Here are a bunch of Australian musicians and comedians telling you what you should do.

There is a serious language warning for this one so if you’re offended by that sort of thing, don’t watch. For others, take their advice: Stay at Home. This song will really cement the perception of Australians held by others. It even has a Wiggle, for those who know about such things.


INTERESTING STUFF – 30 May 2020

FUN FACTS FOR KIDS

And grownups too. Reddit user MoonBaboon asked readers for some simple but mind-bending facts for a three-year-old who asks for one fact a day at bedtime. Reddit folks came through. Here are three to get you started:

TigerSkin
If you shave a tiger you’ll see striped skin.

PinDolphin
There are pink dolphins in the amazon river.

Spider
There is a species of burrowing tarantula that lets tiny frogs live in their burrows. The frog eats pests that are too small for the spider to get, and in return, the frog is kept safe by the big ol' spider. This is pretty much how the domestication of cats went. Tiny frogs are tarantula housecats.

There are more at the Reddit link above or at Bored Panda.

A DAY IN THE E.R. BATTLING COVID-19

Dr. Craig Spencer is director of global health in emergency medicine at Columbia University in New York City.

He fought Ebola in West Africa while working with Doctors Without Borders and now he’s an emergency room doctor in New York City. This animated video is a day in his life on the front line of the battle against COVID-19.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A PHYSICIAN IN THE YEAR OF A PANDEMIC

David Young is another front-line COVID-19 doctor, this one in downtown Chicago. He tried to find some humor among all the conspiracy theories, misinformation and falsehoods floating around about the virus. He succeeds. [Finish reading on the Facebook page - it's worth your time.]

CANCER AND COVID-19

If I contract the virus, I am already at more risk of dying thanks to COPD. Now, a new study tells us that cancer, too, is a dangerous mix with the virus:

”Patients whose cancer was getting worse or spreading were more than five times more likely to die in the space of a month if they caught Covid-19, researchers said this week during the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

“Even if the patients' cancer wasn't spreading, coronavirus infection nearly doubled the risk of dying, the researchers found.”

Just what I needed to know. Read more at cnn.com.

AN ILLUSIONIST WOWING PEOPLE IN JAPAN

It's an old video and I may have published it in 2012 when it was new – I don't recall. But it is, nevertheless, terrific fun.

TINIEST CAT IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE FIRST ODD, INTERESTING VOICE

I had never heard of this tiny cat called the Chilean güiña or Leopardus guigna. It weighs under six pounds and is about half the size of a usual house cat. Bored Panda tells us the cat is classed as a vulnerable species, their numbers decreasing due to loss of habitat.

The kitty has a most odd and interesting voice. Here's the National Geographic video of it.

Read more at Bored Panda.

WHY TIME SEEMS TO GO FASTER IN OLD AGE

Time has always been weird to me. It often does not seem to behave in way it ought to and over the years I have collected a minor library of books and articles exploring theories of time's strange behavior.

Here's another theory about why time appears to go faster as we get older, this one from neuroscientist David Eagleman.

J.K. ROWLING PUBLISHES THE ICKABOG ONLINE

Were you a Harry Potter fan? I sure was/am. Occasionally, I still watch one of the movies.

Now, Potter author J.K. Rowling is publishing, for free, a new children's book not about Harry Potter titled, The Ickabog. As the BBC reports:

”It's for 'children on lockdown, or even those back at school during these strange, unsettling times', [Rowling] said. She had previously referred to it only as an unnamed 'political fairytale'.

“Chapters of The Ickabog are being published daily until 10 July on The Ickabog website. The first two chapters, which went online on Tuesday, introduced King Fred the Fearless, ruler of Cornucopia, and five-year-old Bert Beamish.”

There is also a competition for children to create illustrations for the story. Some will be chosen to be included in the physical book when it is published later this year.

You can read more about it here and here. Or you can read the book as it is published online here.

BUILDING THE PERFECT SQUIRREL-PROOF BIRD FEEDER

This video turned out to be so much more than I expected. Former NASA engineer, Mark Robert, tells us on his Youtube page:

”Squirrels were stealing my bird seed so I solved the problem with mechanical engineering :)”

That sideways smiley face at the end of his sentence is key. No one should be surprised at how good, funny, wonderful, enlightening and more this experiment is when you note that it has been viewed more than 17 million times since it was published just last Monday.

Not to mention that Robert has almost 12 million followers on YouTube. Enjoy.

* * *

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.


Happy 95 Years, Darlene Costner

Today is Darlene Costner's 95th birthday. Imagine – she was born in 1925 when Calvin Coolidge was the U.S. president and she has seen 16 presidents.

Darlene

Darlene and I have never met in person, but we have been internet friends since at least 2007. For a long time she ran her own blog, Darlene's Hodgepodge, where she held forth on whatever crossed her mind – always smart, frequently funny and where she never pulled any punches about how she felt regarding politicians and their behavior.

Darlene stopped writing her Hodgepodge blog in 2012, but it is still online if you would like to check it out.

Among her interests are music – she has played piano since she was three years old - reading, photography and travel. Oh, how she loved travel and often wrote about how much she misses it.

Back in 2008, I published a series of guest posts here that I called the Oldest Old Project – stories from readers who were at least 80 years old. Darlene was too busy elsewhere to contribute but I republished a story from her blog about her final trip abroad and how life was different at age 83 from 60.

In part, she wrote,

”I no longer care if my house is spotless. It used to be a matter of pride that my furniture was polished, the floors clean, the windows washed and all was in order. While I was never a Mrs. Felix Unger I did try to retain my image. No more.

“I think that might be a matter of self preservation because I am aware that I am unable to do the hard work necessary. I shove it onto my list of things that I won’t worry about. Now I am more like Phyllis Diller who joked, 'I clean my house twice a year whether it needs it or not.'

“My mental closet is full of things that I will think about tomorrow. I have become a regular Scarlett O’Hara.”

When I first read that in 2008, my life hadn't caught up with Darlene yet. Nowadays I know exactly how wise she was being. You can read that full essay here.

It is 12 years later now and the truth for all of us that if you live long enough you are likely to need more help day to day. A few months ago, Darlene moved into an elder care home and is not as active online.

Her daughter, Gail, said in an email recently that Darlene's physical health is good “but everything that's going on is taking a toll on her emotional health – like all of us,” and that the TGB community means the world to her.

Darlene is a remarkable woman – and not just for her many years. I've learned so much from her over the years about life, about enduring, about adapting. Oh, yes, about adapting. And we have also laughed and laughed together across the ether of the internet.

This is a story she sent for the Tuesday Reader Story feature that is posted here on Tuesdays. This one, from 2018, is titled, “The Elusive Monster.” It begins:

”There's a specter living in my house and his main purpose is to drive me insane. He is an evil prankster bent on making my life miserable.

“I first noticed his presence when he made all of my kitchen cabinets higher so that I can no longer reach the top shelf and even reaching the middle shelf forces me to stand on my toes.

“Then he must have howled with laughter as he knocked things from my hands, forcing me to clean up the ensuing mess. That wasn't enough fun for him so he lowered all the floors in my house.”

You can finish reading it here.

So let us celebrate the indomitable Darlene Costner on her 95th birthday. She is my friend, my old age mentor and I cannot imagine my life all these years without her friendship, her wisdom and her sense of humor.

LilacsDarlene95


Fearing Old Age plus The Alex and Ronni Show

It has been seven or eight years now since I last did this, but there was a time when I regularly clicked around the web to read Facebook and blog posts by young people - late teens and twenties interested me the most.

The one that got me started was from a young women lamenting the approach of her 30th birthday. She was so distraught that I could almost see the tears running down my computer screen as she wrote about being over the hill, losing her looks and her sorrow that men, she believed, would no longer be interested in her.

These were always women - I didn't find any young men writing on this topic - and it was a surprisingly large number who wrote about being afraid to get older with lots of agreement from others in the comment sections.

There was no talk of dying, that was not the issue. It was about how awful growing old is - getting wrinkles and gray hair, becoming “ugly” (that word turned up a lot).

That 30-year-old I mentioned? She was the oldest I encountered on this topic. Most were 23, 24, 27 or so. Where do you suppose these young women get the idea that turning 30 – or, in a couple of cases, 25 - might as well be a death sentence?

How about living in a profoundly ageist culture. That would probably do it.

Last week, a long-time TGB reader and friend, Laura Gordon Giannozzi, sent me a link to an interesting story in The Guardian> by Australian novelist Charlotte Wood asking, “What are we really afraid of when we think of old age?”

After ruminating on the question, Wood, who is 55, comes down on this:

”I think the deepest dread is of being reduced, simplified. We’re afraid that, to paraphrase British psychologist and writer Susie Orbach, we’ll be 'robbed of the richness of who we are' – our complexity stripped away by forces beyond our control.

“This reduction is already happening with the cheerleaders on one side, the catastrophisers on the other. Ours is an all-or-nothing, black-and-white-thinking culture; we picture ourselves as either relentlessly active, plank posing and Camino walking and cycling into our 90s, or dribbling in a nursing-home chair, waiting for death.”

In general, we don't have much say as to which kind of old age we have. Nobody knows how to prevent dementia, cancer and many of the afflictions of old age. And even if different choices when we were younger might have changed our old age outcome, it's too late, once we're there, to do anything about it.

Of Wood's two types of old people, I find the cheerleaders more annoying than the doomsayers. They are usually the young-old who have won (so far) the disease and debility lottery who exhort us, as Wood points out, to go, go, go as if we were still 27.

These days I know all too well how foolish that is and I have found, even before cancer and COPD reduced my capabilities, that the best any of us can do in old age is adapt.

And that's not so bad. I've been doing it by listening to all the old people I've run into while studying aging for this blog over 16 years, and to the many smart people who leave comments here.

Woods appears to have discovered the imperative to adapt at a younger age than many of us:

”...maybe we don’t have to choose either extreme to dwell on...,” she concludes. “Perhaps, instead of capitulating to reduction, we can keep adding to our concept of how to age – turn our thinking about oldness into an art, and keep exploring it. Doing something to it, and doing something else.”

There are other interesting ideas in Charlotte Wood's essay and as I said above, worth your time to read. Let us know what you think.

There should have been a new Alex and Ronni Show last week but my latest medical prognosis, which I wrote about here, was still new and weighing heavily on my mind so Alex let me off the hook.

Now, here is the latest episode of the show, recorded yesterday, talking about the virus. (Is there anything else to talk about these days?)


A TGB READER STORY: Not Here

By Carol Nadell

We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.
And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.
O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.
        - Encounter by Czeslaw Milosz

“Wonder” indeed. That is the feeling I experience more and more often now that I have reached the three-quarter century mark and find myself grappling with the inevitability of my own mortality.

It’s not a morbid thought – not, as this poet says, “sorrow.” It’s more like a childlike curiosity. What does it really mean to die, to end this life, to - in Shakespeare’s words - “shuffle off this mortal coil?”

I cannot seem to get my mind around this eventuality which will, of course, come to us all. After my husband died following years of ill health, I remember saying to my friends, “I was prepared for him to die. I wasn’t prepared for him to be dead.”

It was what I called the “non-hereness” that was the hardest reality to understand and accept. How was he not just in the next room, watching TV? How was it that we wouldn’t be sitting down to dinner together? How was it possible that after almost 40 years of sharing a bed, his side was now empty? Forever.

That was almost five years ago and still today something in me balks at the permanency of the loss. I’ll never see him again? How is that possible

These days, I am often brought up short by the recognition that someday I, too, will be gone. In those moments, I frequently envision my grandchildren – all young adults now – around a table regaling each other with stories about me.

“Remember the time Savta took us to the theater for the first time? Remember how she always made us linguini because we didn’t like the angel hair pasta we got at home? Remember how she always corrected our grammar?”

Because I have been blessed to share many sublime memories with my grandchildren, these imaginary conversations go on and on. They include the fun times together in New York City, the special 10th birthday trips out of town, the advice sought (and often heeded), the special secrets shared between grandchild and grandmother, the tears and the laughter.

I eavesdrop on these conversations and they make me smile. But what is most striking about these imagined family scenes is that I am not in them. Just as they have recounted memories of their grandfather, my husband, so lovingly and longingly since his death, so it will be with their thoughts of me.

There will be a time when I’ll be only a memory to those people in whose lives I am today a powerful and dependable source of love and strength. Perhaps my grandchildren will someday share their memories of me with their children, to whom I may well be no more than a name.

Will they roll their eyes as their parents try to tell them of their beloved Savta? Or will they yearn for more information about the woman they’ve heard so much about and have, perhaps, seen in photos their parents have managed to save on whatever futuristic digital devices their heads are buried in? Will they feel my presence and wonder at my “non-hereness?”

I read an essay recently by a newly-widowed woman who, in listing all the “facts” of her new existence, cited buying a car, donating to non-profit radio, and paying property taxes. “These are now the facts of my life, a few among many,” she continued, concluding with a simple, declarative statement: “Alan is not among those facts anymore.”

What will it look like when I am no longer “among the facts?” I wonder.

* * *

[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.]


Memorial Day 2020

From TGB reader Henry Lowenstern on the unofficial beginning of summer:

Tomorrow, as we've done before,
we'll commemorate those we lost in war.
This year, we'll also pause to grieve
for those who have taken leave
after succumbing to a virus that
we don't yet know how to combat.
As we celebrate Memorial Day.

Over the weekend, there were none of the usual previews leading up to Memorial Day parades that have taken place in towns large and small throughout the United States since just after the Civil War.

That's because they were canceled - even the national parade on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. Blame the virus.

In place of all those marching bands (I love marching bands), the American Veterans Center is producing a television program:

”The National Memorial Day Parade: America Stands Tall is an original television special featuring the story of our shared history through newly-produced celebrity engagements and narrative pieces, along with memorable moments from the National Memorial Day Parade including historical reenactors and active duty military personnel, musical performances and celebrity greetings.”

It will be broadcast nationwide on the affiliate stations of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox at 2PM EDT.

Just in time for the holiday, the president managed to coerce all 50 governors to open their states to one degree or another – restaurants, bars, nail parlors, hair salons, national parks, beaches, etc. - even as virus statistics continue to climb.

What will this open holiday do to the number of virus deaths? I wonder if the country – or perhaps the entire world – will need a new holiday to commemorate the people we have lost and are still losing to the COVID-19 pandemic when it is finally over.

Here is a Memorial Day tribute to the fallen men and women who gave their lives to protect the United States.


ELDER MUSIC: Good Evening

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.

* * *

If you’re reading this in the morning or the afternoon, just squint your eyes slightly and pretend it’s evening for that’s what we’re on about today.

Although a blues singer, CHARLES BROWN is more akin to Nat King Cole than Howlin’ Wolf.

Charles Brown

Charles was classically trained on the piano but couldn’t get any work in that field. After a time as a chemistry teacher and jobs in the chemical industry, he took up music as a profession, initially with Johnny Moore’s Three Blazers and then as a solo performer.

Charles is a particular favorite of Norma, The Assistant Musicologist. He opens proceedings with In the Evening When the Sun Goes Down.

♫ Charles Brown - In the Evening When the Sun Goes Down


ARLO GUTHRIE’s album “Alice's Restaurant” had other songs on it besides the famous one.

Arlo Guthrie

One of those is Chilling of the Evening. Arlo rerecorded the album with all the same songs 30 years later. I think that the later versions are superior. It’s not too surprising, he had all those years to hone his craft and if you listen to the songs side by side as I did, it’s quite obvious.

♫ Arlo Guthrie - Chilling of the Evening


BING CROSBY teams up with JANE WYMAN for his contribution.

Bing Crosby & Jane Wyman

You all know that Jane was once married to Ronald Reagan until she saw the light and divorced him. That has nothing to do with the song, it’s just some filler type stuff. Here is In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening.

♫ Bing Crosby & Jane Wyman - In The Cool Cool Cool Of The Evening


DEAN MARTIN was also a contender for the previous song but I preferred Bing’s. Besides Dean has another evening song.

Dean Martin

Dino has yet another ditty about Rome. It’s also about evening, which is useful for us. It is On an Evening in Roma (Sott'er Celo de Roma). There are a few dodgy rhymes, but we can’t blame him for that.

♫ Dean Martin - On an Evening in Roma (Sott'er Celo de Roma)


I remember DON RONDO from the fifties for just one song - White Silver Sands.

Don Rondo

It seems he recorded others as well (well, of course he did). One of those is Evening Star.

♫ Don Rondo - Evening Star


PAUL SIMON has written a bunch of songs so it’s not too surprising that there’s an evening song in there somewhere.

Paul Simon

Late in the Evening was a hit for Paul and it was on the album “One Trick Pony”, sort of the soundtrack album of the film in which he appeared. I say “sort of” because there were songs in the film that weren’t on the record and vice versa.

♫ Paul Simon - Late In The Evening


JUDY GARLAND hasn’t appeared often in these columns. Nothing to do with her, it’s just her songs didn’t seem to fit the various criteria I used. She’s here today though.

Judy Garland

In the Valley (Where the Evening Sun Goes Down) was written by Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer and first came to public notice when Judy sang it in the film “The Harvey Girls” in 1946.

♫ Judy Garland - In the Valley (Where the Evening Sun Goes Down)


Rather uncharacteristically, THE SUPREMES sing a blues song.

The Supremes

The song was first performed on record by Leroy Carr in 1928. It was a big hit and has since been covered by many blues performers. Not just blues, as you’ll hear today when The Supremes sing How Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone.

♫ The Supremes - How Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone


The actual title of this song is St. Louis Blues. However, it fits today because the first line of the song is “I hate to see the evening sun go down”. That’s good enough for me. Many people have recorded this song, but the pick of them that I have is BILLY ECKSTINE.

Billy Eckstine

Here is part 1 and 2 of the song. I assume when it was originally released they were on separate sides of the record. These days they get smashed together, and on the second part Billy does some scat singing to rival the best of those who did this (about three or four of them, apart from those most weren’t very good at it).

♫ Billy Eckstine - St. Louis Blues (Parts 1 & 2)


The INK SPOTS started in the early thirties and kept performing into the fifties.

The Ink Spots

You can still catch “The Ink Spots” as there are about a hundred groups going around claiming to be them. I wouldn’t bother with any of these imposters, the original is still the best, and here they are with A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening.

♫ The Ink Spots - A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening


Recently I featured a video clip of BRIAN STOKES MITCHELL from a concert version of the musical “South Pacific”, playing Emile De Becque. I’m sure many of you went on to Youtube to find more of him.

For those couple who didn’t, here he is again from the same concert with the most famous song from the musical, Some Enchanted Evening. It’s worth it just to see Reba McEntire’s reaction at the end.


INTERESTING STUFF – 23 May 2020

DARLENE COSTNER'S 95TH BIRTHDAY

For many years, Darlene Costner ran her own blog, Darlene's Hodgepodge, and we became internet friends a long time ago. She often commented on this blog and she was a regular contributor of items for this weekly post of Interesting Stuff.

A few months ago, Darlene moved into an elder care home and is not as active online. However, this coming week she will celebrate her 95th birthday and her daughter, Gail, send an email around asking for “some thoughts for mom from her loved ones and present them as a birthday gift.”

”If anyone wants to contribute,” wrote Gail, “please send me anything about what you admire/appreciate about her, treasured memories, that sort of thing. Please use any format you like: prose, poem or just a simple list.”

Gail also says that Darlene's physical health is good “but everything that's going on is taking a toll on her emotional health – like all of us,” and that the TGB community means the world to her. “She would be thrilled beyond!” to hear from us.

You can send your notes, poems, greetings or whatever else to Gail at this email address: gail.costner@gmail.com and PLEASE use Darlene's name in the subject line so your messages won't get lost among Gail's other email.

Let's make this a really special 95th birthday for Darlene.

HONEST GOVERNMENT AD: THE MACHINE

The Juice Media is at it again with another video – this one about the global response to the pandemic. It is a delight and you can think Peter Tibbles, who writes the Sunday Elder Music column for sending this:

VIRUS JOKES

There are a lot of pandemic jokes going around. Here are three of them:

Friday13

Thelongerthisgoesonjoke

Lysoljoke

There is more at Bored Panda.

PENGUINS VISIT A MUSEUM

Due to the pandemic, most museums are closed as are most zoos. Someone had the good idea to put the two together:

”While we've been closed,” explains the YouTube page, “we've still been actively caring for our animals, including adding enrichment experiences to stimulate their minds. Our friends at the The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art invited our Humboldt penguins for a morning of fine art and culture.”

NOW THAT'S AN OBIT

My friend John Gear, who is a consumer and elderlaw attorney, has a fine eye for worthy Interesting Stuff. Click the image to see the full obituary on Twitter. It's worth your time.

OLIVE AND MABEL EPISODE 3

I showed you two videos last week of British sports commentator, Andrew Cottle's two dogs, Olive and Mabel. He sounded a bit reluctant then to keep make these vids, but here he is with more play-by-play in episode 3:

FILMS ON AGING AND ELDERS

Gloria Starling works at Terra Nova Films in Chicago, Illinois. She also reads TGB and she emailed to tell me about the company's executive director, Jim Vanden Bosch, who reviews film on aging for the journal of The Gerontological Society of America.

Those films are listed at the the Terra Nova website where you can follow links to the reviews. Check it out here. I hope you will.

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S MESSAGE TO THE CLASS OF 2020

Last Saturday, former President Barack Obama gave a televised commencement address for 2020 U.S. high school graduates most of whom had no formal commencement ceremonies this year. I tuned in for the speech and was thrilled by the eloquence, caring and thought that has been missing from presidential public statements for what seems now like eons.

If you didn't see it, here it is:

BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS OF CHILDREN WITH ANIMALS

The photographer is Andrea Martin of West Virginia. She tells us,

”There is something magical about the connection between children and animals, so I focus on capturing the innocence of the bond between them.”

And so she does and the images are adorable.

Girlanddog

Girlandlamb

Boyandduck

There are more at Bored Panda and at Andrea Martin's website.

* * *

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.


Settling Into My End Days – Or Die Trying

(Sorry about that headline; I couldn't resist.)

When the medical people say you are now eligible for hospice and for medical aid in dying (MAID), you know the end of your time on Earth is nigh.

Not that I haven't known of that outcome for these past three years, but when those two services are on offer, any wishful thinking one might have indulged in is wiped away.

A large majority of pancreatic cancer patients – nearly 90 percent - die within a year of diagnosis. With the help of my excellent doctors and nurses, the universe granted me two additional years of golden time most of which, if you don't count chemotherapy side effects, was not too much different from life before cancer.

It got to be almost funny sometimes when whatever new health issue turned up, I couldn't figure out if it was cancer, COPD or old age.

So I have no complaints about the place in life where I have now landed. Except this: what I said above about having known the eventual outcome of my disease from the beginning and the implied acceptance in that statement? Maybe not so much.

I suspect I've been fooling myself or, if I had made peace with my death as I thought I had (with a hefty dose of help from psilocybin), it slipped away while I was enjoying those extra years.

My first clue to that was a bit more than two months ago when a variety of body aches began popping up regularly. It was not long before they became a daily routine. Certainly it occurred to me then that the cancer was on the move but I shoved the thought aside and took another ibuprofen.

The second clue turned up several weeks ago when the oncologist told me on a telephone visit that my recent CT scan was “not bad.” He said it in an uncharacteristically flat tone that told me it actually was not good news.

As I had done in the past, I could have read the visit summary doctors post to my online account within a day of our meeting but I skipped it this time and tried not to think about what he said. That wasn't wildly successful and the pain continued too.

On Tuesday this week, I spent an hour on a video visit with the man who has been my palliative care provider for more than a year. I like him enormously. He is the one who told me I am now eligible for hospice and MAID, and we discussed how that will work in general as we move forward together.

In future now, we will meet every two weeks instead of monthly. I feel safe with him.

What I do not feel is at peace. As I look back today at the early days of this journey, I am surprised at what now seems like arrogance in thinking something akin to, “I've got this. I can handle my end of days.”

Yeah. Right.

I've spent some of the time since the Tuesday video visit talking with a handful of friends I am totally comfortable with but trying not to lean on them too hard.

Most strongly, what I feel now is sad. So achingly sad at the thought of leaving. To make it even more poignant, this is a most beautiful spring season here. I could be convinced that that is just because I've become a short timer but what difference does the reason make. I'm still sad.

Could I be at the beginning of working my way through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's five (or is it seven?) stages of grief? Obviously – see above – I've had time with denial. Some unfocused anger has erupted. Just this week, the effin' ants returned to the bathroom. The whole outdoors isn't enough for them?

It could be that I am too pragmatic to bother with the bargaining stage of grief but who knows. I'd like to skip the depression stage too and go straight to acceptance.

I was so certain I had this end of life stuff under control. It's going to be awhile.


Follow-Up on Monday's Death With Dignity Post

There is so much love in your responses to Monday's post about medical aid in dying. It goes both ways, you know.

Your comments are like an injection of strength for me. When I falter about all this death and dying stuff – as regularly happens - I think about your belief in me and I can find my way forward again completing the circle of this remarkable community you and I have developed.

It is both of us, you know, that makes this work.

Reading through all your caring, kind and understanding comments on Monday's post several times brought some questions to mind – or rather, some answers to questions you did and did not not ask but are lurking there if you pay attention.

Not for the first time, you mentioned my generosity in writing about real and scary stuff here. Funny. I have never thought of it as generous. Mostly, when it comes up, I wonder if I'm being self-indulgent.

Since I was a little girl, I have kept – if haphazardly so – journals about my life and whatever else interests me. Writing has always been how I sort out difficult events, thoughts, ideas.

I was so grateful when decades ago I ran across this quotation from British novelist E.M. Forster: “How can I tell what I think until I see what say?” Yes, I thought then, exactly. That's why I do all this scribbling. And it is what I have come to do with the blog.

In your comments, there is a suggestion or two I can't locate right now that I might stop writing this blog. Not yet, my friends, not yet. I still have a lot to figure out and will want your help along the way.

That's it for today. I know this is short and doesn't really go anywhere but it's the best I can do today and I'll explain on Friday.

Thank you all for your always interesting and thoughtful responses.


A TGB READER STORY: Word Puzzles

By Fritzy Dean

Why is the opposite of disheveled, “neat or orderly”? Shouldn’t it be “sheveled”?

How is it that one can be often overwhelmed, seldom underwhelmed, but never, ever “whelmed?” According to Merriam and Webster, they had to do an exhaustive search to find a record of “whelmed” in print. It had to do with a city whose bay had so much rain that the inlets were all ”whelmed.” Obviously the opposite of overwhelmed is unimpressed, not “whelmed.”

I bet everyone of us know someone who is utterly “ruthless.” Do you know anybody who is utterly “ruth”? Of course, you don’t. If we want to describe the opposite of ruthless, we would say that person is humane, warm-hearted or charitable. Isn’t English a strange language?

For example English has over a million words, but only ONE for love. Only ONE! The Inuit people have over 14 words for snow - to describe the various forms of snow they may encounter. But in English, we have only ONE for love.

We must use the same word to declare “I love you” and “I just love horror movies”. Even the ancient Greeks had three words for love. There was eros for romantic love, phileo for brotherly love and agape for Godly love. English? Nope, just one.

And how about a plural for the pronoun “you”. Oh, I know the linguists will tell us the “you” is both singular and plural. So is sheep, but in real speech we KNOW that we should have a word to determine more than one person. That is why in the South we say “Y’all” and the New Jersey natives will say “youse guys” and in Appalachia, we might hear “you’ens”.

With over a million words available, shouldn’t we have a plural for “YOU”?

In 1976 I worked in downtown Houston with a young man whose first language was Arabic. I believe he was from Lebanon. We became friends I think because he knew he could ask me questions without being laughed at.

There were a number of young guys in the same department, but Kumail learned not to ask them questions because he would NOT get a straight answer, ever. When one of them mentioned that our boss was on his “high horse”, Kumail thought the boss owned a very tall pony. They let him think so.

One day Kumail asked me to explain the word “make-up”. I explained first that it is a compound word. ”Make” is a word, ”up” is a word and together they make a new word. That it is a term used for cosmetics, such as lipstick, face powder and mascara, collectively known as “make-up”. He looked even more puzzled and said he didn’t understand.

Oh, maybe the person meant to “kiss and make-up.” That means to resolve any differences between you and get back on positive footing. It could actually be taken literally if the speaker had a tiff with his girlfriend and wanted to make amends.

Kumail is looking more and more confused. Oh, maybe it was used to say, “We need to make up for lost time“. That just means we must hurry, we were too slow at the task.

He shakes his head wearily. No, no. Then I thought of one more way Americans use “make up.” Maybe the person said something like we need to make up a story and stick with it.

He brightened. “That’s it! What does this mean?” It means one or more people fabricate a story - “make it up.” And “stick with it” means don’t ever admit it was a made-up story.

Kumail thanked me profusely and exclaimed over again what a weird language English is and how difficult to learn. He said the whole conversation had given him a hang-around.

Now, it’s my turn to look puzzled. He said, “You know, when you go out drinking with your friends and the next day your head hurts so bad? A big “hang-around”.

Are you talking about a “hang-over”? Yeah, your language gives me a bad hang-around.

Me, too, Kumail. Me, too.

* * *

[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.]


Oregon's Death With Dignity Law and Me

Last week, I spent the better part of an hour in a video meeting with a physician at the medical center where I have been treated for pancreatic cancer and COPD for the past three years.

The reason for our conversation was Oregon's Death With Dignity law or, as the doctor referred to it and which phrase I much prefer, Medical Aid in Dying.

Oregon was the first U.S. state, in 1994, to enact such a statute and it went into effect in 1997. Since then, seven more states and the District of Columbia have adopted similar statutes.

• California (End of Life Option Act; approved in 2015, in effect from 2016)
• Colorado (End of Life Options Act; 2016)
• District of Columbia (D.C. Death with Dignity Act; 2016/2017)
• Hawaii (Our Care, Our Choice Act; 2018/2019)
• Maine (Death with Dignity Act; 2019)
• New Jersey (Aid in Dying for the Terminally Ill Act; 2019)
• Oregon (Death with Dignity Act; 1994/1997)
• Vermont (Patient Choice and Control at the End of Life Act; 2013)
• Washington (Death with Dignity Act; 2008)

Here is a map of the United States showing the status of each state in regard to this kind of legislation:

DeathWithDignityMap

According to the Oregon Death With Dignity annual report as quoted at the Death With Dignity website,

”In 2019, 112 Oregon physicians wrote 290 prescriptions to dying Oregonians who qualified for the Act; 188 people died using the medications obtained under the law.”

The 102 people with prescriptions in 2019 who did not take the prescribed drugs may have died without using them or may yet take them. Some people, I am told, like the feeling of control in having the drugs handy.

The up-front requirements to use the law are that the patient be at least 18 years old, a resident of Oregon, capable of making and articulating healthcare decisions and diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months.

There are several additional hoops to maneuver but they are not too onerous. First, the person must verbally request the drugs from the attending physician on two occasions, at least 15 days apart.

The attending physician and a consulting physician must agree on the diagnosis and the prognosis.

In addition to those two verbal requests 15 days apart, the patient must complete a written request form that requires two witness signatures. One witness may not be a relative or a physician who treats the person.

The doctor I spoke with Thursday helpfully told me that for $7, a UPS store will witness the document. I thought this odd, even kind of funny at first but I can understand that a relative or friend – and certainly an acquaintance – might not want to be part of such a request.

If either of the two physician feels the patient's judgment is impaired, the patient must be referred for a psychological examination.

From what I can tell, pharmacists can refuse to fill prescriptions for these lethal drugs. The doctor told me there is one pharmacy in Portland that does fill them. The price, he said, is about $700. Private insurance may pay the cost. Medicare does not.

A doctor need not be present when the patient takes the drug although he or she may be there if the patient asks. However, only the patient can administer the medication.

The drugs, the doctor told me, come in a bottle to which apple juice is added. The drugs cause no pain. The patient feels woozy almost immediately upon drinking the mixture, he said, and will fall into coma in four to five minutes. Death comes usually in 30 minutes to two hours. Rarely, it can be longer.

The patient can rescind the request for the drugs at any point in the process. There is, of course, no requirement that the drugs be used.

* * *

I'm writing this because I thought you might be interested and, having had the conversation only a few days ago, it is fresh in my mind now. You may have noticed that throughout, I have referred to “the patient” and not to I or me.

That is because it is hard to talk about my own death this way. (Or in any way, I suppose.) I thought, having understood from the diagnosis three years ago that I would eventually die of this cancer, I had it under control, that I accepted the eventuality and had made peace with it.

Apparently this is not so. Yet.

The question has come up now because, as I reported not long ago, the cancer in my lung is growing and due to the additional diagnosis of COPD, my immune system is too damaged for more chemotherapy that otherwise – in theory - could slow the cancer's growth.

Now, with the coronavirus that attacks lungs, chemotherapy is even moreso not an option.

So I contemplate my death a bit more urgently now. I am making peace with the fact that I will never have all the bits and pieces of my life in good order for the dear, dear friend who will be stuck with sorting it all out when I am gone. She says to me, don't worry about it. I'm trying.

My question to myself right now is how to live in the time remaining. And I do mean, live. But also, that is not to deny what is happening to me. The disease, doing what it must, marches forward even into its own oblivion. As do I.

Dying is part of living and I doubt that is something that will slip my mind. So maybe I need to find a balance.

Is there a place where life and death and meaning at least intersect if not each become part of a whole? Not that anyone has ever been able to define the meaning of life.

Undoubtedly, I'll have more to say later. Meanwhile, if you want more information about Death With Dignity laws, here are a couple of links to get you started:

Oregon Death With Dignity website
Death With Dignity National Center website

For individual state laws, search “death with dignity” and the state's name.


ELDER MUSIC: Playing for Change 2

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.

* * *

Some might think that these are the also-rans, the songs that didn’t make the cut on the first of the Playing for Change. I’ll say yes and no.

Yes, because some of these were thrown out only because they didn’t fit in with the others and because there were too many songs already.

Others I discovered later and thought, “They should have been in the first one”. So, here are some more wonderful songs by wonderful performers.

WORDS OF WONDER / GET UP STAND UP
Here we have Keith Richards being rather cute, singing and playing an acoustic guitar. Based on this, I wish he’d sung the lead on more of the Stones’ songs. To my ears, he sounds a bit like Mark Knopfler.

The song Words of Wonder was written by Keith, Waddy Wachtel and Steve Jordan. It segues into Get Up Stand Up, written by Bob Marley. Keb Mo makes an appearance as well.

CLANDESTINO
Clandestino was written by Manu Chao and it was the lead track from his first album (named after the song). It’s about people who leave their own country, often involuntarily, in search of a better life. They are often undocumented (“clandestine”). Manu knows something of that as his parents fled Spain during Franco’s regime in fear of their life and settled in Paris.

EVERLASTING ARMS
This is another song that really expresses the purpose and joy of Playing for Change. Nothing more needs to be said about it except that Dr John takes part in this one.

BRING IT ON HOME TO ME
The late great Sam Cooke wrote and first recorded Bring It on Home to Me. Here we have a fine lot of soul sounding singers, kicked off by Roger Ridley, who is a street artist in Santa Monica. Grandpa Elliott and others take up the reins.

LA TIERRA DEL OLVIDO
Over the last several decades, pretty much any news from Colombia involved drugs, murders, cartels and so on, so it’s really good to highlight some good news instead.

The good news is music. It shows that no matter how bad the situation, music can bring people together. Sorry if that sounds a bit idealistic. All the musicians are from Columbia.

SOUL REBEL
Reggae legend Bunny Wailer kicks off Rebel, another of Bob Marley’s songs. Bunny was the main man in The Wailers who backed Bob on that record (and many others). After Bob’s death the Wailers continued as an independent entity. They are still playing to this day.

LOVE
Love was written especially for and about this project, and it builds to one big sing-along. Imagine trying to organise that over six continents and many countries.

Besides the singing, this one contains virtuoso didgeridoo player William Barton who is usually heard on classical compositions.

COTTON FIELDS
Cotton Fields isn’t a “trad” or “anon” song; it was written by Huddie Ledbetter (Lead Belly) in 1940 and first recorded by him. Many have performed it since from Odetta to Creedence Clearwater Revival, from Harry Belafonte to the Beach Boys and everyone in between. Naturally, we have a bunch of people, lead off by Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton.

PEMBA LAKA
Pemba Laka is essentially a jam, from an idea by Hugo Soares from Angola. All the musicians and onlookers seem to be having lots of fun playing, singing and dancing. Another tune in the spirit of Playing for Change.

GIMME SHELTER
Gimme Shelter is a Rolling Stones song from their best period for writing songs. It was written by Keith, featured above, and Mick Jagger of course.

I hesitate to single out one group of musicians, as everyone is good, but the Jamaican musicians are outstanding. The always interesting Taj Mahal makes an appearance singing and playing harmonica.

DOWN BY THE RIVERSIDE
Down by the Riverside is a spiritual that traces its roots back to the American Civil War. Naturally, because of its lyrics, it has been used extensively over the years as an anti-war song. One of our regulars, Grandpa Elliott, kicks this one off and is the main singer for much of the song.

LISTEN TO THE MUSIC
Yes, this is the Doobie Brothers’ song, and Tom Johnston from that group leads off the singing. Also present are Patrick Simmons and John McFee, current members of the band, along with Tom’s Daughter Lara who’s a singer/songwriter as well.

The idea for using this song was hatched when the Doobies played at the Byron Bay Bluesfest in Australia. It’s a good way to end, enjoining all to listen to the music.

If you want to find out more about Playing For Change, you can find their website here. They also have all the videos, although some are blocked unless you become a member. If you prefer to go through Facebook, you can find them here.


INTERESTING STUFF – 16 May 2020

100 YEARS, 100 MOVIE QUOTATIONS

The American Film Institute website has a whole bunch of video lists of 100 film clips on such topics as music, heroes and villains, thrills, laughs and more.

TGB reader Jim Hood sent this one – 100 Years, 100 Movie Quotations. I know almost all of them and you probably will too.

You can find all those other AFI movie lists here.

BOLERO JUILLIARD

One hundred dancers, musicians and actors take part in this lockdown video to Ravel's Bolero. It's an amazing video as it is but it's also fun to see a lot of performers you recognize.

You can read all about how the video was created at the Juilliard website.

FREE EBOOKS

A friend, who is a heavy library user, mentioned to me this week that his library is closed indefinitely and he had found a list of five good websites for free ebooks:

Project Gutenberg
ManyBooks
Libby
Hoopla
Internet Archive

Each of these specializes in its own way. If you want even more choices for free ebooks just Google “free ebooks” and you'll get a longer list than you want to read through.

COVID-19 LEADERSHIP: TRUMP V. OTHER WORLD LEADERS

The Atlantic magazine pulled together a video of major world leaders talking to their countrymen and -women about the Covid-19 virus. See what you think:

TRUMP EXPLAINS HOW TESTING WORKS

On Thursday at a political rally (oops, I mean speech) in Pennsylvania, President Trump explained how virus testing works:

“We have more cases than anybody in the world, but why? Because we do more testing,” Trump said. “When you test, you have a case. When you test you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases. They don’t want to write that. It’s common sense. We test much more.”

(Picking my jaw up off the floor) As a Twitter commenter responded, if you never take a pregnancy test, you won't get pregnant.

Here's the video tape. The quotation appears at about 3:32 minutes from the top.

DOGGY BREAKFAST PLAY-BY-PLAY

As British sports announcer, Andrew Cotter, explains on the YouTube page,

”I usually broadcast actual sport: The Olympics, Wimbledon, The Masters, 6 Nations, that sort of thing. But sport has disappeared for a while, so here instead are Olive and Mabel eating their breakfast.”

That was so much fun, let's do it again. A few days after the above, Cotter noted this on the YouTube page:

”Wasn't going to do another one, but the ongoing lack of the actual sports events I commentate on can change a man.”

So now, The Games of Bones.

ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER

This video is from New York City friends, Jane Seskin and Ann Burack-Weiss. If you are anything like me, about halfway through you will start grinning and you won't stop until the end. You might even shed a tear or two of joy.

* * *

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.


Friday Blog Post – A Blast From the Past

Yesterday afternoon, I felt more tired than usual so I laid down for a short nap. I guess I was more tired than I thought because I didn't wake until past dinner time.

That wouldn't generally be a problem except that I had planned to spend the afternoon writing today's blog post.

You know how you feel sometimes after a heavy sleep? That you're not even sure where the bathroom is and coherent thought will take awhile? That was me. So you get a rerun today, a repeat story.

Although this post is more than four years old, it has been the number one most read post over the past two months. I have no idea why or how people found it, but there are you are.

It is titled, Have You Been Dropping More Things as You Get Older?, first published on 25 January 2016.

* * *

It is hard to be sure but it seems to be so for me. And it is really annoying.

For example, one day last week, I dropped a spoon on the kitchen floor. I picked it up, rinsed it off and as I reached for the towel, I dropped in again. Damn.

A day or two before that, I had dropped the shampoo bottle in the shower – a new, full one that barely missed my toes. Later that day, I dropped the two-quart, plastic box where I store the cat's dry food, scattering it all over the kitchen. Damn again.

Not long ago, I dropped a nine-inch butcher knife – that one could have been disastrous – but on another day I was lucky to be standing on a carpet when I dropped my mobile phone so it didn't break.

None of these occurrences is important individually and probably not even in their proximity to one another. But they made me wonder if dropping stuff is a “thing” with old people. So I took to the internet.

There is a lot of unsourced and untrustworthy health information online and that is always dangerous for “low information viewers,” as it were. The first I found was a large number of forums where people with no expertise were freely offering their uninformed opinions.

In answer to inquiries about dropping things, many instantly went to fear-mongering: Based on nothing at all, they advised people to see a doctor right away because it could be an early symptom of MS, ALS, Huntington's disease and more.

That's nuts. Those were anonymous forums, for god's sake. I hope no one takes them seriously.

Digging deeper at more reputable websites, I found that sometimes dropping things can be among the symptoms of serious disease but only one symptom, a minor one among dozens of others anyone would notice long before worrying about dropping something.

Checking further, I found that dropping things is not a big enough issue with growing old to warrant much notice.

In fact, a webpage of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services for training elder home staff is the only direct mention of elders dropping things I found.

”The sense of touch changes,” they report. “In older adults the sense of touch may decrease as skin loses sensitivity. Pressure, pain, cold and heat do not feel the same as they used to feel. Decreases in touch sensitivity may cause residents to drop things.”

That reference to skin losing sensitivity reminded me that a few years ago, I discovered through personal experience that old people often cannot be fingerprinted, particulalry with electronic scanners, because their fingerprints are worn off.

When I wrote about that here three years ago, I quoted Scientific American magazine:

”...the elasticity of skin decreases with age, so a lot of senior citizens have prints that are difficult to capture. The ridges get thicker; the height between the top of the ridge and the bottom of the furrow gets narrow, so there's less prominence. So if there's any pressure at all [on the scanner], the print just tends to smear.”

That would certainly affect sense of touch and the ability to know if you are holding things tightly enough. A report from Oregon State University [pdf] concurs with Pennsylvania report supplying a bit more medical information:

”With aging, sensations may be reduced or changed. These changes can occur because of decreased blood flow to the nerve endings or to the spinal cord or brain. The spinal cord transmits nerve signals and the brain interprets these signals.

“Health problems, such as a lack of certain nutrients, can also cause sensation changes. Brain surgery, problems in the brain, confusion, and nerve damage from injury or chronic diseases such as diabetes can also result in sensation changes.”

I finally found the most pertinent answer to my question at The New York Times. Noting that fine touch may decrease in old age,

“Many studies have shown that with aging, you may have reduced or changed sensations of pain, vibration, cold, heat, pressure, and touch. It is hard to tell whether these changes are related to aging itself or to the disorders that occur more often in the elderly...”

This Times information is quoted from A.D.A.M., a private source of medical information for health professionals and other paid subscribers.

So what I have deduced from two or three hours on the internet is that barring injury or disease or, perhaps, waning strength that affects one's ability to grip strongly, maybe elders do drop things more frequently.

Maybe a diminishing sense of touch in general means that we cannot effortlessly perceive the appropriate strength of our grasp as automatically as when we were younger. At least, that's what I choose to believe for myself until someone enlightens me further.

Following on that, for the past few days I have been making a conscious effort to be sure I am holding whatever is in my hand tightly enough that it will not slip.

I want that to become second nature because the knife I mentioned was a close call and I certainly don't want to drop a cup of hot coffee on my foot or the cat.

Does any of this ring a bell for you?


The Universe Decides That, Not Me

It has become the oddest thing for me now to watch movies and TV series where people hug and kiss and shake hands and generally be together in close contact, touching one another by leaning in or patting a friend on the back, ruffling a kid's hair.

I keep wondering what the writers and actors will give us when they take on stories set in the era of the pandemic and personal distancing. So far, all I've seen are jokes related to the awkwardness of elbow bumps. Not really funny.

Watching something I don't recall on television recently, I saw two people hug. The man and woman, meeting on a big-city sidewalk, were bundled up in hats, scarves and puffy coats for cold weather. But it was still a great, big, full-on, fuzzy, warm, body hug.

The image got blurry as my eyes watered up. I hit rewind to watch it again and by then I was weeping deep, wet tears.

It has been a long time since I've shared a hug like that – way before COVID-19 and personal distancing made their appearance in our lives. It is not unlikely that I have already experienced my last hug – whenever it was that it occurred.

Especially for old people, life can be like that sometimes – not knowing when we are doing something that is important to us for the last time, and therefore not making note of it.

But then I remember that front-line workers of all kinds take their lives in hand every day. They do it for you and for me and for everyone else who needs their attention while knowing for certain that some of them will die.

And I'm sitting here wondering if I'll ever get another hug before I die???

My grownup self dismisses the thought as too grotesquely selfish to admit out loud. But life can be like that too – all the other needs, desires, responsibilities, worries, longings, fears, etc. - continue even in the face of the life-threatening disease we live with now and the awesome bravery of caregivers.

Some of you may recall the good old, early days of my cancer journey when I said that all I wanted was to live to read the Mueller Report. Well, that was a dud and I've been saying since then that I want to live to see the outcome of the November 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Maybe I will, maybe I won't. But I sure do want to.

It's always been that way for me – getting the can't waits to find out the end of the story. When I was a little kid, I begged my mother to finish the book she was reading to me at bedtime rather than wait until the next night. After I had learned to read and often ever since, I've been known to force my eyes open to keep going until the end of the book or movie.

It has taken the pandemic and some changes to my health for me to learn something important about being old: I don't get to choose whether I find out the end of the story – mine or the election or any other. The universe decides that.


A TGB READER STORY: Structure in a Time of Pandemic

By Adele Frances

After three weeks in self-quarantine, I have learned, along with billions of others, that adding structure to your day is a necessary bulwark against inertia leading to boredom leading to depression leading to insanity. So I have created a schedule that I generally follow each day, unless some new exciting thing comes barging into my life (like picking up cheap toilet paper at a neighbor’s porch.)

First, I make my tea, write in my journal and check the morning news on my iPad. This usually makes me want to call everyone I’ve ever known and loved and say good-bye, but I wisely restrain the impulse.

Next I call my friend trapped in her small room in an assisted living home and check to see that she: a) is still alive; b) remembers who and where she is; and c) still laughs at my jokes.

So far, so good. If I am clever, I do my leg exercises while talking to her from my bed. If I forget, (four out of five calls), I have to add this later, but before I dress or my exercise routine is lost for the day.

Next I try to remember if it is shower day (every other day—I live in dry New Mexico) and then act accordingly. Unless I can’t remember and I shower anyhow. (Remind me to buy stock in Nivea lotion.)

Then I eat my breakfast between 10 and 11. I’ve been cutting down the amount of food consumed and am eating three meals between 10 and 5, leaving my body to digest and outsmart my GRD (acid reflux) for roughly 15 hours. Works most of the time. (If not, I stay awake from 2AM to 5AM and watch movies.)

Now comes the big decisions: what do with my day? Today I will finish the simple cloth masks I started yesterday and give them to friends. Then I will Zoom with my siblings (which I taught to them - Zoom, that is. I am 75 and they are in their 80’s, a clear example of how the younger generation needs to lead the old. Don't tell them I said that.)

I will also spend time in my small garden, admiring the plants I’ve recently potted (the only reason for going food-shopping) and talking to the goldfinches, sparrows and white-winged doves that are feeding a few feet from my patio table. I’m assigning them names now, but that’s only normal, right?

After lunch, I may sit and read awhile or even watch the latest on Netflix. Having devoured Tiger King, Unorthodox and Caliphate, I’m now searching for the Next Best Thing. I think I dated Joe Exotic once, but perhaps that was a dream.

Then the neighbor across the fence plays his car music way too loud, the bass reverberating throughout my home, and I call his apartment manager while my neighbor calls the police. Again. This takes up a good half-hour that is well-spent. Do we need noise in this pandemic of silence?

At dinner I turn on TV to catch the evening catastrophic news and then quickly go onto lighter fare, like Jeopardy, where they are showing earlier shows and Alex Trebeck doesn’t know pancreatic cancer is in his future. Happier times.

As I watch, I am sewing a million running stitches of embroidery thread onto a red Eileen Fisher jacket that a friend recently gave me. I don’t wear red, so I decorated it with various colored circles around which I am sewing stitches into infinity. Or until I run out of embroidery thread. Again, I consider this a normal activity, but you may disagree.

Sounds fairly orderly. Right? But remember, all throughout the day I am sending and answering phone calls, emails and texts. A constant but necessary interruption for staying in touch. At this point I have no idea what I’ve told whom. “Did I send you the pix of the 2000-piece puzzle on my table? Or my stitched red jacket? Oh well, enjoy and don’t ask why I sent it. Seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Okay, it’s almost time for my shower. Or is it? What day is it? How dry is my skin? Perhaps I should write my schedule on the shower curtain.

How are you coping with your structure-setting?

* * *

[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.]


Are Old People Lives Worth Less Than Young People's Lives?

We, all of us, are witness to something that up until now seemed an historical event safely tucked away in the Middle Ages or, at least, a hundred years ago.

No more than two months ago, few if any of us could have guessed we would see so many succumb to the coronavirus in so short a period of time that morgues and funeral homes would need to store the dead in refrigerated trucks.

Even in our largest cities, there is silence in the streets. We who can lock ourselves in our homes rarely leave nowadays and never get closer than six feet to another person.

Front-line workers take their lives in their hands to care for the sick and dying. Others perform essential services for the rest of us. Both do so while living as separate as possible from their families for fear of passing the virus to loved ones.

It is fear that drives us now. We live in a state of suspended animation with no end date. Does anyone here believe that the numerous U.S. states “opening” their economies now will result in anything but spikes in infections and deaths?

Old people account for more of the dead than any other age group.

On Saturday, The New York Times reported that one-third of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities:

”At least 25,600 residents and workers have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for older adults in the United States, according to a New York Times database. The virus so far has infected more than 143,000 at some 7,500 facilities.”

The Washington Post reports that the number of elder deaths from the virus may be even higher:

”It’s become clear that nursing homes are particularly deadly incubators: Fifteen states reported (as of Friday) that more than half of their covid-19 fatalities were associated with long-term-care facilities.

“Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says that as many as 50 percent of all deaths in Europe have occurred in such places.”

There has been more than a little ageism in the discussion of who lives and who dies in this pandemic. In March,

”Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick set off a firestorm of criticism after he suggested Monday that he and other older Americans should be willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the economy, which he said was in mortal jeopardy because of shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic,” reported the Washington Post.

“'Let’s get back to living,' Patrick (R) said. 'Let’s be smart about it. And those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.'”

Just over a week ago, Ken Turnage II was ousted as chairman of Antioch, California's city council when he posted this to Facebook:

”'In my opinion we need to adapt a Herd Mentality. A herd gathers it ranks, it allows the sick, the old, the injured to meet its natural course in nature," reported NBC News.

“As for homeless people, he added that the virus would 'fix what is a significant burden on our society and resources that can be used.'”

Those two are not alone. Calls for sacrifice of elders and the disabled has become relatively commonplace in relation to the pandemic but reporter Nina A. Kohn, in that same Washington Post story wrote a strong counter-narrative on Friday.

Acknowledging that old people are particularly susceptible to the virus, she points out a long-standing inequality that contributes to the large number of elder deaths:

”They’re also dying because of a more entrenched epidemic: the devaluation of older lives.

“Ageism is evident in how we talk about victims from different generations, in the shameful conditions in many nursing homes and even — explicitly — in the formulas some states and health-care systems have developed for determining which desperately ill people get care if there’s a shortage of medical resources.”

Pointing out specifics about how nursing homes are woefully understaffed and under-regulated, while childcare centers that violate state rules routinely have their licenses revoked and facilities closed, Kohn reports,

”Almost two-thirds of the approximately 15,600 nursing homes in the United States have been cited for violating rules on preventing infections since 2017, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of state inspection results.”

When fines are imposed, Kohn writes, they are low enough to be considered the price of doing business. Further, says Kohn,

”Ageism is most explicit in official policies governing whose lives should be saved if equipment or medical staff become scarce during the pandemic...states and health-care systems have plans for such situations.

“All prioritize patients who are likely to benefit from treatment over those who are unlikely to benefit, but many also rate them based on age — with younger patients getting the nod.

“Louisiana, for example, has long advised hospitals to employ a triage system for disasters that deprioritizes anyone age 65 or older. In April, Pennsylvania issued interim guidance that directs hospitals to rank patients based on broad 'life stages': age 12 to 40, age 41 to 60, age 61 to 75, older than 75.”

Ms. Kohn concludes and I agree:

”Inequalities rooted in ageism have caused the coronavirus to spread, and many policy responses take for granted that older lives are worth less than younger ones. These moral blind spots compromise the fight against the pandemic and diminish us all.”

Which brings us back to today's headline: Are Old People's Lives Worth Less Than Young People's Lives? What do you think?

This is an important story rarely so well and thoughtfully reported as Nina A. Kohn has done. You can read it in full at the Washington Post.


ELDER MUSIC: Wynton Marsalis

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.

* * *

Wynton Marsalis

WYNTON MARSALIS was born and bred in New Orleans which gave him a head start in this whole music lark. He was born into a musical family – his father is a jazz pianist and three brothers are also jazz musicians and it looks as if the next generation is going in that direction as well.

It seems that when Ellis, his father, was sitting at the table one day with Al Hirt, Miles Davis and Clark Terry (holy moley) he joked that he might as well get Wynton a trumpet too. Al gave him one, thus from the age of six he was already blowing his own horn (sorry about that).

Wynton studied classical music at school and his father taught him jazz at home and he eventually ended up at Juilliard studying classical music. Wynton is adept at both genres (and others as well) as we’ll see.

Wynton Marsalis

Wynton recorded six albums under the title “Standard Time” that delved into the history of jazz and popular music in general. I’ll be playing selections from some of these today starting with number one.

This album consists of ballads mainly from the thirties, tunes you’ll all know, particularly this one, A Foggy Day, written by George and Ira Gershwin. Wynton has always been generous towards the other members of his groups, such that he ensures that each gets a turn in the spotlight.

♫ A Foggy Day


From another of the “Standard Time” albums, this one featuring the music of Thelonious Monk, we get the tune Hackensack. The tune is reasonably well known, but on the album Wynton generally plays lesser known ones.

♫ Hackensack


Wynton Marsalis

Wynton writes music in different styles, including classical music. He’s written several symphonies and I’m going to feature part of one today, the fourth, also called The Swing Symphony. It owes a lot to Leonard Bernstein and Duke Ellington, and Wynton has acknowledged that himself. Here is the third movement, subtitled Midwestern Moods.

♫ Symphony No 4 (3)


Wynton Marsalis

Buddy Bolden is the great mysterious figure of early jazz. He’s credited with inventing the music and it was said that he was a superb improviser. No records of him exist and the closest we can get is with the music of those who played with him, including King Oliver and Bunk Johnson.

A bio-pic of his life was recently released with Wynton playing his music. From that we have the tune Didn't He Ramble, a famous early jazz tune.

♫ Didn't He Ramble


Pachelbel

Pachelbel’s Canon is one of the most played pieces in classical music. It’s used, probably over-used, for all sorts of things.

JOHANN PACHELBEL didn’t write this with trumpets in mind, however, Raymond Leppard, head honcho of the English Chamber Orchestra, scored it for three trumpets, perhaps because he thought that it might sell a few more records as John is very popular with classical music buyers.

Anyway, he succeeded in giving a rather tired old warhorse a kick in the nether regions and turned it into something rather interesting. At the time of recording, Ray couldn’t find two more trumpeters of the quality required, so Wynton played all three parts. So, here he is three times with Pachelbel’s Canon for Three Trumpets and Strings, P. 37.

♫ Canon for Three Trumpets and Strings P. 37


Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton

ERIC CLAPTON has a vast amount of music behind him. There was one stage when he tried to disappear, pretending that he was just a member of a group called Derrick and the Dominoes. We weren’t fooled, but this aggregation produced probably his finest hour on record with the song Layla.

He had the help of an equally fine guitarist, Duane Allman, on that track (and others on the record). Duane is no longer with us, but Eric has performed the tune in several different settings, including this one, a jazz/blues interpretation with Wynton, probably unrecognizable to fans of the original.

♫ Layla


Haydn

JOSEPH HAYDN wrote concertos for pretty much every instrument because he had a decent orchestra at his command, thanks to Prince Paul Esterházy who employed him (and them).

Jo wanted to keep his musicians happy, and they liked a spot in the limelight to strut their stuff. One of his works was the Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra, in E-Flat Major Hob.VIIe. Here is the first movement.

♫ Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra in E-Flat Major Hob.VIIe (1)


Wynton & Ellis Marsalis

The third of the “Standard Time” albums consists of standards from the thirties and forties. Wynton is joined by his father, pianist ELLIS MARSALIS on this record.

The song they perform is I Cover the Waterfront which has been recorded memorably by Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and many others.

♫ I Cover the Waterfront


Telemann

As with Pachelbel, above, Wynton again triples himself. I imagine that when GEORG PHILIPP TELEMANN wrote his Concerto in B-flat Major for Three Trumpets and Orchestra he couldn’t envisage that the one person would be able to play all three of the trumpet parts.

Of course, doing that in concert is a different matter. Here is the first movement of his Concerto in B-flat Major for Three Trumpets and Orchestra.

♫ Concerto in B-flat Major for Three Trumpets and Orchestra (1)


Wynton Marsalis & Willie Nelson

On his never ending quest to play with every musician on the planet, WILLIE NELSON has performed in concert several times with Wynton. A couple of those have been recorded. These show what I’ve always suspected: that Willie is really a jazz musician.

From one of those we have one of Willie’s compositions, Night Life. I had culled the songs I was going to include down to three and asked Norma, The Assistant Musicologist, which I should use. This is the one she insisted on.

♫ Night Life


Wynton and KATHLEEN BATTLE have performed and recorded together a number of times.

Wynton Marsalis & Kathleen Battle

Kathleen has a reputation for being “difficult”. I find that when women are described that way it means they are intelligent, strong and don’t suffer fools (mainly men) gladly. I don’t know if Kathleen fits that description, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

From their album of Baroque music, we have Mr Handel’s Eternal Source of Light Divine (Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, HWV 74).

♫ Eternal Source of Light Divine (Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne HWV 74)


Wynton Marsalis

The sixth in the “Standard Time” series is subtitled “Mr. Jelly Lord” and is devoted to the music of Jelly Roll Morton, one of the most important figures in the development of early jazz.

Wynton shows what a fine scholar he is of this style of music, but he doesn’t treat the music as museum pieces, they really swing, as he demonstrates on Black Bottom Stomp, a good way to end the column.

♫ Black Bottom Stomp


INTERESTING STUFF – 9 May 2020

A DUCK FAMILY: A DAY IN THE LIFE

We live in a time of 24/7 bad news. Every morning while reading the news, I checked the virus cases and death numbers. Awful, as usual.

The virus is more to deal with each day than most of us have faced in a lifetime. But we also receive almost daily revelations of a president and his federal government appointees whose cruelty and corruption are rampant with no checks in sight.

We could all use a calming break. This day-in-the life video of a duck family with several babies who are about five weeks old helps.

MOURNING IN AMERICA

The Lincoln Project, they tell us, “is an American political action committee formed in late 2019 by several prominent Republicans. The goal of the committee is to prevent the reelection of Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.”

Earlier this week, the superpac released an anti-Trump ad on Fox News that it says, brought in $1.4 million in donations to continue its work. Facebook has slapped the video with a “Partly False Information” label. See what you think:

DEPARTMENT OF YOU CAN'T MAKE UP THIS STUFF

I'm quoting Digby in that headline and she is, of course, correct. While Trump was touring the Honeywell face mask factory in Arizona on Tuesday (while not wearing a mask), Live and Let Die by Axl Rose was blasting in the background. Take a listen:

HOW NEW ZEALAND BEAT THE CORONAVIRUS DOWN TO ZERO CASES

And did it in just seven weeks.

THE STRATEGIC NATIONAL STOCKPILE

President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, stepped in it when he told TV cameras that the U.S. strategic national stockpile does not belong to the states. It is “ours,” he said, meaning – well, that's hard to know. The Trump family? The White House? Who is "ours".

Nevertheless, I was interested in the Washington Post video feature about what it is, what it looks like and a bit about how it operates.

BIOLUMINESCENT WAVES OFF CALIFORNIA COAST

The Guardian reported on the bioluminescent waves recently seen off the California coast.

”The event occurs every few years along the coast of southern California,” reports the paper, “though locals say this year’s sea sparkle is especially vibrant, possibly related to historic rains that soaked the region and generated algal bloom.”

It's beautiful:

CHINA'S RESPONSE TO TRUMP

China's official Xinhua news agency released an Lego-like animation mocking the U.S. response to COVID-19. It is titled Once Upon a Virus. Thank my friend Jim Stone for sending this along.

THE ALEX AND RONNI SHOW

Last Tuesday, my former husband and I recorded our biweekly chat and I haven't had time to post it until now. I'm pretty sure we mostly talked about the virus.

THE BEST CAT PHOTOS I'VE SEEN IN A LONG TIME

The Bored Panda website tells us that in 2017,

”...a kitten called Edmund arrived. For the next two and a half years, he was a force of nature in our lives until he was taken from us by a hit-and-run driver on the quiet country lane where we live. I took thousands of photographs of him during his short life, here are 40 of my favorites.”

Here is a sampling of three.

SoapBubbleKitty

KungFuKitty

FamousKitty

There are 37 more gorgeous, fun and funny photos of Edmund at Bored Panda.

* * *

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.