A TGB READER STORY: OK Boomers, It’s Time to Step Up
Living and Dying in Interesting Times Plus The Alex and Ronni Show

Daily Life When Time is Short

The carpeting in this apartment had needed replacing for awhile. I had been working up to getting it done when I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017. Because I did not expect to live more than a year, I couldn't see any good reason to spend a moment of that time or money on carpeting.

Three years later now, they say I'm eligible for hospice (a euphemism for you have fewer than six months left) and however shabby it looks, I really do not care a whit about new carpeting.

Priorities change pretty quickly when the doctors say you don't have long to live.

Some people in my predicament make bucket lists. Two people have even asked me (in jest, I hope, but I can't be sure) if I've started working on mine. Certainly not. And I have always disliked the idea so much I might never forgive screenwriter Justin Zackham for giving us that ubiquitous phrase.

Instead and without putting much thought to it, I simplify daily life. Or, perhaps what I mean is that I have followed new inclinations as they have appeared and continue them if they serve me well enough.

A week or so ago, I was enjoying how comfortable sweat pants are and wondered why I have only one pair. I could use a couple more in different colors, I thought. Then I remembered: Oh, right. I won't be here a whole lot longer so what's the point.

Except when I change the linen, I don't make the bed anymore. You would be surprised how exhausting that is with severe COPD so I skip it now. I don't like seeing an unmade bed when I walk into the room but it's an easy tradeoff to losing my breath and heaving for air.

During my first two or three television jobs on local morning shows in New York City in the 1970s, I was usually the politics and cooking producer. I got to work with such luminaries of the era's culinary world as Julia Child when she was a guest, Craig Claiborne, James Beard once, Burt Wolf and others. I learned a lot from them and enjoyed cooking ever after.

Until now. Not long ago, my interest just dropped away.

It pains me to admit this but after a lot of trial and error and thrown-out food, I rely on the only two frozen meals from the supermarket that I consider edible. They are necessary some evenings when I'm too tired for the effort involved to cook even the simplest dinner.

At this point, I don't worry about healthy food or balanced meals. I'm concerned about the number of calories to keep up my weight and I don't care where they come from. Ice cream plays large part now that the weather is warming up.

Occasionally I use food delivery but it's a habit I never developed BC (before Cancer, COPD, Coronavirus – take your pick) and have not been able to work up an interest now.

As I've discussed here before, until my inclinations lean otherwise, I will continue to write this blog and even though I appear to be slower at it than in the past, it doesn't fill even my much shortened days.

It's not that there is a scarcity of things to do. There is a lot of information to pull together so my affairs are not in too much disarray when I die. I'm not eager for that work, but it needs to be done.

There are books to read, a dozen or more as yet unopened ones, plus the old favorites I would like to at least dip into again if not entirely re-read. But I haven't worked out how to choose. I dither - while time slips away.

There are also the shelves and shelves and shelves of philosophers and other kinds of thinkers, a lifetime's effort to find answers for the big questions. Maybe there are ideas there that would mean something different at age 79 and on the verge of dying than in the prime of life at 20 or 30 or 40. How to choose? Don't look to me for an answer.

A larger number of TGB readers than I would have guessed have asked about making this blog into a book. Just this week, Millie Garfield's son, Steve, emailed with information on how to easily do that online. It's a good idea that I appreciate but I doubt I will find the energy. The smallest things, these days, take more effort than I can muster.

Here are just a few things that make me grateful to be this old and unwell in the 21st century and not the 19th:

Washers and dryers
Stoves and refrigerators
Indoor running hot and cold water
Indoor toilets
Central heating and air conditioning

Think of how hard everyday life would be without them. I never appreciated until now how exhausting getting through each day must have been throughout history until a hundred or so years ago. No wonder people generally died younger than we do.

There must be others of you reading this who are going through similar changes.

Comments

Only if you had a burning desire should you even consider putting out a book - about anything! We who will likely survive you would benefit from such a book; but, all it would do for you is sap your energies. The same goes for bed-making.

I always thought it a waste of time. These days I make my bed for personal reasons, but it is a twin-sized bed and I sleep under one sheet and nothing else so making it up is no big deal - about 15 seconds' worth.

Ice cream is always a good fallback. Even 60 years ago, when I was pregnant and could keep nothing else down, vanilla ice cream kept me from losing too much weight (I lost 15 pounds in the first few months, at that.) To my parents, oatmeal was a fallback; but, we each have our own list.

I encourage you to have someone/order online more pants. Who cares that they aren't expected to be worn out when you go. You may as well indulge yourself while still here.

Hugs to you.

"I dither - while time slips away". So do I and so it does.
Wish I could send you some gelato from the place around the corner. Wonder which flavor/flavors would tempt you the most.
Reading. And re-reading. Always goals, always goals for "tomorrow", for one reason or another. But the best place to get lost ... if one's head lets one get started and caught up.
I say thanks every time I turn a tap on and think of how lucky I am for running water. Clean running water, no less.
Thank you for letting TGB continue to fill parts of your days. It is one of the best parts of ours.

Thinking about bequests, myself. I wondered about your intellectual property. Can you leave the blog contents—the posts you wrote yourself— to a person? I have no idea how this works. But, if someone wanted to gather your wisdom and perspective into a book, is there a straightforward way to designate a recipient? Just a thought driven by great admiration.

Thank you for your very honest and straightforward writings. You have given me better insight and understanding, broadened and deepened my empathy of my sister's struggles with brain cancer. She also has outlived her prognosis but is slowly diminishing before our eyes. Your words are gifts of grace , beauty, and courage

I’ve got no wisdom. The trees outside my window give me such pleasure. I could spend hours gazing with no purpose, hardly aware of my thoughts. The idea creeps in that I’m wasting precious time. Maybe I should be cleaning, sorting, organizing, reading, writing, researching, accomplishing. But. The trees. This moment is my life. I’m thinking of you. And the trees are lovely in the misty rain.

what to say? Encouragement? Nah. Gratitude for your insights? Always.

Duchesse...

Taken care of and done.

Of course, anyone can copy, print, save, etc. any webpage which, in regard to TGB, is fine with me. As noted in the instructions for submitting Reader Stories, those writers retain copyright to their material. Peter Tibbles retains copyright to the Eldermusic column.

I enjoy every minute of reading this blog. The viewpoints augment the concepts of the local paper and the Wall Street Journal. Ronni, I enjoy your opinions and there will be a void in my mornings.

On modern conveniences, God bless the modern convenience of the indoor toilet. No wonder Sears is on the ropes.

B

I may not be "in your shoes" but at 80 I 'dither away the day' quite often. I love to see the made bed, a sheet, a cover 5 pillows, but when hubby gets up it often stays un made. He doesn't remember how now. Dementia does that.

Do as you are, quite alright. :-)

Love to you.

on the same page, Ronni.

thoughts are with you.

hugs

I find as I age and my body weakens I am less and less apologetic about others' demands. My boundaries are clearer, my self-care quite magnified into how I need to run my life and not others's expectations of me.

Citing line and sinker of my health issues I reserve for those who are in the same boat and we are aware that this is an indulgence that saves our sanity and we only perform these organ recitals when vital to our well being. I don't waste time on tasks that will have me in pain and exhaustion and can now live, and almost embrace, the chaos and disarray ensues.

It's an enormous freedom to live just doing what I want and as the energy and desires permit.

XO
WWW.

You rarely post a blog that doesn't have something in it that blows my mind. Today it was your being grateful for things that most people take for granted, ill or healthy. And if everyone could see the way you do..............I just don't know what would or wouldn't happen, but it would be good! We throw the laundry in the washer, push a button........the button activates something, the water starts coming in through pipes leading to a water source, which here, is a pump. The pump is a machine that pulls the water from an underground water system, fed by rain from the sky..........air currents, I don't know what I'm talking about, but it's HUGE. Sometimes I just am floored by it. Someone gave me some sweet words to remember before eating..........."In this bowl I see the precious, entire universe supporting me." Call it science, call it prayer, it's true.

Duchess has a good idea. Maybe Steve Garfield can offer some advice on getting a person to pull it all together. However, I understand how daunting a task like this is for you now. When it comes to what to read: I depend on my mood/inclination of the moment. I have ordered too many new books on a variety of topics during this period of isolation. I just pick up what I feel like reading when I feel like reading about it. I usually fall asleep while reading! Order more sweatpants. You won't have to do the wash as often. Perhaps Hospice will help with some chores. Hang in there Ronni!
Ruth M.

My mother had hospice and they were wonderful!
Order the sweatpants! They’ll make you feel good.

Ronni, in this lousy pandemic, my simpler life—at first involuntary—has been a gift.

I hope to retain the habits and the gratitude that arise from a sharper focus on the world around me:

In my house, my sanctuary— my computer by the window, my mother’s photo on the mantle, my towels folded neatly on a shelf in the bathroom for easy access.

In my yard, where nature ebbs and flows, and I am grateful for the distinct seasons in New England.

In my heart, where I carry my respect for your writing and all that you bring to me, a reader and fan. And I carry warmth and affection for you even though I have not met you and I am new to TGB at age 75 (about time I found it!).

I don’t have bucket lists either because how then would I make room for the unexpected to enter my life and enrich it, as discovery of Time Goes By has done for me.

Thank you for your post today, my friend.

I agree about the sweatpants and anything else that strikes your fancy! Order, purchase, eat, wear, do whatever you want (and can). If we could all be there to provide the things you delight in, we would be. You deserve them and much more for a life well-lived and well-shared! I will never be the same and will be first in line to order the book!!!

Thank you for continuing to share with us!
Carol <3

Good grief Ronni! I’m 74 and in relatively good health, but often find myself putting off tasks, or napping way too much. Give yourself a break and do what pleases you most! You’ve definitely earned it. (I hope blogging is near the top of your list) ):

As one who had a major heart attack in 2008 and was given 6 months or so to live and promptly shelved all sorts of ideas for buying and sewing and lazed about gloomily (pity my husband in retrospect) here we both are over 12 years on...

Buy those pants--live as if life continues for ever...

Now, after just coming home from hospital--valve failure causing acute heart attack, my attitude is quite different. I am immediately buying new underpants in the lovely mesh design I was supplied with in hospital, ordering a pretty catalog cotton dres, cutting out two dresses to start sewing, pulling my favorite Victorian children's books from my shelves for a re-read or a re-dip and indulging in food favorites; especially bialys with Norwegian smoked salmon and Philadelphia cream cheese with salmon; actually not as unhealthy as it may sound.

Don't you dare call this a bucket list it is instead scrapping care, and medical advice of the more stringent kinds and enjoying whatever time is left. Husband agrees. All sorts of future plans are in place for a solo him (or me) involving our very loving daughter who will bundle up the remaining one and move he/she to her home state and help sell our house and also move possessions. Life is for the living, remarked someone fatuously, no it isn't it is for the near dying who appreciate it the most.

Ronni you have been my silent friend nd help for many months here, now it is for your readers to step up to the plate and help you back.

The last roses and other flowers, the last bird songs, are to enjoy so deeply. The last emails and close friends communicating with you. Love fills the air around you--let it sink in. You are not alone, our arms are around you.

When I was taking my dad, age 90,for daily X-ray for cancer, I realized he need some new clothes. I new he had just decided he would wear whatever he had because if his prognosis. So when he showed up at X-ray in his new wardrobe. He hit some compliments. H en always had a dry sense of humor, he turned to me and said “gee if I knew I was going to live I would have bought new clothes sooner”. Buy the sweatpants. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

What a wonderful, caring, and wise group you have brought together. So many compassionate and loving words flow from the hearts of your readers. Who would have guessed that simple and honest expressions of any and all feelings and experiences would so enhance the days of those who read them. Do what you want to do when you want to do, and do what you have to do when you have to. If you can, for as long as you can. Being grateful is its own reward. Not only for you, but for us. And we are grateful for you.

If I could I'd live in sweatpants I certainly would, but I need something cooler in the summer. Regardless of the season, comfort is my only objective. As for making the bed every day, I pull the covers up and arrange them as much as possible while I'm still in bed, then slide out the side. It's not perfect, but who cares. Be self-indulgent. Do what feels good, avoid what doesn't.

Everyone else has said what is in my heart, and better than I could have. I love and appreciate all you do for your community. Continue taking care of yourself to the best of your ability and accept help when it's needed. Hospice was great to both of my parents. ❤

With a bit of a nudge I now understand how daunting would be the task of finding sweatpants of the size, length, fabric, fit that would be appropriate for Ronni; thus, I withdraw my encouragement that she buy more sweats. *sigh* I've never worn sweats (too hot, even in winter), so I had forgotten what a "big deal" buying them could be.

It's all about semantics. You can describe it as an "unmade bed" or you say that you're "airing it out". But one of the joys of living alone is that it's my business only.

Do as you want and as you can. Do for you, the only one who counts. Do nothing do everything , do it to your hearts content. Make you happy now...pooh on anyone else.

Yup, I'll reiterate: I don't know what I'd do without indoor plumbing, washer/dryer, fridge, A/C, etc. It is indeed easier to understand why people died sooner 100+ years ago than many do now. Life was physically much harder, especially for older people, I surmise. Otherwise, I'm pretty much on the same page as those who have commented before me--as usual!

I'm 5' 1-1/2" and weigh about 98 lbs. I wear a size "Small" in sweatpants. You probably do, too. Maybe just go ahead and order a couple for the heckuva it. . . I like ankle-length summer dresses, too (I get "midi" which is ankle length on me), and one-size-fits-most usually works with those.

I hope you can hear birds singing where you are. Marvelous beauty.

Ronni, this is the first time I've posted but have been reading your blog for about two years. I've wanted to tell you for quite sometime what a wonderful writer you are. You have a gift for expressing yourself simply and eloquently. I read what you write and try and understand how you accomplish this. I wonder if you were ever an editor.

Your honesty about what you are experiencing often resonates with me and others, though many of us are not going through the same thing as you. I think you express universal themes of human experience. For example today, "I dither, while time slips away." The passage of time is something I'm also acutely aware of, yet often feel I dither, which to me seems to mean waste time. In thinking more about it, perhaps dithering is just doing what we really want to rather than what we think we should be doing .

So, thank you for sharing your life with us and inspiring me to think more about meaning in my own life. I will miss you when the time comes to end your blog.

I love your blog. I feel so lucky that I got to meet you in your condo in LO years ago. Even got a peek at your dear kitty.

Not a week goes by that I am not grateful for running water and a/c and a decent roof over my head. I too wonder how our grandparents managed. Buy the sweatpants, multiples. They wash well too. They are so comfortable. I have COPD and some other "underlying conditions" and pants that are not comfy as the day goes on are a misery. What felt good in the morning feels constricting by evening. Changing the bed is almost beyond me. It takes me most of a day, making it is easier now that I quit tucking everything in. I'm about to give up on fitted sheets too, way too much for diminished airways.

Love you and I think of you every day.

Whatever else you do Ronni, I hope you will do what you can to keep yourself comfortable. Comfort is not just the absence of pain, the topic discussed here recently, but provides feelings of being cared for and at ease. I'm throwing my vote in with others here for more sweat pants and what ever else you find you're enjoying these days. I also hope that you find the most comfortable bedding you can. You may prefer your own bed, but if hospice is helping, they can bring in some surprisingly comfortable equipment. The bed they brought in for my mother-in-law was so comfy, especially after we covered it with her mother's and grandmother's quilts, that she lay down on it and within minutes went quietly and peacefully to sleep forever. Birdsong and gentle breezes are also things I wish you. What ever brings you peace and comfort. You certainly deserve it.

Maybe you’ll want to add a bidet with heated water to add to your comfort to be even more appreciated later. I’m all for doing what gives me pleasure, not wasting a lot of time on some household routines I used to do regularly. Am acutely aware of time getting away as I dither, ponder, gaze into space and don't feel guilty for doing so.

Some time ago I was intrigued by an AARP article 2017 referencing a study suggesting making my bed could be unhealthy. Of course not all agree. But I decided to experiment and try it. Only problem is I don’t know how to determine the results. I’ve never seen bed mites but don't think we can, so I have no way to see if mites in both situations and how many to compare. Oh, well!

One of the most profound experiences of my life was holding my mother’s hands for the last time. Touch means so much. You, Ronni, have touched me and so many others. I hope you can feel our presence as all of us reach to hold you in our arms and hearts.

My health has declined dramatically over the past few years, which means life pretty much sucks. In what seems a blink of an eye, I can't do many of the things I once loved. While I'm still alive and buying new stuff, I no longer care if what I buy will "Last a lifetime." A year or two will be long enough.
Having been close to the end myself, I learned one thing.
Death is easy. Dying is the hard part.

Ronni, your thoughts here resonated with me on so many things. When my mom died in 2004, I was so taken aback by the sudden loss I spent a couple years basically in search of what’s it all about, Alfie. I found lots to think about, but no real answers of course.

I do wish you’d splurge on the sweatpants. A couple years ago, I developed an angry sore right below my stomach on my left side that really hurt when I put on a pair of jeans. I owned a couple pair of Champion cotton ‘jersey pants’ (for lounging around the house) and wore a pair of those to the store instead... I never went back to jeans. I bought 4 new pair (in dark gray & navy) that included pockets.

While I’m not facing what you are, I’ve been dealing with a chronic medical condition that’s taken a lot of the wind out of my own sails. (I’ve lost over 40 pounds since February.) It’s very painful to eat, so I just slog down drinks like Ensure, Metamucil (for fiber), V8 Healthy Green juice. Friends will say “Oh you need to get creative and blah-blah-blah” and I just shake my head, roll my eyes. It’s not a terminal condition, but after a year or so I think I can see you’re not wanting a lot more than to just get through your day. But I’m very glad you’re making the effort to include us still.

Since the "great pause" (aka...coronavirus), I find myself spending more time simply noticing the world around me. Much less rushing. I start most mornings sitting on my back porch listening to the wind or birdsongs, traffic sounds or muffled human voices. I've discovered a stillness within the listening. Perhaps, I am connecting with an ancient memory of others who did the same.

Funny you mentioned appliances and plumbing because I, too, am grateful for them everyday.

No pumping or hauling water, no outhouses, no using washerboards or putting clothes thru the ringer (I helped my aunt with this when I was a child) and no cooking over an indoor fire in the corner of the same room for sleeping as they did in pre-Colonial days (I attended a Zoom lecture on kitchens).

I am so grateful for A/C. I cannot take the heat and humidity anymore.

Give me ease and comfort. I am also grateful for the microwave and the crockpot.

Please savor that ice cream to the max. It's funny but that was one of the relatively few things I thought marijuana was good for—enhancing Haagen Dasz vanilla (good enough on its own, but high, oh my). Of course, you're not going to be smoking anything with COPD. But it is possible to access that level of delectation sober. The secret is focus. Don't let any other sense or thought distract you while that ice cream is on your tongue.

I also hope that the choicest contents of this blog stay accessible for what passes for ever. You've spoken with candor (and humor) about aging and illness, two universal facts of life that have somehow been edited out of American reality. Maybe that's why we've blundered so far astray into unreality lately. You're a pioneer in putting a stop to that nonsense. Love you, Ronni.

Ronnie,
I love you. I love you, I love you.
Losing you will such a void in my life.
I love you.

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