192 posts categorized "ElderBloggers"

Elderblogger MeetUp and a Sobering List

Yes, I know I said on Monday that I would have more information on the Elderblogger MeetUp on Tuesday. So I lied. There was the book club post and Millie's Birthday – important items – and here we are on Thursday.

When I announced the MeetUp of elderbloggers and readers (see post here) who live in the vicinity of Portland, Oregon to be held at my home, I chose Saturday 18 September. Oy vey.

All it meant to me is that until 40 years ago, it was my wedding anniversary. But as a reader pointed out, that date is Yom Kippur – the holiest day of the Jewish year. How embarrassing for someone who is, at least nominally, a Jew.

Whether the holiday was the reason or not, only about two people agreed to attend in person, a bunch have previous plans, and half a dozen or so said they would call in via Skype. Here's the deal: It is not possible to choose a date when everyone who would like to attend can do so. On the other hand, I don't think it is really a MeetUp with fewer than six or eight people and more would be even better fun. (I own lots of chairs.)

So I have chosen two dates that have been vetted for holidays. If these are the days you have chosen to privately celebrate Dinosaur Month, Magazine Month or Sarcastic Awareness Month (they are real - to someone), I will understand.

• Saturday, October 9

• Saturday, October 16

I think these dates are more reasonable in that annual vacations are mostly finished, grandkids are back in school, Thanksgiving is not yet upon us and weather has a good chance of not being inclement.

If you would like to attend, you can indicate that along with which date (or both) in the Comments section or email me through the “Contacts” link in the upper left corner of the page. Additionally,

  1. The MeetUp will begin at 10AM, although arrival is certainly flexible
  2. Spouses or significant others are welcome
  3. There are reasonably-priced hotels in Lake Oswego if an overnight stay makes sense
  4. Food and beverages will be served
  5. Skype attendance still applies
  6. Details will be forthcoming as the chosen date gets closer

That date will the one that is most popular with attendees. If there are not at least half a dozen, the MeetUp will be postponed to a future date, probably in spring 2011 when we'll try again.

I would really like to do this.

The Sobering List
Since 1998, Beloit College in Wisconsin has issued its annual “Mindset List” describing the year's incoming freshmen. I've always enjoyed reading it and a thank you goes to Cowtown Pattie of Texas Trifles for sending on the most recent edition.

The College's introduction to this year's List begins:

“Born when Ross Perot was warning about a giant sucking sound and Bill Clinton was apologizing for pain in his marriage, members of this year's entering college class have emerged as a post-email generation for whom the digital world is routine and technology is just too slow.”

I've been saying for years that kids these days are born with little computer mice clutched in their tiny fists. How out of date. Undoubtedly they now arrive holding smartphones on which a text message has just arrived from another newborn down the hall.

This year's Beloit Mindset List is a little disappointing, not as shocking as some years – or maybe I've been following it too regularly for there to be much difference year to year.

Nevertheless, it's fun to read and is always an excellent lesson in the cultural differences between us old folks and the youngest adults around us. Here are some examples that leapt out at me:

• Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

• A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority – unless it involves “real” aliens from another planet.

• Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than Dirty Harry.

• Colorful lapel ribbons have always been worn to indicate support for a cause.

• They have never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.

• DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.

• Reggie Jackson has always been enshrined in Cooperstown.

• They first met Michaelangelo when he was just a computer virus.

You can find the rest of 75 items on Beloit College's Mindset List here.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Heat

Millie Garfield is 85 Years Old Today

Happy Birthday Millie

Today, Millie reaches one of those big-deal, must-celebrate birthdays - number 85 - marking the halfway point through her ninth decade.

I no longer remember how I came across Millie's blog - My Mom's Blog - but it was not long after Time Goes By began in 2004, and she was here before I was - a pioneer elderblogger before the word came along. There were hardly any old people in the blogosphere back then.

Millie became a special friend, and the first Millie Garfield Online Birthday Bash took place in 2005. Now in its sixth year, it is an elderblog tradition and it is a good thing to keep up tradition.

Here is all you need to do to join in: go to Millie's blog and leave a big, fat, wonderful message of congratulations and good cheer.

It's not every day someone reaches 85, and some of us won't. So let's celebrate with Millie.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: The Dangers of Swimming

Elderblogger Meetup – An Invitation

Way back in April (well, not so long ago but it feels that way) when my Maine home had been sold, a new one found in Oregon and I was in the midst of packing for the move, I wrote this in a post:

“The number of Time Goes By readers who live in or near Portland, Oregon surprises me. Not that you haven't mentioned your location in comments and on your blogs, but I hadn't been keeping track. Now it makes a difference.

“So I have decided that when I am reasonably settled - sometime this summer - I will hold an elderblogger meetup at my new home so we can all get to know one another a bit. Information will be forthcoming after I've made the move.”

Here I am now, “reasonably settled” in Lake Oswego, Oregon, just 15 minutes or so south of downtown Portland on the west side of the river. There are still pictures to hang and I haven't figured out what to do about bookshelves so a lot of unpacked boxes remain stacked in the second bedroom. But the place is livable, even presentable for guests.

Which means it is time to get our old bones in gear for a Portland Elderbloggers' Meetup.

I've chosen Saturday 18 September. It's a couple of weeks after the long Labor Day holiday and a weekend so those who work can attend. I think 10AM is a good start time and if we're enjoying ourselves enough that we don't want to stop, we can continue on Sunday. There are relatively inexpensive hotels/motels nearby if you need or want to stay overnight.

Bloggers' Meetups have been an internet phenomenon for a long time. I attended a few with New York City bloggers when I still lived in Greenwich Village and tech conferences I've attended have been another opportunity to meet up with online friends. I've never been disappointed.

Meetups are traditionally held in restaurants or bars, but I think my home is a better idea - more comfortable and with no time restrictions.

There is plenty of guest parking within a few steps of my apartment and no stairs to navigate. If some who do not drive want to attend, as we move forward I'll bet we can arrange pick up and return with others who do drive. If you live in Portland itself, there is public transportation to Lake Oswego and I can pick you up when you arrive.

So this is an official invitation to all Time Goes By denizens in the vicinity of Portland, Oregon – bloggers and readers - who want to meet in person some of the people we have come to know through our blogs. You can RSVP in the comments below or you can send me an email through the “Contact” link at the top left of every TGB page.

For people who live too far away to attend, there is no reason you can't join the party via Skype if you have a videocam built into or attached to your computer. If you do and haven't used Skype, it is a free (as long as you're calling Skype to Skype) telephone audio and/or video service. If you're interested in that, download Skype now and start practicing. It's not hard.

I'm really excited about this and hope you are too. I'm am so looking forward to meeting people I've read and emailed with, in some cases for years.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ronni Prior: Top Step

In Memoriam – Nancy Belle

Yesterday, I learned that Nancy Belle died unexpectedly last Thursday, 17 June. Many of you may know her. She commented here from time to time and she blogged at The Tempered Optimist. Almost exactly a year ago, she wrote a guest blog for Time Goes By about turning age 65. She started out like this:

“I reach a turning point at the end of May. I will turn 65. I believe I am not defined by a number. But I have learned now I am.

“I also believe I am the total of life experiences have made me who I am today: someone who loves to have fun; someone who can be brutally honest; someone who has no tolerance for game players or hypocrites; someone who sometimes is impatient, silent, reflective yet personable and very intuitive.

“These characteristics were always within me but some became more prominent as I aged. So my first lesson is that you are who you are - formed at early age.”

Nancy's description is spot on; she knew herself well, she never pulled her punches, most especially about herself.

We “met” sometime in 2007, when she was working with Erickson Retirement Homes and sought my help in starting a blog for the company. Soon thereafter, she invited me to tour one of the Erickson communities in Illinois, so we then met in person and got to spend part of day together. She was funny, smart, thoughtful, passionate and full of life.

On 15 April, 2009, Nancy became a victim of the recession when she and many others at Erickson were laid off after many years of service. Not one to waste time, she had her personal blog up and running four days later and wrote this on the first day, proving her “tempered optimist” credentials:

“I begin a new at an interesting point in my life. I had thought I would retire in at least 3 years so I could get the maximum benefit from Social Security since my 401K is so down from what it was. But I got a small severance and some accrued vacation time. And there is always unemployment!

“Though it will be difficult, I have decided to take some time for me and think things over. You know the old saying: I don't know what I want to be when I grow up? I think this is true at any age. Maybe there is a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow.”

Nancy always jumped feet first into whatever she cared greatly about. During the health care reform debate last year, she joined several other elderbloggers in a conference call with Senator Harry Reid's office, and I remember the impassioned plea she made for bone density screenings to be included in the free preventive care for Medicare members. I don't know if it was due to Nancy or not, but a few hours later, we received a note from the Senator's office that it had been included in the draft bill.

Here is a photo of Nancy in her office at Erickson. In recent months, she had been tweeting and using Facebook more than blogging.


Nancy's funeral was held on Sunday at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Baltimore. You can sign the memorial guest book for her family here and listen to the service here.

Nancy, who usually signed herself NancyB online, titled her TGB guest post, On Turning 65 - Lessons Learned. As happened so often with Nancy, her lessons were as funny as they were useful. Here is one:

“Don’t spend too much energy on people or things that upset you. My friend Jan used to say to me, 'those people are trees.'

“So, when someone or something gets me really angry, that thing or person becomes a tree. They are part of the environment, you know they’re there but it’s up to a mightier power to take care of them, not me. Sometimes I give them tree names - and sometimes, just before I let go, I envision a dog coming by and urinating on that tree.”

Funny, but hardly a way to end a memorial post. So here is how Nancy ended the inaugural post on her personal blog:

“Over the next few blogs, I will write of my experiences, my plan, and my outlook. I title the blog the tempered optimist because that is who I am. I like to think that I look at things from the best side, not the worst; yet I am tempered by life's experiences so that I do not always see only the rosy side of life.

“I choose to be realistic but with a positive twist. Does that make sense? Who knows? But this is the start of a new journey.”

Safe journey, Nancy.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, D. Sugar: The Woman Who Inspired Me

More of Where We Blog

Elderblogger Marcia Mayo has sent a photo of her computer workplace. You can see it here. You can find a list of other elderbloggers' work spaces here and get instructions here for including a photo of your blogging place.

And that's all you get today because many small errands, tasks and distractions filled up all my time yesterday.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Peter Tibbles: Another Study in Scarlet

Medicare Sign Up Starts Now, and More on Elderblogs

The annual enrollment in Medicare Part B (Medigap, also called supplemental) and Part D (prescription drug) is open now and until 31 December.

As noted in a post here a month ago, almost all premiums are increasing and some policies are increasing or adding co-pays. Others are adding deductibles and some coverage is being discontinued. So it behooves us all to check our current coverage, see what else is available and decide if we want to make changes.

The Part D Prescription Drug Plan Finder is here, and the Part B Medigap Finder is here. If you missed it on Saturday, Saul Friedman's Gray Matters column has a lot more information about Medicare sign up.

And, serendipitously, Mage Bailey's story at The Elder Storytelling Place today is also about signing up for Medicare (link is at the bottom of this post).

With all the above, you should be well prepared to make your annual decisions about Medicare. You have six weeks to fit this chore into the busy-ness the holidays.

Following Friday's post about the update to the Elderbloggers List, several people suggested their blogs or mentioned disappointment that they were not included. How right the latter are. I had planned to add each of them and I can't say what happened. Perhaps some of my notes got lost during my hard drive failure three weeks ago.

I am most chagrined to have omitted them, so they have now been added along with a couple of the new ones. Also, I forgot to mention in the list of criteria (is this memory thing of mine getting serious, do you think?) that the topic of an elderblog is not a consideration. All are welcome – stamps, cooking, movies, grandchildren, politics, health, bicycling, knitting – anything at all, including no specific topic. And finally, blogs are added at my discretion.

My apologies for the omissions. Here are the newly added elderblogs:

Family Finance

Letters For George

Mature Landscaping

Photoblogging in Paris


Retirement Daze

Self-Sufficient Steward

If other readers want their blogs included on the list or wish to suggest other elderblogs, email me (use the Contact link in the upper left corner of this page). If they meet the criteria, I will include them on the next update sometime early next year.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mage Bailey: Naivety

Elders For Health Care Reform – the Day After

category_bug_politics.gif Remember when we talked about our retirement routines last week? You didn't see “write blog post” on my early morning list. That's because my brain is too fuzzy for the first hour or two to think linearly enough to make sense. Usually I am reading at this time of day.

Now, here I sit Friday morning at 4:30AM, awake for only 15 minutes and, having prepared nothing yesterday as a followup to Elders For Health Care Reform Day, straining to write these simple sentences.

It was an amazing turnout yesterday with everyone who participated putting a lot of thought and effort into their work – a committed community of elders so different from the ones television news programs highlight shouting about no health care reform at town hall meetings.

Speaking of media, between reading and posting your essays, I spent a lot of time yesterday contacting various media to alert them to what was happening here. I know some of you did that, too, along with posting to Twitter, Facebook and other social media websites. It all contributed to the satisfying turnout of readers.

I was particularly pleased to see essays from people whose names are new to me along with some other excellent stories posted in the comments. I don't know if we have changed the minds of anyone who opposes health care reform, but at the least we made it evident that there are a lot of elders who are not part of the I've-got-mine-so-screw-you crowd.

If you haven't read all the reform posts in the list from yesterday, I urge you to do so. They vary widely from personal stories, debunking lies about reform, urging participation in support of reform and some education about how the legislative process works. (Democracy is messy.) You'll learn a lot about health care - and one another.

I also urge you to keep writing about health care reform. Only elders have the experience and can compare life with private coverage to life with “socialized medicine” under Medicare. And, we are the only people alive who remember the days of our youth when health coverage hardly existed.

Most of all, I want to thank you for participating - writers and commenters and readers. We did a good thing yesterday and I'm so proud to know each one of you. Thank you for all your hard work on this.

This is not what I'd like to have written today, but it is all I can muster at this early hour.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mage Bailey: Sometimes a Bargain

Happy 84 years, Millie Garfield

When I started Time Goes By in 2004, and was looking around the internet for other elders who might be blogging, there weren't many. The elder blogosphere has grown large since then, but in the beginning, Millie Garfield of My Mom's Blog was one of the few.

Millie is a pioneer among elderbloggers due, in part, to her son, Steve, who is well known around the internet himself as a blogger, video blogger and soon, an author. Her first post at My Mom's Blog, is dated in October 2003. Not many of us can match that.

Since then, she has has been featured on television for her blogging, spoken at tech conferences and she has a collection of funny YouTube videos – most famously, her “I Can't Open It” series which you can find here, among others.

When Millie was turning 80 in 2005, with the help of other elderbloggers – and some younger ones too – I pulled together a big online celebration. Since then, it has become a tradition on 18 August and today is the fifth anniversary of Millie's blogosphere birthday bashes.

It's no secret that Millie's favorite flower is the sunflower. So, Millie, here are about 84 times a zillion of them (whatever that adds up to) for your birthday this year:

Be sure to stop by Millie's blog to wish her a Happy 84th.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today - Linda Ann Davis: Hurricane Lily

Featured Elderblogs

For a couple of years, it has bothered me that the Elderbloggers List, which was in the left sidebar, is so long there was hardly any way to choose what to click on except, perhaps, when a blog name happens to catch your fancy. No one, certainly not me, can read all these blogs, but they are carefully chosen for quality and should be – each and every one - spotlighted.

So today, a new Time Goes By section is being launched: Featured Elderblogs. Each Monday, links to five blogs from within the full list will be posted and remain until the following Monday when five different blogs will be featured for a week and so on.

Now don't panic. The full list - and your own blog link - has not disappeared. Instead, note the new graphic link just below the Featured Elderblogs that will take you to the complete list on another page.

The reason to do this is that the number of blogs – up to 377 today with the inclusion of 32 new ones – has become too unwieldy for a sidebar. Moving it to its own page frees up a lot of real estate for other items that will be added from time to time.

I assume you know the list does not contain all the elderbloggers online. It is only the ones I learn of in various ways and that meet certain criteria, among them: written by people who are at least 50 years old and who post new material once a week or more; are reasonably well-designed and well-written; are personal – that is, non-commercial, non-professional – blogs (which doesn't mean there can't be GoogleAds and their ilk).

There are a handful of blogs on the list written by people younger than 50 such as Advanced Age and ElderGuru who make elders their topic and do it well. But generally the list is for old people's blogs.

I once had the idea of organizing the blogs within categories, but was defeated when I realized there are nearly as many topics as there are elderblogs. So the list remains alphabetical.

There are probably a few abandoned blogs in the full list – I removed some, but there may be more. I will gradually delete them as I work my way through the weekly, five Featured Elderblogs.

You are welcome to suggest elderblogs – your own or someone else's - for the wait list. Do keep in mind, however, that they may not be included for various reasons and since I update the list only every few months, there may be a delay before they are added.

The new Featured Elderbloggers list should introduce readers to new blogs they haven't discovered before, reacquaint us with some we may have lost track of, and help spread the word about the many elders who keep excellent blogs. I hope you like the new system.

Here is a list of the newly-added elderblogs:

Birds on a Wire


Boogie Street

Celia's Blue Cottage


Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie

dept. of nance

Eclectic World


Friko's Musings

goldenrod's thoughts

Gooznews on Health


Jive Chalkin'

Kenyo of Pensacola

Kick It Up a Notch

Lewis Grossberger

MamaFlo's Place

Middle Age Ramblings


The New Sixty

Patient's Progress

Peevish Pen

Possumlady Place

Rambling Woods

Realizing Ordinary

Sixty and Single in Seattle

Small Change

The Stamp Collecting Roundup

The Tempered Optimist

Thrifty and Proud of It

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Syney Halet: Interview.

Guest Blogger Clair Jean: Older People

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Claire Jean who writes: I am 67 now and both my husband and I were born and continue to live in the Northeast. I work full time; my husband has been retired for several years. I enjoy reading (mostly non-fiction), poetry, swimming, trips to New York City, meeting friends for lunch, reading Ronni’s blog each day, time with my two grandchildren and, recently, watching women’s college basketball.

Let Me Grow Lovely
Let Me Grow lovely, growing old -
So many fine things do;
Laces, and ivory, and gold,
And silks need not be new;

And there is healing in old trees,
Old streets a glamour hold;
Why may not I, as well as these,
Grow lovely, growing old?

- Karle Wilson Baker, The Best Loved Poems of the American People (1939)

Older people, as far back as I can remember, afforded me a sense of well being. To this day, I’m able to find comfort by mirroring images of those gentle faces in my mind while remembering their names as well as the many kindnesses they so generously bestowed upon me while growing up.

Now that I am probably older than some ever lived to be, I wonder - could they ever have imagined how valuable they were then and continue to be even more so now these many years later.

The stereotypical rubbish attributed to aging is not only untrue and cruel but can be quite damaging. Unfortunately, when older people are told that they become invisible, lose their usefulness, health, etc., it can jeopardize a sense of who they really are and might still become.

How can it be any different when television commercials, magazine articles and the like assure us regularly that they have found new and improved ways to help us look and feel younger. The message they send is clear. Growing older is a bad thing.

When someone I haven’t seen for some time remarks that I haven’t changed in twenty years, I’m tempted to reply, “You mean I looked sixty-seven when I was only forty-seven?” The discomfort regarding old age is at such a level it compels some to pretend that aging itself doesn’t exist; hence the foolhardy comments.

Unwelcome age-related remarks at my workplace in a department where the median age is fortyish have not gone unnoticed. However, they have become much less frequent and not nearly as troubling. Hopefully, my colleagues realize by now that I don’t intend to leave the workplace because of age. After all, we older people have had plenty of time to learn and know that no matter what we do, we’ll never please everyone so we must do what’s best for us and our families.

My job requires contact with college-aged students many of whom seem pleased to see and talk to me. When that happens, it’s a win-win situation. We’re able to share ideas and hopefully learn from one another. On the other hand, one can sense the fear and/or surprise when stepping into my office for the first time and seeing someone who by now perhaps resembles grandmom. One can only wonder what their apparent uneasiness suggests.

If only older people were recognized for themselves, instead of the group society has painted them - if only.

Who Are My People?
My People? Who are they?
I went into the church where the congregation
Worshiped my God. Were they my people?
I felt no kinship to them as they knelt there.
My people! Where are they?
I went into the land where I was born,
Where men spoke my language…
I was a stranger there.
“My people,” my soul cried. “Who are my people?”

Last night in the rain I met an old man
Who spoke a language I do not speak,
Which marked him as one who does not know my God.
With apologetic smile he offered me
The shelter of his patched umbrella.
I met his eyes...And then I knew...

- Rosa Zagnoni Marinoni, The Best Loved Poems of the American People (1939)

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

Guest Blogger Nancy Belle: On Turning 65 – Lessons Learned

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Nancy Belle, a former nurse and health care communications/marketing professional. Recently laid off, Nancy is starting a new adventure. Her new blog is The Tempered Optimist.

I reach a turning point at the end of May. I will turn 65. I believe I am not defined by a number. But I have learned now I am. I also believe I am the total of life experiences have made me who I am today: someone who loves to have fun; someone who can be brutally honest; someone who has no tolerance for game players or hypocrites; someone who sometimes is impatient, silent, reflective yet personable and very intuitive. These characteristics were always within me but some became more prominent as I aged. So my first lesson is that you are who you are - formed at early age.

But as I got older, I found I did not like looking older - and, I wanted to look younger. Funny isn’t it? We are never happy. When we’re young, we want to be older; when we are older, we want to be younger. Why?

I believe it’s societal. We want to belong, be in the mainstream. Or maybe it’s our insecurities. For me, as I aged, I became more accepting of who I am. I guess I finally grew up. So lesson learned: be comfortable with who you are and don’t make excuses for yourself, your looks, the way you feel. It’s a right and privilege earned.

At a young age, I was forced to face hard reality. Because of the culmination of innumerable sudden deaths of fairly young family members, I learned death can come at anytime. While this hard lesson initially evoked fear of death in me, it was an invaluable lesson because it taught me to live my best and full life every day. So as I grew older, the fear of death subsided.

I learned that just because you grow older, and the aches and pains and fatigue set in, you can make changes to continue to add life to your years. I learned this most from the medical people with whom I was working on a book project, everything seemed to come together. Here’s what I found out.

The body is very forgiving. So even though you may have abused it most of your life with overeating, drinking, smoking, whatever, if you turn a new page and stop the excesses, your body will forgive you and believe it or not, regenerate. Maybe not to the level of youth, but enough to make you feel better, even good.

For me, those meant losing weight, working out ( I actually enjoy exercising). The benefit: I feel pretty damn good. Who knew? I also meet some really nice people and it gets my day started. Look I don’t do any heavy weights or things like that, but I do the bike which helps my knee (two broken cartilage and arthritis) so it’s not stiff anymore. I guess it forgave me.

Good attitude, good life. There are many conflicting researchers out there who sometimes give mixed messages but believe this one. If you believe, it will be so. If you are positive, you feel better. Don’t spend too much energy on people or things that upset you. My friend Jan used to say to me, “those people are trees.”

So, when someone or something gets me really angry, that thing or person becomes a tree. They are part of the environment, you know they’re there but it’s up to a mightier power to take care of them, not me. Sometimes I give them tree names - and sometimes, just before I let go, I envision a dog coming by and urinating on that tree.

So the lesson: make yourself feel good about who you are and what you are doing. The heck with the others - you can’t change the world. (Though I should tell you my list of trees is growing by leaps and bounds since I got laid off!)

Continue to socialize; don’t stay away from people. This leads to depression. Interact with people, even if it’s only on the computer. If you don’t socialize, you withdraw. If you withdraw, you lose your motivation. If you lose your motivation, you lose the spark that ignites you each day. Groups like the Silver Sneakers can help with this (as well as exercise). They are a national group of elders who walk the malls. You will meet new people as you walk! See Silver Sneakers.

Finally, none of this means you give up on causes and stop getting angry over inequities like the way we are all treated. My being laid off of work has taught me even more - mostly about the stupidity of health plan administrators, the inequities of health coverage for the 65-plus population and ageism in the workplace and subsequent hardships in seeking employment.

Some anger is normal as long as you put it to good use and don’t let it fester inside of you. So happy milestone to me and to all of you - To life!

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

Guest Blogger Ronni Prior: The Snowball Effect

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Ronni Prior of Rants by Ronni. Scourge of the Internet, she started blogging three-and-a-half years ago, just to have something to do while quitting smoking. So far, she's winning.

Everything was going well with Addy, until she fell. Oh, she had myriad health problems, mostly stemming from two fierce habits: cigarettes and vodka. But, as I said, everything was going well. She lived alone, and either Jim or I went over to her house every day. I took her to the doctor and the grocery store, and garage sales and the antique mall. Jim did her bills. We played Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune right along with the contestants on TV.

And then, she fell. It was not the first time she had fallen. The time before that, she had dislocated her elbow. Still, this time, she and I were shopping and she stepped off the curb to get in the car and she fell.

I knew I should have made her stay down, but she insisted on getting up with the willing assistance of passers-by. She was apologetic about cutting short our expedition, but she thought she really needed to go home. I thought she really needed to to to the ER, but, bless her heart; she didn't want to hear that.

In the middle of the night, she called. Her leg was hurting and she thought she might have hurt her hip. Jim took her to the ER, and, sure enough, her hip was broken.

There was surgery - a partial hip replacement. There was residential rehab at an assisted living center. And then there was the next fall. She somehow got twisted around, getting out of bed and went down on the nice thick carpet. The steel rod that ran through her thigh rapped sharply against her femur, and bingo! A broken femur. More surgery. More residential rehab, in a different assisted living center.

During one of her hospitalizations, a nurse noticed that a nick on her toe was not healing and that she was developing a bedsore on her heel. She eventually ran out of hospital days and residential rehab days on her medical insurance, and they sent her home with me.

It fell to me to clean and debride her toe and heel every day. That terrified me because I was so afraid I wasn't doing it right. The home nurse who taught me how came a couple of days a week for a while, and then that service ran out and poor Addy was left to my inept ministrations.

We were still having fun though, and I introduced her to the wonders on online shopping. She loved being able to do her Christmas shopping that way, and when the parcels arrived, she supervised my wrapping. It was almost like an early Christmas for her.

We had Christmas, laden down with ham and children and presents, and then she got pneumonia. She was back in the hospital for New Years, and Jim had to sign the papers for her to have part of her foot amputated. Her toe had not healed, and gangrene had set in. Once they started operating, they decided that they should remove her entire foot, because of the sore on her heel. By the time she was back in her room, her leg was gone, halfway to her knee.

More residential rehab. More surgery, because the amputation wouldn't heal. By then, her leg was gone to just below the knee.

After the second amputation, I went to pick her up at the assisted living center to take her to a follow-up appointment with her surgeon, and found her with her head down on the table, unconscious. The nurse didn't want to call an ambulance - after all, we were on our way to the doctor's office anyway, right?

We never made it. I called ahead, and Dr Surgeon told me to take her to the ER. He never did meet us there, as he promised, but the hospital admitted her anyway in order to monitor her and tweak her incredible cocktail of medications.

The next time I saw Dr Surgeon, he was handing Jim another sheaf of papers to sign so that he could further amputate Addy's leg - above the knee, this time. For "pain management." By then, Addy was half out of her mind, vacillating between morphine and agony. "It's trying to heal," said Dr Surgeon during his daily inspection.

Addy, ever the optimist and too blind to see the wound, would get to thinking that it was all getting better and they would be fitting her with a prosthetic any day and we would be off to the antique mall. I was trying to figure out why he was lying to her. It finally occurred to me that she was dying, and he knew it didn't matter. The same thought occurred to Jim, also, because he refused to sign for the above-knee surgery.

I cornered Dr Surgeon and Dr Internist during rounds the next morning. Jim and I were pretty much living at the hospital by then. ("Hi honey. How was your day?” “Oh, excuse me nurse...") I asked Dr Surgeon exactly what he meant by "trying to heal." I asked Dr Internist what the prognosis was. I wanted to know the truth that Jim couldn't face. Addy was not going to get any better. I challenged the both of them to tell Addy what they had just told me.

Catching her in a moment of lucidity, they explained the situation as I glared at them from the doorway. She nodded sagely. When they left, she looked at me and said, with a mere hint of her lifelong feistiness, "Now, we're going to fight this thing."

God forgive me, I couldn't stand it. I said, "With what, Addy? You've been fighting and fighting for months. There's nothing left!"

Hours later, I heard her tell the nurse, "I want to die."

I am still chilled to the bone by that.

When she told the nurse that, it set in motion another procedure. Hospice.

The little volunteer bustled up to me with her huge glasses and shiny briefcase and began asking me questions. How much was she sleeping? When did she last eat? When I explained that the nurse and I had mashed her pills up in some Jello and fed it to her a few hours before, her pencil poised above the legal pad, and she blinked owlishly at me. "Oh," she said, "if she's still eating, she could last for a month or more. Our program is only for two weeks."

I lost it. Dearly Beloved, I lost it.

In retrospect, I feel sorry for the volunteer, who must have been very new. "WHAT?" I said, "Do you mean she's not DEAD enough for you? I'll tell you what! You don't know Addy! When she puts her mind to doing something, it gets done!"

I believe I further invited her to pack up her pencil and her briefcase and get the hell out, and that I had been coping all along and would continue to do so. She whimpered pitifully and offered to "crunch some numbers" (yes, she really did say that), and see if she could get Addy into her "program."

Well, she crunched and she crunched, and by then it was Saturday, and the on-call doctor at the hospital wouldn't sign off on the hospice program because he "didn't believe in euthanasia." Addy would have to endure until Monday, when Dr Internist, who had already signed for the hospice program, would be back and could sign for it all over again.

Of course, I was right. Close to dawn on Monday morning, Addy gripped my hand tightly and stared into my eyes with a surprised expression, and died.

* * *

I learned a couple of things. One is that insurance is a wonderful thing. Another is that doctors will do anything and everything to you and for you that your insurance allows, whether or not it will improve your quality of life. A third is to never underestimate the resourcefulness of a feisty and stubborn woman.

I miss her. She was eighty-one.

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

Guest Blogger Mary Jamison: The Lessons Keep Coming

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Mary Jamison, who says, for the most part, I love my job: I get to talk to a lot of interesting people. I’m a lifelong Western New Yorker, a single woman, a 57-year-old homeowner, a newbie in the world of dog showing. I was shopping for a circular saw last night and I learned that hydrogen peroxide really does make a dog ralph up something he shouldn’t have eaten. Sometimes I think I’m too cynical, but I can still be dismayed - and surprised - when humans (including myself) behave badly.

Behavior that served me well in my career back in the day - when I was a skinny blonde with a clearly discernible waist and a cute butt - doesn't serve me at all in these post-menopause years.

I’m a talker - one of those people who is always eager to make suggestions and kick around ideas. Once upon a time, that meant I was one of the people tapped to do the presentations and handle the special projects. Not always, but more often than not, I was among those who survived the lay-off or who got the promotion. I was never tracking to be the Big Boss, but I was always a solid B performer. And when it came to promotions, people were encouraging and supportive.

Now? Not so much.

It took me a long time and a lot of soul-searching to figure out that, these days, people around me react to a different person than I experience myself to be.

When we’re enthusiastic and young, we get a lot of encouragement. After all, “participates in class” is considered a plus throughout most of our school lives. But it looks as if that tendency to jump right in becomes a liability as we get older.

Take, for example, the get-acquainted meeting with the new boss last year. I brought along a resume and told her I was eager to “take on new challenges.” Weeks later, I was stunned to learn that her reaction was negative. She’d somehow interpreted my desire to learn something new as dissatisfaction with my current job.

It could be that, in that case, I simply played my hand badly. But another possibility is that the rules have changed. Is it really strictly a coincidence that people’s reactions to me seemed to change just about the time I turned 50 - the time I started a new job?

I’ve begun to speculate that elders in the workplace are expected to behave differently than young people, different from even our younger selves. That means changing the habits of half a lifetime.

It’s tempting to rail against this. After all, why should this be so?

Shouldn’t ideas be based on their worth? Shouldn’t input be valued?

Shouldn’t ambition be encouraged?

Well, maybe. But the thing is, work is about getting paid. And insisting on fair play at work is risky business. For one thing, one person’s fair play is another person’s favoritism. For another thing, rocking the boat is seldom well received. And maybe the thinking is that if a person isn’t where she’d hoped to be at this stage of the game, she should just face the fact and let her skills and strength go unused.

With all this in mind, I’ve been paying attention to what people of all ages say about their older colleagues.

For example: One young colleague told me that she didn’t take part in a discussion between people because they were “older women.” She felt uncomfortable, disrespectful.

For example: during a training session, a young colleague turned away from her assigned older teammate to join a team made up of people her own age.

For example: one of the programmers posted an old Bloom County cartoon about how old people shouldn’t be allowed to use computers.

Some of this is ageism, pure and simple. Some of this may be related to authority issues with older people being seen as - or acting like - the parent or teacher, and the younger folks feeling like, or being treated as, children. Some of it might even be respect, although I’d find it more respectful to be challenged honestly than to be politely ignored by someone who disagrees with me.

I’m struggling to figure out how to fit better in this strange new world—made all the stranger because it looks just like the old one. And I’m trying to use the struggle as an opportunity for reflection and for growth and a chance to understand my own prejudices better.

Or, as the bumper sticker says, “Oh, no! Not another learning experience!”

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

Guest Blogger Ian Bertram: Preparing

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Ian Bertram. Ian started his working life as an urban planner and spent 30 years in local government in the UK. Since being declared redundant, he has variously worked as a consultant planner, as a trainer for community groups, as chairman of a community owned social enterprise and now spends his time at play as an artist. (Its too much fun to be called work). He blogs at Panchromatica, has images on Flickr and Ipernity and sells his work at local galleries and on the net at Etsy.

The death of any loved one is difficult, but it is harder still when as in the case of my late and greatly beloved aunt, a remarkable woman I her own right, but also the last family member of a remarkable generation.

My aunt, died two months short of her 90th birthday. Back in 1991, she left me instructions that on her death, her body was to be given for medical research. She had done all the preparatory work and as next of kin I had to confirm that I had no objections. When she died a few weeks ago, it thus fell to me to follow through on her wishes.

Sadly I was unable to do so since neither of the local university teaching hospitals could take her. I suspect if she had considered this possibility at the time I would have had equally clear instructions for her funeral. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and I had to try and make the arrangements I felt she would have wanted.

I’ve touched on funereal matters before, in my own blog. This guest post for Ronni revisits some of those issues. I suppose death might seem rather a gloomy thought for a blog about aging, but my belief is that we cannot truly accept growing older until we also face up to our own inevitable passing.

I’ve never been to a Jewish or Muslim funeral so I can’t speak for what happens there. British Christian funerals are, however, underpinned by a strong tradition of hymn singing. The effect of that is very different from the same hymns sung by the choir. The shared experience of singing is an important part of the ritual.

My mother-in-law's funeral included one hymn – How Great Thou Art - with a wonderful tune (and for a believer, powerful words) that even as a long-standing atheist still managed to raise the hair on the back of my neck. Add Abide with Me and The Day Thou Gavest and you have a strong – and shared - emotional experience.

My aunt wasn’t a member of any organised church. She was, unlike me, a believer but in that inchoate way so common in the UK. It seems only about 7 percent of us attend the Anglican Church with any frequency and only about 16 percent attend any Christian church.

For the atheist, there is no equivalent to the Christian hymn. There is obviously powerful and emotional music to draw on, but it will not be shared in the same way as the Christian hymn. Nor is there a shared equivalent to the St James Bible. As a consequence, since most people probably do not plan their funeral in advance, I suspect that when the time comes the relatives settle for the comfort of a familiar ritual, even if they are not actually believers.

Back in 2004, I listed a few possibilities to be played at my own funeral. My aunt’s passing made me revisit this and Ronni’s invitation gives me a chance to share those thoughts with you her readers, a much wider audience than I could ever expect on my own blog.

I chose three pieces for my aunt, each with strong emotional overtones.

As she arrived, we played a brass band arrangement of a hymn tune, The Day Thou Gavest. The tune, the words and the melancholy brass band arrangement all hang together.

The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

As an atheist of, course, this is not a message I personally subscribe to, but the metaphor of death as the closing of the day is very powerful and does not depend on religious imagery for that power.

During the service, we played another piece of music, one that she chose for the funeral service of her husband some 30 years ago, a setting of a poem by Burns, sung by Kenneth McKellar.

Oh, my love is like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June
Oh, my love is like a melody
That's sweetly played in tune
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till all the seas gang dry.
Till all the seas gang dry, my dear,
Till all the seas gang dry
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till all the seas gang dry.

There is a theatre saying, “there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”

This version is by Eva Cassidy [3:35 minutes]:

Finally as we filed out, I chose something more upbeat, in a deliberate reflection of the New Orleans tradition of the slow dirge on the way to the cemetery and cheerful happy music on the way back. This was Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – a powerful and life enhancing secular hymn to humanity.

So where am I with my own arrangements? When the time comes I hope to have the entire ceremony mapped out with readings and music chosen. For the time being though here are some musical possibilities.

West End Blues – Louis Armstrong (if only for the tremendous opening solo)

For All We Know - Billie Holiday (because I can’t imagine going anywhere without Billie)

Vissi d’arte from Tosca (it passed the neck hair test even though when I first heard it I had no idea of the meaning or the context)

Three from Duke Ellington:

Ducky Wucky – (it makes me laugh)

Warm Valley – (warm and sensuous - Duke at his best)

Caravan – (more classic Duke)

A final word from Seneca:

“Death is non-existence, and I know already what that means. What was before me will happen again after me. If there is any suffering in this state, there must have been such suffering also in the past, before we entered the light of day. As a matter of fact, however, we felt no discomfort then.

“And I ask you, would you not say that one was the greatest of fools who believed that a lamp was worse off when it was extinguished than before it was lighted? We mortals also are lighted and extinguished; the period of suffering comes in between, but on either side there is a deep peace.

“For, unless I am very much mistaken, my dear Lucilius, we go astray in thinking that death only follows, when in reality it has both preceded us and will in turn follow us. Whatever condition existed before our birth is death. For what does it matter whether you do not begin at all, or whether you leave off, inasmuch as the result of both these states is non-existence?”

I don’t accept the last sentence in this quote, but I do believe in the essential truth of the passage. This life is all we will have. We must make the most of it and that includes leaving not grief and sorrow behind us, but a positive example of a life well lived.

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

Guest Blogger Bob Brady: It's About Time

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Bob Brady. A native New Yorker, he has lived in Japan since 1971, and on a mountainside above Lake Biwa since 1995. On his blog Pure Land Mountain, he writes about his experiences there and events in Japan, with occasional glimpses at the wider world.

At age 68, part of the fun is watching my mind to see how and what it's remembering, what it thinks is important at this stage of life. Often these days I find myself pausing in mid-thought - wondering, for example, what I had come upstairs or downstairs for. The answer is there in the vicinity of course - and will present itself - but immediate answers are less important than they used to be, now that there's time to enjoy thinking.

Younger, less experienced folk might call this trait forgetfulness, but it isn't that at all; it's simply the mature recognition of higher priorities. While going up or down the stairs I'm often thinking other, more important thoughts, on subjects far more interesting than a quotidian objective. By this time in life, my mind is increasingly conscious of what matters.

In contrast, back in my student days when data volume was everything and thought itself was a new experience to a hungry mind, I was in such a rush to fill my head with anything that had even a hint of worthiness that I'd remember stuff for no particular reason; reasons are nebulous creatures when you're young. No surprise that I wound up with so much junk data in the long-term inventory, all just tossed in there unallocated. So what's happening now is logical enough: my mind is defragging.

In addition to doing the usual daily tasks, my new consciousness is busy screening input, checking the old algorithms, filing, discarding and rearranging, streamlining the operating system. My mind no longer wastes time trying to remember things it didn't used to know were best forgotten. It has a fast recycling function now; comes with the mature upgrade. It's running smarter and more systematically, and it's about time.

The focus is on the actual reality right at hand these days, as opposed to the received reality and fantasized future of youthful yore. My mind has learned to appreciate the difference. Now that I am at last who I've been becoming all these years, and am organized enough to appreciate the local scenery, I'm closer to now than I've ever been. I'm realizing that my greater interests are deeper and of longer duration. Like gardening.

So as I say, I'm not being forgetful when I don't remember where my glasses are, or have at my tonguetip the name of that actor who was in that movie based on what was the title of that bestseller by that author whatsername - it'll come to me, no hurry, unless it wasn't that important, which is mostly the case. No, this elderhead isn't losing anything, it's just getting wiser about what it holds dear.

When you get out of beta, you appreciate the clarity.

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

Guest Blogger Tamar Orvell: Happy 90th Birthday Rabbi Jack Cohen

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Tamar Orvell, a writer, editor, content developer and blogging enthusiast - at Only Connect. She lives in two hemispheres (USA and Israel) - one at a time, where she helps organizations (big and small, publicly-traded and nonprofit) to communicate online.

Dearest Jack,

I was not yet twelve years old when my beloved father, Dr. Israel S. Chipkin, died. Minutes before his funeral, my mother, sister, his siblings and I stood in your study. Your kind face, gentle manner and soft voice calmed me in my shock, turmoil and pain.

And then, you gave a blessing that I heard for the first time in my life: "Baruch...dayan ha-emet" (Blessed is the judge of truth).

Frozen and bewildered, my inner voice demanded, How could this wonderful rabbi, my father's beloved friend and student utter a blessing so stinging, so cruel? And throughout the funeral, in a word soup of eulogy and the "el maleh rachamim" [God full of compassion] prayer for the dead, "Baruch...dayan ha-emet" floated to the top. Only in my twenties did I begin to understand its meaning. And, I continue to wrestle with the verse.

Who is Rabbi Dr. Jack J. Cohen?

And why did I share with him this earliest memory?

As he neared his 91st year, Jack's family and friends celebrated last week, in Jerusalem, his rich life of leadership in Jewish education and religious pluralism in Israel and the USA. His children invited guests across generations and around the globe to share personal memories for inclusion in an album they gave him during the celebration.

Today, Jack is the Emeritus Director of the Hillel Foundation of the Hebrew University. Before making aliya (ascension) in the 1960s, he was Rabbi of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism (SAJ), in New York City where he was a disciple of Rabbi Dr. Mordechai M. Kaplan. Dr. Kaplan, who founded Reconstructionist Judaism and cofounded the SAJ, officiated at the funeral of my father, a pioneering American Jewish educator and colleague. Dr. Kaplan began the eulogy, "He was dearer to me than a brother."

Thank you, Jack, for your enduring friendship, guidance, compassion, and example. Mazal tov and happy birthday!

* * *

Writing this post, I found most helpful Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman's scholarly and creative — origins, purpose, and alternatives. And, in their Jewish healing service, Rabbi Joy Levitt and colleagues offer a similarly helpful discussion on the "el maleh rachamim" prayer.

Jack Cohen

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

Guest Blogger Cowtown Pattie: He Was a Real Cowboy

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Cowtown Pattie who says she is a square-shooter, round-booter, attitude-totin' North Texas Woman. Raised four more jes' like me - almost. A babe of the 50s, a child of the 60s, a teen of the 70s, and a woman of the ages. Thrice married - yes, the last is a charm. I don't tolerate ignorance, nor rudeness, so mind your manners and we'll get along fine. She blogs at Texas Trifles.

As I step on board I’ll be leaving
All my sorrows and heartaches behind
I’ll be safe with Jesus the captain
Sailing out on the ole ship of Zion.

Late in the evening, when the bullfrogs begin their mesmerizing singsong lullabies to the sleepy waning sun, the Colorado River flows like liquid emeralds through the Texas hill country. During heavy spring rains, the Colorado becomes a roiling fierceness of wrathful anger; on a hot still summer day, its cool, shaded, mossy banks are heaven on earth.

My mother's family farmed the river delta area near San Saba; wind-swept little towns marked now by old, weed-choked cemeteries and sleeping dogs in the middle of the road. Standing on the Regency Bridge near Locker, I close my eyes and can almost hear a small Baptist congregation singing that ancient hymn Old Ship of Zion, waded full thigh-deep in the old river, their white cotton choir robes spreading out like giant water lily petals in the cold green water.

My great Uncle Vernon was baptized in the Colorado on a warm spring Texas day, as were many of his kin before him. I only know this because of a late cousin's memoirs. He was not a man to wear his religion on the outside. Introspective and quiet, Uncle Vernon was a real cowboy and a true country gentleman.


Taken on the Regency Bridge over the Colorado River on his younger brother's wedding day (my grandparents) ca 1930.

Never confuse the Hollywood version with the real deal. Texas cowboys work hard, daylight to dark, as the saying goes. No fancy-stitched shirts or intricately tooled leather saddles, a real cowboy is more likely to be wearing a shabby old Stetson with a permanently sweat-stained ring around the crown band and boots that have seen more stirrup than sidewalk.

He was born in 1907 near Hall Valley, Texas, to poor hard-dirt farming parents - people whose ancestral bloodlines just a couple of generations prior traced back to the Old Country, places like Hainaut, France and Zweibrucken, Germany. Come to the Promise Land of America, but the milk and honey didn't exactly flow.

Life on the sharecropper's farm was not easy, children died young and those that managed to hang on had days filled with grown-man labor by the time they were eight or nine. Then, the Great Depression came upon them and life became even tougher.

Uncle Vernon had a way with horses and livestock, and though his book-learning days were not stellar or long, he was more than compensated with his work ethic and common sense knowledge. Neighbors and town folk alike knew he could be counted on to help at a moment's call. Uncle Vernon was a gentle soul, one of the old breed of cowboy Texas is known for.

He liked the girls, could be quite the flirt, but for whatever reason, he didn't marry until he was 46 years old. Marie was an old maid spinster and at age 41, she wasn't likely to get a better offer. Never mind their ages. The two middle-aged sweethearts were inseparable and the absolute picture of devotion. In Vernon's eyes, Marie was the most gorgeous woman on earth, and you could physically see the love bouncing off the two of them.

Ranching was his profession, though Uncle Vernon never owned much more land than a few acres in his lifetime, if that. He and Aunt Marie settled near the little town of Placid and he worked for the Parker Pumphrey ranch. She ran the little store with a gas pump and was the town post mistress.

What's left of the old store:

PattieOld store and station

PattieM. Bartlett Gro. & Sta.

Aunt Marie died in 1982 of "the cancer" and the whole family thought Uncle Vernon would mourn himself to death, but life didn't change much for Vernon. Or if it did, he wasn't one to complain. He still got up before the sun debuted and ranched until his late 80s. A family member still has Uncle Vernon's favorite old working saddle hanging in her garage, a memento of a by-gone era. Sadly, his last year of life was spent in a nursing home, and thinking back, I wished there had been a better choice for the old cowboy.




When he died on May 17th, 1996, Uncle Vernon's long-time friend and employer wrote to a nephew and his words from the heart sum up the man in a couple of touching paragraphs:

I felt sure the end was very near for Vernon and tried my best to prepare for this eventuality, but I suppose that's an impossible task to successfully carry out. While cleaning up at the ranch following the days subsequent to his funeral, I would catch myself about to say something to him. Or I would get up in the morning, look at where he used to park his white pick-up, and would start to mentally think: "Wonder where Vernon is; he's usually here by now." Well, I believe my actions to be as I should expect them to be as we spent a heck of a lot of time together for about 40 or so years, especially lately.

Vernon was very influential in my life. I have never met a more honest person. And his "jumping in and doing the task at hand" despite aches and pains was unexcelled.

Oh, I could go on and on about his top caliber personal and professional qualities, plus a lot of other most laudable attributes. But I need not do so as you well know what I would say. The mold was destroyed when he was made - there will certainly never be another like him - or even close. The rare people like him are what made our country great. I journeyed to his resting place last Friday to give him my final goodbye. I will always remember my friend on a frequent basis. I was so fortunate to have known this fine gentleman with the sterling character, other outstanding traits.

Best wishes,

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

Guest Blogger mythster (Ned Smith): Wandering

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is mythster also known as Ned Smith. He was born in Chicago while Adolf Hitler was becoming Fuhrer. Grew up in and around New York during the Depression, Pearl Harbor and VJ Day. USMC 1951- 1957. Ad Man on Mad. Ave, Milan and London 1960-1979. Restaurant Chef-Proprietor !980-1989. Software Marketing & Electronic Publishing until retirement in 2000. He blogs at Rotten Apples.

I began wandering as soon as I could walk (maybe before). Before I was six, I would wake up early on weekend mornings before anyone else in the house that we shared with my mother’s two sisters and their families. I’d jump out of bed and dress, tiptoeing down the stairs and out of the house. We were living in Rockaway Park, New York. The year was 1939. Jamaica Bay was about 100 yards right of our front door and the beach, on the left side, about 300 yards.v

One of my mother’s older sisters, my Aunt Peggy, lived in a big house on the Bay about a mile from ours. I’d often end up there after checking out the crabs in the Bay and the sailors on the boardwalk. Aunt Peggy would feed me waffles and then she’d drive me home.

It was an integral part of my “gyroscopic” childhood. The base of my top, i.e. my family, was constantly on the move and I made my own little “sorties” from the base. In the first ten years of my life, we moved house eleven times. Sometimes just to a nearby town or village, but occasionally fairly long distances like Chicago to New York City or Valley Stream, Long Island to Birmingham, Michigan and back.

I’ve been wandering ever since. Through the streets of New York from the Hudson River on the West Side to the East River and Welfare Island (now known as Roosevelt Island) on the East Side and from Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village to Central Park. I wandered through London for several years and Paris as well. I discovered places in Milan that my Milanese friends had never seen.

Most of the time I wander alone. With others, it’s usually a hike or a trek. My youngest daughter has occasionally accompanied me, but I think she wasn’t completely comfortable on our travel to “nowhere” without a plan or objective.

Soon after moving to London from New York, I would go to Victoria Station and take the first train that was scheduled to depart and ride to the end of the line and start wandering from there. One trip took me to Canterbury Cathedral by way of Dover. I took the train from London to Dover and walked the famous White Cliffs to Folkstone where I spent the night. The next day I walked to Canterbury Cathedral and spent a wonderful hour or two in around that magnificent structure. Finally as it started to get dark and I boarded the train for London and home.

Once or twice I went to Heathrow airport and boarded the first plane I could get. One took me to Belgium where I had a mystical walking tour around Bruges in the winter. I can still remember the magic reflection of the sixteenth century houses in the canals at dusk.

There was never any specific direction to my wandering, the word “aimless” or “random” might describe my jaunts. It’s always been about exploration. Like Sir Edmond Hillary, I wander the streets of cities because they’re there. By not looking for anything particular, I often discover wonderful things and people. Sometimes I’ll accidentally make eye contact with a stranger and occasionally we’ll exchange a few words about the weather, the neighborhood or some object of historic or architectural importance that I’ve come across in my wandering.

As T.S. Elliot wrote in his poem, Little Gidding:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of al our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

Sometimes I wander on a bicycle, but I don’t think cars are suited to wandering. Too often, you’ve passed what you want to see before you find a place to stop.

The best spot/city for wandering would definitely be Paris and the worst, L.A. This summer I’ll be wandering around Pondicherry and southern India and later in a canoe in the French Dordogne. No telling what I’ll find but then I won’t really expect to find anything in particular unless, of course, something turns up.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

Guest Blogger Elaine Frankonis: Easing Into Death

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Elaine Frankonis known on the Web as Elaine of Kalilily. She has been blogging since 2001, having launched Kalilily Time a short while after she assumed responsibility as caregiver for her mother. One college professor, who quoted from one of Elaine's posts in an article for a history e-zine, described her as "not just a little ol' grandma raising hell at the keyboard." She makes every effort to live up to that description.

There was almost always a dead person in our house. My father was an undertaker and we lived on the second floor above two viewing rooms and the embalming room.

“Death” became something I accepted as “business as usual.” It happened every day to someone and sometimes that someone wound up resting in final splendor directly under my bedroom. “It's not the dead people you have to be afraid of,” my father used to remind me. “It's the live ones.”

Soon after my father retired, he discovered that he had inoperable pancreatic cancer and he began preparing himself to move to the other side of the equation. If he was afraid of dying, he never showed it. In a way, I think, his professional life had prepared him for that moment.

My father died in his own bed at home, receiving palliative care from his priest, Visiting Nurses, and from the morphine we administered with an eye dropper. He was able to ease into death with minimal pain and with all of us beside him.

Palliative care does not try to treat or cure the illness.

Palliative care are services designed to provide relief of symptoms that interfere with quality of life when treatments won't change the time course of the illness. It is the care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease, in which the focus is on relieving rather than curing the symptoms.

As I watch my mother (who is 93, has severe dementia and often seems to be in both physical and mental pain but can't communicate the source) continue to exist in a body with no real quality of life, I start researching what could be done to “keep her comfortable” - which is what a neurologist suggested. Yet, none of the prescription medications she has tried has been able to do that.

I wonder if she would be better off in a nursing home where, I suppose, all they really could do is stick her in a wheelchair and medicate her into one of those dozing, drooling bodies that they park somewhere in a corner. Would that mean she was comfortable or would it mean she was just knocked out?

But my mother, who has no “terminal illness,” can still walk and eat with help, is still continent, is sometimes aware. And she also is old and frightened and disoriented and angry. And she cries. She hurts. Yet no doctor has been able to prescribe something that is able to simply make her feel comfortable without totally sedating her.

She is not really “dying,” they say, so morphine is not appropriate. Except that she IS dying. She's 93, and her life is pretty much devoid of anything you could call "quality."

I finally come upon an article in the Quality of Life Care website that articulates my frustration with the lack of palliative care for someone in her situation. Here is what the article, Palliative Care for Dementia has to say:

”To me, some of the most disturbing symptoms of dementia are emotional and mental pain. It can be devastating for everyone, but not as much as for the person who is sitting with that kind of discomfort. Medical professionals are getting better with the physical manifestations but when it comes to emotional anguish, we don’t do so well. The reasons for unsuccessful treatment are varied. People who are close to the person, either personally or professionally, are very passionate in their views about how to handle it. It makes it hard to have an open mind.

“Have you ever walked through a nursing home and hear the same person screaming over and over again? Do you say to yourself, 'oh there’s Mr. So-and-So, he’s at it again, or 'I wish she’d stop yelling like that, why they won’t do something?' Or, are you so used to it that you walk right on by undisturbed?

“The person is experiencing emotional pain, plain and simple.

“If the person can be soothed by your presence or the presence of another and you can be with them most of the time, then you are very lucky. But what if you can’t be there? What if your parent at the nursing home is one of the people who is constantly angry or yelling or ‘causing trouble?’ What if you don’t have the money to hire a sitter to be with them most of the day? Please know there is not one nursing home that has the staff to sit with your loved one much. Maybe, maybe 10 minutes tops, here and there. They cannot do it and they don’t. They are too busy with all the other residents.

“So what’s left? Hope they get better? Tell ourselves that what they are afraid of isn’t real so it’s OK? Tell ourselves that she was always bitter/angry/dramatic/an attention seeker and this is nothing new so it’s alright? Even if that is true, it doesn’t change the fact that she is in emotional/mental pain.

“What are we supposed to do? To hope that it will stop is usually where most of us begin. What is the only solution if the emotional/mental pain doesn’t go away? The answer is some form of treatment or substance introduced orally or topically or energetically. We start with whatever we believe in and go from there. If we’re open to non-western types of healing, then we can try acupuncture, aromatherapy, reikki, essential oils and any of the other modalities. If they don’t work, and there is nothing left to try from the array of non-psychotropic medications for dementia, then we can try using medications from the anti-psychotic and/or anti-anxiety class.

“'No, it’s too dangerous,' we say. It will prematurely kill them. It may kill them just like any other drug can, it is true. No drug should be used without careful consideration. There are always risks to every medication and always trade offs. Emotional pain doesn’t dangle like a broken arm and it requires treatment just like the broken arm does. They have a broken heart and a broken mind.

“Imagine the last time you were hurt, angry, really offended or really sad. Sit in that for a minute. Now imagine you have no rational defense against it. You have no reasoning power to talk yourself out of it or to change your focus and think about something else. Its not that you are not a positive thinker, it is that your brain has deteriorated and the electrical impulses are not firing the same. There is deteriorating physiological changes in the organ of your brain.

“With both medical professionals and families alike, there are many who believe we are ’sedating’ a person when we give them medication for emotional/mental distress. Know that if a person is sedated, then they are getting too much of the drug or they are getting the wrong drug. If our belief is to give medication for physiological disease processes, and we accept that their dementia is a physiological disease process, why is our reluctance to treat them medicinally so emotionally loaded for us?

“When I walk by an elder with advanced dementia that I know is consistently distressed, I think about if that were me. In that condition, I would be powerless against my thoughts and feelings with no defense against them. My hope is someone would advocate for me and begin the process of finding a medication that worked. I hope they would continue to change doses and medications until I was pleasantly enjoying my day, even if I had to take an extra nap or two. Naps are great.

“What would you want?”

I know what I would want.

I am not afraid of being dead. I'm afraid that I will wind up like my mother, imprisoned in some personal hell (or at least a purgatory), while death takes its leisurely time setting me free.

What I would want is something like medicinal marijuana to help me to feel relaxed and happy, to FEEL easy and carefree, even if that that feeling were only a drug-induced illusion. But “feel-good” drugs are illegal and so, while those who don't necessarily need them can get them illegally, those who could medically benefit from them are left to suffer, and often not in silence either.

There is growing support for the legalization of marijuana use for medicinal and palliative purposes. From here:

”Medical marijuana is one of the most widely supported issues in drug policy reform. Numerous published studies suggest that marijuana has medical value in treating patients with serious illnesses such as AIDS, glaucoma, cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and chronic pain. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine, in the most comprehensive study of medical marijuana's efficacy to date, concluded, 'Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety...all can be mitigated by marijuana.' “Allowing patients legal access to medical marijuana has been discussed by numerous organizations, including the AIDS Action Council, American Bar Association, American Public Health Association, California Medical Association, National Association of Attorneys General, and several state nurses associations. “Public opinion is also in favor of ending the prohibition of medical marijuana. According to a 1999 Gallup poll, 73% of Americans are in favor of 'making marijuana legally available for doctors to prescribe in order to reduce pain and suffering.' In a 2004 poll commissioned by AARP, 72% of Americans ages 45 and older thought marijuana should be legal for medicinal purposes if recommended by a doctor. Also, since 1996, voters in eight states plus the District of Columbia have passed favorable medical marijuana ballot initiatives.”

There are only 14 states that allow the use of medical marijuana and New York State, where my mother lives, is not one of them, although legislation is being discussed.

Meanwhile, while politicians discuss, law enforcement resists and the medical profession debates, very old people like my mother spend their last months (maybe years) in unnecessary mental, emotional and physical pain.

I know what I would want.

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

Guest Blogger Frank Paynter: Airbrushed Tangerine-Flaked Streamline Blog

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Frank Paynter. He is a writer who blogs at Listics, tweets @fpaynter and aggregates a lot of his online activity at friendfeed. He posts photos on Flickr, collects public bookmarks at delicious and has accounts with most of the usual social networks. He spends entirely too much time online when he could be gardening, reading, watching movies or at least doing the dishes.

A few years ago, the originals of two of those Dogs Playing Poker pictures that were painted by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge in 1903 for a cigar company, sold for over half a million dollars. When I was a kid I loved those pictures. The art critics called them tasteless schlock or kitsch at best.

Sadly, somewhere along the way - in college or maybe in high school - I fell in line with the critics' conventional wisdom and picked up the belief that "art appreciation" required "discriminating taste." I also let the pretensions of those critics dictate my preferences.

Fortunately, I've pretty much shed these prejudices and can today simply and sincerely say that I like art. I like literature, music, dance - really any creative use of the mind and body to make something, to communicate, to evoke feelings. [4:30 minutes]

Stripped of critical pretension, I can allow myself to like those Keane pictures of children with big eyes. I can like the pictures of dogs playing poker, and the velvet paintings of matadors or horses or Elvis - Elvis is always a great subject for the velvet paintings.

Maybe you'll see these admissions as an embarrassing confession, but it has taken me a long time to shed the snootiness and simply to appreciate what's right in front of me: a visible tattoo, a magazine advertisement for shoe polish, a photograph of a row of mailboxes on a country road - I dig it all.


In the 1950s, the black leather jacket was a fashion statement and nothing spoke louder than a jacket with an eagle on the back. That was art, but who knew? Another medium that's been too long under-valued is the hand painted hot rod and its variant, the motorcycle gas tank painting. The stylized flames, usually laid on by an expert with an airbrush, actually do help the machines go faster. They are also high art!

Airbrushed art is all around us. Before the rise of digital images, photographers often improved their prints with an airbrush. The airbrushed image on a tee shirt, like the black leather jacket with an eagle on the back, is an example of the artistic fashion statement.

And, of course, I have my preferences: I like the simple statement represented by my neighbor's second mailbox atop a twelve foot post with the words "Air Mail" stenciled on it, better than the airbrushed image of the white-tailed deer on black enamel that adorns the "real" mailbox.

Some other preferences...

  • I like The Far Side more than Dilbert.

  • I like the Shirelle's version of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow better than Amy Winehouse's, but for pure repressed cold war angst with that emotional twist of guilt and shame, Brenda Lee's cover is the best.

  • Francis the Talking Mule over Mister Ed, of course.

  • Twilight Zone over Outer Limits, as if there was any question!

I like reading a "long-form" blog posting better than a bunch of squibs. I prefer the quiet communities in the blogs to all the social media fanfare and foofaraw that goes on in Facebook or Friendfeed or twitter. Here at Time Goes By we know we will be treated to Ronni Bennett's thoughtful and informed opinions regarding the issues facing us as we age.

Other long-form bloggers such as poet Ron Silliman and journalism professor Jay Rosen share their expertise and perspectives in much the same way Ronni does. These are "bloggers with a beat" who focus their talent and influence each on a specific area. There are thousands of them, many of them quite good. Professional. And their work is an art form that is evolving as we participate by reading, commenting, and linking to them.

It's a new generation of writing that echoes the new journalism that Tom Wolfe introduced in the mid-sixties with his collection of essays, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby.

I would much rather read the blogs than most of the newspapers being published today, all sucking information from the same source, be it the Associated Press or Agence France. Of course, I would rather read Donald Westlake and Robert Parker crime stories than Shakespeare, and Dogs Playing Poker do it for me as much as the Mona Lisa, so - in this as in all things - consider the source.

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.