624 posts categorized "Journal"

Friday Blog Post – A Blast From the Past

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does any of this ring a bell for you?


The Universe Decides That, Not Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Grocery Shopping While Old During a Pandemic

Wow. There was an overwhelming vote in the reader comments last Friday when I discussed some difficulties of grocery shopping with my twin diseases, cancer and COPD, while wearing a mask, gloves and trying to keep appropriate distance from others in the store aisles.

A sampling from some of you, dear readers:

I have been wondering, Ronnie, if you would be able to have supermarket shopping and pharmacy medications delivered?” ~ Betty Creek
Another vote for delivery, here! Or accepting a volunteer's offer to shop for you.)” ~ Duchesse
I will add my voice to the rest about online shopping, Ronnie, which is truly the safest of all ways to get our groceries.” ~ Karin
And I'll pile on with all those counseling Ronni to have groceries delivered if at all possible.” ~ Salinda Dahl
Grocery delivery is a wonderful thing. You might really like it.” ~ Linda Featheringill
I'm with those who say they may stay forever with online grocery shopping and delivery-to-one's-door.” ~ Katie

To all of those above, along with others I haven't mentioned and anyone else who agrees with them, I stuck a toe in the delivery waters this week.

My supermarket does not deliver. There are others in my general vicinity that do deliver but I don't visit them frequently enough to know their inventory as well as my own market. My son, who lives about an hour's drive south of me, had in the past offered to shop for me but until this week I had declined.

Part of that is habit. Except for six years of marriage and another relationship of four years, I've lived alone all my adult life. I'm accustomed to doing it – whatever “it” is at any given time – myself and comfortable that way. I am uncomfortable with what can seem to me to be asking too much of another.

But this week, after having read your comments several times, I accepted when he offered again. I emailed a shopping list and he will deliver it all to my front door today.

Nevertheless, I also went shopping myself yesterday to pick up some items that are either house brands I like or other stuff I need to see before I buy – tomatoes, for example, avocados, and frozen food which I don't think should be sitting in a car for the hour drive before being stored.

There were the usual issues: shoppers getting way too cozy in the aisles, empty shelves and my difficulty breathing through a mask – COPD makes that hard. But it was a great relief to have so little to carry in from the car.

One reader who commented on that post last week had a different take on grocery shopping that more closely matches my feelings about it:

”I've always enjoyed grocery shopping, a little less so now, and shop during the senior hours,” wrote NatashaM.

“I am visually stimulated. I make my own substitutions. I can be inspired by some terrific looking red peppers. I saw a delicious looking turkey meatloaf at the meat department of one store. Now, it's a regular item. I would've never seen the turkey meatloaf had I not shopped in person.”

I'm with you, NatashaM. Yesterday, I found an obscure brand of hand sanitizer at the market with 80 percent alcohol – the first I've seen of any kind in all the time since lockdowns were instituted.

And the deli counter had a new salad that looked delicious so I bought some of that. It was. Delicious, I mean.

Not to mention that I've been shopping there for nearly a decade and there are two employees who I've gotten to know after all those years and I always enjoy catching up with them for a few minutes.

Not to mention that we see few enough people in person in these days of quarantine and it feels good to be in the presence of others even if we can't see our smiles beneath our masks.

For those reasons, I'll continue to do some shopping myself but thanks to your responses last week, I think letting my son do that for me now and then will become a habit – if he doesn't mind.

Plus, I've gotten an important life lesson out of this. Well, I've always known it, I just haven't practice it much: recalling how good we all feel when we are able to do something nice for another person, and that we should give others that opportunity too when it's appropriate.


Time Goes By Takes a Break

Maybe I've been in lockdown too long and need something different. Or perhaps I've been pushing myself too hard (although it would be difficult for you to find anything I've accomplished around the house recently) and need a rest.

Just as likely, it could be that I want some time to quiet my mind so to think and feel what I have known since mid-2017 – that the days of my life are numbered. I've tended to forget – or avoid – that reality for a great deal of the past year.

Around 90 percent of people who are told they have pancreatic cancer are dead within a year of diagnosis. Me? In June, it will be three years. I only recently (make that this morning, Saturday) made a list of the major events during that time period:

• Whipple surgery with five or six months of recovery
• Two much smaller surgeries to fix an internal bleed
• Three rounds of chemotherapy
• A remarkable psilocybin session
• Tests showing me to be cancer-free
• Tests showing cancer spread to a lung and peritoneum
• COPD diagnosis
• Pulmonary rehab for COPD

And in recent weeks, what I believe to be late(r)-stage cancer symptoms: increased fatigue, body pains some of which would be funny if they didn't hurt so much, waning appetite, weight loss and a golf-ball=sized growth I discovered four days ago on an inner thigh.

It is placed in such a spot that I know there's a joke to be made about growing balls (or, anyway, one) at my age but it hasn't come to me.

Certainly the two doctors with whom I have tele-health appointments this week will tell me what is what about all this. I suspect at least one will want to book an in-person visit which, in our virus-ridden world, rather freaks me out. I mean, those docs work at a giant medical center with five hospitals, a medical school and many kinds of clinics.

Not that I won't go anyway.

When I was diagnosed, I chose to chronicle here what I thought, at the time, would be at most a year about my journey with one of the most deadly cancers. But the months kept passing and here we are in 2020.

I'm going to have a rest now, hear what the doctors say and return in about a week. Meanwhile, tomorrow there will be a new Reader Story and on Sunday next, there will be Peter Tibbles' music column. Unless something changes, I'll be back here a week from today.

Meanwhile, thank each of you for always being such a wonderful, responsive audience and excellent participants in the commentary. This blog grew into a collaboration a long time ago – it is what makes it special.

Be well and stay safe.


A Serious Jones for Ice Cream

Last week here, I headlined one story, Is There Anything Else to Talk About?. And so it is every day now in every news outlet: all about the virus.

It took up the major part of an hour-long telephone conversation on Sunday with a friend in New Jersey. It takes up the most space in email with others. When I'm reading online news, I always gravitate to virus headlines - anything else feels irrelevant to life today.

When I'm not talking, listening or reading about the virus, I'm thinking about it. It intrudes everywhere. When the sun came out yesterday, I developed a serious jones for ice cream. I don't eat it much in winter and this was the first time this year it had come to mind.

I actually picked up a pen to make a list of what else I might pick up at the grocery when I went for the ice cream. Then I remembered. Uh-oh. Lockdown. Plenty of food in the house, except for ice cream.

So I stayed home.

(Please do not send ice cream. The freezer is full to the top with food.)

From the beginning of the virus, I believed in face masks but then I got confused when a variety of so-called experts said they don't work. Now that they have changed their mind, I have made several no-sew masks for myself from old bandanas and wondered if I need one to go to the trash or mailbox.

It is rare that I see anyone when I make one of those runs, but I decided to err on the side caution anyway. The cotton masks are hard for me to breathe through and I was winded when I got home so I have redesigned the no-sew masks with fewer layers for me to breath a little easier.

Reading the virus news online or watching it on television is fraught in its own way. I try to avoid the president altogether, and I am awed again and again by the amazing bravery of the medical professionals who, undoubtedly exhausted, go into the firestorm of potential infection and possible death every single day.

I know the fear I felt last week going to the grocery store. The intensity of it must be so much more for medical professionals. What is that moment like for them, the one when you wake up, maybe a little fuzzy in the head still from sleep, first thinking about getting up and BAM! - you remember what your job is like now. Is today the one when you will catch the virus?

How do they do that, I wonder, keep going to work day after day? I feel so helpless, that there is nothing I can contribute and then I weep for all of us but especially for those on the front lines.

I experienced a small, happy respite from all the mixed-up sad, hopeful and hopeless, fearful, worried feelings on Friday when I made my first pandemic meal delivery order.

Like everything else, it involves thinking about the virus. I arranged online for the delivery person to leave the order on the table on my front porch and knock on the door.

But what about a tip? I fished an envelope out of the desk, wrote “Delivery Person” on the outside and then found I had only $20 bills in my wallet. Recalling the medical professionals, first responders, grocery clerks and all the others who risk their lives for the rest of us, I couldn't see that delivery to people's homes is much different. So $20 it was.

Not long after my lunch arrived, I received a text message from the delivery guy telling me it was his first day on the job, I was his first delivery and that I had helped him start his new job in the best possible way.

That text message was the bright spot in my day too. In this tiny way, it was the first time I have felt useful and actually did something good for someone who is, unlike me, risking his life at his job every day.

It feels self-indulgent to be ruminating on these little incidents in my home-confined life. After all, we're all doing the same thing and I hardly have a unique perspective. But even when I try to read a book or watch a movie, my mind wanders to the world's predicament.

It's not just the virus itself. What is equally fraught is the lack of executive and managerial expertise at the top of the U.S. federal government. Many state governors have stepped into the void as much as they can but by statute, they lack the power of a president who, in this case, has abdicated his sworn duty to the country.

Your turn now, in the comments below.


Venturing Away From Home in Corona Virus Times

Quarantine. Lockdown. Sheltering in Place. Stay At Home. Whatever you call it, it means the same thing. Don't go anywhere. Or, at least, don't go anywhere that is not absolutely necessary – doctor, pharmacy, grocery shopping are okay when necessary.

Many physicians are switching to telehealth appointments. Many stores and pharmacies will deliver. And there is always Amazon although I hear tell that two-day delivery is long gone – that it's more like two weeks or more now.

We – not just Americans, but everyone everywhere – are living in a time like we have never seen before. We have no experience at this.

No one before now ever told us that we couldn't leave our homes. Couldn't, therefore, see our friends and relatives, go to the gym, watch a movie in a theater, have dinner in a restaurant, stop for a cup of coffee on a whim.

I can count on one hand the number of times I have been away from home in the past three-plus weeks.

It had been more than two weeks since I'd been any farther than the mailbox and trash bin when I went grocery shopping this week. A friend asked why I didn't use home delivery but several others had told me that the delivery services are backed up at least a week. Better to face my fears and do it myself.

So I suited up. I don't have masks and my attempts to tie a scarf over my face failed (actually, I lost patience to work at it) so I did the best I could otherwise: clothing that could be machine washed, a supply of gloves, a shopping list in the order that would get me through the store as quickly as possible and cleaning supplies left on the porch for my return.

I was nervous. Okay, make that frightened. So far, Oregon overall and particularly my county have a low number of virus cases compared to many other places in the U.S. Still, on my few previous forays to the market, customers paid no heed to personal distancing and in that regard, nothing had changed.

It was about 10:30AM when I arrived at the store, donned my nitrile gloves, rolled a cart to the disinfectant stand and wiped it down.

The store had made some changes since I was last there. Two new self-check-out counters, plexiglass barriers between checkers and shoppers, large stickers on the floor to show people how far away to stand from one another on line and signs reminding shoppers that six feet is the length of two shopping carts.

Amazingly, there were paper towels – with a one package of six rolls per person rule. Toilet paper too with the same admonition.

The meat counter was, as during my last two visits, almost empty unless you like British bangers (I don't). But having skipped “senior shopping hours” in the early morning, I was happy to find the cooked chickens were ready and I grabbed one.

The store clerks were terrific, waving hello to me as we maneuvered ourselves to keep that six-foot distance between us. One offered to show me how to tie a scarf as a mask next time I'm there.

As mentioned above, customers were not as diligent. A couple of them, in the middle of an aisle, refused to move to the side to let me by. Another pushed up against me as I was reaching for pasta on a top shelf.

Once, when I told a shopper directly behind me to back off, she said, “I don't have the virus.” And I said, “You don't know that.” Who are these people.

Back home, I cleaned all the boxes, jars and other containers with antiseptic spray on the front porch and placed the cleaned items in the old shopping bags I knew were virus-free and ferried them into the kitchen.

It's nice to have a restocked shelves but most of all I liked seeing the store employees, two or three of whom I've known for nearly a decade. We don't see many people in person these days so a trip to the supermarket is a new kind of treat rather than a chore – however scared I am to do it.

On a different day, I ventured out to my cannabis dispensary as I was running low on the edibles I use for sleep. I was as nervous about that trip as I was the market but driving Terwilliger Boulevard through a densely, wooded area for two or three miles calmed me. I guess they're right, the people who say nature is good for us.

The dispensary was as safe as anything can be, I think. Since I was there a month ago, they had built a floor-to-ceiling plexiglass barrier in the lobby between customers and "budmaster" with an opening just large enough to pay and show my ID.

Also, customers are now not allowed in the back room where the products are displayed. When I called the day before to see if the shop would be open, they told me to order online and they would have everything ready when I arrived, plus a 15 percent discount.

And so they did. Too bad I can't buy my groceries there.

Our lives now turn on such minutiae as in this post. The smallest things take on greater significance and, in some cases, comfort when time away from home is reduced to an hour or so a week.

What about you? Have you ventured away from home?


Is There Anything Else to Talk About?

Some good advice that will make you smile:

In the evening, I can get caught up in a book or movie or TV show for awhile and forget this awful but remarkable time we are living in. The earlier part of the day? Not so much.

As a life-long news junky to begin with, a story of the magnitude of the Coronavirus is irresistible even if the perpetrator-in-chief, in his ignorance and cruelty, makes it more frightening than it needs to be.

Stress? Oh, you betcha. I try to keep it in check with a lot of slow, pursed-lip breathing throughout the day which is good for my poor, old, damaged lungs too.

And exercise. Every morning before breakfast, I go through my 40-minute routine. It's good for my breathing and I hope it helps with stress.

But what can a few exercises do to calm one's mind when, apparently, it is not enough to have a worldwide, deadly virus floating around all of us. Early this week, the number of deaths from the virus in United States surpassed those not only in China but those on 9/11 too.

For a few weeks following 9/11, we in New York City asked friends, neighbors, coworkers and others we spoke with, “Is everyone you know okay?” It's beginning to feel to me like it is time to resurrect that check-in.

Even though there are teeny tiny indications in some places that personal distancing is working, this unprecedented virus predicament will last a lot longer than the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and if we haven't yet, we each will need to invent respites for ourselves. I'll do what I can for us in that regard on this blog.

Here's a bit of serious humor for our desperate times – a new video from John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight on HBO. You will see that it was recorded before the president extended the lockdown past Easter but that doesn't make it less pertinent.

I found some fun in it. I hope you will too.

On Monday's post, Patty-in-New-York ended her comment apologizing for her random thoughts. As I responded then, I don't think there has ever been a more appropriate time for random thoughts than now. Go for it, if you are so inclined, in the comments below.


THINKING OUT LOUD: Quarantine, Two Weeks In

It won't mean much to me, I thought, being quarantined at home. I'm old, I'm retired and I don't have the responsibilities or obligations of younger adults.

Many of my closest friends live far away so I am long accustomed to regular, lengthy telephone or Skype/Zoom calls. No big sacrifice with this quarantine, thought I. Little will change for me.

Wrong.

What I hadn't considered are the meetings and lunches and other social get-togethers with local friends that have stopped. Suddenly, I have a lot more free time than before quarantine. Enough for it to be abundantly noticeable now. Plenty of time now to think about things in a leisurely manner.

I picked up some more time for myself last week when I stopped watching the daily Trump team television show. There is never any trustworthy news and when there is anything worth knowing, it is widely reported elsewhere. So I don't subject myself to his petty self-aggrandizement anymore.

In one of last week's Trump TV shows, even Dr. Deborah Birx brought shame down on herself by elaborately kissing the presidential posterior in praise of his scientific acumen. So much for anything she says from now on.

On the other hand, there is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's daily report. The contrast to the president is stunning, leaving me to lament every day that Cuomo is not running the entire U.S. COVID-19 response. There are other governors and mayors, too, doing important work in their communities even while taking threats from the president.

Weeping comes easily to me now. I tear up reading stories about the shortages of protective gear for medical professionals who nevertheless keep risking their own lives going to work, doing everything possible to help the afflicted. Just a photo of an empty big-city street can set me off on a weeping binge.

Dreams have never stayed with me beyond wispy snapshots for a few seconds when I first awaken. During the past week or so, those wisps have been of me alone on a rainy, dark street, accompanied by an overwhelming sense of being alone.

I use up some of my new-found time wondering if others in lockdown are having similar dreams, and there is more of the time now to get back to reading books which I had recently neglected.

Oh, do I wish I had something more profound to tell you. Since my imagination is lacking in that regard, here are some small but not unimportant things related to the pandemic I think might be useful for you to know:

VIRUS-RELATED SOCIAL SECURITY SCAM
Gail S. Ennis, Inspector General for Social Security, is warning “about fraudulent letters threatening suspension of Social Security benefits due to COVID-19.”

”Social Security will not suspend or discontinue benefits because their offices are closed,” reports IG Ennis.

“...Social Security beneficiaries have received letters through the U.S. Mail stating their payments will be suspended or discontinued unless they call a phone number referenced in the letter.

“Scammers may then mislead beneficiaries into providing personal information or payment via retail gift cards, wire transfers, internet currency, or by mailing cash, to maintain regular benefit payments during this period of COVID-19 office closures.”

Although Social Security offices are closed, employees are working and no beneficiary will lose benefits, have them decreased or suspended due to the virus. Any communication that says so is a scam.

Read more here.

SPECIAL SUPERMARKET HOURS FOR ELDERS
Supermarket chains and some other retailers have created special hours for elders to shop. Some designate these hours every day, others offer it for one or two days a week. What many have in common is that the hours are early in the morning - 7AM to 9AM or 8AM to 9AM, for example.

Some stores in my area are doing this but I wonder who decided that elders do not need fresh produce, fresh meat or cooked chicken which are not on shelves yet at that early hour.

Plus, my pharmacy is in my grocery story but does not open until 9AM making it difficult to do food and drug shopping in one go. Personally, I'm ignoring "senior hours" on my once-weekly trek away from home.

But if it works for you, AARP has done your homework for you with a long list of chain stores that are doing this and their hours. You will find that list here.

Be sure to check if your store participates.

YOUR EMAILS AND INTERESTING STUFF SUGGESTIONS
I always appreciate your emails with ideas for stories or Interesting Stuff items and rely on them for a lot of what you eventually see in these pages. But apparently now, I am not the only one with extra time on his or her hands.

Your missives have been arriving in great bundles into in my inbox, sometimes four or five or more emails in a day from the same person. Multiply that many videos and article suggestions (often several in one email) from two or three dozen of you can imagine that I can feel defeated at trying to get through them all.

So if you wouldn't mind, please try to edit yourselves. And please forgive me if I do not reply to your email - sometimes I'm just too worn out to do that.

And how is the quarantine going at your place?


A TGB Musical Interlude: Manhattan Tower

Peter Tibbles, who lives in Melbourne, Australia, has been handling the Elder Music section of this blog on Sundays for about 10 years, and doing a spectacular job of it. His knowledge and taste are peerless.

I don't like to interfere with such fine work but now and then, I have a little something to say about music. Today is one of those times.

This came to mind when I first met my new physical therapist who tends exclusively to feet. I wrote about that last Friday. It turns out she had lived, studied and worked in Manhattan for several years and loves it as much as I do.

Our conversation reminded me of a 1946 record album (remember 78s?) about New York City that I last mentioned here way back in 2009 – “Manhattan Tower”. I sent it to her and took a listen myself, which I had not done in several years. I found myself smiling throughout, while feeling all warm and fuzzy.

There is a back story to this.

ManhattanTowerAlbumCoveri

I was a little girl of no more than five or six when my parents obtained the album at its first release. It made such an impression on me that I made it my own. I played those two 78s hundreds of times over many years and I am convinced it is what began my love affair with New York – nothing else explains my yearning, from earliest childhood, to live there.

The album is a love letter to New York City, a suite composed and conducted by Gordon Jenkins with the lead performances sung by Eliot Lewis and Beverly Mahr. Never heard of them? Me neither – except on this album.

There are four parts – Magical City, The Party, New York's My Home and Love in the Tower. The arrangement can sound overblown and schmaltzy nearly 75 years later and maybe it is. But there is something about music from our youth that persists.

In the 1950s, a new version of “Manhattan Tower” was released adding many more songs including what was a big hit for Patti Page back then, Married I Can Always Get.

I don't like all these extra tunes so I never listen to that version. The 16-minute original seems to me to be too perfect to mess with and I discovered that I still know every word of the lyrics.

Music from our youth tends to stick with us as we get old. And we can often recall events from our younger years more easily than what we had to dinner last evening. So maybe you, too, have some early music memories that you still love.

Here is the original ”Manhattan Tower” from 1946, the full 16-minute suite - for those of you who don't find it too treacly.

There is now a Wikipedia page with a background on the album and more recordings of the original and subsequent longer versions at YouTube.


Old Age is Greedy

There sits on my desk a black, seven- by 10-inch, spiral note book filled with about 100 lined pages that I use to jot down notes about potential stories for this blog.

Because old age has robbed me of the ability to remember any “brilliant” thought for longer than few seconds, it is imperative that I immediately scribble down anything useful at the moment it occurs to me, or lose it forever.

Sometimes these notes are baffling, like that headline above. What was I thinking when I wrote that? And why – especially knowing how fleeting these thoughts can be - couldn't I have bothered to write even a handful of additional words to provide a hint or two about the idea?

But I still like the phrase and after spending 10 or 15 minutes trying my best to recall the original thought (to no avail), I've decided to run with it today in relation to time.

Old age is greedy: it wants all my time.

You name it, it takes longer now than even two or three years ago. Walking, because it is our primary mode of transportation, is a big culprit. I'm slower now and when I think, for example, I'll make a quick stop at the market – just a quart of milk and loaf of bread – it takes 30 minutes and that's not counting the drive to and from.

This is a different phenomenon than the one I mentioned not long ago about time disappearing as though I had blacked out for awhile.

In this case, I am aware of time's passage and I suppose it's irritating because I am still unaccustomed to how much I have slowed down, making my time estimates all wrong.

Not to mention that there are things I can't or don't do anymore and so need to find someone to help out. Change a light bulb? Are you kidding? No more ladders for me. But even when someone is here for a visit, I'm as likely as not to forget to ask.

It's perfectly true that finding oneself in the bedroom and wondering why is not an act exclusive to old people but I'm pretty sure the number of occurrences has increased. More time gone to old age.

The experts tell us it is not uncommon for old people to have trouble concentrating and that's another way old age has been greedy with me - my distraction level seems to increase by the day which lengthens any project.

Recently, I was picking up stuff I'd left lying around the living room, found a note to myself about a quotation I wanted to check out so I hopped on the computer to track it down. I couldn't have waited until I finished the task at hand? Apparently not.

That led to another click and another and you how that goes. Next thing I knew it was dinner time and I still hadn't straightened up the living room.

Folding clean laundry is instant distraction territory for me. Once I've wandered on to something else, it might be bedtime before I get it done and then only because I fold laundry on the bed and need space to sleep.

The biggest aid to old age's greed for my time is tiredness which has shortened my days to about eight useful hours. It takes near two hours each morning for me to get enough coffee and news in me to be ready to shower, dress and eat breakfast.

By then, it's 9AM and I know weariness will overtake me by 3PM after which little gets done. It takes careful planning to get all the things I once did in 12-plus hours a day crammed into such a short period of time.

In terms of slowing down, the trick, I think, is to make the effort to adjust to it as a new normal. I have been trying and I make small inroads. Occasionally now, I deliberately shorten the day's to-do list so that I can finish it.

There is no point in lamenting the slowdown in old age and there might be an upside. As much as I worry about what daffodils blooming in February portends for the planet's future, they put a smile on my face last week. At my previous speedy walking pace, I might have missed seeing them.

As with just about everything I have discovered about old age, I doubt I am alone in these changes. If we live long enough, they come to most of us. Is any of this familiar to you?


Marijuana and Old Folks

We've discussed this several times before but I think it is worth coming back to because use of cannabis among elders continues to increase but I keep meeting people (in a state where it is legal) who are interested but hesitant to try it.

The little wicker basket next to my bed holds several brands and types of edible cannabis I use for sleep. It's quite a collection now. Currently, there are two kinds of chocolate, four of fruit-flavored gummies, one of lemon hard candies and a bottle of tincture.

Even when they contain the same dosage of THC, the effectiveness of each differs with me depending on how frequently I use it. One of my physicians and several marijuana dispensary employees have confirmed my experience, that the same product used every night will eventually stop working – which happened to me.

So now I keep that nice little variety around to mix it up from night to night.

Currently, 33 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis to a greater or lesser degree. Some restrict usage to what is called “medical marijuana” that for purchase usually requires a card from a physician. Many other states now allow recreational marijuana.

Here is a map of current legal availability as of 25 June 2019. Follow this link for more information by individual state.

LegalCannabisMap

Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana use and later legalized it for people 21 and older – first for medical use and then expanded to recreational use.

In the past month or two, I've noticed that my local Safeway supermarket is now selling CBD products. CBD is the non-psychoactive chemical in cannabis. It's counterpart, THC, gets you high.

When I first started experimenting with cannabis for sleep, I tried CBD. It worked about as well as a glass of water so I switched to THC which not only puts me to sleep, it keeps me there for seven to eight hours which I hadn't slept in a decade or more.

Other people say CBD works well for them.

When the subject of marijuana use comes up in conversation, it is predicable that someone will say, “Oh, but I wouldn't want to get high.” To which I can only say, “Why not?”

Mostly I'm asleep before the high kicks in because that takes about two hours with edibles as opposed to smoking pot which is almost immediate. (No smoking for me with COPD.)

I patronize several cannabis dispensaries in Oregon all of whom have told me that the majority of their customers are old people. WebMD reported on a 2018 survey of elders who use marijuana for chronic pain.

”...it reduced pain and decreased the need for opioid painkillers.

“Nine out of 10 liked it so much they said they'd recommend medical pot to others.

"'I was on Percocet and replaced it with medical marijuana. Thank you, thank you, thank you,' said one senior.”

Many say that marijuana doesn't eliminate pain but it does make it manageable.

Dr. Mark Wallace, a board member of the American Pain Society, told WebMD,

"'The geriatric population is my fastest-growing patient population. With medical marijuana, I'm taking more patients off opioids,' he said.

"'There's never been a reported death from medical marijuana, yet there are 19,000 deaths a year from prescription opioids. Medical cannabis is probably safer than a lot of drugs we give,' Wallace said.”

I've made sure my cannabis use is included on my list of medications so that doctors can consider drug interactions when/if they prescribe something new.

The body of scientific research suggests that cannabis is useful in treating a variety of conditions and diseases such as

• Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
• Anorexia due to HIV/AIDS
• Chronic pain
• Crohn's disease
• Epilepsy or seizures
• Glaucoma
• Multiple sclerosis or severe muscle spasms
• Nausea, vomiting or severe wasting associated with cancer treatment
• Terminal illness
• Tourette syndrome

Note that they don't list sleep but I can't be the only old person who has discovered that use.

The National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML) which has been lobbying for legalization since 1970 reports that

”According to national polling data compiled by Gallup in October 2019, 66 percent of the public - including majorities of self-identified Democrats, Republicans, and Independents - favor adult-use legalization.

"Bipartisan support among the public for medical marijuana legalization is even stronger.”

MarijuanaLegalization

I was in high school when I smoked my first joint. I enjoyed it then and, presumably, I still would if I could stay awake long enough to feel the high.

But what I can't figure out is how, through the decades, I had so much time to fool around - it's not like you get much done when you're stoned. Who knew, back then, that weed would be my key to getting a good night's sleep.

Certainly some TGB readers use cannabis. Let's hear from you, and if you want, feel free to use an alias in place of your name.


The Mystery of How Time Slips Away

Hardly anyone disputes the belief that time seems to speed up as we grow old. If I recall correctly (not an automatic assumption), it starts around age 40. “I went to work Monday morning,” we might say, “and next thing I knew it was Friday.”

Anyone to whom this has happened more than once has a theory about the reason for it but that's not what I'm here to talk about today because a new twist on time's swift passage has turned up in my life.

Think of the new one as the micro compared to the original macro.

Until now, my complaints about time's speed were confined to the long-ish term as in the first paragraph above. Then, recently, I laid out the little boxes into which I count out medications for the coming week.

I have two of them – morning and evening - and I've been doing this for going on three years. I could do it in my sleep. It takes about five minutes and I'm set for the week.

Before I go any further, let me note that I hate this chore. I understand that is an over-the-top response to such a minor task but it is nevertheless true and may or may not relate to the the time issue.

As usual, two or three weeks ago, I didn't get around to counting out pills until nearly dinner time on Saturday. I was timing something on the stove but I knew this dumb little pill task takes no more than five minutes so I could do both at once.

I checked the clock as I started counting. When I finished, I looked at the clock again and 15 minutes had passed. 15 MINUTES??? Did I black out for ten minutes? If so, why was I still standing?

A few days later, it happened again. The walk to the mailbox and back takes about three or four minutes. This time, 20 or 25 minutes went by before I was home again. I know this because I was 10 minutes late for a phone visit with a friend.

Did I stop to chat with a neighbor? Did I wander over to the adjacent park? I had no memory of doing either. Where did the time go?

These small time slippages are turning up in my life more frequently. I'm not worried about incipient dementia or even plain old forgetfulness but I am trying to explain it to myself.

With the pill counting, did I get distracted and stop counting while I thought over something I had read? That's probably not out of the question although I don't remember what it was I might have been thinking. Or, could it have always taken 15 minutes and I thought it was only five?

Maybe the same thing happened on my walk to the mailbox. I do purposefully walk more slowly now to accommodate my COPD. I'd rather things take longer than to go too quickly and be left heaving for breath.

Or could it be...

It's a mystery to me and it doesn't seem fair, does it. I mean, already whole days speed by when we're old, even whole weeks. Now I have to fold missing minutes into my shrinking day?

Does any of this ring a bell for you?


Internet Friends Redux and The A & R Show

To my surprise, Friday's post about disappearing internet friends drew a lot more comment that I would have expected. It appears to be a common problem, losing track of web friends.

It was lovely to hear from so many readers who are still here but who don't comment. There is nothing wrong with that; no one should feel obligated to leave a comment. Here are some notes after re-reading through the comments starting with

COMMENT AUTOFILL
Some people mentioned they do not like entering their information every time they want to comment; some others don't have the problem. That is because autofill (or not) is a function of your browser. Plus, new privacy restrictions have recently gone into effect which may have removed your autofill.

Every browser handles privacy issues differently. You can find out how to change your autofill settings by searching “how to enable autofill in firefox”. Substitute the name of your browser (chrome, safari, etc.) for firefox.

SURPRISES
I am surprised to find out how many of you have been reading Time Goes By since I lived in Manhattan, followed along when I moved to Portland, Maine, and then to Oregon in 2010. That is so nice to hear.

A few who have not commented in a long while wondered if I would remember their names and in every case, I do – it is terrific to see you here again.

I was pleased to be able to put one reader together with another to find out what had happened to a third person they both know.

WHEN WE DIE
Regarding my demise, I have a blog post written titled, If You're Reading This, I'm Dead. When I first wrote it, I meant to update it every year but I think I've fallen behind on that and I'll put it on my to-do list.

My good friend, healthcare proxy and executor, Autumn, will post that entry when I die. You might recall her keeping you updated in June of 2017 when I'd had the Whipple surgery and was out of commission for a week or so.

People who have blogs, Facebook pages or some other social media presence can set up something similar. It's everyone else – the people who comment but don't have an online space of their own that we lose track of and I don't have a solution for that.

Thank you to everyone who finds this online place to be worth your time. After all these years, I still enjoy doing it and even more, reading each day what you have to say.

THE ALEX AND RONNI SHOW – 25 January 2020
Alex and I recorded this episode on Saturday, the only day we were both available at the same time. (I thought retirement means you aren't so busy anymore...)

We covered more territory that we usually do: pockets (or lack thereof) in clothing, health (typical old people talk), racism, Alex's beard, hair loss, the impeachment trial and so on.

Here it is:

You can find Alex's show – Alex Bennett's Ramble – on Facebook and Apple Podcasts.


When Online Friends Disappear

“Ghosting” is a slang term among young people (they come and go so fast, this one may already be out of fashion) for having been dropped by someone you thought was a friend or, at least, a good acquaintance.

When someone ghosts you, he or she abruptly stops telephoning or responding to text messages or posting on your social media pages. When I was in high school, we referred to such behavior as cutting someone dead.

Recently, I was perusing some posts from the early years of this blog (TGB has been here since 2004). Reading along day-by-day, I was amazed to see a lot of familiar names, commenters who are still around, who have been contributing to these conversations for a decade and more.

Some of those people are “blog friends”, people with whom I exchange email now and then (or, sometimes, more frequently). Mostly we haven't met face-to-face, but we know one another quite well after all this time. I think of them as friends.

Or, perhaps they are more like neighbors – people we “see” regularly, stop to pass the time of day and continue on our way until next time.

As I continued reading those ancient posts, other names stood out too. Not close internet friends, but people I had come to know through their comments and occasional emails. Why their names leapt out now, however, is that they have not shown up in the comments for a long time, years.

What happened to them?

Certainly, some of them stopped reading Time Goes By and unsubscribed. That happens all the time. People leave, others join and so it goes. Nothing out of the ordinary but still, one wonders.

So I checked some of those names against the subscriber list. Several were no longer subscribed but a larger number are still there and the emails have not bounced which would indicate a closed email account. So they are either still reading TGB or – what?

Are they dead? That is not an unreasonable question for a blog about what it's like to grow old. And it is also not unreasonable to believe that no one unsubscribed them – that's hardly on the to-do list when a loved one dies.

One thing I've learned from producing this blog for so many years is how much of ourselves and our personalities we reveal over time in words, phrases and ideas we choose. Years of reading the thoughts of people on a variety of topics cannot help but lead us to care about them, to feel a connection.

That makes it more than disconcerting when they disappear. Sometimes it happens as I have described above – that I didn't notice for a good while after a reader stopped commenting. Other times, I notice after a couple of weeks: Geez, what happened to Mary, or John, etc.

I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that I doubt any TGB readers are “ghosting” me. Some, undoubtedly, decide they have gleaned all they want from Time Goes By and move on.

But some, too, have died and there is no way for me – or for readers who enjoyed a person's comments – to know.

I suppose it makes sense. Who in a family knows much of anything about what other family members do online. Or further, knows that mom or dad or anyone else in the family has been enjoying conversations, maybe for many years, at a certain website and feels a kinship with those people.

I've written about these cyber-friends in the past and how important they can become.

”I believe that the internet arrived just in time for our generation(s) to develop a new kind of friendship that opens – quite literally – a world of possibilities for human connections that can prevent loneliness, expand our horizons and help us form bonds that can be as nurturing as some in-person relationships.”

About two months ago, a woman who had infrequently but regularly posted comments here over many years emailed to tell me she had entered hospice. She was grateful in her last days, she said, that someone else was doing the small chores that had become difficult for her, and she could die in peace.

We exchanged several emails talking about all kinds of things and then several days went by without a response from her. I knew she had died.

Then I did what I always do when someone I know has died. I lit a candle. I sat quietly for a good while and thought about her. I went went back over some old blog posts and read her comments. What a remarkable memory jog it is to have that – perhaps a little like saved, hand-written, snail-mail letters in days before the internet.

A whole life of many decades gone, to be grieved and honored. Undoubtedly, some of the names that have gone missing from TGB comments have died. I'm so sorry to not know.


How Old Age Shrunk My Life and Why That is a Good Thing

On Monday's post, long-time TGB reader Salinda Dahl made reference to one particular way her life has changed:

”My life, though so much 'smaller' than in the past...I stand smiling, befuddled, feeling somehow less-than. But when my secret life is in sway, oh the inexplicable wonder and beauty, and sometimes terror! Big, very big.”

(I'm inviting her to expand on that thought in the comments below today.)

Although I'm not certain, I think I know some of what Salinda means. My life has become smaller for reasons that can all be filed under one header, “You Got Old.”

Even before the cancer diagnosis in 2017, I had begun slowing down my life. It's not that I made a decision to change my activity level exaxtly; mostly I just followed inclinations as they appeared.

Fewer social evenings out. Internet purchases and delivery instead of shopping trips. And I generally gave up entertaining at home and on holidays because my energy and stamina began going south in relation to my intentions.

I had some earlier practice at cutting back social life after I took a job that involved a four-hour, round-trip commute which. If you've never done that, you might not realize that although you can get a lot of reading done, it is all about work and sleep during the week and chores catch-up all weekend.

There is no time for much else when you lose 20 waking hours from a week.

During my three years at that job, I think I became accustomed to having a smaller social life and some friends disappeared when I so regularly declined invitations because there was simply no time for a social life beyond a quick coffee date, for example, among weekend chores.

But that's not an excuse anymore. All kinds of things change as old age settles upon us. Certainly less energy in general leaves me tired but there are other reasons too.

Sleep overtakes me much earlier now. It's hard for me to follow a conversation let alone participate after 6PM. My brain seems to stop parsing language by then. Mostly, nowadays, I see friends for lunch.

For some reason too (I think we've touched on this one previously in these pages), more than one trip out of the house per day is all I can handle. If I've done the grocery shopping, stopped at the pharmacy and driven to the cannabis dispensary, I'm done for the day.

Sometimes I'm stuck doing all those things in addition to rehab or seeing a doctor. On those days, there is not a chance of budging me from home once I get back there.

Another important contribution to a smaller life: Old age is greedy – it wants all the time it can steal from you and even more if you plug in a disease or ailment.

Our bodies are wearing out as we reach late life and force us to slow down almost everything we do. Household chores I once did for myself require a handyman or specialist – more time gone. For decades, I cleaned the house on Saturday morning. The goal was to finish by noon and most of the time I did. Now? It's a joke. I do a little every day but I don't finish everything every week anymore.

More doctor visits. Weekly pill counting into little boxes. If you don't live in a big city and give up driving, trade in that half-hour trip to the dentist for 60 or 90 minutes each way on public transportation.

COPD has cut my normal walking speed at least in half. Something in my condition or perhaps a medication has weakened my hands so I cannot carry as much weight – e.g. groceries – as I did not long ago. More time gone. And so on.

There is no telling how many books I haven't read, movies I haven't seen and blog posts that are not written because life's boring maintenance, which I hardly noticed for 70 years, takes so damned much time now.

I feel the walls of my life closing in, making the room - life itself – smaller.

But here's the great surprise: For all this shrinkage, my life doesn't feel small. It feels huge, much larger than all those years I worked in a glamorous media business, traveled the world and was always on the go when I was home.

Let it be said that I'm no stranger to lots of time alone. I've always needed more of that than many people but now my inner life is so much richer, filled with new curiosity, understanding and insight to life and to myself almost daily discovering my truths, if not universal ones.

Maybe that's the purpose of old age, to slow us down just so we can have the time to savor and delight in the realizations that become available to us now if we pay attention. To quote Salinda again,

”Oh the inexplicable wonder and beauty, and sometimes terror! Big, very big.”

What a splendid thing to have happen when all the rest of the world believes old age is a bummer. This has become the best time of my life – just as I believed every earlier time was the best when I was living them.


Happy New Year 2020

NewYearclockchampagne

It is good to have these few days at the end of an old year and beginning of a new one to reflect on what has been and wonder at what will come.

In my personal life, I gained a second disease, COPD, and just kept going anyway even though all the statistics say I should be dead of pancreatic cancer by now.

Obviously, I am not and am living in golden time – way past my life expectancy. I am grateful beyond measure.

Outside my personal milieu, there are only two stories that matter: Climate change and what fresh hell Trump will inflict upon us next. I think a lot about the immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers – especially the children snatched from those parents and scattered around the 50 states.

The Trump administration kept poor records and some of those families will never be reunited. America, the United States of America, made this happen and I am ashamed.

The big thing about a brand new year is that we have a clean slate upon which to imagine how we can collectively make things better. Maybe we're only dreaming but every great thing I ever heard of began with a dream.

As has been so in years past, I am deeply fortunately to have the best group of readers any blogger could wish for. You are here every day – smart, caring, thoughtful, compassionate, funny, and you say the nicest things.

As this new year makes it way through the universe, may every one of us have enough.

[This post will stay up through tomorrow and we will return with a new post as usual on Friday.]

Now, tell us about your 2019 and your dreams for 2020.


Goals and Resolutions for 2020

It's that time of year again. You know, the gazillions of 10 Best lists, although many of them, when I wasn't looking, seem to have morphed into 50 Best and 100 Best.

Are there even 100 airlines in the world? I'll repeat what I said here a few days ago: Too many choices is no choice at all.

(There is even a list of 50 New Year's Resolution Ideas. Do you suppose there really are people who can't work that out on their own?)

New Years Resolutions are a long-time, annual ritual for many people, a chance for a clean slate to put a plan in place to improve one's life in some way. Back when I did such things, I mostly thought about finding a new job I would like better or getting married or losing 15 pounds.

Nowadays, at age 78, resolutions don't seem to apply as much in old age. After all, how much time is left for me to enjoy whatever fix I might manage to accomplish after I've struggled to achieve it. Plus, old age often brings restrictions to what is possible.

That is certainly true for me.

Unless it's totally flat ground, I don't walk there. And I don't do stairs anymore without thinking about each step and breath. I almost never accept nor plan evening activities now. Dinner at 9PM? Are you kidding? That's bedtime.

But there are still all kinds of other things one could resolve to try in a new year: run for local office, for example. Or learn a language. Volunteer. Start a book club or discussion group.

Another choice is to skip the whole idea and keep doing what you've been doing if that's what you enjoy. That's my decision this year.

I'm not making resolutions or setting new goals for 2020 because I have no memory that I every achieved the ones I made. Why would that change now.

These days, I live with two incurable diseases, cancer and COPD, which limit my life each in its own way. Outside of following doctors' instructions and doing what I can to remain otherwise healthy, I'm stuck with the limitations they impose.

Many TGB readers have their limitations too. It is true that few of us get to the end of long lives without some impediment, great or small.

So my interest in the new year – and perhaps yours too – has changed. It has less to do with accomplishment and more about hope and curiosity.

For me, it involves first, the result of the impeachment trial and second, whether President Donald Trump is convicted and removed from office or not, the November election.

Either way - with Trump as the Republican candidate or someone else – it will be an election like no other we have seen. With more at stake than we have ever contemplated in a previous election.

If Trump wins election, I believe we – humankind, the planet – are doomed. If the Democrat wins (I hardly care which), humankind might eke out a chance. A small one, but a chance nonetheless.

In this bright, shiny new year that is almost upon us, I hope to live long enough to see that outcome. I have no idea if, in my health condition, it is reasonable to have that hope. But it's my goal for the year 2020.

What are your resolutions or goals or hopes for next year?



Happy Thanksgiving 2019

HappyThanksgivingFINAL

There is a lot in my life to be thankful for this year. First of all, I didn't think I would still be here for what is my third Thanksgiving since they told me I have cancer.

Who could have guessed? Not me. There are not enough words in the English language for me to properly thank the many medical people who have helped keep me going - from the surgeon to that wonderful man Keith who brought me a perfect cup of coffee each day I was in the hospital, and these too – so many:

Nurses, medical assistants, certified nursing assistants, doctors of various specialties, schedulers, phlebotomists, physicians assistants, medical technicians and all the other professionals I have forgotten to list.

To my friends and neighbors and even a former husband who all, living far away and near, keep in regular touch and are always caring and understanding as I navigate through this end-of-life journey.

And last though never least, as they say, you dear readers of Time Goes By. You help give shape and order to my days, you let me bang on about anything that's on my mind and are always politely receptive to (and sometimes even enthusiastic about) my meandering thoughts. Every day I am thankful for your stories, your experience, your advice and your humor.

You fill in useful information I've left out, and you teach me things I doubt I could learn in any other way. For all of you I am thankful and my greatest wish today is that you have as much to be thankful for as I do.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

[I am away for the holiday but will be back here with a new Interesting Stuff on Saturday.]



On Thanksgiving Eve 2019

Thanksgiving week reminds me that quite a long while ago – 12 or 15 years I would guess, or more – I spent a five-hour drive home from visiting a friend for the holiday in the company of a person who had planned each step of his life.

He worked it all out on a gigantic graph he updated as events and plans came to be. It started at graduations from college and law school, then career goals, financial goals, when to marry, when have children and how many, etc. all on a timeline with target dates to be met.

It got more granular than that but I have forgotten the particulars. What I recall is thinking (then and now) what polar opposites we were – his pre-planned, methodical roadmap through life as opposed to my more free-wheeling, lets-see-what-happens, laissez faire, meandering path.

It was always that way for me. Maybe it started when I was a kid, when parents make all the big decisions, and I never outgrew it. Or, perhaps I had a commitment problem. If I don't make a firm choice – my thinking might have been - I can't blame myself or regret what goes wrong.

Never having known what I wanted to do in life, I have mostly just let things happen, leaving necessary choices until timing required them. It's not that I was a ditherer, unable to make up my mind. Never that.

But I am lazy and, for example, when I needed a job as after a TV show I was working on was canceled, I put off doing the legwork until, more often than not, work turned up from out of the blue.

Not every time but frequently enough that you could call it a pattern, someone I knew telephoned: “Hey, Ronni, are you working? I've got a job to talk with you about” or something thereabouts and my problem was solved.

Back then I made light of such occurrences by attributing them to a guardian angel watching out for me even if she or he too often waited to deliver until the wolf was scratching at the door.

That angel probably has had something to do, too, with my personal life going well most of the time. Or smoothly enough to not complain much. (Don't take that statement as gospel, though. Old age seems to have provided me with a sunshine filter on my past that screens out a lot of the bad and bitter stuff.)

But it is hard to fault the angel for this end-of-life journey I have been on since mid-2017. I expected to be dead of cancer before now yet here I am. I expected to be in pain of the debilitating sort. Not so, so far.

I am acutely aware of my great, good fortune and not just in regular and interesting employment. I've been blessed with health, enough money to get by without too much effort and wonderful friends. After that, the smaller stuff is only an annoyance.

Even with my playing it so loose, life has turned out remarkably well and I really ought to remind myself of that more often than just on Thanksgiving.

Enjoy the holiday, my friends.



What Others Say About Death – Take Two

Barely two months after I was told I have pancreatic cancer and one month after the Whipple surgery, I posted a story of quotations from people ancient and modern about death.

Now that I am coming up on two-and-a-half years since then during which time I have gained even a more up close and personal relationship with my own death, I wondered if my choices of quotations that speak to me have changed.

There are a dozen or so quotations about death in that post and I must say that looking back with newly educated eyes on the subject, I did a pretty good job of selection. But there are a few that take on a stronger resonance now.

This one because death is serious but should not be somber:

”Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.” - George Bernard Shaw

Because I know even better now that this one is so too:

“A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist.” – Stewart Alsop

Because death is a prerequisite to continued life on Earth:

"It is life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.” - Steve Jobs (who died of pancreatic cancer in 2011, eight years after diagnosis)

I have always liked quotations. I keep running lists of them by topic, adding those that are new (to me) as they turn up. This one, that sits in a small frame on my desk, is from Albus Dumbledore, the head master of Hogwarts school in the Harry Potter series of books:

”Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”

Exactly. It is why, at this blog, we use the word “old” instead of such euphemisms as “golden-ager”, for example, and “death” instead of “passed” or “demise.”

The 29 months since my cancer diagnosis have given me a lot of time to think about the death sentence it puts me under. Dying is no longer an abstract idea I can pretend is far in the future anymore.

So here are a few more quotations about death that have stuck with me since I found them (or they found me).

”While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.” - Leonardo da Vinci
”Death smiles at us all, all a man can do is smile back.” - Marcus Aurelius
”If life must not be taken too seriously, then so neither must death. - Samuel Butler

This next one opens up a world of speculation to ponder and play with about death.

”Death is only the end if you assume the story is about you.” - Welcome to Night Vale (Podcast)
”Death is a law, not a punishment.” - Jean Dubos
”I was discovering that I was not afraid of death; rather, I was in awe of it.” - Kathryn Mannix
”Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.” - Dag Hammarskjold

The first half of Hammarskjold's quotation is a good lead-in to a story about death that I have liked since I first read it when I was a kid and have posted it here before (all good stories deserve repetition).

From W. Somerset Maugham in 1933, The Appointment in Samarra as told by Death.

”There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. “She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.

“The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.

“Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?

“That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

Now it is your turn. Do you have any quotations about death and dying you want to post here?