601 posts categorized "Journal"

Christmas Eve Eve Eve

Did I get that headline right – three days before Christmas Day?

Maybe, maybe not. I'm really here to let you know that I'm taking some extra time off while the world gets ready for the big end-of-year holiday. And, I'll be away for a couple of days next week, but I'll tell you about that on Monday.

Meanwhile, all is as usual coming up: Interesting Stuff, Elder Music, Reader Story.

Feel free to talk among yourselves in the comments.

My Son, My Family

Take a look at this photograph – shot at my home on Saturday evening:


Nearly 56 years ago when I was 21 years old, I gave birth to a boy whom I arranged to have adopted. On Saturday, I met Tom, his wife Kathy and their four-year-old son, Henry, in person for the first time.

[For readers just now catching up with this story, the background is here.]

They arrived at noon bearing food and gifts and we spent the next seven hours eating, drinking good wine (well, not Henry) and talking. Talking and talking and talking.

We told stories about ourselves and our families, we hugged a lot, we laughed, we grinned ourselves silly, with Henry's little boy voice tinkling in the background (he's a very well-behaved kid).

Henry brought me a gift he had made himself – this beautiful cup I'm using now for coffee as I write this post on Sunday morning, and will use every morning from now on as I answer email and read the news. Here it is among some of the detritus on my desk:


In ways I cannot explain, I feel like I have always known these people, that they have always been a part of my life. We settled right in as soon as they arrived. Of course, there are thousands of details about their lives I don't know, but I know the essence of their being.

By the end of our day, they had made me feel part of their family and I hope they felt the same in return. But none of these words come anywhere close to the love I feel with them. And comfort with them.

When they left in the evening, I was happy and sad, too, sad that they don't live down the street or across the road from me. But they will be back. We made plans for that.

I have been teary in the best possible way since Saturday evening. How did I get so lucky that this happened. Just in time.

Look at these wonderful people, my son and my daughter-in-law.


Dying, Death and Spiritual Questions

A reader named Elizabeth Kurata left a comment with these questions last week:

”I don't think I've read anything about this subject on your blog - your own spiritual beliefs, about what happens after death, in your opinion, or at the moment of death.

“Do you believe in heaven & hell? Do you believe they are places? Do you believe in a Soul? What about Consciousness? What do you think happens after death?”

Well, Elizabeth, I am pretty sure you've found a topic I have not, in 15 years at this blog, written about. One reason, the biggest reason is that I don't think there is anything at all more private and personal in life.

Also, it is undoubtedly too difficult a subject to carry on in this arm's-length kind of written forum where direct response to one another is difficult.

Also, in the realm of spirituality and religion, people believe what they believe and often hold so fiercely to those beliefs that there is nowhere to go with a discussion.

People are free to believe whatever they want and we in the United States should know that better than some other places. It is a large part of how we became a country.

Me? I am nominally Jewish but don't do anything about it except light yartzeit and Hannukah candles. I've always suspected that I just like candles.

But what is important about yartzeit is all that day, every time I see the flame, I think about that loved one, keeping them alive in my heart year after year after year, never letting go. I think it is a beautiful ritual for anyone, Jewish or not.

Mostly, in regard to the questions inherent in religion, spirituality, souls, the great hereafter, and all that goes with it – I am agnostic. I have no beliefs in those areas. Does individual consciousness survive death? I suspect not but who am I to say.

Although I generally have no religious beliefs, I do believe that the ancient sacred texts of religions are mostly good blueprints for how to live a good life. And the language of some can be breathtakingly beautiful – the King James Bible and The Book of Common Prayer are two that are worth reading again and again even if you are atheist, agnostic or of another religion. Plus you might learn something about living.

What I do believe is that most of us, most of the time, with or without belief in a higher power, live by our better instincts that are innate. Except on days when I don't believe that.

I have no idea what happens after death. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised. But what I do know is what astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson tells us in a statement that makes me weep with awe and joy: “We are all stardust.”

Take a listen to him:

The Good Ship This End Up

Remember a couple of weeks ago when we chose a name for the ship we here at Time Goes By are traveling together on my last great adventure in life? We voted, settling on This End Up.

Let me back up a bit. Last week one of my most favorite friends came to stay with me for a few days. Stan James, who is a blockchain engineer (you're on your own to figure out what that is), lives in Boulder, Colorado and he is one of the few people left in the world who often communicates by snailmail.

Postcards show up regularly along with the occasional actual letter on paper in an envelope. They always look something like this:


Yes, Stan is a master at beautiful, gorgeous, amazing calligraphy.

Somehow, until this trip, Stan had neglected to tell me that his art is not confined to paper. He is also what I am calling for now a beach calligrapher.

Here is Stan himself with one of his sand creations:


Since we are celebrating one of America' iconic holidays tomorrow, here is an appropriate creation from Stan for the season:

Happy Holidays

And now, the piece de resistance for the denizens of Time Goes By, take a look at this fantastic sand creation just for us:

Isn't that wonderful? It makes me want to cry with joy. You can find much more of Stan's sand calligraphy on his Instagram page.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Meeting My Son...Plus The Alex and Ronni Show

EDITORIAL NOTE: Today's edition of The Alex and Ronni Show, in which we discuss the subject of today's blog post, is at the bottom of this story.

* * *

It was a whim. I've never had much interest in my ethnicity; my face pretty well tells the story so if you don't want to build a family tree – I don't - why bother.

But those DNA websites were having a sale late last year and if my mildest curiosity had not been worth $99 to me, $59 seemed reasonable. I ordered the kit.

A month later, this message appeared in an email via the DNA site. It was a shocker:

”Dear Ms. Bennett,
“It appears you and I are related in a fairly intimate way.”

“Fairly intimate way?” Talk about a gift for understatement - it was a 50 percent match: my child.

Let me back up more than half a century.

I was barely 21, just a kid, when I became pregnant in 1962. Although “the pill” had been available for a year or so, I was not using it and abortion, whatever one's moral beliefs, was illegal. When I told the baby's father, he couldn't get away from me fast enough. I never saw or heard from him again.

In addition, I knew that on just about every level, I was not at all prepared to be a mother. All that left only one option.

We were called unwed mothers in those days and there was a profound stigma attached. Suddenly, girlfriends were too busy to hang out and I certainly could not stay at my job once my condition became evident. Except for my mother, I was alone.

What I did have, however, was a warm and down-to-earth obstetrician who took good care of me and with his staff, found an adoptive family I would have chosen myself. In fact, I did – I was told a lot about them and allowed refusal rights.

One amusing story I haven't thought about for years until now, as I write this: Well into the pregnancy I woke weeping one morning, wailing that I was supposed to give birth to a baby but had a cat instead. It was one of those dreams that was as real as real.

A dream cat notwithstanding, in February 1963, I gave birth to a healthy, (human) baby boy and he went home with his adoptive family at the same time he would have with his birth mother.

TomWark400x400 Which brings me back to late last year. Tom Wark is in his mid-fifties now. He is married for the third time with a four-year-old son and lives in the Napa Valley. He is a wine expert, owner of a public and media relations company targeting the wine industry. His wine blog, Fermentation, is here.

Early this year, we exchanged some email until May when I dropped away, or so it must have seemed to Tom. Part of it was the two surgeries I underwent to stop the internal bleed that threatened my life then but that wasn't entirely it.

I felt awkward. I didn't know what to say and I didn't know what is expected in such circumstance. I did not and don't feel motherly toward Tom but neither do I believe I should.

Motherhood – and fatherhood – have nothing to do with giving birth. They are about day-in and day-out care and loving of a child no matter what. I have no experience with that nor any of the rights attached.

So although I felt uncomfortable about dropping out of the email conversation, I wasn't sure how to pick it up again. Then, three weeks ago after reading my recent emails about the return of cancer, Tom reached out by email.

Since then, we have had two lengthy telephone conversations with more planned. Tom says that in certain photographs he can see a resemblance between us. I can't. But we have discovered other similarities.

We were both good students except for science and math mainly because neither of us were interested in those subjects. We are both more literary types. We love books and own a lot of them. In my case, they are my friends and I'm betting Tom would say that too.

Further, we share a love of time travel stories, and we've both read everything Gore Vidal ever wrote. Some personality traits seem near matches too.

Oh, and Tom noted that we each started our blogs way back in 2004, when they were a brand new media platform.

After these two long phone chats, I am most interested now in learning more about Tom and what I think I see as similar mindsets – how we tell stories, for example, and the kinds of connections we make getting from one subject to another.

Most of all, after our first conversation which lasted two hours, for several days I felt a warmth and closeness that, in my experience, doesn't show up until I've known someone for a long time. It happened again after our second conversation. I am comfortable with this man.

Plus, I really like Tom's understatement in his first email. I'm always so proud of myself when I can do that, but it's not easy to pull off – at least for me.

* * *

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests following our chat, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.

Have You Been Dropping More Things as You Get Older? Take Two

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Something came up in the past couple of days that didn't leave me time to get a post written for today. In place, then, of something new, here is the most popular story on TGB since it was published in January 2016.

Most popular, in fact, by a whopping 55 percent which reinforces my belief that the many kinds of changes that accompany growing old are ignored – or don't even exist in the literature - because the experts are, primarily, not yet old and don't yet know.

And that gives me an idea for an upcoming post. Meanwhile, if you have not read this before, see if any of it resonates with you.

* * *

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?

A Mystery of Slow and How Do You Dream of Yourself?

No statistics today or links or research or quotations from experts. Just a couple of observations I'm wondering about, mostly just for fun or, perhaps, some enlightenment among us.

One of the things I have done all these years to inform this blog is monitor the ways I am changing as the years pile up. It's not as dumb an idea as you might think as the one lesson I know for sure is that if it – whatever “it” is at a given time - is happening to me, it is happening to thousands and, probably, millions of other people.

A limitation to that monitoring turned up after my cancer surgery 14 months ago: I sometimes can't work out now if a change is the result of that big-time interruption to my life or just a normal part of getting older.

For example, the crepe-y skin that has appeared almost overnight just about everywhere on my body – even my knees – turned up during my recovery. It is due to expected loss of muscle mass, so I put that in the cancer box.

The reason for a new slowness, however, is up for debate.

It's not, as far as I can tell, that I walk more slowly or even need to rest part way through an activity – I've pretty much recovered my energy. It's that I seem to so easily stray from the business at hand. The internal monologue goes something like this:

Oh, look here. I've been searching for that book all week.

She sits down on a stool and flips through the book for 10 or 15 minutes)

That's not a one-off. Such distractions happen while making dinner, too, or halfway through sorting laundry or (more internal monologue)

Did I remember to pay the cable/internet bill? I'd better check.

Sees headline about Woodward book and clicks link to read about it. When finished, she clicks the next headline about the Senate Kavanaugh hearings. One hour later:

Okay now, what was I doing before those news stories?

Even with that thought of getting back to the original task, it is not unlikely I'll recall that I didn't take out the trash earlier so I do that or telephone a friend or do something else until I take myself in hand and concentrate again.

This stuff can happen off and on all day. It seems to take forever now to get through my daily to-do list. It's not that it's longer than in the past. In fact, it's often shorter due to some adjustments I've made to what's important and what isn't.

Nevertheless, I rarely, these days, am able to check off all the items and it is due mostly to following distractions wherever they lead me instead to finishing what I've started.

That might be a result of a lot of anesthesia over the past year affecting concentration or, it could be reduced executive function in my brain - not uncommon as we get older.

Is this familiar to any of you?

It is well known, of course, that everyone dreams but you wouldn't know it by me. Even when I occasionally wake with the wisp of dream in my head, it is trailing off by then and gone before I can grasp it.

So it was a surprise, a few days ago, when I woke with a picture, a short video really, in my head of me getting off a motorcycle and leaning it against a red-brick wall.

While doing that, I noticed a man about 10 or 15 feet away, leaning against the same wall. He had clearly been watching me ride up and smiled in an appreciative manner.

I couldn't miss that he was gorgeous and maybe about 10 years younger than I, not so much that it would necessarily be an impediment to – whatever.

Nevertheless, I went on my way in the opposite direction, immediately had a thought that I shouldn't pass up saying hello to someone as attractive as he was and turned to walk back toward him.

Then I woke up. (What a shame.)

It should be noted that I've never ridden a motorcycle, except once as a passenger, and my response to the man in the dream, reversing my direction, as mild as it seems to me now, was more brazen than I recall being in my dating years.

I'm not interested in interpreting the dream – I don't believe in that. Here is what has been on my mind about it since that morning:

I was the age I am in waking life, 77. I was aware of that in the dream, it was a feature of the dream, and in a passing moment, I was pleased at the grace I could feel in my movements as I got off the bike.

Because I rarely remember dreams, I don't have a history of what I have felt about myself in dreams. Age or capabilities have not been features. I just was. More, perhaps, that I was my internal self, I think, rather than being a certain age or recognizing any particular physical sensations either of youth or old age.

What I am wondering is how you experience yourself in dreams. Are you ever older or younger or different in some ways from what you are when awake? Has that changed as you've gotten older?

Elders: Taking Stock of Our Lives

If you live long enough, it's inevitable: you will, in one form or another, do some stock-taking of your life. A sizing up. An account balancing. Or a simple, “how'm I doing?”

There is no particular time or year of life when it comes along. In fact, I think for some it is an ongoing monitor that pops up now and then all through adulthood. But in later years, it becomes more urgent.

Even moreso, as I learned recently from personal experience, when a life-threatening or “just” a serious illness interrupts the steady flow of days. Then a reckoning feels important.

For me and a few others I've spoken with about this, it usually begins with a narrative of one's life.

I never had big plans for mine – actually, I never had any plan. I have a strong memory of a certain day in my mid-teens realizing it was highly unlikely I would grow up to cure cancer. Teens do that sort of grandiose thinking but even then I knew I didn't have the wherewithall for saving mankind.

When college decisions were at hand, I had no earthly idea what I wanted to study and not a single thought about what I wanted to do with my life.

You'll recall that in those days, late 1950s, girls were expected to get married and have babies which a goodly number of my classmates did within a week or two of graduation.

I knew that wasn't for me so I went to work at a typing job. And then another. And another.

It never came to mind to note that I didn't have a real career. No one told us girls back then that a formal, planned career might be an option.

Everyone understood that we could be office workers and waitresses or, if we went to college, teachers and nurses. Women doctors and lawyers hardly existed in those days so most of us didn't think in those terms.

After seven years of pounding keyboards, I married and became the producer of my husband's radio talk show. The 1960s, of course, were an exhilirating time of social upheaval and I booked musicians, political radicals, dissenters, women's movement and civil rights activists, politicians and more as we reported on and chronicled the zeitgeist of the times.

It became the number one talk show in New York City radio and then I moved on to produce television shows for 25 years. In an unexpected instance of great, good luck, I got in on the earliest days of the commercial internet as managing editor of the first CBS News website.

I wouldn't trade my “career” for anything. I met kings and queens and movie stars and heads of state. I worked with the best and the brightest in pretty much all areas of life – music, medicine, politics, art, entertainment, literature, science, fashion, theater and movies and more.

It was my job to learn something of what those people knew and help them make sense of it for television and, later, the internet. They, experts in their fields, were the college education I'd skipped and it has lasted all my life.

When I was forced into retirement 14 years ago, I had already begun this blog so all that changed, aside from loss of a paycheck, were more frequent posts and a shorter commute - from the bedroom to my home office.

Well, work was not quite all that changed. The biggest, most difficult outcome was the necessity to leave my home of 40 years, New York City, when – in the shock of a lifetime – I found no one hires 63-year-olds, particularly in technology. I had no idea then that ageism existed much at all until it happened to me, and certainly not that it was so widespread even among people younger than I.

Now I know and it hasn't gotten any better since then.

You'll note that I didn't mention another marriage or children. That's because there weren't any and unlike most of my life, they were deliberate decisions. Regrets? None about not having a child or two but there is a wonderful and brilliant man I probably should have married...

Certainly I've made varieties of poor decisions along the way, and you don't get to know the things I've said and done of which I'm deeply ashamed.

On the other hand, apparently my mom and dad instilled in me a decent sense of right and wrong, good and evil. In the particular political era of our time, I am regularly shocked out of my senses at the enormity of the lies, misdeeds, avarice, iniquities and crimes committed by almost every high-level elected official and appointee in our federal government.

I am grateful to know I'm am not capable of what they do, although I am fairly sure I can't take credit for it – it's just is.

Sometimes I think the way I made my living, mostly related to entertainment with some politics thrown in, was too frivolous – that I would be happier with myself at this age if I had chosen something of more benefit to the world and other people.

During this past year that I spent in close proximity to a lot of medical, health and hospital workers, I see they are put together differently from me. Their care, concern and patience is genuine, manifest every day with their unending kindness to cranky, tired, frightened, sick people who are often in pain and on their worst behavior.

I know me and I know I could never match the standard set by these amazing people who turn their entire working lives over to helping others. So it's just as well I did something else with my life.

Not that I actually made a choice. A few years after I had conceded to myself that I had no idea what I wanted from life, sometime in my twenties, I made a decision to just follow my nose and see where it would take me through the coming years. It didn't work out too badly.

Recently, I ran across a quotation from the musician Elton John that sums up my 77 years and continues to apply:

“If you let things happen, that is a magical life.”

“Let things happen” is, for me, just a nicer way of saying that I never bothered to choose how I wanted to live. I think that's a failing – a fairly big one - but not something I can fix now and anyway, my life has been close enough to magical to be okay.

Have you done any taking stock?

Prescription Drug Advertising and Me

No, this isn't a rerun and yes, I wrote about it just six months ago: prescription drug advertising – aka “direct-to-consumer” advertising and no surprise: it hasn't changed since then.

But maybe I have.

Before I get to that, however, consider this: most of us know there are “seasons” for sales of different kinds of products. Holidays are obvious but home appliances get a big push at certain times of the year. Beds and bed linens at other times. Cell phones are big in February. Sneaker sales seem to be everywhere in April. And so on.

I could be wrong – I haven't done a comparative study - but I believe I may have identified summer as the time of year pharmaceutical companies heavily promote their newest drugs.

Have you noticed recently? There are a bunch of commercials about drugs I had never heard of before: Orencia, Verzenio, Neulasta, Toujeo and more.

They sound a lot like the ones we're already accustomed to e.g., Eliquis, Humira, Xarelto, Lyrica, etc. which continue to be aired among these newbies. They are ubiquitous – I once counted seven prescription drug commercials in a one-hour TV show, and three or four is common.

Because people 65 and older are just about the last age group in the U.S. that watches TV and are also the age group that uses the majority of prescription drugs, it's old folks the marketers target and in addition to the billions of dollars big pharma pulls in for their drugs, it is a lucrative source of income for television networks, channels and owners.

”Drug companies spent more than $6 billion [in 2017] on direct-to-consumer ads, according to the consulting firm Kantar Media,” reported the Los Angeles Times in April. “Over 770,000 such ads were aired in 2016, the most recent year for which stats are available. That's up a whopping 65% from 2012.”

Milton Packer is a U.S. physician well known for his clinical research into heart failure.

”Studies report that consumers often place unwarranted trust in these TV prescription drug ads,” Packer wrote at Medpagetoday in May.

“Practitioners report being bombarded by patient requests, and many feel pressured to prescribe drugs that have been requested by patients, even if they believe it is inappropriate to do so. And the conversation often wastes the limited time the physician has allotted to the patient visit.

“Think the situation is bad now?” Packer continues. “A year ago, pharmaceutical companies were seeking FDA permission to use direct-to-consumer advertising to promote off-label use of drugs for nonapproved indications.”

That's not much different from a movie star advising people to not vaccinate their children, is it. Sure, let's tell people they can use a powerful controlled substance for anything they want.

I'm shocked that anyone could or would actually think that up. And it gets worse. This from The New York Times last December about prescription drug commercials in general:

”'The ads, which once focused on treatments for chronic but generally nonfatal conditions, have turned to more serious ailments in the last few years,' said Thomas Lom, a consultant and former senior executive at several health care ad agencies.

“'In the old days, it was allergies and acid reflux and whatnot,' he said. 'Now, it’s cardiology issues. It’s cancer.'”

Did you know that every nation in the whole wide world disallows direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising except two? New Zealand is one. Can you guess the other? (The U.S., of course. But you knew that.)

A 2016 Harvard poll [pdf] asked Americans if prescription drugs should be advertised on television:

57% adults said they support removing prescription drug advertisements from television

39% said they opposed this change

The researchers report that there were no significant differences in opinion on this question by political party affiliation, income or gender.

Not that anyone in power, let alone the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) which sets the rules for pharmaceutical advertising, will do anything.

Okay. Believe it or not, all the above is background for what I really came here to say today.

It's not just the adverts themselves that disturb me. It is that, as one citation above notes, there are so many of them for the most debilitating and life-threatening diseases that exist (and the ads are always so damned cheerful about it.)

As most of you know, in June 2017, I underwent a 12-hour surgical procedure for pancreatic cancer. That and chemotherapy have been successful and in January the surgeon said there was no evidence of cancer, which my oncologist confirmed in February.

But that doesn't mean I can go back to the life I had before. I am forever stuck now in a “before and after” personal world, and I haven't found a way to ignore the event that divides the two sides of my life.

Although I'm still working out how my belief system has been challenged and I recognize that some of my outlook and attitudes may not be quite as solidly held as they once were, mostly I don't want to hear the word cancer anymore and certainly not the phrase “pancreatic cancer.”

I am not in denial. And I know that statistically, I am more likely to have a new cancer one day than someone with no previous cancer.

But I don't see a reason to think about that unless or until it happens. Unlike the majority of pancreatic cancer patients, I somehow made it through the first year after diagnosis and then some. A miracle, some say.

Living requires forward motion and I dislike the darkness, however fleeting, that shadows me for awhile following each drug commercial. I will never be as health carefree as in my “before” life but television free of drug commercials about dire diseases sure would help a lot.

(I'm not looking for advice today – just ruminating on something I've noticed that some others may recognize. Nor is it about 'don't watch tv' especially when we are living through a golden age of scripted programming - there is a lot of great stuff on TV these days. I'm only reporting something that may or may not be useful to discuss.)

Millie Garfield is 93 Years Old


Actually, Millie's birthday is tomorrow, Saturday, but we are celebrating her 93 years here at Time Goes By today – and what a celebration it is this year.

In early July, Millie was due at Massachusetts General Hospital for surgery but the night before check-in, her wonderful son Steve and his equally terrific wife Carol took her to dinner at Scampo, a fine restaurant in the Liberty Hotel in Boston.


After dinner, Steve caught Millie on camera in her hotel room looking much more like a woman having what might have been a mini-vacation with her family instead of facing surgery.


As Steve explained to me, Millie had a minimally-invasive procedure called a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR in medical parlance) which is done through tiny openings that leave all chest bones in place.

Millie got through that admirably and I was glad to hear her patented Millie Garfield laugh when we spoke on the telephone only two days later.

Recovery went well and on 13 July, Steve and Carol took Millie to rehab. Throughout the entire “adventure”, hospital and rehab, Steve took a lot a institutional food photos that look pretty good to me. Here's one of them:


And here is a shot of Carol with Millie in rehab:


Millie didn't linger in rehab and she was home in what seemed to me to be just a few days and she has been doing fine since then.

Steve has posted many more photos at Millie's Facebook page and you might want to check out her blog today too.

As I have mentioned in the past, Millie is my oldest internet friend and we have been phoning and emailing for at least 12, maybe 14 years, even visiting in person once or twice when I still lived on the east coast.

We've shared a lot of laughs together all these years, often about the things that go wrong as we get older. She likes to remind me that compared to her, I'm not really there yet; she's got 16 years on me and says I ain't seen nothin' yet. Oy, I can't wait.

Whatever is to be in the coming years, Millie's taught me the best way to cope, always, is with laughter.

Meanwhile, what's a birthday party without games and for the past couple of years, we have been celebrating Millie's by adding up all our ages in the comments. Here's how I explained it last year, updated for 2018:

"Take the number of Millie's years, 93. Add my years, 77, and we've got 170. Now, the next one of you, in the comments, should add your age to that, then the next of you add to that total and then the next and so on.

"Of course, because more than one person will comment at a time, the total will get all screwed up – but that's part of the fun at birthday parties, just being silly.

Happy Big Deal 93 years, Millie. I so treasure our friendship and I am privileged to know you.


A Rite of Elderpassage Again

This is not the northwest Oregon I grew up in. During the 10 days leading up to the weekend, temperatures have consistently been in the 90s Fahrenheit, even getting within a whisker's distance of 100 degrees once or twice.

It cooled way off on Saturday – god, it was lovely, and Sunday too. Then, the weather folks warned us, starting on Monday (today) temperatures will climb into the 90s again, the high 90s, maybe 100 for a couple of days while dipping into the high 80s for a day or so here and there.

It will go on this way, they say, until the last week of August. So unless the weather experts are bad at their jobs, which they rarely are, I am going to be miserable when I need to go outside until about next month.

I am telling you this so you understand why there is a sort-of TGB rerun today:

When I realized my neck of the woods is heading into a horrible heat wave of at least two weeks and knowing my personal temperature tolerance is between about 70F and 73F, I spent almost all of yesterday outdoors enjoying the glorious weather.

And not writing a Monday blog post.

Don't get me wrong. Even after 15 years, I still enjoy turning out TGB, but it was also fun yesterday to feel like I was playing hooky (for a very good reason) and getting away with it.

Later, while flailing around Sunday evening to find something to fill this space today that wouldn't tax my brain power much, I ran across a comment about an old post – a REALLY old post. From 2006.

Ten years later on yet a different old post in 2016, a reader named annie left in part this comment about it:

”I bookmarked that post, A Rite of Elderpassage, at TGB on 18 October 2006, and share it often. My experience was much like yours, it felt great, and I celebrated with a glass of wine too. I think it was the beginning of me loving my age and who I am each day.”

Isn't that a wonderful thing to read about TGB?

That link in the quotation goes to the original story annie is referencing. This link opens her full comment on the 2016 story page that is about what people have learned at this blog over the years.

Re-reading the two posts, all these 10 years later in one case, I realized I like them. A lot. I don't always feel that way about what I write. So I am giving you the links to go read, if you so desire, and maybe come back here to tell us – oh, I don't know - whatever you feel like about them. Or not.

And here's a reminder: Tomorrow will be the first posting in the new, weekly feature, TGB Readers' Stories, and I'll see you back here on Wednesday.

A List for Aging Wisely

It's probably happened to you sometime over the years - a computer crash leaving you without the documents you rely on every day while trying get by on an old machine that normally sits gathering dust in a back closet.

You should have recycled the damned thing a long time ago but, like me, you're lazy and thank god for that now. You're glad it's there while your main computer is being repaired.

Even so, in addition to the lack of any reasonable speed, there are subtle differences in the spacing on the two keyboards so you spend half your time fixing whole lines, even paragraphs of typos.

You say a lot of impolite words and, if you are anything like me, you cut your online time way back – it's just too frustrating.

That is by way of explanation for today's post which I did not write. It turned up in my life this week and gave me an excuse to take a day or two off from TGB.

It is an old post at the website Big Geek Daddy, a place from which I get some of the videos I show you on Saturdays in Interesting Stuff. The title of the document is A List For Aging Wisely.

There is a book, Aging Wisely, published a couple of years ago and a lot of other material with that name. I have no idea if this list is from or related to any of it.

The list contains 21 items. I question or disagree with only five or six of them; the rest are mostly things we all know but need to be reminded of now and then.

So take a look. Click over to the website for more explanation of each item than I have quoted here. Then let us know what you think. Agree with some? Disagree with others? Have you got some of your own worth adding? Let us know in the comments.

* * *

  1. It’s time to use the money you have saved. Spend it and enjoy it.

  2. Stop worrying about the finances of your kids and grandchildren, and don’t feel bad about spending your money on yourself.

  3. Stay healthy without a lot of physical effort. Do moderate exercise, like going for walks every day, eat well and get plenty of sleep.

  4. Always buy the best and most beautiful items for your significant other. The reward of enjoying your money with your partner is priceless.

  5. Don’t stress over the little things in life. You’ve already overcome so much in your life. You have good memories and bad ones, but the important thing is the present.

  6. Regardless of your age, always keep love and romance alive. Love your partner, love life, love your family, love your neighbor, love your cat or dog.

  7. Be strong and proud, both inside and out.

  8. Don’t lose sight of fashion trends for your age but keep your own sense of style.

  9. ALWAYS stay up-to-date. Read newspapers, surf the Internet, and watch the news. Make sure you have an active email account.

  10. Respect the younger generation and their opinions. Hopefully, they will return the respect. They may not have the same ideals as you, but they are the future and will take the world in their direction. Give advice, not criticism, and try to remind them that yesterday’s wisdom still applies today.

  11. Never use the phrase: “In my day.” Your day is now. As long as you’re alive, you are part of this time.

  12. Some people embrace their golden years, while others become bitter and surly. Life is too short to waste your days on the latter.

  13. Do not surrender to the temptation of living with your children or grandchildren (if you have a financial choice, that is).

  14. Don’t abandon your hobbies. If you don’t have any, make some new ones.

  15. Accept invitations, even if you don’t feel like it. Try to go to baptisms, parties, graduations, birthdays, weddings, and conferences. Get out of the house and meet people.

  16. Be a conversationalist. Talk less and listen more. Some people go on and on about the past, not caring if their listeners are really interested. That’s a great way of reducing their desire to speak with you.

  17. Pain and discomfort go hand in hand with getting older. Try not to dwell on it but accept them as a part of the cycle of life we’re all going through.

  18. If you’ve been offended by someone – forgive them. If you’ve offended someone – apologize. Don’t drag around resentment with you.

  19. If you have a strong belief, savor it. But don’t waste your time trying to convince others.

  20. Laugh. Laugh A LOT. Laugh at everything. Remember, you are one of the lucky ones. You managed to have a life, a long one.

  21. Take no notice of what others say about you and even less notice of what they might be thinking. They’ll do it anyway, and you should have pride in yourself and what you’ve achieved. Let them talk and don’t worry.

REMINDER: There is more explanation of each item at the website which you can check out here.

How Old is Your Stuff?

About a year and a half ago, Next Avenue published a story about how adult children and grandchildren these days don't want their parents' “stuff”. As Susan Devaney, president of NASMM [National Association of Senior Move Managers] told the writer:

“'Young couples starting out don’t want the same things people used to have. They’re not picking out formal china patterns anymore.'”

The executive director of the NASMM agrees:

“'[Millennials are] an Ikea and Target generation. They live minimally, much more so than the boomers. They don’t have the emotional connection to things that earlier generations did,' she notes. 'And they’re more mobile. So they don’t want a lot of heavy stuff dragging down a move across country for a new opportunity.'”

I've heard this from other sources. Times and cultural preferences change.

Probably because I don't have children and grandchildren, I'm not as concerned as some that relatives would reject my stuff and I have been working recently on cleaning out the detritus so that when the time comes, it will be easier for Autumn to close down my home.

Well, that's a bit of a lie. I've been thinking about ridding myself of the lifetime of stuff and haven't gotten around to actually doing it. That's just laziness but in all this thinking I have been surprised at how old so much of my stuff is.

When I was a kid, it was my job to polish the sterling silver every week. Oh, how I hated that boring job. Now, however, I've had that silver flatware since my mother died in 1992, saving it for dinner parties which are a rare occurrences these days.

(Funny how attitudes change when you grow up. I now recall those Saturday polishing sessions in the 1950s fondly.)

My mother began buying her silver in the late 1930s, piece by piece and when the family had a bit more money, place setting by place setting.

Those knives and forks and spoons I finally decided to use every day are nearly 90 years old and some pieces are pretty beat up but they connect me to my childhood and I like using them.

My set of china came from my great aunt and her sister, my grandmother, each of whom collected over decades one dish, one cup, one bowl, etc. at a time of the same 19th and early 20th century pattern while sharing extras to help one another complete their collections. I like using it every day.

Even my sofa has a long history. I bought it in 1983 at a Salvation Army resale shop (thank you, Joyce) for $250. It was already old then – an antique dealer friend told me it was at least 40 or 50 years old – but newly recovered, and I've never had a reason to get rid of it. I still like it.

Clothing too. I lost enough weight due to the surgery last year that a lot doesn't fit me now but is good enough for resale shops so I have emptied some of my closet (the only actual recycling I've done).

Even with that, I'm amazed at how old some of my clothing is – ten or so teeshirts, more than 20 years; two coats, 30-plus years; a few sweaters, at least 20 years

A good deal of my cooking equipment is ancient. In fact, I have the first pan I bought when I left home in 1958 – a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Several strainers and graters go back at least to the early 1970s and I noticed the other day that my best knives, still in good shape, date to 1977 or so, if I recall correctly but close enough.

Then there is my grandmother's hand-made quilt. I found it, never used, when my brother and I cleaned out her home after her death. She was born in 1892, and in those days girls in their teens made quilts for their trousseaux.

That makes it about 110 years old. It had been sitting on a shelf since Grandma Hazel died in 1984, and only in recent years did I pull it down to use on my bed in the warm months.


It's a remarkably modern design for its time, don't you think.

I'm impressed by the age of this stuff I have used for so long but by far, the oldest thing I own has no personal connection - it is a handle broken off a 2500-year-old amphora that an archaeologist at a dig I visited in Israel in 1999 (thank you, Sali) let me keep.

I like touching it regularly, holding it in my hand, placing my thumb in the indentation undoubtedly made by the thumb of the worker who crafted it.

To hold it awes me in the same way walking the old city of Jerusalem does: both strengthen my sense of belonging to the family of mankind - that people have walked those same streets, put their feet in the same places I put mine, for 5,000 years and we are all linked one to another through these many centuries.

Some people have no attachment to things, to stuff. As the above shows, that's not me. I like the memories that come with wearing old clothes, using those excellent knives I spent too much money on (and am glad I did) and even what I once thought of as that damned sterling silver.

When I was young, very young, the idea of living half a century was impossible to imagine – to me then, it might as well have been as long as Jerusalem has been there.

Now at age 77, I have no trouble knowing what living 50 years is like and more, I can see how certain pieces of my stuff, having been part of my daily life for decades, mean too much to my sense of myself and my life to get rid of any time soon.

(Sorry, Autumn, you'll have to figure out what to do with it when the time comes.)

Now, dear readers, it's your turn. How old is your stuff? What does it mean to you? Or maybe you're one who doesn't get attached to things. Let us know.

How Time Slips Away in Old Age – Or Maybe Not

Sometimes I go to bed on a Monday night and wake up on Friday morning. Okay, not literally but it often feels that way.

In addition, I am now so terrible at recalling how long ago something happened that I have taken to warning people - “well, when I say a year ago, it is just as likely to have been two or three years ago, or the reverse, six months ago.”

Year-end holidays are often the touchstone for old people with time shift problems. It's common for us to say, in March for example, “Christmas will be here before we know it.” And it usually is.

The increasing speed of time has come up frequently on this blog - how it is that the older we get, the faster time passes. For those posts, I looked into the issue and there are dozens of explanations but all are guesses. Nobody really knows.

Now, I have a new-ish guess.

As the years have passed in my retirement, my energy has waned - physical AND psychic - so I ration my time. One “event” a day is pretty much my limit. I can have a lunch date or a doctor appointment or go to a movie or visit with friends or grocery shop, etc. but rarely two per day and never three.

That's it. I'm done for the day and when I can, I like to take the next day off from public encounters.

Sometimes I am amazed to recall my middle, working years. Drop the laundry off on the way to work, stop at the bank before the office, produce a live TV show at 9AM, prep the next day's show with production meetings, pre-interviews, video editing, script writing while keeping a lunch date on the other side of town, meeting friends for drinks after work and later, a dinner date.

Whew. It exhausts me now to even think that once was a normal day – no big deal.

A couple of weeks ago, I had way overbooked myself for a single day. Doctor, veterinarian, prescription refill, groceries, book shop, lunch, writing the next day's blog post. Way too much activity for me these days.

But then a funny thing happened. As I noted above, my days generally run into one another so that I can barely recall them. In the case of my overbooked day, however, in retrospect it felt like it lasted a long time, much longer than what my old-age “normal” day generally feels like.

It felt like it lasted as long as eight or 10 hours should last if they hadn't been speeding up so much. And I think I know why.

I had many more encounters that busy day with more people in more places than I usually allow in a week. I did so many different kinds of things that when I recalled them, I had so sense of time disappearing quickly, as I usually do.

So maybe that is the trick to keep time from slipping away: not necessarily to be busy, busy, busy, but to make sure we participate in several varied and/or different activities during each day. It would probably help for at least a couple of them to be out of the house.

That's just a guess but I did a quick search around the web and of course, I'm not the first person to have thought of this. Scientific American tells us:

”Our brain encodes new experiences, but not familiar ones, into memory, and our retrospective judgment of time is based on how many new memories we create over a certain period.

“In other words, the more new memories we build on a weekend getaway, the longer that trip will seem in hindsight.”

Further, explains Scientific American, the phenomenon has been dubbed the “holiday paradox” and is a good clue to why time seems to pass more quickly as we age:

”From childhood to early adulthood, we have many fresh experiences and learn countless new skills. As adults, though, our lives become more routine, and we experience fewer unfamiliar moments.

“As a result, our early years tend to be relatively over-represented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer.”

I like this explanation a whole lot better than any I recall from previous research and there is even a remedy. How cool is that.

Happy 93rd Birthday, Darlene Costner

Well, her birthday is actually tomorrow but this post will still be at the top of the home page then so we get to celebrate the beginning of Darlene's 94th year for two days.

Think of it. Calvin Coolidge was the U.S. president when Darlene was born in 1925, and she has lived through 16 more presidents' terms. She is old enough to recall World War II as a young adult. And to have witnessed teenagers' screaming adulation of crooner Frank Sinatra long before The Beatles came along.

Darlene is one of the people ageing experts call the “oldest old” - a designation given to people 85 and up. She shares that great age with these celebrities in the trailer for a 2017 HBO documentary titled, If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast. (Thank you Susan Penn for the link.)

They are right, those celebrities – mostly comedians – that no one knows why some live to become, as Darlene once labeled herself, one of the ancients.

I've known Darlene, via our blogs, email and phone calls, for at least a decade, probably longer. She is a fiercely partisan political animal with no reticence about stating her opinions. For many years she ran her own blog and more recently has become one of Time Goes By's most prolific commenters.

Whatever she says, it's always what she really feels. Recently, she wrote about living as one of the ancients:

”There are still days when I feel like I am going to live forever and the specter of death is not looming closer. Of course, that's nonsense. Nonetheless, that's a whole lot better than living in the doom and gloom of the knowledge that one day you will be no more.

“When the doom and gloom thoughts hover I am more prone to think of what my death will mean to my loved ones. I vacillate between thinking that it may be a relief to them to not have to worry about me anymore or thinking that they will miss my presence in their lives. Then I go from selfishly hoping they will miss me or being magnanimous and hoping that they are not too sad. How stupid is that?

“Today is a good day; the pain is minimum and so I will just enjoy the day. I can still hear the twitter of the birds joyously preparing their nests for another generation of feathered flyers and the morning air is cool so all is right with my world.”

She is also a great contributor of items for Saturdays' Interesting Stuff posts here and I've got a new one Darlene sent this week. It's longer than I usually publish and I don't necessarily agree with them all but I think there is in this list something for everyone. Like pretty much everything in life, take what you can use and leave the rest.

No author or origin is listed – it was one of those emails that gets passed along – this with some advice for people “between 65 and death.”

  1. It’s time to use the money you saved up. Use it and enjoy it. Don’t just keep it for those who may have no notion of the sacrifices you made to get it. Remember there is nothing more dangerous than a son or daughter-in-law with big ideas for your hard-earned capital. Warning: This is also a bad time for investments, even if it seems wonderful or fool-proof. They only bring problems and worries. This is a time for you to enjoy some peace and quiet.

  2. Stop worrying about the financial situation of your children and grandchildren, and don’t feel bad spending your money on yourself. You’ve taken care of them for many years, and you’ve taught them what you could. You gave them an education, food, shelter and support. The responsibility is now theirs to earn their own money.

  3. Keep a healthy life, without great physical effort. Do moderate exercise (like walking every day), eat well and get your sleep. It’s easy to become sick, and it gets harder to remain healthy. That is why you need to keep yourself in good shape and be aware of your medical and physical needs Keep in touch with your doctor, do tests even when you’re feeling well. Stay informed.

  4. Always buy the best, most beautiful items for your significant other. The key goal is to enjoy your money with your partner. One day one of you will miss the other, and the money will not provide any comfort then, enjoy it together. (For us this should read buy the best for yourself.)

  5. Don’t stress over the little things. You’ve already overcome so much in your life. You have good memories and bad ones, but the important thing is the present. Don’t let the past drag you down and don’t let the future frighten you. Feel good in the now. Small issues will soon be forgotten.

  6. Regardless of age, always keep love alive. Love your partner, love life, love your family, love your neighbor and remember: “A man is not old as long as he has intelligence and affection.”

  7. Be proud, both inside and out. Don’t stop going to your hair salon or barber, do your nails, go to the dermatologist and the dentist, keep your perfumes and creams well stocked. When you are well-maintained on the outside, it seeps in, making you feel proud and strong.

  8. Don’t lose sight of fashion trends for your age, but keep your own sense of style. There’s nothing worse than an older person trying to wear the current fashion among youngsters. You’ve developed your own sense of what looks good on you – keep it and be proud of it. It’s part of who you are.

  9. ALWAYS stay up-to-date. Read newspapers, watch the news. Go online and read what people are saying. Make sure you have an active email account and try to use some of those social networks. You’ll be surprised what old friends you’ll meet. Keeping in touch with what is going on and with the people you know is important at any age.

  10. Respect the younger generation and their opinions. They may not have the same ideals as you, but they are the future, and will take the world in their direction. Give advice, not criticism, and try to remind them that yesterday’s wisdom still applies today.

  11. Never use the phrase: “In my time.” Your time is now. As long as you’re alive, you are part of this time. You may have been younger, but you are still you now, having fun and enjoying life.

  12. Some people embrace their golden years, while others become bitter and surly. Life is too short to waste your days on the latter. Spend your time with positive, cheerful people, it’ll rub off on you and your days will seem that much better. Spending your time with bitter people will make you older and harder to be around.

  13. Do not surrender to the temptation of living with your children or grandchildren (if you have a financial choice, that is). Sure, being surrounded by family sounds great, but we all need our privacy. They need theirs and you need yours. If you’ve lost your partner (our deepest condolences), then find a person to move in with you and help out. Even then, do so only if you feel you really need the help or do not want to live alone.

  14. Don’t abandon your hobbies. If you don’t have any, make new ones. You can travel, hike, cook, read, dance. You can adopt a cat or a dog, grow a garden, play cards, checkers, chess, dominoes, golf. You can paint, volunteer or just collect certain items. Find something you like and spend some real time having fun with it.

  15. Even if you don’t feel like it, try to accept invitations. Baptisms, graduations, birthdays, weddings, conferences. Try to go. Get out of the house, meet people you haven’t seen in a while, experience something new (or something old). But don’t get upset when you’re not invited. Some events are limited by resources, and not everyone can be hosted The important thing is to leave the house from time to time. Go to museums, go walk through a field. Get out there.

  16. Be a conversationalist. Talk less and listen more. Some people go on and on about the past, not caring if their listeners are really interested. That’s a great way of reducing their desire to speak with you. Listen first and answer questions, but don’t go off into long stories unless asked to. Speak in courteous tones and try not to complain or criticize too much unless you really need to. Try to accept situations as they are. Everyone is going through the same things, and people have a low tolerance for hearing complaints. Always find some good things to say as well.

  17. Pain and discomfort go hand in hand with getting older. Try not to dwell on them but accept them as a part of the cycle of life we’re all going through. Try to minimize them in your mind. They are not who you are, they are something that life added to you. If they become your entire focus, you lose sight of the person you used to be.

  18. If you’ve been offended by someone – forgive them. If you’ve offended someone - apologize. Don’t drag around resentment with you. It only serves to make you sad and bitter. It doesn’t matter who was right. Someone once said: “Holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Don’t take that poison. Forgive, forget and move on with your life.

  19. If you have a strong belief, savor it. But don’t waste your time trying to convince others. They will make their own choices no matter what you tell them, and it will only bring you frustration. Live your faith and set an example. Live true to your beliefs and let that memory sway them.

  20. Laugh. Laugh A LOT. Laugh at everything. Remember, you are one of the lucky ones. You managed to have a life, a long one. Many never get to this age, never get to experience a full life. But you did. So what’s not to laugh about? Find the humor in your situation.

  21. Take no notice of what others say about you and even less notice of what they might be thinking. They’ll do it anyway, and you should have pride in yourself and what you’ve achieved. Let them talk and don’t worry. They have no idea about your history, your memories and the life you’ve lived so far. There’s still much to be written, so get busy writing and don’t waste time thinking about what others might think. Now is the time to be at rest, at peace and as happy as you can be!

  22. REMEMBER: Life is too short to drink bad wine or warm beer.

Darlene has contributed not only oodles of Interesting Stuff items over many years, her wise words in the comments, almost daily, are lessons for us “youngsters.”

Here is Darlene's big, beautiful birthday bouquet:


Ollie the Cat: 2004 – 2018


That's Ollie the cat in the bedroom late last year, healthy if a bit too fat. A few months ago, he got sick, made it obvious over time that he no longer liked his regular food and nothing else we tried was satisfactory to him. He'd have a few bites and walk away.

There had been no definitive diagnosis and even with the veterinarian's best efforts, Ollie continued to lose weight until his bones were sticking out. Last Thursday morning, he took up residence in a dark and comfy cupboard hidy-hole in the dining room – a place he otherwise had never shown the slightest interest.

On Friday night, I dragged out blankets and pillows from the bedroom and tried to sleep on the floor next to Ollie discovering, in the process, that I am officially too old now to sleep on the floor, even with carpeting and a couple of blankets for more padding.

I lasted there a couple of hours before returning to bed but as far as I could tell in the morning, Ollie didn't mind my having been in another room overnight.

He also didn't mind when I pet him but he didn't really care either – no purring and only the slightest acknowledgement of my touch.

His once bright green eyes had become dull and so on Saturday, another veterinarian from an organization called Compassionate Care came to our home so that Ollie's departure into the great kitty unknown could be done in peaceful, comfortable and familiar surroundings.

Our home feels so empty now and I am so deeply sad.

Here is Ollie in our New York City home early in 2005, when he was six months old.


In those early days, we jockeyed for position over whose living requirements would prevail. Sometimes I won, sometimes he did but overall we accomodated our preferences fairly well, if you don't count his biting my ankle if I didn't prepare a meal fast enough.

This is Ollie in 2010 helping with the packing to move from Maine to Oregon.


And here he is four years ago checking out the front patio/porch where local cats and the occasional squirrel sometimes show up.


Ollie was a Savannah cat, a relatively new hybrid breed, a cross between a domestic cat and African serval. Ollie was one-sixth serval with the gorgeous coat similar to a leopard's.

I don't know if it is typical of Savannah cats, but what anyone who ever met him commented on was his direct, almost human-like gaze into a person's eyes. In the beginning it was unsettling how he looked at me with such intensity. It didn't take long to get used to it and and I loved that connection between us every day of our life together.

Here is a photo that almost catches that feeling:


Many, many years ago, my then-father-in-law told me about how, on weekends, he and his wife might not bump into one another between breakfast and dinner as they went about their pursuits. But what was important is that they each knew there was another heartbeat in the house.

And so it was with Ollie and me but now, that other heartbeat is gone and it feels so empty here today.

As undoubtedly is true for you, I've been through this grief before with people and with beloved animals. I know that – as has already happened once – for awhile I will think I see Ollie out of the corner of my eye as he trots by. But that's just a mirage, right?

And someday I will be able to remember Ollie without weeping. But not yet. He always made me feel that to him, I was the cat's meow. To me, he was my best buddy for 14 years.

I'll leave you with a link to one of my all-time favorite blog posts that long-time readers will probably recall: the adventure of Ollie's disappearance from our second-story deck in Portland, Maine, in 2007. I titled it How Ollie the Cat Lost His Outdoor Privileges, a heart-pounding, scary tale with a lot of photographs and, at the end, my revenge.

Farewell my Ollie. You gave me so much joy. I will always love you.


Everything Takes So Damned Long When You're Old

The latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show is at the bottom of this post.

* * *

As noted here in the past, until I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer nearly a year ago, I was lucky enough to be disgustingly healthy.

There were colds and other minor ailments now and then but nothing that kept me down and out for long, nothing that left me with permanent changes to my capabilities.

Not so much anymore. Yes, the doctors say I am now cancer free (whew!) but recovery from the Whipple surgery lasted many months, chemotherapy took its toll on my energy, I had to slack off workouts for too long and recent hospital stays for internal bleeding, a blood clot, placement of a stent, etc. haven't helped.

The bottom line is that everything – everything takes longer than it once did. Yes, yes, I know: just getting older, even without any health difficulties, slows down everyone. Bodies wear out, muscles don't work as efficiently, we tire more easily.

But until this bump in my personal road of life, slowing down wasn't an issue. As far as I could tell, I walked as fast as I always had and particularly after I lost more than 50 pounds some years ago, I could blast through housekeeping chores leaving plenty of time for whatever other plans I had.

No more.

When we get old, I think we understand as never before that our greatest gift is time. Each day now is precious and anything boring that takes up any of that time is stealing hours – even days, cumulatively - from us.

Here are some of the new tasks that eat up even more of my time than a year ago:

Tracking daily medications, keeping the chart up to date as doctors change meds, getting refills on time and filling the pill holders (plural!)

Actually remembering to take the pills at the right times of day (Post-it notes are my friends)

Arranging other events in life around medical visits

Keeping daily records of health information for the physicians

Napping (a lot recently) when my body tells me to stop for awhile

Tracking the cat's medications and trying to get pills down his throat when he would rather shred my skin than swallow.

And those are only some time eaters I can identify. Mysteries abound, such as this one: I thought I could vacuum the entire apartment in 30 minutes. So why does the clock say an hour has passed when I'm finished?

Or why does changing the beds seems so much harder – and therefore slower – than it used to be?

There is only one solution to this time annoyance – something many of you identified last week in that marvelously wise and interesting discussion about aspects of growing old: acceptance.

As Anne said on that post:

”Having just turned 78, maybe I should accept this and live at the tempo I can manage.”

I am not any good at all at this kind of acceptance. You?

* * *

Here is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show recorded on Monday 7 May 2018.

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests after me, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.

Crabby Old Lady Watches the Academy Awards

Did you watch the Academy Award show last Sunday? Crabby Old Lady did. There wasn't much else on the tube then and it's the sort of program Crabby can watch here and there that doesn't much disturb the reading she's doing in between.

If you didn't watch, don't go getting all snobby about it. The Oscars are an American tradition – admittedly fading, probably with Crabby's generation – but still kind of fun to see the pretty ladies all dressed up in ways almost no one does anymore.

And having produced a lot of TV shows in her past, Crabby likes watching the production values on a program that's more lavish and complex, especially live, than most of what's on television.

This is an eye candy type of show. It doesn't take any special attention or thought – just let it wash over you. Or not.

It was heartening to Crabby from the start to see the diversity and inclusion of the landscape: Muslims, immigrants, a better mix of skin colors than usual and (drum roll) women, lots of women. Crabby thinks that might be something we can thank Harvey Weinstein for.

And then Sandra Bullock showed up as a presenter. Until that moment, it hadn't occurred to Crabby to think anything one way or another about old people's participation.

Bullock is 53 years old. She looked wonderful – gorgeous, in fact. So why did she think she had to say this?

“Wow, it’s bright,” she said. “It’s really bright. Guys, the set looks amazing, everything looks really great. The lighting is really well lit, but can we just dim it just a little bit so I can go back to my 40s? A little lower, 39, keep going, 38, 38, 38, no, 35, now that's the sweet spot!"

Did she think that was funny? It wasn't to Crabby Old Lady. It could have been if we lived in a different world, if old people were generally treated with the same respect as Ms. Bullock is at mid-age. But instead of inclusion, Bullock chose the opposite.

This disparagement of elders didn't stop with Bullock. In fact, it had started at the top of the show.

Host Jimmy Kimmel's digs at 88-year-old, best supporting actor nominee, Christopher Plummer, began with this gem directed at Plummer sitting in the first row: “How does Lin Manuel-Miranda compare to the real Alexander Hamilton?”

And Kimmel (age 50) didn't let up on age jokes directed at Plummer throughout the rest of the broadcast.

Crabby sat up at attention yet again when Jane Fonda (age 80) and Helen Mirren (age 72) took to the stage together. Mirren opened with, “Jane and I are very, very honored to have been asked to present together on Oscar’s 90th birthday.”

Okay, that's nice enough for an awards show but then Fonda responded, “Yeah, especially when we found out he’s older than we are. Right?”

No, Fonda, you're wrong. Crabby Old Lady thinks she looked lovely at the Oscars but ruined it the moment she opened her mouth.

Having spent several hours in the company of Hollywood actors on Sunday evening, Crabby could rant on about how plastic surgery plays a big part in perpetuating ageist behavior toward old people, but she will hold on to that thought for another day.

Even with all the age “jokes,” there were some magnificent bright spots involving old show biz folks. Start with Rita Moreno, age 86, who showed up wearing the same dress she wore – wait for it – 56 years ago, in 1962, when she won the Oscar for her role in West Side Story. Here's a little video of Moreno in that dress from the red carpet:

(That's Rita Moreno's daughter standing next to her.)

Ninety-three-year-old Eva Marie Saint was stunning in all ways as she presented an award - and she didn't make any ugly age jokes.

Agnes Varda, 89, was among nominees for best documentary feature, and James Ivory, also 89, became the oldest Oscar winner of all time for best adapted screenplay, Call Me By Your Name.

So Crabby response was mixed. She was pleasantly surprised at the diversity in general and specifically at the number of old people featured at the 90th Oscars. But she was terribly disappointed at the entrenched ageist beliefs that even some old people themselves won't let go of.

And don't go thinking this is a small thing. That it happens throughout the country in media and in everyday life thousands of times a day is what makes it so awful, these small insults aimed at old people - their looks, their behavior, their supposed slow-wittedness.

Every incidence of it perpetuates the indignities and makes it safe for others to join in. Crabby no longer believes this will change in her lifetime.

The Question of a Loneliness Epidemic

Just last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May created a new government position: Minister for Loneliness.

According to a 2017 report, more than 9 million people in Britain often or always feel lonely. May, quoted in The New York Times, said in announcing the new ministry,

“For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life.”

“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones — people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”

(More about how the Ministry will tackle the problem is reported at gov.uk.)

It's not just a British problem. According to a U.S. study of 218 studies, loneliness is not only a social problem, it is harmful to our health:

"They discovered that lonely people had a 50 per cent increased risk of early death, compared to those with good social connections. In contrast, obesity raises the chance of dying before the age of 70 by around 30 per cent,” as reported in The Telegraph.

As the American Psychological Association [APA] reported on the same study:

”Approximately 42.6 million adults over age 45 in the United States are estimated to be suffering from chronic loneliness, according to AARP’s Loneliness Study...

“'These trends suggest that Americans are becoming less socially connected and experiencing more loneliness,' said [researcher Julianne] Holt-Lunstad.”

I do not doubt for a moment that there are millions of old people who are lonely but I think there is something else at work on this topic that the researchers won't understand until they are old: that many old people voluntarily withdraw from social life to greater or smaller degrees as the years pile up.

I can't prove that and I haven't seen a single study that addresses it, let alone agrees. But a growing body of anecdotal evidence, just in my own small circle, seem to indicate something the loneliness researchers don't know.

A reader named Albert Williams left this note on a TGB post about making friends in old age. It's a bit lengthy but worth it:

”Whew! I'm glad I found this site,” wrote Williams. “I was beginning to think that I was the only person with such problems, and that, perhaps, there was something wrong with me.

“However, after a bit of introspection, I realize that this is not completely true. (Completely? Try old, ugly, curmudgeonly, short-tempered, cynical, and a few more applicable adjectives...)

“Time has, indeed, taken its toll. I am now an old man. Most of my life-long friends are gone. I've never had any kids; I've outlived two wives; and almost all of my family on both sides have already died.

“I find it very easy to make new acquaintances, but these seem to never develop into the deep, trusting, abiding friendships I had when I was young. Loneliness, apparently, has become a permanent part of my remaining days, and my best friends nowadays are my dogs and my computer.”

In addition, a long-time internet/blog friend, Cowtown Patty, recently wrote in an email:

”Found that as I age, while I enjoy people to a degree, I am happier when I am at our 'farm' out puttering in the 'garden' or in the house somewhere alone. Even Kent, who is the easiest person in the world to get along with, can be an irritating intruder sometimes.

“Do you think we 'cocoon' as we age? Protection? Preparing? Insulating ourselves from a world grown too noisy?”

That may be true for me. Although I have always seemed to need a lot more alone time that many people I know, in recent years I've purposely chosen fewer social engagements in exhange for time alone (reduced energy may be a contibutor too).

It's not that I don't like people or don't enjoy time with them. I do. But as I follow my innate nature these days, I am eager for less of that than during most of my adult life and as far as I can tell, the biggest change that would bear upon the desire for fewer social engagements is that I've grown older.

Which doesn't sound too far off from Patty's “cocooning” idea – perhaps even subconsciously, we begin separating ourselves from a world we know we will be leaving much sooner than people who are younger than we are.

There is an interesting entry at the Wikipedia Old Age page on this subject (emphasis added):

”Johnson and Barer did a pioneering study of Life Beyond 85 Years by interviews over a six-year period. In talking with 85+ year olds, they found some popular conceptions about old age to be erroneous.

“Such erroneous conceptions include (1) people in old age have at least one family member for support, (2) old age well-being requires social activity, and (3) 'successful adaptation' to age-related changes demands a continuity of self-concept.

“In their interviews, Johnson and Barer found that 24% of the 85+ had no face-to-face family relationships; many have outlived their families. Second, that contrary to popular notions, the interviews revealed that the reduced activity and socializing of the over 85s does not harm their well-being; they 'welcome increased detachment.

The researchers spoke only with people 85 and older. I strongly suspect that if they talked with 60- and 70-somethings, the trend would be there already.

Certainly there are millions of old people yearning to make connections with others who are having trouble doing that.

But as with all things related to elders, I don't believe you can bundle all of us into one handy explanation for any issue and it could be that what looks like loneliness to younger researchers is a personal choice some elders make.

What do you think?

Senior Discounts: A Rite of Passage Redux

EDITORIAL NOTE: This week got so busy I couldn't find time for today's story so I have resurrected a post from the second year of TGB, 11 November 2005, about senior discounts.

In the penultimate paragraph, I mention that I was then working on becoming as comfortable with being an elder as I was for so many decades as an adult. Now, 13 years later, I have no doubts. I am an old person and that knowledge has come to rest easily on my shoulders.

* * *

Earlier this week, Colleen of Loose Leaf left a comment about having recently received a ten dollar senior discount.

As serendipity in timing would have it, last Sunday I got my first senior discount too – at a movie theater. I had never asked for one before – hadn’t even thought about it - so I don’t know what possessed me to say at the ticket window, “one adult and one senior, please.” (ASIDE: I wish I’d said “elder.”)

It turns out that discount is no small change in New York City where movie tickets go for $11 a pop. The “elder” ticket cost only seven dollars, a savings which almost covered a grossly overpriced small bag of popcorn.

Colleen, who is about ten years younger than I, admitted to being a bit shaken by her first discount for age. I, on the other hand, sailed right through it without a quiver and have been wondering since then what other discounts I’m missing.

These two little rites of passage remind me that we don’t become old – or seniors or elders – in our minds overnight or on a certain birthday. Our perception of time is flexible, moving along at different rates of speed depending on circumstances, and minds can be hard things to change. We back into new definitions of ourselves slowly, I think, becoming accustomed to them gradually as other people and traditional markers outside ourselves – like photographs and senior discounts - reflect to us our passing years.

In the 20 months I’ve been writing Time Goes By, I’ve accepted my status – at least on paper – as a person of age, as an advocate for ending ageism and age discrimination, and for exploring what getting older is really like.

But what I had not done is feel that status of elderhood viscerally. I have yet to make it my own, so a part of my being that I don’t need to discuss it anymore - what Jill Fallon of Legacy Matters says Buddhists call “the ever-present awareness” of our inner selves.

I sense now, however, that I’m beginning to close in on it. Asking for the senior discount without a hiccup and taking pleasure in Elisa Camahort’s redefinition of me as “ElderBlogger Ronni Bennett” seem to be indications that acceptance in the wings. It took a long time in my youth to get past the feeling I was play-acting at being a grownup. The goal now is to become as certain an elder as I became an adult for so many decades.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll look into what other senior discounts are available. Saving a little money is a powerful incentive to attitude adjustment.