INTERESTING STUFF – 23 May 2020

DARLENE COSTNER'S 95TH BIRTHDAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

HONEST GOVERNMENT AD: THE MACHINE

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

VIRUS JOKES

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

Friday13

Thelongerthisgoesonjoke

Lysoljoke

There is more at Bored Panda.

PENGUINS VISIT A MUSEUM

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

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

NOW THAT'S AN OBIT

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

OLIVE AND MABEL EPISODE 3

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

FILMS ON AGING AND ELDERS

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

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

PRESIDENT OBAMA'S MESSAGE TO THE CLASS OF 2020

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

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

BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS OF CHILDREN WITH ANIMALS

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

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

And so she does and the images are adorable.

Girlanddog

Girlandlamb

Boyandduck

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

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog.


Settling Into My End Days – Or Die Trying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah. Right.

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

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

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

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

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


Follow-Up on Monday's Death With Dignity Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you all for your always interesting and thoughtful responses.


A TGB READER STORY: Word Puzzles

By Fritzy Dean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me, too, Kumail. Me, too.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


Oregon's Death With Dignity Law and Me

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

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

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

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

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

DeathWithDignityMap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

Apparently this is not so. Yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oregon Death With Dignity website
Death With Dignity National Center website

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


ELDER MUSIC: Playing for Change 2

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


INTERESTING STUFF – 16 May 2020

100 YEARS, 100 MOVIE QUOTATIONS

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

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

You can find all those other AFI movie lists here.

BOLERO JUILLIARD

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

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

FREE EBOOKS

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

Project Gutenberg
ManyBooks
Libby
Hoopla
Internet Archive

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

COVID-19 LEADERSHIP: TRUMP V. OTHER WORLD LEADERS

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

TRUMP EXPLAINS HOW TESTING WORKS

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

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

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

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

DOGGY BREAKFAST PLAY-BY-PLAY

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

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

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

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

So now, The Games of Bones.

ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER

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

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog.


Friday Blog Post – A Blast From the Past

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Does any of this ring a bell for you?


The Universe Decides That, Not Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A TGB READER STORY: Structure in a Time of Pandemic

By Adele Frances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How are you coping with your structure-setting?

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ms. Kohn concludes and I agree:

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

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

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


ELDER MUSIC: Wynton Marsalis

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

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Wynton Marsalis

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

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

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

Wynton Marsalis

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

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

♫ A Foggy Day


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

♫ Hackensack


Wynton Marsalis

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

♫ Symphony No 4 (3)


Wynton Marsalis

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

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

♫ Didn't He Ramble


Pachelbel

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

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

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

♫ Canon for Three Trumpets and Strings P. 37


Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton

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

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

♫ Layla


Haydn

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

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

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


Wynton & Ellis Marsalis

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

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

♫ I Cover the Waterfront


Telemann

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

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

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


Wynton Marsalis & Willie Nelson

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

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

♫ Night Life


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

Wynton Marsalis & Kathleen Battle

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

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

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


Wynton Marsalis

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

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

♫ Black Bottom Stomp


INTERESTING STUFF – 9 May 2020

A DUCK FAMILY: A DAY IN THE LIFE

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

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

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

MOURNING IN AMERICA

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

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

DEPARTMENT OF YOU CAN'T MAKE UP THIS STUFF

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

HOW NEW ZEALAND BEAT THE CORONAVIRUS DOWN TO ZERO CASES

And did it in just seven weeks.

THE STRATEGIC NATIONAL STOCKPILE

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

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

BIOLUMINESCENT WAVES OFF CALIFORNIA COAST

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

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

It's beautiful:

CHINA'S RESPONSE TO TRUMP

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

THE ALEX AND RONNI SHOW

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

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

The Bored Panda website tells us that in 2017,

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

Here is a sampling of three.

SoapBubbleKitty

KungFuKitty

FamousKitty

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

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Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog.


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.


THINKING OUT LOUD: How the U.S. Coronavirus Mess Affects Elders (and Everyone Else)

Among the few things understood about the coronavirus is that it hits old people harder that younger adults and children.

In addition to elder deaths from the virus at home and in hospitals, at least 20,000 deaths due to the virus have been reported in U.S. nursing homes but the number is undoubtedly much higher because many do not release the number of such deaths.

So much else is wrong with the U.S. official response to the virus, I cannot in good conscience focus only on the people – old folks – this blog generally addresses. Everyone of every age is at risk.

Although a few countries and some U.S. states show a slight reduction in the number of new coronavirus cases in recent days, thousands are still dying.

Nevertheless, local governments are allowing certain retailers, some beaches, restaurants and other venues to reopen. And even when governments do not yet sanction openings, there are business owners who just defy officials and open anyway.

Some reports are telling us that even without this loosening of restrictions, the number of deaths per day, now averaging about 1,000, is expected to double by early June.

And I haven't even gotten to those armed, masked men at the Michigan statehouse. I'm still not clear what they were protesting but those gigantic guns they carried were shocking enough to scare me about what could happen.

A better kind of leadership, I am convinced, would bring the country together rather than leave it open to threats of violence. (President George W. Bush after 9/11 comes to mind. Also President Barak Obama after the church shootings in Charleston.)

For myself, I gave up on Dr. Deborah Birx when she declared a few weeks ago that the president has a deep understanding of the science of the pandemic. She confirmed my misgivings about her further when she tried to defend the president's Clorox delusion.

Meanwhile, the closest thing the U.S. has to national leadership that can be believed is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo but he, rightly, is focused on his state.

Certainly we cannot pay attention to President Clorox and anyway, on Tuesday, The Guardian headlined a story thusly: “Trump Gives Up on Virus Fight to Focus on Economic Recovery – and Re-election.”

So I guess we can move on from the fantasy some might have entertained that he would ever have anything useful to contribute to a future triumph over our global health predicament.

In recent days, Trump has also withdrawn U.S. funding of the World Health Organization (WHO), refused to join world leaders in funding COVID-19 vaccine research and announced the intention to “wind down” the White House coronavirus task force.

Here is something else Trump is working on. As reported in Common Dreams (and other places) on Monday,

”President Donald Trump on Sunday said he will not approve another badly needed Covid-19 stimulus package if it doesn't include a payroll tax cut, a policy that would strike a blow to Social Security and Medicare funding while offering no relief for the more than 30 million people who have lost their jobs over the past six weeks.

"'I told Steve just today, we're not doing anything unless we get a payroll tax cut,' Trump said during a Fox News town hall Sunday night, referring to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. 'That is so important to the success of our country.'”

In case anyone is in the dark about what payroll taxes are, they are deductions from every employee's paycheck to fund Social Security and Medicare. Employers match the payroll tax.

It's hard to keep up. As I am writing this on Tuesday, it is being reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, following a Republican lunch, told reporters that the Senate is in no hurry to pass any new legislation related to COVID-19.

I guess that means we can, for now, relax about Social Security and Medicare cuts. More broadly, it means that individual states are on their own without anywhere near the resources of the federal government.

In the history of the United States, I'm pretty sure there has never been such incompetence and dereliction of responsibility. This is a horror show.


A TGB READER STORY: Dinner for an 82nd Birthday

By Diane Darrow of Another Year in Recipes

My very dear husband of 50 years was about to reach his 82nd birthday. How to celebrate it? We’re in blessedly good health for our ages (I’m 77), but we can hardly bear to go to New York City restaurants any more, no matter how fine. Can’t stand the cramped spaces, the noisy crowds, the loud music and especially the cost of the wines.

We both love wine and Tom has been stashing away special bottles for many years in a closet at home: now-well-aged French and Italian wines that – in any restaurant that would carry such older bottles – would cost more than a month’s grocery bill.

The solution was clear, and the choice was easy: We’d dine at home. I’d make him a really lovely dinner and he’d open a bottle of...what? After much agonizing, he chose his prized 1977 Barbi Brunello di Montalcino.

Wine

He’d been saving this single bottle of the esteemed Tuscan wine for more than 30 years and it was time to be practical about it. How much longer are we going to live? How long are our taste buds going to be functioning? Do we really want this wine to be left to our heirs who may not even drink wine, or sold off to strangers in an estate sale? No! We’ll have it now.

We did, and it was wonderful. I made us a dish from Italy’s rich regional cuisine: duck legs braised with porcini mushrooms, pancetta, onions, carrots, celery, white wine and tomato paste.

Alongside we had plain green beans and a big baked potato – and the Brunello. Once opened, the wine (like ourselves) was quite fragile because of its age but it simply blossomed with that good food – as did we.

Dinner was long and leisurely. We finished the bottle while nibbling on pieces of Grayson, a flavorful farmstead cheese from Virginia. It and the Brunello appreciated each other just as Tom and I do, even after all these years.

It was a fine birthday celebration, both down-home and elegant, with all participants properly mature.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]


Cancer Pain

In the past two months or so, for the first time since I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in mid-2017, I live with pain. Until now, I have been incredibly lucky that the only big discomfort I have experienced was during recovery from the Whipple procedure.

Some years BC (before cancer), while I was stuck in bed with the last and worst flu I recall having, my big toe, just one big toe, hurt so badly, so deeply banging away at me, that I imagined finding someone, anyone, who would whack it off with a machete. The amputation, I reasoned in the depths of my fever swamp, couldn't possibly hurt more.

These new pains come with the territory of cancer. I call them body pains and several scatter themselves around my torso and back, rearranged in different places on different days.

As the nurses taught me when I was recovering from the Whipple, alternating acetaminophen with ibuprofen every six or eight hours takes care of pain with a reduced chance of injury to liver or other organs that might occur using only one of the drugs.

Although it takes about two hours to kick in, it works for me. And I don't need it every day. Two or three and, sometimes, four times a week, I'm pain free until evening.

The thing about pain that is not of the pounding, big-toe variety is how wearing it is. It's not that you lie curled in bed whimpering. It's that it grinds you down and after a few hours you feel as exhausted as if you've run a marathon.

Thank the gods for acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

A couple of weeks ago when I mentioned these pains to the oncologist, he did not need to go into a detailed explanation of what was happening to me. I knew I had entered a new, later phase of the disease when he said he could prescribe an opioid for me.

My only experience with that kind of drug was more than half a century ago when I was in my early twenties. After a couple of days of unending abdominal pain that nothing would help, my doctor sent me to the hospital, tests were done and still, no one knew why I hurt so much.

Several medications proved useless so I was then given morphine. It was fascinating. I have no idea what happens to other people but for me, it did nothing for the pain. It did not get anywhere near even taking off the edge.

Instead, I just didn't care. I still recall lying in that bed thinking, “Oh, wow, that is the worst pain I have ever felt. What color is it? I wondered. Does it move from here to there and back? Or does it stay in one place? Is it round or maybe square? If I poke that place, will it hurt more?” And so on.

From time to time, there were some strange-looking pink animals up near the ceiling of my room, but mostly I was fascinated with how much I hurt, feeling only curiosity as though I were studying it in someone else, trying to figure out its properties.

I've forgotten other details but eventually, they took away the morphine, the pain subsided and no one ever knew what was wrong.

When I was caring for my mother when she was dying of liver and breast cancer, she occasionally asked for one of her pain pills. One day she seemed to be in enough pain that I asked if she wanted to try the liquid morphine the doctor had left with us.

“Oh, no,” she said. “I don't want to get addicted.”

Eventually, I convinced that in her condition she was unlikely to run down the block and rob the candy store, and we were able to control her pain until she had a hallucinatory experience and refused to go there again. She died soon after that.

When I had recovered sufficiently from the Whipple surgery, the nurses in the oncology clinic at the medical center taught me how to use the medications I would need to take for the rest of my life and how I needed to eat now that a bunch of my organs had been removed.

At that time, aside from some remaining, minor pain related to the surgery that would soon dissipate, I felt almost like a normal person. But one nurse explained that should there be pain at a future date, the center has an entire department devoted to pain control that I could rely on.

So when the oncologist asked me if I wanted him to prescribe an opioid, I declined. Given my own and my mother's experience, I'll wait until I need it.

I mention all this because when I made the decision three years ago to write about this cancer journey, I promised myself that if I would do it at all, I would always be honest, that I would not omit the hard parts and I would not sugarcoat it.

Sometimes I have a bad pain day. Usually that results when I think, in the morning, that it's not so bad and I can do without the acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Wrong! If it hurts in the morning, it always gets worse. But I'm a slow learner and still sometimes try to get through the day without the drugs. It never works.

Please keep in mind, that this is a report, not a request for advice. What I like about what happens in the comments on this blog is that often, many of you have thoughtful responses that relate to living with the circumstances we are stuck with. I believe that is valuable for all of us and I greatly appreciate it.


ELDER MUSIC: Together at Home

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

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Covid-19 might have stopped the concerts but it hasn’t stopped the music. Initially, some people started performing at home. It quickly became an epidemic of its own. Musicians in all genres of music are doing it now. Here are just a few of the ones I’ve found.

I’ll start with the first one I discovered and he’s also one of the best singers, writers, performers from the last 50 years, JOHN FOGERTY. John performs one of the old Creedence hits, Lookin’ Out my Back Door, just on acoustic guitar.

It seems that TOM JONES is ageless. He still has a singing ability that most of us envy. Here he performs the old song Glory of Love, backed by a fine unknown (to me) piano player.

JOAN BAEZ has recorded a number of songs for this series. She’s not alone in that regard. I’m sure many of you have seen several of her songs. Rather than the ones you might expect, this is Chanson Pour L'Auvergnat, an homage to Georges Brassens.

The CAMDEN VOICES are a British choir who had to scrap their rehearsals. That didn’t stop them though. They got together virtually with some really fine audio and video. They perform the Cyndi Lauper song, True Colors.

This is a real hoot. It’s Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie. You know them as the ROLLING STONES. They perform one of their most famous songs, You Can’t Always Get What You Want. I really liked Charlie’s drum kit.

LIZZO, or Melissa Jefferson, is a rapper, song writer, regular singer and actress. She performs Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come, just accompanying herself on the organ. She is new to me, but she sings really well.

NEIL FINN organised and was the singer and songwriter for Crowded House. He was also in Split Enz earlier when his brother Tim brought him into that group. Eschewing any of the songs from either group, Neil performs David Bowie’s Heroes.

JOHN LEGEND and STAN SMITH are also new to me, but they sure can perform. In this case it’s the song, Stand by Me, first recorded by Ben E King and written by him, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

NORAH JONES is another who has made a number of these videos. Here she sings a tribute to John Prine with his song, That’s the Way the World Goes Round.

STEVIE WONDER performs Lean on Me by his friend Bill Withers who died recently. He then segues into Love’s in Need of Love Today, one of his own songs from the album “Songs in the Key of Life”.

Here’s a bonus track just to show that not everyone is as successful as they’d hoped. It’s understandable as RAY DORSET has an injured finger. Ray was the main man behind Mungo Jerry in the late sixties/early seventies. He performs (a bit) of his/their biggest hit.

There are many more out there, these are just a few that I really liked.


INTERESTING STUFF – 2 May 2020

EDITORIAL NOTE: Usually I like to have a variety of items in Interesting Stuff on Saturdays but this week a lot of virus-related material turned up. I suppose it makes sense – that is what seems to be on all our minds. At least what we have here today is an assortment within the virus genre. I hope you enjoy.

TWIN DIES 100 YEARS AFTER HIS BROTHER DIED IN 1918 PANDEMIC

My online friend Chuck Nyren sent this item about Philip Kahn, a 100-year old who died of the caronavirus. What makes it news is that with his death, history came around full circle: the 1918 flu killed his twin brother when they were just a few months old.

Here's a video from NBC:

You can read more at The New York Times. I just love it when nature, history or life itself ties up a story in such a nice, neat bow.

PETS CRASH IN-HOME NEWS BROADCASTS

It's happened so frequently now that it is almost a commonplace for pets to crash their TV-star owners when they are broadcasting from home.

This one happened with Tampa Bay weatherman, Paul Dellegatto and his dog, Brody. (How is it, with that name, his pet is not a cat?)

CORONAVIRUS COMEDY

Matt Wuerker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and founding staff member at Politico. On Mondays, he posts a new Punchlines - a video taking a look at the week's political comedy from newspapers, magazines, late night talk shows and various online sources. This one appeared last Monday.

The cartoons go by quickly so you may need to hit pause to read them.

You will find more Matt Wuerker videos here.

HOW THE MONA LISA BECAME SO FAMOUS

Actually, the title on the YouTube video asks instead how the Mona Lisa became so overrated. I'm not qualified to discuss that difference but the video is interesting.

STEP RIGHT UP FOLKS AND GET YOUR OFFICIAL

...White House COVID-19 merch. In this case, it's a COVID-19 commemorative coin available at the unofficial White House Gift Shop:

WHcoin

Lucky you, it's currently discounted at US$100 from US$125. Some have reported that the coin is first-daughter Ivanka's bright idea. You'll find it on this website.

BRAD PITT ON SNL AS DR. ANTHONY FAUCI

On Saturday Night Live last week, actor Brad Pitt made a surprise visit as Dr. Anthony Fauci. Take a look:

Dr. Fauci once told a reporter that he would like Brad Pitt to play in on Saturday Night Live and after the show, Huffpost reported that the doctor was thrilled with Pitt's performance:

”As for Pitt’s jokes, Fauci commented: 'Everything he said on Saturday is what’s going on. He did a pretty good job of putting everything together.'”

I thought so too. Thank TGB reader Trudi Kappel for making sure I saw this.

THIS IS WHAT THE PRESIDENT SPENDS HIS TIME ON

...when he should be working on the pandemic.

From the beginning of his tenure in the White House, Trump has frequently attacked journalists and tried to intimidate them into repeating his lies.

That behavior has accelerated since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here's a response from the Washington Post's media critic, Erik Wemple. It is important for a free press to pay attention to this.

RUSSIAN BALLET AT HOME

Like about half the people on the planet, Russia's professional ballet dancers are stuck at home. Bolshoi veteran Ivan Vasiliev made this video to remind fans to stay home but also remind them that ballet is still around.

More at the Washington Post.

TALKATIVE BABY OTTER

This is the cutest thing. The Youtube page tells us that the otter's owner is Mako and the otter's name is Sakura.

There are many more photos of Sakura at Mako's Twitter feed which, he says, is updated daily.

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Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog.


THINKING OUT LOUD: Growing Old with Chronic Conditions

Judging from comments on this blog, a lot of us live with chronic conditions. The National Council on Aging tells us that

”Approximately 80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 77% have at least two.”

Eighty percent! Think of it.

Unless you grew up with a grandparent or two living in your home (not uncommon to our generation but not so much since then), you probably had little first-hand knowledge of how old people are (and are not) different from younger adults.

For most of my adult life, I didn't know any old people – that is, older than 70 or so. There were a couple of neighbors at different times who were well into their eighties. We exchanged pleasantries in the hall or at the mailboxes, but we were not friends; we didn't hang out together.

Otherwise, it was usually in the subway or the markets that I saw old people. What I mostly noticed is that they were slow. Very slow. I remember wanting to sprint up the stairs from the subway one rush hour but being stuck in the crowd behind an old woman who took the stairs one at a time with a little rest on each step. To my shame, I know I rolled my eyes to myself. It can't be the only time I did that.

On the other hand, you know those old folks – they keep confounding you. When I visited one neighbor about some local issue our block association was dealing with, he – then about 85 - showed me how he had expanded his living quarters by building a sleeping loft and used a ladder to get up and down.

These days, as I fast approach my own eighties, I'm overly cautious even with a small step stool. I quit ladders entirely about a year ago and should have done it sooner.

(This is the same man who, as I was on my way to work one day, said good morning and then, walking along with me to the corner, eagerly told me, “Viagra works.”)

These days, I am like the woman slowly climbing the subway stairs. One of my two conditions, COPD, is forever pulling on my metaphorical dog collar. It doesn't quite order me to “heal”, but if I'm walking at my old, pre-chronic conditions pace, it steals my breath forcing me to stop walking for a minute or two. It happens way too frequently.

I also tend to forget that I can no longer carry anything weighing more than about five pounds without heaving for breath after a few yards, even when I'm walking slowly.

These (and others that I will spare you) are not new phenomena in my life. They have been accumulating for three years now and you would think I would be done with the annoyance they continue to cause me. But no. I keep making the same mistakes.

Earlier this week, I found myself thinking about the old woman climbing those subway stairs so long ago.

Grocery shopping since the pandemic began is a fraught enterprise for me. Once I've gathered my nitrile gloves, face mask, left disinfectant supplies on the patio table to clean the packages when I get home, I am compelled to sit down. Scared. Am I doing enough to avoid the virus? Is it this time I will get it?

So I sit for 10 or 15 or 20 minutes practicing some calming breathing techniques until at last, I'm on my way.

With COPD, shortness of breath can be caused not only by over-exertion but by anxiety too. And that day, I found myself in the ice cream aisle heaving to get my breath. I stood leaning against the shopping cart when I heard, behind me, “Excuse me, I need to get by.”

Because the aisles are not six feet wide, there was nowhere for me to go but forward and so I pushed the cart – slowly, still trying to breathe normally – until I could get out of the other shopper's way. And that's when the memory of the old woman on the stairs kicked in.

When I saw that the woman behind me was a couple of decades younger than I am, I imagined her rolling her eyes at me.

Maybe she did. Maybe she didn't. But I also didn't care. And later, I thought it was a not unreasonable payback for my own impatience with the woman on the subway stairs who, I hope, would not have cared either if she had seen me roll my eyes.