54 posts categorized "Readers' Stories"

A TGB READER STORY: The Stairs

By Ann Burack-Weiss

This loft had stairs! We could come Down the stairs for breakfast in the morning! We could go Up the stairs to bed at night!

We had each grown up in cramped apartments on the outskirts of a major city. Roy’s apartment in the shadow of Yankee Stadium in The Bronx where he slept in a kitchen alcove supposed to hold a dinette set.

Mine in Brighton, Massachusetts, where a rarely played baby grand piano - wedged tightly into the cell-sized foyer - forced a sideways slide into the small adjacent rooms.

Growing up in the 1930s and 1940s, neither of us had even been inside a house with stairs. All we knew of them was from outside (windows on top of each other spoke of rooms upon rooms) and from books and movies.

So although we had since been guests in a variety of two-story houses, and knew that stairs could be mounted and descended in misery as well as in joy, to have stairs of one’s very own still seemed exotic and wonderful.

Decades passed and we never gave another thought to the stairs. We passed from one floor to another as unthinkingly as we walked room to room on level ground. It never occurred to us to count the stairs (there are 19) or to notice their unusual height or to even touch the bannister, a long flat piece of wood that made an attractive wall decoration.

Roy climbed the stairs for the last time on the evening of March 12, 2010. He came down on a stretcher six hours later, borne by two men sent by the funeral home, his body covered by a white cloth.

Stairs began to appear in my dreams. Stairs covered in pale green carpet like ours, stairs of bare wood. Some flights extending endlessly to the sky, others collapsing upon themselves like an accordion.

I began to fall. Bone bruises, pelvic fractures. Assaulted knees and hips responded with arthritic pain. A hip replacement and rehabilitation. Each episode requiring an altered relationship with the stairs.

I now approach the stairs as a military campaign, standard operating procedures in place with sufficient latitude for unforeseen changes of circumstance.

Things to be carried up or down are placed, at debarkation points awaiting the next floor-to-floor maneuver. Empty coffee cups and crumby plates that belong downstairs at the top, just purchased toiletries and books that belong upstairs at the bottom.

Sometimes a canvas carrying bag, to sling over my good shoulder lies alongside, sometimes a fanny pack or back pack to free my hands.

I have deliberately slid down the stairs backside first and crawled up on hands and knees. I have walked up one step at a time, intent as a toddler trying out a new skill. I have reached for the bannister as for the hand of a caregiver - grasp it a few feet above me to pull up, hang on at hip length to go down.

But then will come a lovely day – sometimes weeks, months of lovely daysb– when I can walk up and down almost as easily as I ever did. And it feels again like the time when 19 steps were as nothing, Roy would be waiting for me on the landing, and stairs were still magic.

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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.]




A TGB READER STORY: The Lessons of Asymmetry

By Adele Frances

“There is little meaning in making a fuss. There is nothing else to do but say good-bye to the last body part and continue your life with what parts may be left.”

- Elderly Greenland native who lost two fingers to frostbite years ago. Smithsonian Magazine

I lost a breast three weeks ago. Well, I didn’t exactly lose it. The surgeon knows where it went, but it’s lost to me.

Can I function without it? Of course I can. Do I miss it? A little. But since it was harboring three cancerous tumors, the time had come to say goodbye. This breast did the same thing to me 22 years ago and I struggled to keep it with me despite its disloyalty.

Lumpectomy. Chemo. Radiation. It was not a fun time but I got thru it nicely and my life continued cancer-free with two boobs, one slightly smaller than the other, from the ravages of treatment. I even wrote bad poetry about it.

But now, at 74, I’ve had to part company with this valiant breast who hung in there for over two decades before going rogue again.

Instead, I have a 10-inch scar from my left armpit to the center of my chest, a gradually descending line with a few bumps and curves that has a character all of its own. And instead of holding my breast in my hand, I feel a flat plain and a steadily beating heart beneath it, now unprotected by the shelf of flesh that used to be there.

It is strange and wondrous to me. I don’t find it grotesque, but rather curious in its lack of symmetry. And the tiny bit of swelling at the bottom looks like a prepubescent breast getting ready to bloom, but — oops — no nipple! A strange appendage indeed.

Yes, it’s the lack of symmetry that causes me pause for thought. Since I don’t have the magic bra lady in my life yet who is going to even me up, I’ve been adjusting old bras to resemble my former look, but I’m not there yet.

I like asymmetry in my art; I do not favor it in my personal appearance. There is an alien look to a blouse that is gently rounded on one side and just FLAT on the other. Nature prefers harmony, balance. And so do I.

So I look forward to my meeting next week with the bra lady who will introduce me to the wonderful world of prosthetics and new bras I never imagined. She told me the insurance company will provide four bras and two prosthetics a year! I’ve never bought four bras in one year in my life. That would last me five years. I’m in for a bounty of riches.

Thus I have to agree with the Greenland elder. I can go on quite nicely with my life minus one boob. Its removal has prolonged my life a few more years and there is something to be said for that, though I’m not quite sure what, not being a proponent of longevity.

But a flat chest, even if only on one side, somehow takes me back to childhood before those long-awaited mounds which never seemed to arrive. There is an innocence there among the scarred landscape that reminds me of my 11-year-old granddaughter just beginning to sprout her own breasts and sporting her first bra.

Missing body parts. Asymmetry. All part of the mystery of my life. But the good part is that when I place my hand on my heart, it beats so much louder now.




Father Time and Me

By Carole Leskin

I saw him approaching. An ancient man, bent, dressed in black and carrying the symbolic scythe. I recognized him immediately. My heart pounded. It's too soon, I thought. I'm not ready.

He sat down on the bench beside me in the garden behind the house. I had fed the birds and was enjoying a few minutes outside - the winter day sunny and mild. There were so many, chirping and arguing over the sunflower seeds - their favorite. They flew away when he came into view.

He looked at me, but said nothing. After what seemed like forever, the silence deafening, I decided to speak. I turned, looked at him and began.

"Time passes so quickly
It's what we all say,
The good things don't last,
The hard things - they stay.

Every day, every week,
Each month and each year
Bring challenges and lessons,
Things I don't want to hear.

Now as I grow old
I want to stop Time.
No More! is my mantra,
Let Contentment be mine!

Let the things that I treasure
And the people I hold dear
Be with me, I pleaded
At least - for this year"!

Then - the sounds of his laughter.
"How foolish you are!
To think you can stop me,
Put Time in a jar"!

I sighed.

"How can I go on
Knowing what's likely in store?
I lack the strength
To handle any more!

Poor health, death of loved ones
And always the fear
That some night I'll see you
And your footsteps I'll hear.

You will whisper It's Time,
I won't have a choice.
In that moment so final
I won't have a voice"!

He looked at me, not unkindly.

"It's true, my dear Carole
You can't control me.
But the choice that you have
Is clear. Don't you see?

You must live every moment
As if it's your last.
Savor your Time!
Don't live in the past!

You have to be brave!
You need to believe
That Time still has value -
Not just to grieve

But to love and to wonder.
To seek beauty and peace.
To be useful and caring.
Life doesn't just cease

Until your last breath
Take in all that remains.
The pleasures and joys.
The heartaches and pains.

After all, that is Life!
Surely you know
The purpose of living
Is to continue to grow"!

And then...

He was gone.

I sighed with relief.
I had to make haste.
For I suddenly knew
I had no Time to waste!




“Here’s Looking at You!”: The Amazing Eyes of Birds

By Diane Darrow

As a big-city dweller, I often like to sit on a bench in my local community garden appreciating nature – the clean, fragrant air; the trees, plants, and flowers; and the many visitors that pass by on the paths and lawn.

I particularly enjoy looking at the avian visitors because the garden attracts many kinds of birds.

One day I was struck by the differences in eyes between people and birds. People have basically almond-shaped eyes, with a colored circle, the iris, in the center and whites tapering to the ends.

Most of the birds I see – such as sparrows, robins, blue jays, and doves – have tiny, round, all-black “boot-button” eyes. I wondered about that difference, so I did a bit of research.

Boy, did I learn a lot! For one thing, it seems that birds actually have very big eyes. They do have whites, but in most species, we can’t see them: Everything but the iris is covered by feathers. And birds’ eyeballs are huge in proportion to the size of their heads. If human eyes were in the same proportion, our eyes would be as big as tennis balls.

Next, birds’ eyes are positioned on their heads differently from the way ours are. Human eyes are set forward on the face, so we can see straight ahead with 3-D binocular vision. That’s true of only a few bird species (owls, for instance.)

Most birds have eyes that angle out to the sides of their heads, so their brains have to reconcile two separate, overlapping fields of vision to see what’s directly in front of them. Oh – so that’s why I often see a robin tilting its head sideways to focus its “good eye” on something on the ground!

Birds’ eyesight is also much sharper than ours. We think we’re doing great if we come close to 20-20 vision. Most birds would score at least 20-10 on our scale. That means, if I’m squinting to see an object lying some distance along a garden path, the blue jay on a branch above my head can see it as clearly as I could if it were only half that far away.

If it’s edible, he’ll grab it.

Moreover, birds’ eyes have at least twice as many light-sensitive cells as human eyes, letting them see much better than us in low light conditions. And beyond the top of our visible color spectrum (red-orange-yellow-green-blue-indigo-violet), birds can see ultraviolet light, which makes colors appear far more brilliant and differentiated.

So now whenever I see plain, dull brown or gray birds in the garden, I try to imagine what they might look like to each other – or what I must look like to them!




A TGB READER STORY: Poutine to Padre, Day 7

A road trip from Montreal to San Padre Island, Texas, by Brenda Henry

Bus number 50 goes straight into the heart of Memphis.

It was on this day we observed one random act of kindness after another.

We board the bus, pay and sit.

Three stops later, a senior man climbs aboard. He has no money but the driver welcomes him. The man takes a side seat. His hair is half matted, half sticking up like he slept rough.

Call him Mister.

His bottom lip protrudes and trembles. He's wearing a faded red sweater with a hole in one elbow, baggy tan pants and worn down work boots without laces.

Mister doesn't look at anyone. He's in his own world.

He mumbles to himself, straightens his body on the seat, looks around.

The bus stops, more passengers enter.

There is something arresting about Mister. I quietly observe him and wonder who he is and what stories he could tell me.

He digs deep into his pocket, pulls out a small stick of deodorant, removes the top and meticulously rolls the deodorant all over the outside of his clothing- arms, chest, armpits and the full length of his pants.

He puts the cap back on the deodorant, places it back in the same pants pocket, removes a tiny tube of toothpaste, uncaps it, squeezes out a blob and uses his index finger to rub it all over the inside of his mouth.

Mister smiles at nobody, stands up, takes a plastic comb out of his other pant pocket, rakes it back and forth through his tangled hair, smiles and moves to a different seat up front as if he's alone.

The bus stops. A well-dressed senior woman climbs in carrying two shopping bags and her large purse. She sits, arranges her bags and looks around.

Call her The Angel.

Her eyes land on Mister.

The Angel doesn't seem to know him but perhaps she sees something in him - a reminder of her own life.

She leans forward and speaks.

"Hey, hey."

She's talking to Mister.

He doesn't hear her.

She tries again.

"Hey, hey."

Mister hears something, turns his head, looks in The Angel's direction. Is she talking to him?

His face says, "Who would even want to acknowledge me?"

That's when The Angel reaches into her purse, takes out some dollar bills, folds them, gets up, walks over to Mister and hands him the money.

Do they know each other?

We are certain they do not.

Mister takes the money as if he can't believe this is happening.

He thanks The Angel.

She goes "uh huh" and walks back to her seat.

Three stops later, he disembarks.

The driver lets us off in the Memphis bus terminal.

We walk the streets.

We walk the streets.

We listen to the blues.

I write.

MEMPHIS
Memphis is the grandmother of the blues
Her life story transcends time
Her fingers are bent, her playing hands hardened

Every line in her face is a testament
She sings the truth about life
She can make you laugh until you cry

She can make you wail like a baby

Her words force you to take a cold hard look at yourself
She reads your soul like an angel

You can't bull shoot her

She will sit near you on a public bus in Memphis
And hand you her last dollar

And you will take it

Because she knows you better than you know yourself.

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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.]




A TGB READER STORY: Sexist Behavior in the Elderly Male

[EDITORIAL NOTE: The backlog of stories is getting short. If you are inclined to submit one, check the note at the bottom of this story.]

By Jack Handley

A while back, another old guy in my complex and I sat on my porch and drank a can of Rainier Ale, and wondered why we ever liked the stuff. He’s not a buddy but occasionally we sit and talk, but we tell each other tales because there’s not much we have in common.

He’s a good looking old fart. He’s bigger than me. And he’s a football nut while I hold that an NFL game is just a 200-minute advertisement interrupted by 60 minutes of football.

He can stay up late enough to watch Late Nite whatever, which surely demonstrates that we run on tracks of different gauge.

This time we talked, I got us both into a cranky mood by mentioning that the only televised sport I could watch, and one I don’t even like very much, was soccer.

He tried to be agreeable and admitted that hockey was gone for him because he couldn’t any longer follow the puck. And I said that wasn’t the fault of the TV producer but that, for instance, unwatchable baseball was.

See, the whole screen is full of the pitcher, who glares, scratches, spits, winds up and throws, and then you see another closeup of the batter swinging, then a far shot of the fly ball in the lights, and then a closeup traveling shot of the fielder running - and not a single view of the runner who was leading off second base, edging back ready to tap the base and run, or whatever the shortstop was doing according to his assessment of the play, which is how you get yours, as the viewer.

He let out a tolerant grunt and changed the topic to ladies. (We are too old to talk of women.) You know Peg? he asked.

That plump lady, who putters in the community garden? Lives in Chateau 3, I think?

Yes. It seems I offended her, she won’t even nod to me - hell, she looks the other way when we pass on the way to the trash bin.

Do you know what you did? Hah! I bet you said something insensitive.

I think I wrote something that offended her.

You wrote something? Hoo boy.

Well, couple weeks ago I stopped at the garden to pass the time of day with her and she asked could I carry some potted plants up to her balcony. So I did.

We chatted, perfectly normal. Did you know she is a teacher - she still works. I told her the old chestnut that you can’t misspell correctly and she laughed.

Then, a few days later my phone died and since I had been sick, I knew my daughter would think the worst if I didn’t answer the phone. So I went over to Peg’s and asked her if she would phone Susan and tell her I had to get a new phone.

So, she read the number off my phone and and called my daughter who didn’t answer and so Peg left a voice message and explained the situation and then gave her her number as my temporary emergency number.

Nice of her. Sounds okay, so far, I said.

Yeah. Well, then she said, let me put your number in my phone. I was going to put her number in mine, but I’m all thumbs with those little keys, and I sure didn’t want to stand there and do the old mumble, fumble, stumble, and spill.

Besides, I was sure Susan was sending a ‘Dad! call me!’ email so I told Peg that, and said I would come back later with my new phone and get her number.

I’m waiting for the interesting part.

Yeah. So, I went back a week or so later; it took me that long to get a new phone, and the number transferred - all that rigmarole - but she wasn’t there, so I left a note.

Ah.

All I wrote was, ‘hey, babe, can I have your number?’

You actually wrote “babe”?

Well, yes, I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I thought it was kind of humorous, you know - an old man who’s forgotten what it’s for, writing a simple note to lady old enough to be in senior housing. I didn’t write, hey babe let’s get together and get skinny, for Christ’s sake.

Perhaps that’s what she read, though.

Sheesh. You think?

Well, you said she’s a teacher. You’re old enough; remember parsing, diagramming sentences and such?

Doubt she is. That must’a been way before her time; she’s not our age.

Women always look way into things, you know: Husband: “Honey, when did you get that new blouse?” Wife: “Why, what’s wrong with it?”

Really?

I dunno. I don’t know anything about women, the ladies, the fair sex, whatever. If I did, do you think I’d be sitting here by myself?

He crushed his can. “Got anything a man can drink?”

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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.]




A TGB READER STORY: Minding My Own Business

By Fritzy Dean

I was meeting a friend for lunch and I was early so I decided to stop for a cup of coffee. The McDonald’s was crowded but it was on my way and I did find a place to sit - a small booth near the front door.

I was reading on my Kindle, minding my own business when a voice said, “Want some company?” Before I could say, “Not really”, a tiny neatly dressed woman sat down across from me.

She started by telling me that this was her regular seat. I understand that feeling of ownership. We humans love to claim our territory, so I smiled. I may have asked her if she lived nearby but I don’t remember saying much after that. This lady was a prolific talker.

Here are some of the things I learned:

She was 90 years old. (I was surprised. at that.)

She intended to go back home and iron. She HAD to iron because she could only wear cotton, everything else made her skin break out.

She did not like the “new fangled” clothes with a hem dipping down on one side and “hiking up on the other. OOPs, she will have an opinion when I stand up.)

She had to buy her clothes at thrift shops because cotton things are hard to find, and she had to iron because cotton wrinkles real bad.

She knows she is almost the last ironer left.

But she has to look presentable because she is a volunteer. (I tried to murmur “Good for you”, but I don’t think she heard.)

She has met all THE BIG SHOTS because of her volunteering.

She mentioned a local business man who does TV commercials, and that woman who used to be our mayor, (we have had two women mayors, but I never learned which one she met), the business man again and “ALL them big shots.”

She volunteers at “a place over on Fulton,” and teaches crocheting - mostly Mexican ladies, but they can learn. They catch on real quick, because she is a good teacher.

Then she goes to a senior center and volunteers to teach crafts. And she’s member of The Eagles, but she doesn’t attend very often any more 'cause all they want is her money. They money her to death.

Just like the ambulance people. She had to call the ambulance to take her to the hospital; she felt she was dying, but the doctors said it was bronchitis. When she got the bill for the ambulance ride it was $1,000!

She told them she could not pay that; she is on fixed income. They said she could pay $30.00 a month and she said, “no, she couldn’t” and they can harass her all they want to but you can’t get blood from a turnip.

And besides, she has called the City of Houston many times to tell them they need to get rid of the standing water on Heights Boulevard, right where she gets off the bus and that water is still there.

She rides the bus anywhere she wants to go; it’s free, you know, because she is 90 years old. One of the perks of getting old.

I had finished my coffee and I got up to leave. As I did, she got up, too, and moved to the other side of the table. Seems like I was sitting in her place, all along.

I kept thinking about the woman and the experience all that day. I had a mixed bag of impressions. I was really aware that at 90 she is sharp, lives alone, takes care of herself, seems to keep herself active.

I also felt she is lonely (she captured a total stranger to talk to), she worries about money and she has no one to call when she needs help - except 911.

I see her as an example of the best and the worst aspects of aging in America in the 21st century. Parts of me are inspired by her and want to emulate her. Parts of me are profoundly grateful I don’t have to. Getting old sure ain’t for sissies.

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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.]




A TGB READER STORY: Aaah, the Good Old Days

By Melissa Martin

I think that’s why some people like antique stores, flea markets, auctions, yard sales and eBay. Items from the past are attached to memories. We remember happy holidays along with what food was served, hairstyles and clothes of the era, television programs and music. Some hanker for the good old days.

The good old days had bad old days as well. Some memories are probably not accurate and are based on how each person remembers it.

But individual perception becomes our reality. It seems easy to remember only the good parts of the past and forget about the challenges and struggles. Just like the times we live in now, good days and bad days and in-between days. Each generation looks back on their good old days.

Some like to look back and reminisce about the good old days and others do not. “I don't do nostalgia. The phrase 'the good old days' never passes my lips,” writes Nicholas Haslam.

Maybe it’s an aging thing - the older I get the more I like to listen to and tell stories about yesteryears; the funny, cheery, and goofy memories. Stories are able to transport our mind back to another time and another place.

Philip Pullman declared, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

Aaah, the good old days. And the good old stories.

I met with my aunt and cousin for lunch recently. And of course, we got around to reminiscing about some of the humorous happenings during the good old days of childhood and beyond.

We laughed over grocery store stories. My mom and aunt piled the cousins into one vehicle and drove to town to stock up on food. The grocery carts would be crammed full of bargains.

Before being squashed into the car to go home, the moms opened a loaf of bread and slapped a slice of trail bologna on it (without condiments) and we ate lunch in the parking lot.

Then the two hurry-scurry sisters squeezed the kids in the car and packed grocery bags into the trunk and every crevice. Each kid held a bag of something with bags at their feet, over their heads and in-between each other.

“Don’t mash the bread!” yelled one mom. “Don’t you dare open that bag of cookies!” yelled the other mom.

“I don’t have enough room!” yelled one kid. “Move over!” yelled another one. And you hoped nobody passed gas, burped or picked their nose.

We rushed home before the frozen food had a chance to melt. And then the boxes, cans and cartons had to be separated. And again we heard, “Don’t mash that bread!” How many times did I hear that phrase growing up? Hundreds.

Aaah, the good old days.

My mom and aunt shopped at the secondhand shoe store in the downtown area. Pairs were different sizes - that’s why they were so cheap. The right shoe would be size 6 and the matching left shoe would be size 6 1/2 or 7. And searching through the boxes and bins of shoes was comical.

Buying shoes for a bunch of kids can be expensive. Nonetheless, our feet survived. And this story is one of my favorite narratives.

We tell stories about the times of yore with affectionate ears and eyes. And with chuckles. Any embarrassment has long since faded.

Every generation has their own hometown memories. Every family abounds with tall tales and embellished anecdotes. Homemade humor - that’s how some people made it through the good old days during the not so good times.

“Nostalgia is a file that removes the rough edges from the good old days,” writes Doug Larson.


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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.]




A TGB READER STORY: My Comfort Zone

By Ann Burack-Weiss

You’d think they’d let up by the time you reach your 80s. That all you need do to keep yourself going is to keep yourself going. But no; everything you hear or read pushes you toward new horizons.

That thrill of completion that I feel when finishing the Sunday crossword puzzle (well, all but three small words) is meaningless. It does not spark those neurons or create new pathways in the brain; all it does is deepen familiar ruts.

Worse, it is a solitary pursuit. Surely dementia and social isolation are brewing in the toxic waters of my comfort zone.

Old folks are repeatedly told to heed the siren call of the untried that, from the beginning of time, has lured humans from their caves into the sun of enhanced existence.

Learning Chinese in the company of elderly peers would be just the thing.

Or I could put aside the knitting of one color, one pattern scarves that I’ve enjoyed since the age of 18 – an activity that is especially pleasant on long winter evenings cuddled on the couch listening to the classical music I’ve enjoyed just as long.

Better to join a class in needlepoint. It takes lots of different colored threads to construct a tapestry – you must keep your wits about you in order to keep them sorted, threaded and hitting just the right spot all the while chatting with others engaged in the same task.

They mean well, the young dears. It is just that they are afraid of their own senescence. Neuroscience offers hope. And yes, I’ve seen the graphs, read the papers. I know enough about research to agree that the findings are statistically significant.

But it’s a long way from statistical significance to my apartment, to my life, where I have to say that the findings are not significant at all.

* * *

You see, we are often afraid. The unknown is only filled with wonder if you feel power within you to grab out to it and turn it to your uses.

We are afraid as young children are afraid – so much in life they don’t understand, can’t control. The things that hide out in the shadows and can pounce at any time are particularly scary when they are alone in the dark. So they ask for glass after glass of water, ask to hear the same story the same way over and over. Skip a page in the book, change a few words and they get upset.

Ours is not a second childhood – for we know full well the names and workings of what is hiding in the shadows. We do not imagine animals escaped from the zoo to hide out under our beds (as I remember doing at the age of four) but the bed itself springing steel sides pulled up high over which tubes ferry fluids in and out of our bodies.

We do not imagine that our screams won’t be loud enough to reach powerful adults who can come to our aid. We know the limits of the powerful adults no matter how caring they might be.

So like children, we cannot see change as a learning opportunity, a chance to face our fears and triumph over them. Instead, change strips us of all sense of certainty, of control, leaving us quaking in its wake; strips us of our memories and the sense of self that they reinforce within us.

The Sunday crossword puzzle I am working on today holds vestiges of every puzzle of my life, everyone who was around me on those long ago Sundays – the places I carried it with me during the week to fill in a clue or two; the people – so many no longer here – with whom I exchanged passing references to its difficulty or ease or cleverness of theme.

The long scarf on which I rip and redo as often as I move ahead, and the music that accompanies it, go all the way back – first, my room at home, then a college dormitory room filled with smokers and bridge players where, doing neither, I found my place and many happy hours with the knitters.

Those last months of pregnancy with each of my now middle-aged children when I surprised myself by branching out to blanket, sweater, and bootie sets – enough even to gift to others.

So I’ll stay right here. Comforted by the familiar, buoyed by memories. Relaxing? Lolling? No, wallowing – that’s the word I’m looking for, wallowing, in my comfort zone.

* * *

[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.]




A TGB READER STORY: Furry Manipulation

By Karpagam “Jeeks” Rajagopal

It is a near-perfect day, with a benevolent sun and a gentle breeze riffling the surface of the pond. A couple of hundred geese mill about on the shore, perforating the ground with their beaks.

A tattooed young man carries a Frisbee as he walks his dogs off-leash. He seems torn between tossing the frisbee for the dogs and finding someone with whom he can play. One of the dogs is a rambunctious golden retriever, the great weather a catalyst that kicks his natural exuberance into high gear.

He does his business on the grass, and earns a “Good boy” from his dad who bends down to scoop it with a plastic bag. He is fit to explode with pride at his accomplishment and a gleam appears in his eye.

While his dad is distracted, he spots the geese and the progression of his thoughts is evident. He charges down the gentle slope towards the smallest gaggle of geese, convinced that even the landscape has every intention of enabling his escapade.

Warned by their lookout, the geese take flight in an explosion of feathers and squawks, indignantly levitating and splashing down in the water. I hear his dad telling him, “Don’t go in the water”, and he reins himself in, braking hard on the verge, caught on the wings of this dilemma.

The gears are clicking fast as he assesses his distance from his dad and the expanse that separates him from the remaining scores of geese. He sees a shining opportunity and seizes it. He runs headlong towards them, euphoric, his fur flying, his tongue a pink flag declaring his exultance. Almost as one, they take off en masse as he chases them into the pond.

This time around, he doesn’t even pretend to stop. He splashes in with abandon, paddling after the geese. Heedless of his dad’s whistles, he tries to herd them to the center of the pond. Now that the geese have quieted down, he can clearly hear his name and the command to return to shore.

Reluctantly, he turns around and it is clear that his heart is not in it. Or maybe he is using the time to strategize. Even though there is no current to battle against, he slowly makes his way back to shore, sodden and chagrined.

As he emerges from the water, it is clear that he knows what to do. He skulks out, tail drooping, the very image of abject chagrin, regret and apology. To see him you would think he had been forced into the pond under duress. He shuffles towards his dad, trying to ingratiate himself by crawling on his belly.

A few feet along, he can sense forgiveness and the change in his posture is so marked as to be unrecognizable. He has realized that apology is far better than permission, and that he does not need to sacrifice fun for good behavior.

The tail springs back up, redemption is at hand, and life is good once again as he goes tearing off through the park, unbridled joy in his every muscle. Through the rest of my walk, I have a smile in my heart and a spring in my step.




A TGB READER STORY: My Mother’s Funniest Hour

By Jack Handley

My mother had a sense of humor but she mostly didn’t get the point of jokes. She liked wordplay but rarely saw the humor in the punch line of jokes which puzzled me.

Some people don’t see humor because they take things literally and find exaggeration irritating, not amusing. In contrast to such people, my mother could see the humor in situations and appreciated Spoonerisms, such as the deacon saying, “Mardon me padam, but you are occupewing my pie.”

But, in general, my mother and jokes don’t mix.

On one holiday visit I carelessly mentioned the type of joke termed the Shaggy Dog Story, which piqued her interest. So, by way of example, I related the tale of the Tragedy of the Tribal Chief, which goes like this:

In the first years of the last century, in deepest Africa, an English missionary had penetrated far into the interior of the continent, past any railroads, or roads, or even trails, and found a larger than usual village of dozens of thatched huts surrounding a central larger, and taller hut, whose doorway was being guarded by two warriors.

The missionary determined that his mission was to start here; that he would enlighten this village with the ideas of Civilization and the blessings of Religion.

The chief agreed to allow the missionary to build a church and to preach to the villagers if he first provided the chief with a pair of thrones equal in magnificence to the great, gilded, thrones of the king and queen of England, a picture of which he had seen in one of the missionary’s magazines.

Here, in the tradition the Shaggy Dog Story, would begin a long and excruciatingly detailed description of the travel saga of the messenger carrying the order for the thrones back to England, and the journey of the cumbrous articles across the oceans and deserts and jungles to the village via steamship, coastwise packet ship, camel train, dugout, and so on-- which we will skip over to pick up the story upon the tumultuous arrival of the great thrones.

As the jubilation died down, problems arose. The first was just getting a Royal British Throne through the grass and bamboo doorway. If you have ever tried to squeeze a La-Z-Boy through a 34-inch doorway, you can see the problem.

The second, was where to put the two of them. The Royal Bedstead occupied most of the hut’s central dais, which in turn, occupied most of the floor space. (I really am trying to cut out the Shaggy stuff.)

The counselors and viziers and shamans finally contrived a scheme to rig a suspension harness to the overhead cross beams and to hoist the thrones up at night, and to lower them upon the bed during the day.

You immediately guess the outcome: one night the rope breaks, the thrones drop down and squash the royal couple and Civilization comes to an end in the village.

Of course, the moral is: People who live in grass houses shouldn’t stow thrones.

My mother emitted her hesitant laugh and said she enjoyed the shaggy dog part, which I skipped for you, perhaps as much she did the joke itself.

A few days later the whole family gathered for a holiday dinner. After the long and happy meal, my very merry mother announced she had a joke to tell. The room went quiet, most faces went blank, my aunts looked stricken. I writhed with sympathetic dread but tried to keep a welcoming, expectant look on my own face.

She then launched into the Tragedy of the Tribal Chief.

Of course, she embroidered the shaggy parts. People fidgeted, but she cast her sweet matriarchal gaze on them and disciplined into auditors who otherwise would have been a mob of noisy relatives. She went on and on, shining with the glow of performance. I admired her gall and fearlessness. And then came the end, the moral, which she announced as such:

“And the moral is: People who live in grass huts shouldn’t store thrones.”

Crushing silence. An embarrassed titter. People’s faces flicker, searching for an expression.

A church cough.

My mother’s face droops, her lips tremble. I am ready to sob. Then, another titter. An uncle lets loose a flatulent guffaw.

The youngest aunt begins to laugh. Tears stream from her eyes. Faces begin to light-up in recognition. Others laugh. Everyone laughs. Real, helpless, har-har laughs.

My mother beams. Everyone beams back. She shifts and turns to me.

“See, son. I can too tell jokes.”




A Change Of Scene

By Carole Leskin

"What you really need is a change of scene", I said aloud to myself.

There was nothing new in those words. I have said them many times over the years. For the most part, during tough times. Divorce, an unhappy relationship, business difficulties, failures of one type or another. Occasionally, out of boredom - that feeling of being stuck.

And usually, it meant taking a trip. A weekend or sometimes much longer. Always someplace different. A chance to see a new view. Meet new people. Eat new food. Try new activities. There was always a sense of adventure. No real plan. Letting life unfold in whatever way.

For the most part, it worked. It was, after all, my adult version of a child running away from home.

But this time it was different.

This time, wherever I went I took "me" with me. There was no escape.

The reality is I am a 73 year old woman who recently had a stroke. My degenerative disc disease and neurological disorder have progressed and become more serious. My physical being is entirely different. My personal freedom significantly limited.

Adventure? My bucket list - zip lining, more hiking, travel to far away destinations, going cross-country in an RV and more - not going to happen.

How can I change my scene?

I am tired and annoyed, sometimes even angry at people, often well-meaning, who hardly know me and send me inspirational posters and quotes.

They remind me that it is all a question of "attitude". "Never say never! Buck up! Stop wallowing in self-pity. So many people have it much worse."

There is a lot of truth in what they say. I count my blessings every day. I have good medical care, a cozy apartment, access to classes and special events. Friends. I love to write and take photographs.

But here's what they don't understand. Sometimes, actually often, it takes a strong will just to get out of bed. Daily chores, things I used to do in a few minutes, take hours and are exhausting. Pain is a constant companion. Doctor appointments, tests, medications, complications.

And what is worse is FEAR. What if I have another stroke? What will I do when I can no longer walk? How will I manage? I have no family and live alone without a support system.

Suddenly, I realized what will change my scene.

A lot of people won't like it.

I will grant myself time to be dark for a bit. I will not feel as if I always have to smile. I will not feel I have to pretend to be optimistic when I get bad news. If I am grouchy - so be it! If I am sad - I can cry. If I am scared - it's okay. In other words, I will allow myself to be me - in all my dimensions.

Most important, I will reach out for help. Something I never do. My whole life has been one of independence and pride. I have to let that go.

I will continue to love writing and photography, nature, animals, learning new things, and meeting new people. I will love my friends and treasure their support. I will be grateful every day.

I will do all of this and more. But I will do it without pretending my declining health and related issues will all go away. I will look at my life from a different perspective and plan accordingly. I will make necessary changes and adjustments.

I will take all the pleasure I can from my change of scene. I will be me. Good, bad, happy, sad.

It's all part of my new view.

* * *

[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.]




A TGB READER STORY: Hot in Houston

By Fritzy Dean

Frank Billingsley, Channel 2’s weather man, is worried about me. Every afternoon he looks earnestly into the camera and tells me it’s hot. He adds that the elderly are especially vulnerable to the heat.

If I happen to check in with Channel 13 or Channel 11, they say the same thing. All of them think the hot weather is bad for me because I am old. They warn me to stay indoors where it is cooler.

The Mayor is also worried about me. He had a press conference to let me know it’s hot. He is so worried he has opened up “cooling centers” for me, in case my house is hot, too.

In addition, the Mayor hired a “Robo Telephone Guy” who calls me twice a day to tell me its hot and I am old and I need to stay inside. The Robo Call Guy even insists that I press ONE on my telephone to let The City of Houston know I got the message…..just in case I hadn’t realized its really hot.

He sounds like the male cousin of Siri:

“This is The City of Houston with a heat advisory. Houston is experiencing triple digit heat and you elderly should take precautions.”

Then today, just an hour ago, I got an email from TXU, my energy company, and they are saying how happy they are that I dialed it up a notch. They complimented me on the fact that I keep my house a little warmer than Siberia and, thus, I have helped control energy usage.

I am trying my elderly best to comply with the instructions from Frank and Tim and David and Mayor Turner and TXU. It’s really lovely of them, all of them, to be so concerned. I am grateful they want me to know it is hot in Houston.

* * *

[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.]




A TGB READER STORY: Singin’ All the Way

By Lyn Burnstine

We - my accompanist friend, her partner, and I - had been to a spectacular birthday party of a dear young friend whose request of the guests was to sing a song for her—preferably their own.

Almost every folk musician in the Hudson Valley who didn’t have a gig that afternoon was there. The music flowed for hours, with time out only for a fabulous meal, thoughtfully considerate of the needs of gluten free and vegetarian guests. It was a scorching hot day, but comfortable inside. We headed for home while still daylight.

A sudden flash of metal, of light coming toward us, caught our eyes just seconds before our windshield became something from a horror movie, as first we hit the car before us, in spite of valiant efforts on the part of our driver to avoid it, then CRASH!

The car coming toward us in the wrong lane at 100 miles an hour had come to a final stop up against our car after wiping out a truck and several cars, killing one mother of four and seriously injuring several others, himself included, between them and us.

I was sitting in the back - doctor’s orders since the pacemaker in my belly could be a killer if hit by the airbag. Fortunately, my friends in the front were saved by the airbags, with only minor burns on their hands. Not so, me.

The force of the crash and the pain in my chest were unlike anything I had ever experienced. My friend turned to ask, “Are you okay, Lyn?”

I could barely squeeze out a faint “no” with a shallow breath. I thought I was dying, then the real terror hit as the airbags deployed, releasing thick, chalky pink powder into the car’s interior.

We truly thought we were going to suffocate until finally my friends managed to open a door and window. It took all of my will power to breathe, even shallowly, with the injury to my chest, which I eventually realized was caused by my little three-wheeled walker flying over from the side seat and hitting me.

I had been bragging for some time that I was making it through my lifetime without any bone breaks other than toes. Now my record was broken, along with my sternum, and four other little bones in my neck and back that I never even felt, paling as they did to the pain in my breastbone.

In the three miserable weeks in the hospital and rehab, I was frequently reminded by my many visitors of how lucky I was. Who could ever have imagined that this “frail-elderly,” 84-year-old with bones weakened by 62 years of severe rheumatoid arthritis, with osteopenia, if not osteoporosis, could survive such a crash let alone recover so remarkably well and speedily that all of my friends are convinced I’m the Energizer Bunny.

I’m not a believer in heavenly intervention but I do know that I still have a job to do here. I’m often reminded of it by my younger cohorts at the open mics where I sing regularly.

They count on me to keep them knowledgeable about American traditional folk music, as, more and more, they turn to their own and others’ contemporary singer/songwriter music.

I am proud that many of them and the more-than-200 followers of my photography on Facebook tell me that I am their inspiration for “keeping on” despite multiple health issues and increasing fragility.

It was almost worth it to have my accompanist, a wonderful songcrafter, write a beautiful song about me called Singin’ All the Way, the title of my first book of memoir and audio cassette, as well as my mantra.

The ironic sequel to this story: when I had nearly recovered, after three months, I suffered injuries to my tailbone in a hard fall, ricocheting off a soft, squishy mattress onto a pile of hardcover books.

In the reading of the x-rays, the technician announced, “No breaks now, but I see you have an old break in your pubic bone.” DAMN! Four years ago I suffered another painful fall that put me in the hospital, where a near-sepsis infection, of which I was unaware, was discovered.

The fall saved my life but the price was high as I walked around in agony for weeks, insisting it had to be broken, despite what the x-rays showed. I wonder what future x-rays will say about my coccyx!

[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.]




A Blockbuster Reader Story and Alex and Ronni Show

As author of yesterday's Reader Story, officerripley, certainly hit a chord with denizens of Time Goes. Lots of other readers joined in with related personal stories, useful information and no small amount of wisdom.

If you missed it, officerripley's story and the comments are all worthy of your time to read about finding our tribes in old age.

There was a consensus among some who commented that this blog is kind of a tribe of its own and some wondered how readers who get to know one another via those comments could be put in touch with one another in person or, at least, email.

We tried that a month or two ago when I explained how I would put one reader in touch with another if both agreed. After all the setup, I received only one request.

Due to how easily I tire these days because of my breathing difficulty, I can't take that on again right now, but remind me in a month or so and if enough people are interested, we might give it another try.

A long while ago, nearly 10 years, when I first moved to Oregon, I held an in-person meet-up at my home. About 10 or 12 local readers came and we had a lovely afternoon.

Yesterday, reader Charlotte Dahl left this note in response to reading about 25 comments before hers:

”Sounds like a family to me. Wouldn't it be great if we could all meet up and form our own tribe? Meanwhile we can still be pen pals.”

As I said, it is a decade later now and with my cancer, breathing, etc., maybe I don't have the energy for it now, but let's see in a month or six weeks. We're in the good-weather period of the year and maybe an in person get-together is something we would like to try - at least for people who are nearby - and perhaps other might be able to do it at the same time in their communities. We could Skype one another's meet-ups.

Now, here is today's episode of The Alex and Ronni Show - this one about a radio program we produced with John and Yoko just about 50 years ago. (The video starts in the middle and I don't know how to fix that. Just move the slider at the bottom to the left to start at the beginning.)




A TGB READER'S STORY: Aunt Vickie

By Janet

Today I’ve been thinking about a lady I used to know. It makes sense that I use the word lady, because it implies a gentle manner and is a word that seems to embody who and how she was.

I think we must have met long before my first recollection of her. Nevertheless, the first time she appears in my memory is on a summer afternoon. Her white-grey hair is carefully combed, as always, and she’s wearing one of her floral cotton summer dresses. The pink and white one, I think it was.

She’s standing in the doorway of her tidy little house, holding the door open for us, smiling and chattering cheerfully. We would come to repeat this ritual many times over several summers, but that first time and how she looked on that day has stayed with me for all these years.

She always seemed genuinely happy to see my mom (Patsy) and us. “Oh, Patsy, how are you? Come on in. Look at all these nice kids. Oh, and here’s my little Jeanne!”

My mom and I and some of my siblings had made the two or three mile walk to her house - an easy trek because it was all downhill (and because I didn’t have a toddler to pick up and carry every so often like my mom did).

After taking our shoes off at the door, we respectfully made our way into her house. It was a curious place to me, neat as a pin and simply decorated with old fashioned furniture and knickknacks.

I remember a figurine that sat on a small table by her green and gold lamp. It was of a woman with a fancy hat and gloves and a very glamorous smile painted across her porcelain face.

In the dining room was a corner shelf that held several elegant flowered teacups with matching saucers. I can still picture the bright colors and delicate handles of the teacups, and how strikingly they stood out against the dark ornate wood of the shelf.

I didn’t think about it then, but today I can imagine her placing each teacup in just the right spot, and how she must have dusted them one by one, carefully returning them to their proper place on the shelf.

Her windows were filled with plants. She was a prolific and gifted gardener; one of the many sweet things about her I didn’t truly appreciate until it no longer was. I’m lucky after all these years to have vivid memories of her flower garden, and of her walking gracefully in and out of the rows of beautiful flowers like a butterfly who didn’t want to miss out on a single one.

She was at home in the middle of all those flowers, chatting happily about which ones were doing well, which would bloom next and what colors they would be, stopping here and there to select just the right blossoms for a pretty and colorful bouquet to send home with my mom.

After a visit to her flower garden she would send us to the neighborhood store for vanilla ice cream. She would open the ice cream carton from the side and slice it like a loaf of bread. It was a special treat when raspberries were in season. She’d put them on our ice cream fresh from her garden. I’d be hard pressed to remember having a better treat before or since.

As I write this, I realize I have an overflow of memories about this sweet lady - too many and too fond to write about in one sitting. So just for now, I will remember her the way she was on those sunny summer afternoons, greeting us with a smile, making sure our visit was pleasant and special the way a gracious hostess does, and sending us off with more smiles, happy chatter, some homemade raspberry jam, and of course, a bouquet of beautiful flowers.

Here’s to you, Aunt Vickie.

* * *

[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.]




A TGB READER STORY: Widgie

By Sylvia Li

Dad never saw himself as a storyteller. He was a nuclear physicist, overlaid on a practical hands-on prairie farm boy who knew how to stook wheat and machine his own steel screws.

He didn't much believe in fiction, except when it was literature, which he respected. He wanted truth if he could get it. New truth about the deep nature of the universe thrilled him. Failing that, he didn't mind not knowing the answer to a question.

All the same, when his two adored preschool kids demanded, "Tell us a story, Daddy!" What could he do but try?

He spun us fantastic tales of adventure, making them up on the fly, desperately grasping fragments out of the air from anything he could remember. We were the most enthusiastically receptive audience anyone could hope for. The tiniest of hints painted whole shared worlds.

Widgie? He was a little boy who lived in Carleton Place, right on the edge of town with fields and woods just past his back gate where he could go to play every day. (When I was older I was disappointed to learn that Carleton Place is a real town just outside of Ottawa. What? It isn't a magical realm like the North Pole?)

Widgie stories were the best. Oh, the exciting adventures he had! He picked hazelnuts and wild strawberries. He ran a race across the fields with an old woman on a flying bicycle. And won.

In the woods he found a little house made of salt. There was a huge old tree he loved to climb. High in its branches he met friendly bears, and an elephant with an umbrella, and bees.

One afternoon in late October, Widgie fell asleep leaning against his tree. When he woke it was night. Stumbling around in the dark, he tumbled down a deep hole between two gnarly roots. Luckily he wasn't hurt.

After he dusted himself off, he discovered he was on a staircase leading down to a cave lit by a kerosene lamp. He was surprised to see chairs and tables and cupboards. In one cupboard was a wooden box and in the box there was a fine fur cape, the kind a very rich man would wear. He tried it on, just to see.

Right away, it wrapped around and became his skin. He turned into a wolf!

All night long he ran through the forest meeting ghosts and witches and skeletons. He was not even a little bit scared. After all, he was a wolf with very sharp teeth.

He wasn't scared, but we were. How was Widgie going to get back to being a boy? Dad didn't say. Years later he confessed that he himself didn't know. Maybe that's why I remember it best!

Mum put her foot down, though. Even if it was Halloween, she said, no more scary stories at bedtime.

* * *

["Stook" is a real verb, though almost nobody does it anymore. It means stacking bound sheafs of cut grain by threes to dry in the hot sun before threshing.]

[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.]




A TGB READER'S STORY: The First of May

By Mary R. Wise who blogs at Red Nose

A "First of May" is circus lingo for a new performer. It comes from the tradition of circuses beginning their seasons on May 1, so if it's your first season on the show, you're a First of May.

My First-of-May day was April 1, 1976 - April Fools' Day!

I arrived in Parkersburg, West Virginia, on a very damp, overcast day with my slightly-better-than-cardboard footlocker, my brand new circus clogs and a bad case of nerves. I'd accepted the job as a circus clown with George Matthews Great London Circus on the strength of a brief letter from the owner's son.

Things got off to a bad start when I told the cab driver to drop me off at Scott Field and he replied with, "Huh?"

One way or another, we found the lot. The big top looked fabulous - a four-pole, three-ring, orange-and-white striped tent in the middle of a beautiful, green field. We found the ringmaster's trailer and I knocked on the door.

First surprise. No one told the ringmaster that a girl clown was going to be on the show. When I told him I was to be on the show, he said, "Oh, aerial ballet?"

And I said, "No, clown."

And he said, "Oh. Well, you'll have to stay in the band bus with the other clowns."

And I said, "Okay," not because I especially wanted to share living space with a bunch of clowns, but mostly because I didn't know what else to say.

Second surprise. I wasn't prepared to find that the "room" in "room and board" consisted of a plank bunk. Why was it called the "band bus"? It used to house the band.

At least the clown's quarters were walled off from the prop crew's quarters. Lucky for me the other clowns were nice enough guys. Pogo and Zippo were already there; Ralf arrived shortly after I did.

Third surprise. No donnikers. Sorry, I mean bathrooms. None. Not even Porta-Potties. Walk to the gas station or just dump where you could as long as it wasn't too close to the big top or cookhouse. And some guys did. Nice!

Fourth surprise. Clowns were expected to help with tear down, hauling the quarter poles to the pole wagon. Clowns were also expected to sell Hershey bars during intermission - we got a dime a bar.

My first night was one of the best and simultaneously the worst night of my entire circus career. The show was wonderful but the weather was ugly. Cold rain pelted down throughout the show, turning the back yard into a sea of mud.

Tear down was excruciating for everyone, especially for naive girls who had to help haul 60-foot steel quarter poles and then lift them up to the guys on the pole wagon.

The mud was so deep that all of the seat wagons got stuck, all of the tractors got stuck, even the performers' trailers got stuck. Not even the elephants could pull them out of the quagmire.

Of course, all the extra help blew the show. Because of that, all the performers had to help fold up the big top. Let me just say that clogs are not the right footwear for folding slippery wet canvas. Indeed, I fell hard during one pull and watched the canvas close over top of me. Great - killed on my first night on the circus by getting rolled up in the big top.

But I didn't die and I didn't quit. The sun came out the next day. I learned how to take a shower at the water wagon and I bought a foam pad for my bunk and work boots for my feet.

And I had the time of my life for the next three years.

* * *

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.




A READER'S STORY: The World Is Such A Noisy Place

By Fritzy Dean

I waited as long as I could - longer than I should have, truth be told. I was tired of constantly asking people to repeat. I knew they were tired of it, too.

The hearing loss is so insidious, though. At first you think your ears are “stopped up,” allergies perhaps. Then you notice everyone seems to mumble. Everyone? Customer help lines are the worst. Mostly, you are speaking to someone whose first language is NOT English. Then add the technical jargon and poor phone line connections - it was torture.

So recently, I surrendered and purchased pricey little hearing aids. I was told they are “state of the art” - the reason for the high price tag, no doubt.

The nice (young) audiologist gave me a lesson in how to insert the dainty little devices into my ears. In fact, he had me do it twice while he watched. He passed me with flying colors, so I was surprised the next morning when it took a big chunk of time to get them right.

He told me to point my index finger, then push it against the ear bud. I couldn’t remember if my finger was supposed to be inward towards me, or away from me. I tried both. I feel sure I looked as if I was trying to drill a hole through my head from ear to ear.

I can tell you with complete authority there is a learning curve to wearing the tiny little devices. He told me to pay attention to new sounds. I truly can’t avoid it.

The “new” sounds are often sounds I just haven’t heard in a long time. How loud and proud the birds sing in the morning! I discovered my doorbell has a long, long echo. I learned to brush my teeth before inserting the ear buds. Otherwise, it sounded like Niagara in the sink, And the brushing!! Like a road grader over gravel in my mouth – ouch.

My lovely wood floors I had put in several years ago? They are so squeaky. It sounds like a moose walking across the room. Who knew?

Now you are wondering if I am glad I did it. The answer is absolutely. I can now hear the soft little voices of the children at the school where I volunteer. I no longer blast the TV so the walls vibrate and disturb the neighbors. My family seems less annoyed with me - always a good thing.

And guess what? There’s an “app” for that. Yes, these fancy little ear assistants have their own app. I can direct the sound, muffle the sound, adjust the direction of the sound, all while pretending to be a millennial checking my phone. I am amazed it took an old people's appliance to drag me into the 21st century.

I do confess to welcoming my quiet house back every night when I take the loud speakers out and drop them in their cute little padded box.

Ah, there. That’s better.