105 posts categorized "Readers' Stories"

A TGB READER STORY: For a Few Mysterious Minutes

By TGB reader Jean-Pierre

Some years ago - before I got to be eighty-five with a miserably sore hip - I was walking my youngest grand-daughter to the play park on a golden Fall day when she said, quite unexpectedly, right out of the blue, "I'm glad I chose my Mother and Father."

She was a toddler, barely five minutes into this crazy world, remember - and when it soaked in, I said, "I'm glad you did, too, Charlotte."

She spent a few minutes explaining why her Mother was kind and her Father was responsible, and then she was back to herself, eager to hit the swings and the roundabout, the adult expressiveness reverting to its usual chatter.

Charlotte's eighteen now and starting university - with a penchant for roller skating, playing guitar and offbeat hobbies.

But it's hard not to forget that for a few mysterious minutes, somewhere between chasing the dog and looking down the path for the play park, that little tad revealed some tantalising unknown where we might get to choose the manner of however many futures we have.

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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.]

The Face of Time

By Anne Burack-Weiss

“My contemplations are of Time
That has transfigured me.”

- W.B. Yeats The Lamentation of The Old Pensioner

It is said that by a certain age a woman has “the face she deserves.” And about 70 or so it becomes a map of the person within.

I have seen old women like that. Nuns. Vegans. Those for whom a swipe of chap-stick has always sufficed as a makeup regimen. You could imagine that they looked like they always had - themselves grown older.

I look like a different being entirely.

Yes, I overdid the red meat and red wine, baked in the sun before SPF 75, was often less than generous in word or deed. But hey, I was not the real life embodiment of Dorian Gray – whose suddenly uncovered picture revealed decades devoted to dissolute pleasure.

I anticipated a face where glimpses of a younger self could still be seen. I had imagined laugh lines, evidence of good cheer, soft white curls affirming a tender nature.

I had not imagined wrinkles flowing every which way, eyelids at half mast, elongated ear lobes, a nose that neatly nestles in the cross cut pleats of my upper lip - brown spots punctuating the terrain.

Transfigured is indeed the word. A metamorphosis, a shifting and sliding as inevitable as the grooves the receding tide etches on the sand.

I look to the photograph of my great grandfather – Isaac Lander. It is a studio shot circa 1930. He is four years younger than I am now, a decade past the biblically allotted three score and ten.

We never met. All I know of him is that he was born in a small town on the border of Lithuania in 1845, emigrated to Boston with a wife and five children at the age of 50. I cannot begin to imagine a life so different from my own.

And yet.

Remove the skullcap and replace with a color-assisted mess of curls, shave the beard but for a few random strands undetected in the 10X magnifying glass and there you have me - the hooded eye lids, the elephantine ear lobes, the nose like the front end of parenthesis.

I look again. He seems to be engaged with someone or something outside the frame. The expression in his eyes is soft, interested, curious. He looks weighed down by the years but still open to life.

Yeats concludes The Lamentation of the Old Pensioner, “I spit into the face of time/That has transfigured me.” But looking into Isaac’s eyes , I wonder...

Could it be that our old faces may not, in fact, be ones we deserve or even earn? Could it be that the vagaries of the lived experience – the choices we make in youth and middle age, the good and bad luck that comes our way, even gender differences take us only so far – until the immutable rules of genes, gravity and time take over?

We do our best, grow old (if we are lucky!) wither, die.

As I carry Isacc’s face – our face –from the 19th to the 21st centuries, I am as the flowering plants that cheer the days I spend indoors on cold winter days. They are something to look forward to as I come downstairs for coffee each morning.

I buy them when they are in bud, tend carefully through the height of their beauty and dispassionately view their withering. They may not bloom again. But somewhere gardeners are preparing new plants from their seeds.


By Brenda Verbeck

The ability of a scent to stir a memory is an amazing thing. And it can be an immediate trigger for evoking the feelings associated with an event.

I have never used Coty’s Emeraude, but having been the victim of overzealous perfume sales people in stores like Bloomingdale’s I’ve been hit with it from time to time. Actually, it’s an indelible imprint in my brain, as well as on my olfactory equipment.

When I was a teenager, I spent summers at my aunt’s bungalow colony in Rock Hill, New York. It was adjacent to another small town called Glen Wild and I became part of a small group made up of locals and a few of us who were summer kids. The local boys had cars or trucks and it was great fun to go driving around the country roads in the evenings.

On this particular evening, when I was probably around 13 or so, we passed an accident. Clearly it had just happened. The car was off to the side of the road at a crazy angle. The people in the car, I think there were four of them, were lying helter skelter.

We backed up and got out of the cars, running to see if they needed help. They did. This was on a pretty much deserted back road, not close to any homes and remember, this was around 1949 – well before cell phones were even a concept

I could see that one of the men was bleeding from his ear. Having had a course in first aid as part of my high school curriculum I knew that it meant that he had a fractured skull. The others seemed mostly dazed though there may have been bruising, contusions, what have you. But we had no idea. We were just a bunch of kids wanting to do the right thing.

So we somehow got them into our cars and drove them to Monticello Hospital. The one woman was in the same car I was in and she absolutely reeked of a strong perfume. Never one for strong perfumes, which tend to give me a headache, I felt engulfed, trapped by this overwhelming aroma. And I also felt very sad. I was worried about the man with a probable skull fracture and I also felt very helpless.

We had no idea what happened to them after we dropped them off at the emergency entrance, but that scent stayed on my clothes for days, and in my nostrils forever. I identified the scent on one of my forays through a department store soon after that, probably Namms in downtown Brooklyn.

Wherever I am and someone is wearing it, my nose knows, and it evokes an immediate response of sadness.

Fortunately, few people today, at least in the world I inhabit, wear scents out of respect for the many who have allergies, and lighter scents, generally, seem to have become more popular; so it has not assailed me for a long time, but I know that one whiff of Emeraude puts me on a dark country road, feeling sad and helpless. Funny that.

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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: Life Lessons at the Lunch Counter

By Barrie N. Levine who blogs at “Into the 70s – 72 is the New 72”

When mid-summer rolls around, I remember the year – 1963 - that I was summarily fired from my summer job. Not fair!

I had just completed my freshman year and needed to earn expense money for the fall semester. I was thrilled to get hired at the five-and-dime lunch counter in my New Jersey hometown.

I proudly wore my starched yellow uniform with the white apron, designating me as part of something important, in this case a variety store with a name recognized throughout the country. Not Woolworth’s, but close [W. T. Grant & Company].

I learned how to make malted milkshakes, ice cream sodas, floats, sundaes and banana splits. Now I was a grownup, privy to the mysteries of creating soda fountain drinks. I took my responsibilities seriously - when I wiped down the counter, it was spotless to welcome my next customer.

I acquired several regulars. An older man, a fatherly type with horn-rimmed glasses, ordered an apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream every day. When he situated himself on the red vinyl swivel seat, I brought over his pie and coffee without asking. He always left five cents for a tip under the cup and saucer.

I enjoyed my new community of co-workers and loyal customers, and the ebb and flow of the day - breakfast rush hour, slow mid-morning, quick turnover of office and retail employees at their thirty minute lunches, kids and their mothers ordering soda fountain treats after school, then closing down at four with the rest of the evening free to hang out with my friends.

Another girl was hired but she wasn’t as conscientious in her duties. She was a permanent hire whereas I was there temporarily, the college girl passing through on the way to her future.

I saw her insert the malted milk canister into the spinner - but apparently not far enough. It flew off the spike and hurtled into mid-air like a missile off course. Fortunately, it landed on the floor, but not before ejecting strawberry malted all over the place, including on my yellow uniform.

My boss, enraged, walked up to me and shouted, “Miss Weiner, did you do that?”

I denied it and tried to explain but he didn’t listen, much less believe me. Didn’t my reputation for perfect attendance and proficiency make a difference?

The strawberry malted dripping off my uniform convinced him of my guilt. The new girl - whose uniform was spotless because she was behind the line of fire - stood silent while I took the fall.

My boss ordered, “Turn in your uniform and don’t come back.”

I stammered, “But, but, I wore my uniform to work today...“

“Okay, then get it back here first thing tomorrow morning if you want your tips for the week.”

I held back tears. The entire incident - from disaster to dismissal - happened within all of five minutes.

I waited at the bus stop in my yellow outfit covered with pink streaks stunned at the injustice meted out to me. The stains didn’t come out in the wash and I expected my boss to dock my pay for the damage. But I kept the name tag - really, who else named Barrie would they need it for?

The public humiliation I experienced burned for weeks. By then, it was too late in the summer to find another job.

In September, I returned to college and moved on with my life armed with a tougher shell and slightly more prepared for the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” I continued my food service line of employment working in the college dining hall, learning to carry five hot meals balanced on my left arm.

But nothing - not even the life lesson at the lunch counter - prepared me for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November.

Still, I’ve always wondered if Apple Pie Guy cared enough to ask anyone why I was suddenly gone.

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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: Memory of a Summer Day

By Janet from Minnesota

On this beautiful summer day, my heart is filled with memories of 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 us, greeting my mom with a big smile. “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, 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 elegantly flowered teacups with matching saucers. I can still see the bright colors and delicate handles of the teacups and how pretty they looked against the dark 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 always 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 of them.

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. Carefully opening the ice cream carton from the side, she would slice the frozen treat like a loaf of bread; a thick, delicious square for each of us.

It was a special delight when raspberries were in season. Fresh from her garden, she’d spoon them onto our ice cream in a most generous fashion, the bright red berries atop the sweet ice cream slices making my mouth water with anticipation. I’d be hard pressed to remember having a better treat before or since.

As I write this, my heart overflows with memories of this kind, sweet lady - too many and too tender to write about in one sitting. So just for now, on this beautiful summer day, I will remember her the way she was on those summer days of long ago, 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 the precious memory of you, my dear Aunt Vickie.

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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: When Faith Is What I Need Most

By Carole Leskin

I tried to write something to post today. Something sweet, gentle, funny, or hopeful. But I could not.

Today all I could do was sit and grieve. Overwhelmed. Where am I? What is happening to the imperfect, but basically kind country I knew? Cities and even towns all over the US are burning, looted and destroyed. The military are being used to disperse peaceful protesters. George Floyd is murdered and four policemen, the people who take the oath to stand and protect, are accused.

A Central Park bird watcher is reported to the police. More than 100,000 people are dead from COVID-19 with more every day, as the necessary supplies to help treat it are still not fully deployed.The pandemic rages on.

The number of people unemployed is as great as during the Depression. We cannot get close to people. We wear masks. Our loved ones die alone and have no funerals. Social distancing, a necessity, has become painful isolation, and depression and suicide is a daily occurrence.

The list could easily be longer - but this is enough. And so, many of us spend our time inside and afraid.

There is a terrible irony in what has become the slogan we hear chanted and see on placards everywhere as protesters by the thousands march day after day. Not since the 1960s have we seen anything like it.


George Floyd's dying words. But also one of the last things people of all ages, colors, religions, genders say as they die from covid19. The same can be said by people where air and water pollution is once again killing our environment. And when peaceful protestors are dispersed by gas. There is more - but you all know examples.

The murder of George Floyd has become more than a chant decrying racism and police brutality. It is the cry of the people of the United States - once thought to be the greatest nation on Earth - the slogan for so many in 2020.

I turn to the place - the only place - where I find comfort. Faith.

It's not that I believe G_d can miraculously solve all of this distress. For me, Faith means that there is hope. It asks me to wake up each morning and consider how I might be helpful. Sometimes, Faith is the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.

It encourages me to get on with life as best I can, recognizing it is a gift, and knowing that good people are everywhere. Faith is purpose. Faith is potential. Faith is possibility. But it is up to me to do more than pray for help. What happens daily is my responsibility. There are days when I fail.

Somehow, I am still often optimistic. And that, I believe, is Faith.

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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.]


By Karpagam “Jeeks” Rajagopal

In these upside-down times,
the human touch, that
most ignored, essential sense
showing concern, and caring,
impossible to misinterpret -
because you can hide your eyes
behind opaque shades,
fake a smile,
mishear deliberately,
have a blocked nose, or be upwind
but you can’t touch gently or kindly
if you don’t feel it in you,
because fingers don’t lie -
has become the thing you yearn for.

A hug to say hello or goodbye,
a gentle touch to show understanding,
acceptance, sympathy or presence,
a celebratory high-five, a kiss on the cheek,
a reassuring pat on the shoulder,
wiping away another’s tears -
Human spontaneity gives way
To second thoughts and permission now.

People hesitate and back away
from the sin that is proximity.
A mask is suddenly political,
and courtesy, civility, and caring
are perceived as oppression,
and a violation of civil liberties.
I look up at the heavens
to help me understand
but Nature is mystified by
our disregard, pettiness, and greed.
The tree canopy is riven
into verdant islands separated
by the blue ribbon river of sky.
Yes, the world has been upended.

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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.]


By Henry Lowenstern

I have always been surrounded
by family and friends.
As a child, I had an older brother
who after me would tend.
When I came to America,
I lived with my cousin
who taught me to speak English
and to avoid anyone who doesn't.
In the Army, I was never alone,
nor in college, on my own.
Then, came a lovely love affair,
marriage, children and a home where
for 67 years, I was never on my own,
until Marki passed away
and left me alone
and lonely.

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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: Love Thy Neighbor, Over the Fence

By Barrie Levine who blogs at Into the 70s – 72 is the New 72

When our children were grown and my husband Paul and I moved to our current home, our new neighbors welcomed us with a huge tray of homemade eggplant parmigiana.

Carmela and Tony (not their real names), a brother and sister in their early 80s, had never married. Tony, a retired engineer, loved Italian opera videos and made his own red wine. Carmela had formidable expertise in the traditional domestic arts of cooking, baking, and sewing. She knitted colorful afghan blankets for each of our four granddaughters.

Tony confided in us about the hardships he endured as a prisoner in World War II. They emigrated from Italy to the United States after the war and loved their new country with every fiber of their being.

Befriending neighbors was in my DNA. In my childhood, my mom Rose and her neighbor Madge waved through their kitchen windows while washing breakfast dishes. After sending the children to school, they met outside in their aprons and spent the morning chatting over the picket fence.

My husband tended a prolific garden and regularly took over baskets of vegetables and herbs for Carmela’s use. She returned the favor by sharing a platter of antipasto or a jar of homemade spaghetti sauce.

But one year we were plagued by woodchucks who invaded the garden and ruined it often. On an August afternoon, Paul went outside to survey the rows of corn, his pride of the growing season, to find them massacred, the cobs torn off the stalks and strewn on the ground, half-eaten.

He researched his options and bought a Have-a-Heart cage, with the intention of relocating the culprits to a distant wooded area. When Carmela spotted a woodchuck trapped in the cage, she called and screamed into the phone - branding us killers - and that she wanted nothing more to do with “people like us.”

After she slammed down the receiver, I stood there with the phone in my hand, speechless.

Early the next day, a crew appeared to measure the property lines. I knew what that meant - a spite fence would go up along the three hundred foot boundary between us. Whenever the panels blew down in snow or wind storms, Carmela sent for the fence company to repair the damage or replace the sections, keeping the wall intact.

When I heard that Tony passed away, I sent her a condolence card. But Carmela held her grudge and never looked our way to say hello.

Four or five years later, I received another surprise phone call from Carmela - she no longer wanted us to be enemies. I welcomed her kind words and the feeling of connection I had missed.

But by then, my husband was gravely ill. I was his caregiver, trying mightily to keep him out of a nursing home and simply did not have the energy to pursue a neighborly relationship. She may have thought that I didn’t care, but the truth is, my life was in shambles. I had no emotional reserves to welcome anything or anyone into my life - or even to explain.

And our garden suffered from neglect. My husband could no longer figure out how to handle his tools or equipment. We had to sell his tractor with the rototiller attachment. I remember that unbearably sad day when I wrote up a bill of sale and the buyer drove the Kubota onto his trailer and hauled it away.

Last year, I saw Carmela’s obituary in the local newspaper. I mused on both Tony and Carmela, brother and sister immigrants from Italy who lived their American dream together in a brick ranch house on two acres in Massachusetts after losing everything under the Mussolini regime.

I’m sad to lose my next door neighbors, and for my aborted friendship with these good people based upon a silly misunderstanding.

But not everything is possible in life and I had to let it go.

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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: Too Close for Comfort

By Fritzy Dean

I don’t know why he scared me so much. He was not disheveled or dirty. He seemed friendly, giving me big smile as he approached, asking, “ Are you okay, sweetheart?”

I knew I did not know him so I objected to being called “sweetheart.” I was about to step off the sidewalk to walk to my car, when I realized my car was not there.

My face must have shown confusion because he then said, “Is your car lost?”

Spotting it in the other direction I said, “No, not lost. Just temporarily misplaced.”

At that point, he walked right up to me and placed his hand on my elbow! I felt a cold fist squeeze around my heart. Who is this guy? What is he doing? Is he a “Good Samaritan?” Or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

I kept my body stiff and rigid in the few steps it took to get to my car door. I stopped and stood still, waiting for him to step away before I opened the car door. Finally he did, with another twinkly smile, which somehow did not reach his eyes.

I stepped inside and immediately locked all the doors. As he walked into the store I had just exited, I noticed my breath was shaky and my heart was pounding. Clearly my body was reacting to something I could not identify. My body KNEW I had survived a perilous encounter.

A good number of years ago I read a book called, The Gift of Fear by a man named Gavin de Becker. Mr. de Becker (born October 26, 1954) is an American author and security specialist, primarily for governments, large corporations and public figures. He is the founder and chairman of Gavin de Becker and Associates. In the book, he describes many first hand accounts of folks who discounted their fear and came to regret it.

One story I remember very well was about a young woman who dropped her bag of groceries while trying to open the security door to her apartment house. A “nice guy” came along just then, picked up the onions and oranges and cans of food. He insisted he would escort her up to her apartment, since her hands were full.

He chatted in a friendly way as they climbed the stair. But when she tried to turn away at the door to her unit, he took her keys and pushed her inside. For many hours he tortured and assaulted her.

When he went to the kitchen to get a knife, she was able to slip out, naked and trembling. She tiptoed to her neighbor's door where her prayers were answered. Her elderly neighbors were home and admitted her seconds before her door opened and her assailant stormed out looking for her.

They watched through the peep hole as he pounded on all the doors on that floor. Finally he left. She was traumatized, but alive. She admitted to the police to having a “bad feeling” about the man, but didn’t want to seem unfriendly since he was being so helpful.

I cannot truly say I remembered any of this that day on the sidewalk where the “nice guy” wanted to help me. I just knew he did not have my best interests at heart.

That night on the local news I saw a video of a guy chasing down an 81-year-old lady, knocking her to the sidewalk and taking of with her purse. The woman could have been me.

I realize we live in a violent world but my default position has always been to trust. Trust, until I have reason to believed the person is untrustworthy. That day on the sidewalk, my instinct, my self preservation instinct was alert and paying attention.

When the stranger stepped up and invaded my personal space, something inside me knew. That primitive reptilian part of my brain, the part always on watch for predators - it knew.

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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: A Bad Day – May 2020

By Carole Leskin

I tried to find something to post today. Something sweet, gentle, funny or hopeful. But I could not.

Today all I could do was sit - and grieve. Overwhelmed. Where am I? What is happening to the imperfect, but basically kind country I knew?

Minneapolis and St. Paul are burning. George Floyd is murdered. A Central Park bird watcher is reported to the police. More than 100,000 people are dead from COVID=19 with more every day. The pandemic rages on.

The number of people unemployed is as great as during the depression. We can not get close to people. We wear masks. Our loved ones die alone and have no funerals. There is more but this is enough. And so, many of us spend our time inside and afraid.

I try to be optimistic.

Today I failed.

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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: A Perspective on Time

By Melissa Hart

I’m sitting on my patio on a cool Arizona morning drinking my tea and observing my yard. The birds are active, lizards are scurrying about and the occasional rabbit gets under the fence or perhaps there’s a nest under the shed.

Some mornings I’m thinking about the details of the day ahead but today my mind wanders to deeper things.

I’ve watched the seasons go by from my spot on the patio. Birds come and go. Plants grow, get big and need to be trimmed. Nature continues on and it makes no difference if we’re here or not. It moves forward with no regard to our situation, our desires or our fears.

Time goes on.

We are currently stuck at home. Time passes - sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Some of us have family and friends nearby, some at a distance. Some of us have none at all. Some welcome alone time, some dread it.

This event is a fraction, a speck of our lives. Our lives are but a speck in history. Who will remember us? Have we made a difference? Will we make a difference? Will future humans look at our remains and relics and speculate about us?

Time is measured in eons. In geologic time, the continents move imperceptibly. Glaciers come and go. Earthquakes happen. Floods, fire. The land changes in the present as it has in the past.

The dinosaurs wandered the earth for millions of years. Did they ponder their existence? Then the earth changed and they were gone. The earth was different, but life continued.

We have changed the face of the earth, too, for growth and survival and also by ignorance and greed. We have fought nature, but nature eventually adapts and continues.

Time goes on.

In reality, the future is always uncertain, except for this: We are here. We grow old. We pass on to whoever or whatever our next stop is. If we are lucky we have known joy, contentment, love. We have made a difference to someone. We found meaning in our lives.

My hope is that humans will eventually coexist with each other and with nature. But the world will exist with or without us. The future is always there, whatever part we play in it.

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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.]


BLOG HOUSEKEEPING REMINDER: As announced on Monday, beginning next Monday (20 July 2020) Time Goes By will no longer be published on Facebook. If you want to continue to read TGB, you can subscribe in the right sidebar of the website for email delivery.

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By Kathy Kaiser of AgingJournal.net

It’s tricky enough being an older person navigating a world that belongs to the young. But in this time of pandemic, it’s becomes even more problematic.

A few weeks ago, I was walking on a path near my home, when a group of children and their mothers were heading straight for me. When we saw each other, we all froze in place, unsure of what to do. Because the path had a ditch on either side, I couldn’t move off the path and keep our distance at the prescribed six feet or more.

Finally, I squeezed myself as close to the ditch as possible, and they silently walked by.

In normal times, they would have seen me smile, and I likely would have made some conversation like "How are you doing?" or "Beautiful day," but the mask prevented them from seeing that I was happy to encounter a bunch of children enjoying this spring day, and anything I said would have been muffled.

The situation felt awkward and after they passed me, I heard one little girl say: “Some people are just jerks.” Was she referring to me or someone else?

Since then, I’ve made it a point, when I encounter others on the path, of stepping off and loudly saying (through my mask) hello or waving. If they’ve stepped off the trail for me, I thank them loudly. Yet each encounter feels slightly tense, as if my presence requires some action on their part.

Or maybe they regard me, as an older person statistically more susceptible to the coronavirus, with some suspicion. Maybe I'm a reminder of the deadliness of this disease, as if they spotted the grim reaper coming down the trail.

Many writers on aging have noted that this pandemic is exacerbating ageism. As public health agencies warn that those most susceptible to COVID-19 are people over 60, we seniors are being lumped into a category of people who are helpless, weak and close to death (even as some 70-year-olds might be healthier than a sedentary 35-year-old).

More than ever before, I feel I'm the "other" — separate from the rest of humanity because of my age and vulnerability to disease.

I appreciate my fellow hikers and walkers who are considerate enough to give me a wide berth on the trail but I want nothing more than to go back to normal, to a time when an older woman hiking on a path was nothing to fear — or even notice.

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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: Ladies of the Silent Generation

By Elizabeth A. Rogers

I was born in 1937--smack in the middle of the so-called “Silent Generation” that arrived before WWII and at the end of the Great Depression. I speak as a middle-class white female member of that group.

We are Ladies of the Silent Generation, who reached young adulthood in the 1950s. We were - with notable exceptions such as Nancy Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Sandra Day O’Connor and Eleanor Holmes Norton - silent. Ours is the era venerated by the current president at his MAGA rallies.

Yes, it was a great time if you were a white male! Women lived in the shadows of social constraints and the men in our lives, first our fathers and brothers, then our husbands.

If we were married and desired to open a bank account, our husband’s signature was required - even if we were employed full-time. If we voted, we probably voted in accordance with our husband (or said we did).

The primary goal for young women was to marry well, with the most popular college degree being an “Mrs.” Our life was expected to revolve around cooking and housekeeping, raising children and perhaps doing volunteer work through the PTA or a women’s charity group.

We Ladies of the Silent Generation rarely had dinner in a restaurant without a male companion. We were taught to defer to men and not raise our voices in opposition to the status quo.

For the most part we spoke our truth only in pleasantries regardless of what was actually happening in our lives (alcohol, Miltown and later Valium often helped to suppress those truths). Being submissive, taking a back seat and not rocking the boat were prized female traits, while laying waste to the potential of a generation of women.

These traits probably set the course for the so-called imposter syndrome which impacted me professionally and affects some women in the workforce even today.

I began to question the status quo around 1960 and rejected much of it entirely by the mid-1970s. I started learning to speak my truth. I was divorced twice and subsequently escaped an abusive relationship. Eventually, I met and married a man who has always valued me as a capable, autonomous adult equal. He is totally atypical of the Depression-era and Silent Generation men I grew up with.

My truth today: I have openly expressed my dislike of getting old. However, dislike does not equate with non-acceptance. Refusal to accept the fact of ageing is futile and ridiculous. At 83, I am old. Although I am fortunate to be basically functional so far, I can no longer do many of the things I once enjoyed and did easily. Physical pain is now a constant presence. The possibility of needing long-term care is worrisome.

While these facts are only part of who I am, they are nonetheless facts. They are not automatically offset by “wisdom”, the “joys of quiet contemplation”, the “rewards of grandchildren” and similar platitudes often used to applaud advancing age.

I understand that many - if not most - old people believe that life is worth sustaining at any cost despite the loss of health, independence and personal agency. That is their absolute right, although I am decidedly ambivalent.

Many also extol the upside of being old and dismiss or minimize the downside. Again, that is their absolute right and must be respected since the larger society does an excellent job of denigrating old age. Still, the prevailing view seems to be that, given the many exterior social negatives surrounding old age, we (old people) must always be uniformly upbeat and positive.

However, that is not my truth, and as a Lady of the Silent Generation, I claim the hard-earned right to articulate what is true for me. I wasn’t all in with Pollyanna as a child. I’m still not.

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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: Seeking Safe Passage

By Barrie N. Levine who blogs at Into the 70s

Last Saturday morning, I attended religious services at my virtual synagogue. Setting up ZOOM was easy, a personal triumph. I loved the experience of sitting down with my mug of hot coffee in front of the computer, meeting my fellow congregants seeking comfort in troubled times.

The Rabbi read a modern translation of Psalm 92 that resonated with me. I can’t remember it word for word, something like, “Plant yourself exactly where you are...for six days, you are the gardener...but on this day (the Sabbath) you are the garden.”

In the afternoon, I left the isolation of my house for a walk in the fresh air. After a lengthy cold spell and then a week of soaking rain, New England sees the sun again. Pedestrians appeared in full force to savor the first mild day of spring.

Uh oh. Loud alarm bells go off in my head.

I live in a town of 3500 residents spread over eight square miles. The density of 632 persons per square mile is low compared to the adjacent city with density of 2804. Even so, the walk in my own neighborhood unsettled me from the outset.

At least every five minutes, I looked behind to see if walkers or joggers were gaining on me. I crossed the street even before awaiting their own courteous maneuver to let me pass.

If walkers came towards me, I made a split second decision of timing and direction. If I stepped off the curb, I had to avoid vehicles heading in my direction on the same side of the road.

The constant effort to keep from crossing paths kept me hopscotching all over the place. In my mind, my fellow outdoor adventurers emitted a radioactive glow. My fresh air walk turned out to be crazy-making.

I had planned to turn into the path to Long Hill, a small state property a mile up the street, and walk through the apple orchard to the gardens at the Great House. A locked gate and signboard in large red letters blocked my route: PROPERTY CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.

I returned home after a vigilant and exhausting hour that woke me up to the reality of the new order.

Walking around my yard, surrounded by woods and unbuildable wetlands, I saw that winter had done its usual damage leaving branches and twigs strewn about, boards hanging off the side of the woodshed.

Daffodils surprised me, as they always do—even the new bulbs I hadn’t managed to plant until mid-December pushed up their shoots through the wet ground. The garden shed barely survived another winter, with its peeling paint and busted up door, looking neglected but still functional.

All of it more beautiful than I ever remembered.

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In my childhood, the danger would come from the sky.

The threat of nuclear war was the major national fear. You too may have experienced air raid drills: when the siren sounded, we hid under our school desks or in the halls to avoid the explosion, flying objects and radiation that might be real next time.

The principal monitored the hallways as we crouched against the lockers, our faces resting on our folded arms, our eyes shut tight like good little citizens.

Some families built bomb shelters in their backyards or basements, according to reports in Life magazine. I wanted one too to keep my mom and dad and brother safe.

Ultimately, no bombs landed on us. My parents, my school, and our President Eisenhower (term 1953-1961) protected me from harm.

As I write this in early April of 2020 - the year like no other - the coronavirus looms merciless, strong and agile. We work daily to sort out the information, coming at us from so many sources, to determine our own parameters, the parameters that keep changing, shaping - and hopefully saving - our lives and those dear to us.

Stay healthy, my good friends, safe in the place you are planted for now.

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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: Following Doctor’s Orders – Unexpectedly and Reluctantly

By David Astley of xyzAsia

My heart specialist has a wicked sense of humor. Every six months when I visit her for my checkup, I walk through the door of her consulting room and she says: “Wow, you are still here. I thought you’d be dead by now.”

I’m 71 and I have severe atherosclerosis caused by a combination of high cholesterol, stress and 25 years of cigarette smoking (commenced in the years when there were no health warnings about the dangers of smoking).

Atherosclerosis is hardening of the arteries. Its severity is measured by the amount of calcium in the plaque deposited inside the arteries. This is determined by means of a CT scan and patients are given a “calcium score”. A score of 0-100 is good. Anything above 400 is bad. My calcium score is 1500 – or “off the scale” as my doctor calls it.

That puts me into the top five percent of candidates for a heart attack or stroke, but apart from one angina incident about 12 years ago, I’ve not felt like I have a serious health issue.

Sure, I can’t climb mountains like I used to, and anything more than about 50 steps uphill leaves me out of breath, but aside from that I still feel healthy.

My doctor keeps telling me that I need to slow down and take things easy but every time I’ve tried to do that, I get bored. So bored that I feel I’m going to die of boredom, not a heart attack.

So I’ve kept working because deep down I’m hoping my doctor has got it wrong about my risk of a heart attack. After all, my Dad is still alive and well at 97, and he smoked and had high cholesterol too.

I’m not working for anyone except myself now. The stress that contributed to my atherosclerosis came from 30 years of working in the television industry trying to manage on-air personalities with egos that often exceeded their talent, audiences that you could never satisfy and boards of directors and shareholders who wanted to squeeze more profits from the stations for which I worked.

So it was with some relief that I “retired” 10 years ago and left behind the world of endless meetings and office politics and set out on a new journey on my own. I had started my media career as a travel journalist and that was how I was going to end it.

I now travel, write and edit a blog for older travelers and contribute to travel magazines. And I enjoy every minute of it - that was, until three months ago when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Now with borders closed around the world, limited flights and quarantine lockdowns in many countries, my “new career” as a travel writer has come to an abrupt halt.

Like many others, I’m stuck in my home office nervous about venturing out for groceries, paranoid about getting a haircut, wondering about how long it will take to develop vaccines and most of all, missing the buzz of boarding a flight with my laptop and camera to visit a new destination.

There’s only so much that a travel writer can do from home. An article about virtual tours maybe, one about preparing for future trips perhaps and others about countries that have brought the pandemic under control and are planning to reopen their borders to socially distancing tourists.

After that, the boredom sets in. I tried venturing onto some Facebook travel groups the other day to relieve the boredom. I got involved in a debate about whether blocking middle seats on aircraft would help prevent the spread of the virus from asymptomatic carriers. I commented that any amount of social distancing would surely be a help.

The response was horrifying. A Facebook user from Indiana replied: “Crawl back into your cave old man” and suggested that the coronavirus was an ideal way to rid the world of old people who were a drain on social security systems.

We had to die to save the economy, he said. Many other forum members “liked” his comment.

Needless to say, my venturing onto the Facebook debating stage was short-lived. For the time being I will return to my cave and try to cope with boredom as best I can. My heart specialist will be pleased that I’ve slowed down, but this is not the way I had envisaged spending these precious years of my life.


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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.]


By Fritzy Dean

I can’t remember when I didn’t love words. I can remember when I thought they were little dead ants on the paper. That was before I learned about the alphabet. That alphabet breakthrough was the magic day I broke the code and started my real love affair with words.

My love only grew stronger and deeper the more I dove into books. I was (and am) a voracious reader - from cereal boxes and medicine bottles to Mark Twain and Charles Dickens to Jane Austin and beyond. Too many to name or number.

For many years my love of words was expressed solely through reading. I was never without a book or two at hand. At some point, I started paying attention to the craft of writing. I noticed how the writer had developed characters and plot. I watched how she hooked the reader into turning page after page.

Then, when I was past 70 years old, I joined a writer’s group. It was a memoir writing class and it was sponsored by Inprint. I was scared, but passionately wanted to learn.

I was encouraged by the other writers and, eventually, by the instructor. This class kept the same schedule as the academic calendar with two semesters and a long summer break. I was like a starving person when we broke for summer.

I searched for a summer replacement and found a creative writes group at a local community center. This class was totally different. It was called creative writing and we were usually given a writing prompt and on the spot had to make up a story! Talk about scared!

I had gotten accustomed, sort of, to writing personal essays but I was sure I could NOT just grab a story out of the air. Turns out, I could. I was a happy, engaged productive writer. It felt good.

So for a good number of years I went to Creative Writing on Tuesday and Memoir writing on Wednesday. In addition, I had added volunteering at my local elementary school, helping shaky little readers improve. I thought my love for words had found its fullest expression.

Then I learned about a Store Telling Group. It meets once month to exchange stories. I get to work on my memory and hear excellent story tellers and I get good encouragement from the others, including insightful feedback.

I have had the thrill of seeing my byline in The Leader, a neighborhood newspaper, in magazines and numerous times online. I also entered and won a contest to have a story included in a humorous book about aging. It can be purchased on Amazon.

So you have now heard the confessions of a wanton word lover. You could even say a word harlot, a word-hussy, a promiscuous, indiscriminate lover of words. I am guilty. I regret nothing.

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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: OK Boomers, It’s Time to Step Up

By Kathy Kaiser who blogs at Aging Journal.net

There’s been a lot of discussion about “OK, Boomer,” which can be read as a cynical, condescending brush-off of older people and their views.

A younger generation would like to blame us for all the ills of the world. Why didn’t we do something about climate change when there was still time to alter its course? And while younger people are struggling to pay off college debts and find affordable housing, the older generation ostensibly lives in comfort, having paid off mortgages a long time ago and carrying no college debt.

The truth, of course, is more complicated, as many seniors go into retirement with little savings and big medical bills. Also, when we were younger, many baby boomers were active politically: demonstrating against the war, starting environmental groups and recycling programs, joining civil rights protests and agitating for equal pay.

It’s true that in the olden days we lived in a world of apparent abundance (cheap housing and fuel, for example) that we took for granted. We could have - and should have - done more to make this world a better place, but who knew things would turn out so badly?

I can understand young people’s resentments, yet I think the world, which grows more polarized each day, needs us elders. Not because we’re wiser than other generations, but because by the time we reach old age, most of us have gotten rid of our egos.

Those of us who are no longer in the work world don’t have to prove ourselves anymore or defend our reputations. At our age, when we’ve lost so much - friends, spouses, good health and/or careers - we know that human relationships are what’s left, what gives meaning to our lives. If we’ve gained any wisdom at all through our long lives, it’s how to be a decent human being.

One of the advantages of being an older person is that we’re not perceived as threatening; in fact, we’re more likely seen as irrelevant. More than younger generations, we have the opportunity (time, for one thing) and capability of making this world a better place - in whatever way we can.

It can be something as simple as starting conversations with those we perceive as different or hostile; at the very least, we can soften harsh conversations by bringing gentleness or humor into the situation. At our age, we don’t have to worry that we’re making fools of ourselves, because the world already sees us that way. As elders, the worst that could happen is that we’re ignored.

Maybe we didn’t create this world - the worst we did was sit back and ignore situations that needed fixing - but we have some responsibility for making it a better place - if only for the generations to follow or to see the world we loved - and that nurtured us – survive.

If not us, who? If not now, when? Because we’re running out of time - both for ourselves and the planet.

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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.]


By Ann Burack-Weiss

Remember the Kubler-Ross stages of grief? Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance? We first heard of them in 1969. Did you know that the original five stages were later added to by Kubler-Ross herself? (shock before denial, testing after depression).

Since Kubler-Ross felt free to add to her model, I’m pretty sure that if she had lived 'til Covid-19, she might have added one more - attachments.

My inbox runneth over - sender’s names preceded by paper clips.

Clicking on the links, I find music, dance, theatre videos, solos and groups. Rooms at home, empty sidewalks, parks, rooftops. School children, amateurs, professionals playing, singing, dancing and acting their hearts out.

Cartoons, singly or in long threads. My favorite: a Seder plate (Passover on April 8th). In place of ceremonial objects to remind us of past sufferings are those that in years to come will remind us of today - rolls of toilet paper on one section, masks on another, gloves on another

Poems, stories, essays and quotes by published authors. Or written by the senders themselves.

Yoga and meditation mantras.

Netflix or Prime Time or Hulu programs I must watch, books and articles I must read.

Pleas for social action from academic, health care, social service, political and religious organizations.

HD and online offerings from arts organization (museums, operas, concert calls, theatre companies, lecture sites).

I am a serial offender, BCC my favorite address line.

Attachments reflect my life. The senders are members of my tribe. I imagine that if I were a bridge or chess player, I’d be receiving games to play. Gamblers surely receive lineup of odds in every race and lottery, as those interested in team sports must trade statistics and review potential trades.

Email attachments are virtual life lines reminding us of who we were before and may one day be again. They pull us up as we are about to drown in the swirling waters of fear and grief. Gripping tightly to our ends, we feel the answering pull that says “Just hang on. I’m still here. I won’t let you go.”

Attachments. Definitely an Eighth Stage. Projecting us into a future when we step out of our caves and into the arms of those emerging from theirs.

Our hugs will be tight and long. Then we’ll walk off together. For coffee or lunch at our favorite place, the one where the tables are so close that you can overhear every conversation.

Or to a concert where we turn our heads to shush the whisperers behind us.

Maybe walking and talking as we stroll through the park or along the river, find that bench under a tree where we can hear the music from the jazz trio, watch the parade of babies, lovers, old people, everyone in between.

“What a time that was!” we will say.

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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.]


By Carol Nadell

We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.
And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.
O my love, where are they, where are they going
The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.
        - Encounter by Czeslaw Milosz

“Wonder” indeed. That is the feeling I experience more and more often now that I have reached the three-quarter century mark and find myself grappling with the inevitability of my own mortality.

It’s not a morbid thought – not, as this poet says, “sorrow.” It’s more like a childlike curiosity. What does it really mean to die, to end this life, to - in Shakespeare’s words - “shuffle off this mortal coil?”

I cannot seem to get my mind around this eventuality which will, of course, come to us all. After my husband died following years of ill health, I remember saying to my friends, “I was prepared for him to die. I wasn’t prepared for him to be dead.”

It was what I called the “non-hereness” that was the hardest reality to understand and accept. How was he not just in the next room, watching TV? How was it that we wouldn’t be sitting down to dinner together? How was it possible that after almost 40 years of sharing a bed, his side was now empty? Forever.

That was almost five years ago and still today something in me balks at the permanency of the loss. I’ll never see him again? How is that possible

These days, I am often brought up short by the recognition that someday I, too, will be gone. In those moments, I frequently envision my grandchildren – all young adults now – around a table regaling each other with stories about me.

“Remember the time Savta took us to the theater for the first time? Remember how she always made us linguini because we didn’t like the angel hair pasta we got at home? Remember how she always corrected our grammar?”

Because I have been blessed to share many sublime memories with my grandchildren, these imaginary conversations go on and on. They include the fun times together in New York City, the special 10th birthday trips out of town, the advice sought (and often heeded), the special secrets shared between grandchild and grandmother, the tears and the laughter.

I eavesdrop on these conversations and they make me smile. But what is most striking about these imagined family scenes is that I am not in them. Just as they have recounted memories of their grandfather, my husband, so lovingly and longingly since his death, so it will be with their thoughts of me.

There will be a time when I’ll be only a memory to those people in whose lives I am today a powerful and dependable source of love and strength. Perhaps my grandchildren will someday share their memories of me with their children, to whom I may well be no more than a name.

Will they roll their eyes as their parents try to tell them of their beloved Savta? Or will they yearn for more information about the woman they’ve heard so much about and have, perhaps, seen in photos their parents have managed to save on whatever futuristic digital devices their heads are buried in? Will they feel my presence and wonder at my “non-hereness?”

I read an essay recently by a newly-widowed woman who, in listing all the “facts” of her new existence, cited buying a car, donating to non-profit radio, and paying property taxes. “These are now the facts of my life, a few among many,” she continued, concluding with a simple, declarative statement: “Alan is not among those facts anymore.”

What will it look like when I am no longer “among the facts?” I wonder.

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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.]