13 posts categorized "Readers' Stories"

A TGB READER STORY: The Pier, the Birds and the Moment

By B. Henry

An airplane sneaks through the fog over Lac St. Louis.

Canada geese sing homecoming harmonies.

I'm in my car, staring at the lake where we swam as kids.

The lake ice has melted.

The water is high.

Another plane tiptoes in.

A man sits in his car, reading.

We're two cars, side by side, on the pier.

He looks at me, nods and smiles.

I smile and nod back.

I sip my coffee and think about a jumble of senior words overheard at the local coffee spot.

Words like this:

"My friend is in the hospital. She can't move from the neck down. She may never walk again. The doctors are doing tests. I call her every night. A nurse puts the phone by her ear."

"He's 94 years old, driving without a license. His doctor refused to sign the paper. I should notify the police. He's going to kill himself or someone else. If the cops pull him over, it's gonna be game over. Maybe it's just gossip. What should I do?"

"Her world has become smaller since she moved into that senior home."

"No car. No visits. No garden."

"Everything is in the past."

v"So listen to this: My three neighbours help each other, even though they are not related. One woman cuts lawns, the other one cooks and the boyfriend repairs stuff. They found a way to age in place."

"Ah, I know who you mean. She walks the ILR halls and knocks on doors. Sometimes she puts her thumb over the peephole so you can't see who is there. She's losing it."

A ship passes. It's going somewhere.

But where are we going?

More words:

"I'm not sitting there."

"I don't like that man."

"I want to bop him one."

"Now Sam, you know a bop too far becomes a boom."

"Yeah, I know that."

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.

A TGB READER STORY: Medical – In the Beginning and Near the End

By William Weatherstone

In 1941, I had my first operation - for tonsillitis. I could not enter school at that time unless they were removed.

In 2017, (near the end of my life now at 81 years old), I had open heart surgery to hopefully extend my life-span.

As a child, it was a horrendous experience to go through.

When my wife entered the nursing home in Blind River, Ontario, I moved there from Elliot Lake to be near her.

During the couple years that I was living in Blind River, I had a small apartment over a commercial store in the downtown strip. I would at times drive the 40 miles back to Elliot Lake for food supplies as well as visit with friends. Returning home, I would have to carry bags full up 15 stairs and down a long hall to the apartment. It would take three loads to empty the car.

During the transfer, I found that after each trip upstairs, I would have to sit down for a few minutes to regain my breath.

After my wife died, I moved back to Elliot Lake.

It was getting worse, the breathing and tiredness. Just walking from the car to the building entrance, I would have to stop twice to catch my breath again. From car to building was about a couple hundred feet.

My next medical was in a few days and when I got there, I explained to her what was happening and right away she started tests and made an appointment with a cardiologist in Sault Ste. Marie for more testing. It started with a complete stress test and then an angiogram.

That appointment was strange. They started with a nurse coming in with a shaving kit to clear out the crotch area, for going through the groin with a camera to fish its way to the heart exploring the damage.

Once on the table, the surgeon checked my wrist vein for size and took that route up through the arm artery and into the heart.

I was wide awake through the whole process and was waiting for them to start. After a while I was wheeled back to my bed area wondering why they did nothing. To my surprise it was done completely. It was so smooth and totally painless and hard to believe.

If going up through the groin, you would have to wait for four to six hours with weighted bags on the groin incision to close & heal, whereas the wrist job is about 45 minutes to an hour waiting time.

So far, this procedure was easier than my first tonsillitis operation.

The results were sclerosis of the aorta heart valve. (The opening was closing.)

For my next appointment, he sent me to a heart surgeon in Sudbury for a final interview. During this meeting, he explained all the procedures required. On his desk were models of the replacement aorta valves, a pig valve, a cow valve and then a metal mechanical valve.

A couple of days later. he gave me a call and said that he found a new type mechanical valve that he was going to use. I took the information as I would now be an old guinea pig to test these new devices.

The date was set and I blew into Sudbury the day before checking in to the motel right beside the hospital. I showered with antibiotic soap and was on the gurney by 6:00AM, rolled into the O.R. and promptly put down.

I had mention to the surgeon during our interview that if I woke up and had hoses or anything down my throat, I would panic and throw a real sh*t fit and would not take any responsibility for my actions. He simply responded with, “Tell it to the anesthesiologist, okay?”


Just as I was going to be put down, a doctor of some sort looked at me looking as miserable as one can at six in the morning. I asked if he was the gas man. Yes. I told him about the waking up problem, then I was gone into the blackness of the afterlife – or so it seemed.

When it was over, I had two quick chokes to fight off and then all smoothed out. (I’m alive, I think.)

Nothing like my 1941 operation where my guts were throwing up all over the place and my first real pain experience like my throat being torn from my body, headache like never before and, finally, only being soothed with ice cream, the medicine of the gods.

This time, I was moved into ICU (without the ice cream) but still painless and wondering what would happen next?

Shortly (I think) afterword, my two buddies arrived after a 400 mile drive to see if I was still alive or not. I think they felt obligated somewhat because I was there for both of them when they had their bypass surgeries years ago.

After the visit, I was transferred to a semi-private room with one other patient. It was on the top floor and just under the helicopter roof pad.

We seemed to get along quite well, but in a few hours, he was being released, leaving me in privacy.

Not being geared for long stays in a bed, and with too much sleep, I became wide awake at 2:30AM. What does one do now? Fortunately, I had the bed beside the window, so became a star gazer.

All of a sudden, there was a great whirling sound. I looked up above and saw three great big bright floodlights coming down on me with this whirling, beating sound. I was mesmerized, just waiting any moment for Scotty to beam me up into the Enterprise or perhaps worse, could be the Klingons?

It wasn’t five or 10 minutes later that the paramedics brought their passenger from Timmins into the empty bed, letting me know that I was safe and not going to be beamed up anywhere. (Oh, darn.)

We got along fine especially since I knew his part of the country intimately.

His problem wasthat he'd had stents put in that failed and then had to be rushed back. For warranty, I assumed.

I was pushing to get out early, at least by Sunday, the fourth day. Unfortunately, my surgeon was off on Sunday but had planned for another heart surgeon to take out all the stitches and any attachments, such as the colostomy bag. Only a heart surgeon is allowed to do this.

During this process everything was going along fine while I still had the intravenous plunger in my left wrist. While everyone was shooting the crap, his assistant took out the intravenous attachment and was hanging onto my wrist thinking that he was holding the blood flow closed while it sealed itself.

While totally in conversation with the (gorgeous) nurses (to make an impression), I started to feel my wrist and up my arm getting extremely warm. I looked down and the artery was spewing blood out like a firehose, with no fire to go to.

There was blood all over the place. The assistant holding my wrist started to throw a fit and was totally caught off guard. The heart surgeon was Joe Cool. He came around the bed and promptly put a stop to the blood flow. All he said was, “Damn, need a clean shirt.”

Me, in the meantime had thoughts of having to stay over for a new blood supply. Not so. Joe Cool said I could still go home. Ha-ha, bravo, I’m on my way before they change their minds.

Comparing my first encounter with the hospitals, painfully removing my tonsils, with this new encounter, cracking my ribs open and throwing my heart out onto the workbench for a valve job - it was totally painless.

A great amount of progress has been made since 1941. Thank God.

THE END (Hopefully not)

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.

A TGB READER STORY: What's the State of Your Mind?

By Jean Shriver

When does a person cross the line from graceful aging into the land that’s labeled old? It all depends. On what? On your genetics, on your eating and exercise habits and maybe on your luck.

In our seventies my husband and I took a bike trip to southern Tuscany and as we pedaled away, the word “old” never crossed my mind. We zipped along quiet roads, ate lunches in picturesque hill towns and slept in inns that had once been aristocratic homes. It was a blast.

But you know what they say, ”seventy is the new sixty”. Right? And then do you remember the next line, ”but 80 is still 80?” Which has turned out to be true in our case.

For instance, I went 80 years without breaking a bone and then in the span of three years broke my shoulder and then my pelvis in two places. I recovered well but running to get the phone is no longer an option. Now I walk sedately to answer its insistent ring no matter how long it takes.

What other changes have crept into my lifestyle? I write down things that are too important to forget. I ask a younger person for help when I want to thread a needle so I can sew on a button. I wear hearing aids. I get help in carrying heavy boxes I used to tote without concern and I am increasingly hesitant to drive the freeways.

But I count it as a plus that I am still upright and still driving. My husband, who has spinal stenosis, is now in a wheelchair.

And as my body moves more stiffly, I work hard to keep my mind agile. I read the newspaper daily and force myself to explore areas where I am not comfortable like science and philosophy. I read some mysteries for fun but I try to sandwich them between meatier fare like The Written World, about how stories have influenced history across the ages.

Last night I read how the Maya developed a writing system totally independent of those of Europe and Asia which reminded me how we once climbed Mayan pyramids in Mexico. Before falling asleep I often revisit good times in Europe, Turkey and Nepal when we could travel anywhere we wanted.v vFriends, old and new, are an inspiration. Through church and through writing groups I am able to exchange ideas with people of different ages who have different viewpoints than my own. This, I find stimulating.

At this stage in life, we often lose people who are important to us and need to make an effort to stay in touch with others lest we become isolated. My husband and I are lucky to have family nearby which gives us contact with several generations.

Last week, a woman I knew in high school invited me to New York to meet with several others we both knew in college. Suddenly I am examining my wardrobe with a critical eye, checking out theater offerings in Manhattan and feeling extremely sprightly.

Though the four of us are all 85, we burble like girls as we call and write about our upcoming trip. We have ambitious plans for museum visits, evenings out and walks in Central Park.

Hey, maybe age is just a state of mind after all.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.


By Fritzy Dean

Every Tuesday I get up and hurriedly get dressed and go to my writing class. No body makes me go. No body cares if I go. Still. I go. Winter and summer, spring and Fall I go every Tuesday to writing class.

On a Tuesday when I must miss class, the whole day feels “off kilter.” in fact, it affects the whole week. It has become integral to my life, to my routine.

Why do it? Well, I really like my class members and I really respect our instructor. He spends a good deal of energy prepping for this class. He gives of his time. He also gives us funny prompts and unusual subject matter. He makes me think and I like that. Well, mostly I like it.

There are several poets in our class and while they are not able to be there every time, when they are there I never fail to be amazed by the words that show up on their papers.

Sometimes I am even amazed at what shows up on my paper. I never thought I had what it takes to pull characters out of the air and transfer them to the page. This class has shown me I can. Not always prize-winning prose, but still I’m doing it and I like the challenge. Well, mostly I like it.

After our first writing exercise, we discuss the work. We tell the class member what we liked about the piece. Sometimes we offer gentle suggestions for how the piece could be better.

I do like that. I want to be a GOOD writer - not an okay writer, not a passable writer. I want to be Good. It is the single thing I strive for in my life. Don’t care about finding a husband, have no interest in traveling the world, will never appear on a best dressed list and don’t want to.

Have no interest in a new car or meeting a celebrity. BUT, I desperately want to be good at writing.

Why? Why this and not yoga? Or cooking classes? Or flower arranging? Why do I write?

Because I have to; something inside me compels it. Because I gain clarity; I learn how I really feel about things when I get the words down. Because I don’t want to forget. I think every life matters and I want mine to be documented.

Because writing changes my perspective. My childhood looks very different through the lens of a narrator than through he lens of a victim.

I write because I have something to say. I want others to hear it. I want someone to benefit by my experiences. I have learned much in my decades here on planet Earth and I want to leave a record. I was here and this is what happened to me.

I write because I must.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.


By Sylvia Li

"You're not going to remember this."

I was five, going on six. Our family was moving out of the top-floor Montreal apartment that was the only home my younger brother and I had known.

Our belongings were packed into boxes already, including my favourite doll Gloria. Mummy had done that quietly behind my back. Gloria's once-shimmering dress was not so glorious as when she'd been new last Christmas. Her real rooted hair was tangled now, impossible to comb and to tell the truth, my efforts in that direction had made her a little bald. Her blue eyes still closed when I laid her down. I'd have been worried about her if I'd known she was all closed up in a box.

The moving men were coming and going, nearly done taking the furniture and boxes down to the truck. It was time to say goodbye to this place.

Daddy took us down the long hall to "the Bobs room" at the far end, where my Uncle Bob had stayed when he didn't have any place else to go. Uncle Bob was married now.

Robby had sometimes slept in that room and sometimes I had. Sometimes other family members had stayed there when they visited but for us, that room's permanent name was the Bobs room.

Daddy, Robby, and I made our way back, hand in hand, room by room, kindly acknowledging each one because we had been happy here, while Mummy dusted and swept.

When we got to the front living room, Daddy took the phone down from the waist-high telephone shelf and set it on the floor. The phone was black, of course. All phones were black in those days and they all belonged to the telephone company. The shelf was a tall niche built right into the wall. It had always held the phone book and the telephone and nothing else.

Daddy lifted each of us up to sit on that high shelf where we had never, ever sat before. "You're not going to remember this," he told us.

But we do. Both of us do.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.


By Mary Symmes

In 1975, I was studying Arabic at the Foreign Service Institute. The last part of the course was at the American Embassy in Beirut and I duly arrived, age 25, with the rest of the new class of Arabic students.

I had spent a good part of my childhood in the Middle East so I had an idea of what it would be like to live in Beirut. But in August 1975 Beirut was full of unrest and violence and on the verge of civil war. (Fortunately I was immortal at the time).

Shortly after we arrived, old friends of my parents invited me to dinner. I love Arabic food and ate heartily. I knew that uncooked fruits and vegetables would probably make me sick but because these were urban, educated people, I had no qualms in eating whatever was presented to me. Somehow it would be sanitized.

Later that night, I woke up with nausea, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. I walked several blocks to the embassy the next morning so I could see the embassy nurse and prayed with every step that nothing would happen until I was near a toilet. I was lucky.

After another attack, I walked back to the hotel with Paregoric and instructions about what to eat and drink. I really felt ill and weak and I knew the Paregoric would make me sleepy, so I called the wife of one of my fellow students, who was staying in the same hotel, and asked her to call me every day to make sure I was okay.

I spent the next two days mostly asleep, and then arose feeling almost human.

As I was getting dressed to go to the embassy cafeteria, I realized that while I was so sick the maids had cleaned the room and stolen two purse-sized perfume dispensers I had left out of my locked suitcases.

There was nothing I could really do about it so I didn't even tell the management. And I was so lonely and relieved that I was better that I just wanted to be around other people again.

I got to the embassy and was eating dry bread and drinking tea as various people I knew came by, all telling me how awful I looked!

I went back to class that afternoon and eventually moved into my own apartment until all nonessential personnel were evacuated from Beirut that October. But that is another story.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.

A TGB Reader Story: Who Am I?

By Rosemary Woodel

I am a woman who no longer has her own washing machine.

I am very lucky to now live close to well-lit places I want to visit because I should no longer drive certain places at night.

I am a photographer and a writer.

I am a person who cries in public but likes to make people laugh.

I am no longer well organized. Where are the framed photographs I took in Ukraine? Did I give them away? Why?

I am someone who just found a comforter under the bed in a box I hadn’t seen for seven months, who “found” a drawer in the bureau which I hadn’t opened for six months. Apricot sheets!

I am the kind of person who spends an hour trying to fall asleep, ashamed of being grouchy to two people. And when I call to apologize, they didn’t think I was grouchy at all. I am a person who has forgiving friends.

I am someone who gave away nearly all the Christmas decorations I had in my big house and now misses having some of them in my small apartment.

I am a person who was highly regarded at white-water rafting this summer but two months later flunked out of the low-ropes course with leftover tendonitis and a possible meniscus tear. For at least four weeks I have to walk up steps with my left leg leading.

I am someone who likes living in a dormitory for old people. I am now a person with a Talbots credit card. Talbots?!

I am a person wondering how long I want to live.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.

A TGB Reader Story: The Grapes Aren't Sour; They're Just Not on the Menu Often Enough

By officerripley

I managed to strand myself in my old age in a conservative area and am feeling left out because I'm left of center compared to nearly all the gals in my age group who only seem to be concerned with grandkids, God, gardening and gun "rights."

The few gals in my age group with whom I do share political, social, and world views seem to find me "dull" because I have way less education than they do. (Although they'd never in a million years admit that they're even just the teeniest bit prejudiced against my "sort.")

After trying everything - book clubs, meetup.com, even the few supposedly liberal churches in the area - I keep running into the same old, "Oh, you ONLY have a high school diploma? I see. Well, we only take women with degrees in our feminist group." Or "You CHOSE not to have kids?! I see." Or "You know, you'd probably be happier in or near a large city. What's that? You can't AFFORD to move? Oh, I see."

(And the look on their faces when they say that stuff? Don't get me started.)

Then I did finally find a group that was on the same political/social page as I, a group that I really enjoyed; finally, people that think and feel the same way I do!

I can let my hair down around these gals, yay! Then I began to feel weird about how much I looked forward to this one hour a month, about how I'd daydream about what I'll talk about at the next meeting, stuff that I have no one else I can talk to about.

I wondered why I was feeling worried about how much I relied on this group and realized that that's why I was right to worry: I was relying too much on this group. Even after some attempts on my part, no friendships developed even after two years, which is understandable since the gals in the group are at least 25 years younger than I.

The group was composed of young, still-working, busy gals who also had elderly parents to take care of; they didn't have time for anything else in their lives.

I finally began to see that me looking forward to that one hour a month was not enough. I realize that a lot of people - namely young people - would see this as akin to "sour grapes" syndrome: oh, you're mad at the world because you don't get to have this fun all month long, so you're throwing a tantrum like a bratty kid and saying "well, then, I don't want any fun!"

And I really soul-searched to see if that was what I was feeling, but I really don't think it is. The way I feel is that this is a way of protecting myself; that one hour a month is such a small "helping" of fun and good feelings that it makes the rest of the month that much harder to bear.

It feels like being hungry all the time and once a month, you get one bite of something delicious. After a while you being to realize that the one delicious bite makes the watery soup you have to eat the rest of the month that much harder to put up with.

Therefore, my goal is now to get myself used to the loneliness of spending my old age in an area where I don't fit in. It's cold comfort, but I keep hearing that it makes me a member of a very large club.

Also, maybe this will help anyone younger who happens to read this, or any of you high-energy, busy-all-time elderly – how the heck do you do it?! Espresso or what?! - understand why it seems as if some of us elderly have "given up." Self-protection; that's all it is.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.


By Melanie Lee

”Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
        - Rumi, poet

After retiring from university teaching at 70, my husband Louis and I moved to Sedona, an artist’s colony and nature paradise in Northern Arizona.

Settling into our new life as aspiring cultural creatives, we studied up on the original inhabitants of this ancient Colorado Plateau region. I became fascinated with the Navajo concept of Hozho, which loosely translates to beauty.

Hozho is a way of life encompassing harmony peace, peace of mind, goodness, ideal family relationships, beauty in arts and crafts, and health of body and spirit.

A certain mindful focus on beauty has its rewards. And takes a good bit of patience. But fortunately when you reach a certain age (“wisdom's edge”) that becomes more available. Courage too.

I’ve a deep admiration for people who’ve fiercely devoted their lives to beauty like Navajo (Dine') sculptor Larry Yazzie. His sculpture Surrender is the embodiment of Hozho, and his creative process adds gravity.

Surrender by Larry Yazzie

Yazzie begins each new piece never knowing what it will become, the stone itself decides what it will be. Yazzie has said if you know what you're going to do next, then your creative process becomes just a job.

Sometimes, for inspiration, I think about Yazzie and his process. I get up in the morning, make a coffee, sit down, switch on my electric candle (symbolic, handy, economically sensible and besides I'm Aquarius rising), then deliberately start my day by surrendering to beauty.

Turning eyes right, a view beyond my small, lace curtained window appears and behold, Hozho!

Hozho  beauty

Intriguing chunky textures and shapes, a sturdy pink stone wall, a full cascade of English ivy with deep green leafy variations, caressed by an endless expanse of golden sunrise. Hello out there, you big old beautiful world, what's out there for me today?

I’ve come to see that life is awash, just drowning in possibilities for walking the Beauty Way, for the sacred experience of Hozho, not only the visual but also the intangible and spiritual – a wish for someone's well being, gratitude for comfort and safety, gladness for old friends.

Oh, I know. You’re skeptical. "What, sun, lace, rocks, sky, ivy? Oh please, that's nothing to get worked up about."

No, I reply, a thousand times no! It's everything to get worked up about, because in this present moment I am spoken to about beauty. I am breathing, safe, grateful and blessed. I’ve learned, being here in Sedona, how to move into this optimistic and welcoming inner space, no longer trying to force awareness or awakedness.

My part is only to allow the curves of the soul to lead me, listening to the Saguaro cacti, speaking to the gnarly old junipers, saluting the stirring sunsets, marveling at the charm of hummingbirds, honoring the magnetic red rocks turned into enchanted cairns living along well used hiking trails.

Purposely focusing on the Hozho of the present moment as a singular beauty in itself is a way to honor life for what it is now and for what it might yet become.

At 73 years old, I fully understand life should, and can, be more than just a job. Like artist Larry Yazzie, I think life can be a work of art. Maybe you do too.

Here’s an idea for how to begin the day with Hozho: Get up some morning, greet the promise of the day and surrender to beauty.

Muse on a moment when you encountered something in nature so beautiful that it brought you close to tears with its near-perfection. Don't forget the sensual details, sight, sound, taste, feel, smell.

Remember an inspirational person you admire (real person or fictional character), someone who first gave you a sense of beauty and awakened you to the possibility of being so present, that life could be experienced on a higher, more creative and fulfilling plane of existence.

Finish this Hozho greeting by recalling a story (could be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essay) that was so viscerally powerful that, after you’d finished reading it, your life was changed forever in a positive way.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.

A TGB Reader Story: Hope On Top of the World

By Gloria MacKay

I still hope: for sunny days; for my other pearl earring to be in the drawer; for my doctor to say see you next year; for my hair to perk up. I know how to hope, but never with the abandon I would have allowed myself if I had not grown up with that woman looking down on my head.

Hope hung in the living room over the couch for so many years she made her mark on the wall, framed with burnished wood finished to look like metal she was an eerie sight: a woman draped in sepia, olive drab and slate gray, head in her hands and legs sprawled over a big, equally sepia ball. I would glance up every time I walked into the room.

I watched when my mother lifted Hope off the hook and set her on the floor, leaving a clean rectangle on the wall as exposed as a patch of skin after you rip off the band aid. I crouched on the carpet as she turned the picture over and pointed to a sticker embossed with fancy gold letters. Hope On Top of the World she read as she turned to me. “This is what Hope looks like.”

I jumped up and ran to my room, my mother’s voice following me. “Don’t be silly, She’s not real. She’s just a picture.”

I was the age when Santa Claus lived within me in the comfortable limbo between real and make believe but I could not be this accommodating with Hope even when she lay face down on the carpet with her sticker showing. Credentials or not, I kept one foot in my room and peeked out the door until I saw her back on the wall where she belonged.

My second encounter with hope happened on one of my early birthdays when I was called upon to blow out my birthday candles all by myself with no help. I felt a circle of tense faces coming down on me as I took a big breath and let go.

I don’t remember how many candles were on the cake but I blew them all out and everyone clapped. “Don’t tell what you wished for or it won’t come true,” someone hollered. Right then all my hope went up with the smoke. I had been so eager to do a good job I had forgotten to wish.

I still don’t like people staring at me. I don’t like it when I sit in the corner of my doctor’s office, for instance, engrossed in a magazine and the nurse blurts out my name so loudly I jump.

All eyes are looking at me as I gather my belongings, straighten the magazines, stand up, sweater dragging, purse unzipped, and head for the open door. I get so rattled that I forget to hope for the best.

Wishing on a star was my next experience with hope. My mother and I would chant “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might get the wish I wish tonight.”

She reminded me, every time, to look sharply because it had to be made on the very first star. I must have wished as many times as stars have twinkles but I can’t remember for sure if any of my wishes came true.

In time I replaced this childhood chant with a more sophisticated song. It begins “When you wish upon a star” and ends, “your dreams come true.” In between it gives us permission to wish on all stars, any stars, any time, any place.

I don't have to strain my eyes in the twilight searching for the very first flicker - any old star will do. And I don’t have to blow hard and not tell to make my birthday wishes come true. And even if I forget to whisper the wish to myself, it is in my head and that just might be enough.

These days when I find one of those touristy little wells sitting in a patch of grass collecting money and wishes I am always surprised at the carpet of coins at the bottom.

If no one is watching I might drop in a coin and make a wish of my own, as though I were Hope on top of the world and the face in the ripples is someone I’ve never met.

Hope On Top Of The World

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.

A TGB READER STORY: The Fine Art of Dying

By wisewebwoman

Now it's Terry. Terry was knocked down in the middle of the night. Not by a car or anything like that. Knocked down by herself.

She ignored symptoms of all that was going wrong in her body, the pain in her abdomen. She'd chew Tylenol 3s like candy and we'd all given up on telling her to get to a doctor.

So she barely managed to call me on the phone at an ungodly hour screaming in pain and I followed the ambulance into the Health Sciences. Terry was one of those brilliant people who could work anywhere and did actuarial work from her home on the ocean.

Her clients were from all over the world. Funny thing, she hasn't met most of her clients; it was all done on the internet.

So like I was saying, Terry: there's never been anyone like her. She was riddled. First thing they did was take half her bowel away and give her a bag. Then they MRId her and Catscanned her and found more tumours. But Terry? She never let on to her clients she was in hospital. She carried on working with tubes and bags hanging off her. And saucy? You haven't seen the like.

She knew more than the doctors. And the funniest part? When a doctor or a nurse or a visiting specialist or students gathered around her bed she'd take notes in a thick journal she asked me to buy for her.

She'd write down all the numbers involving her condition: the date, the time, her sugars, her blood pressure, her white cell count, her urine output, her blood pressure, for Terry loved numbers.

And then, working backwards in the back of the journal, she'd make notes of the offhand remarks these medics tossed at each other so cruelly and casually, thinking she was asleep or distracted. Or deaf.

Did you see she had Botox on her forehead? And veneers on her teeth?

Oh, how the mighty have fallen, my mother knew her in school, an awful bitch, thought she was better than the rest of them.

Betty, if you give that one an inch she'll take a mile.

Complaining to the head nurse about her wet diaper! The like! Let her stew in it for another four hours!

Did you hear Lou-Ellen gave her an extra hard jab with the needles last night?

Leave her private room door open in spite of the stupid notice she's got pasted on it. Privacy she wants, ha. We’ll show Lady Muck who’s in charge!

I should sue their effin' asses, Terry said to me, elder abuse! And I go in to her just about every afternoon and she reads me all the latest pages from the back of her book in these funny voices.

And we'd laugh and laugh and laugh.

I don’t want my parents to know, she said one day out of the blue. The pressure is on to tell them but I can’t. They won’t be able to take it. Dad just turned 92 and Mom is 90 and it’s a long journey from Florida.

It’s your decision, Terry, I say softly.

You know something? She looks at me, her eyes steady. You’re the only one who supports me in this.

Another day she talked about the daughter she gave up for adoption when she was 18. Her parents never knew as she moved off island for several years.

I found her, she told me, You know me and hacking the internet, But she doesn’t want to see me.

She showed me photos on her iPhone. She was Terry’s double.

I told Terry I would take care of her, she would move in with me, I'd make sure she ate and walked and took as long as she wanted to recover.

But I knew.

She knew.

It came in the middle of the night; she was alone. I had seen her that afternoon and we had joked about designing a bejewelled colostomy bag for her. She would wear it with pride. Show it off. I would knit bag covers in psychedelic colours. We would start a cottage industry in fancy colostomy bags.

We laughed, but her laughs were weaker.

In her will, she left half her estate to the daughter who refused to see her. Her friends shared the rest.

But the real gift she left me was the smile I get every time I think of her.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.

A TGB READER STORY: Ah, Look at All the Lonely People

By Ann Burack-Weiss

“Ah, Look at all the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?”

     - The Beatles, from “Eleanor Rigby”

I am seated on a bench overlooking the Hudson River on a clear autumn day. The air smells of salt. The clouds are a floating mass of foam.

I am savoring the scene when I am approached by a middle-aged man with a weird contraption strapped to his forehead; a large, white, rectangular cardboard box with a camera lens at the center. He asks if I would like to take a look.

The scene is the same but technically enhanced. The river and sky shimmer and keep changing color. The sounds are subsumed under a wave of strings playing New Age music. I hastily pass it back and say, “It looks like an LSD trip.”

He laughs more than my response warrants, adds that there are “no side effects” and goes on to show me the smartphone app from which it emanates.

Before walking away, he says that he used to be alone in the park. “Now people want to talk to me.”

* * *

My walk takes me past a vacant lot filled with trash, bounded on one side by a graffiti-covered building wall and three sides by chain link fencing. There is a small, wooden, weather-beaten sign tacked on the 2nd Avenue side – “there is no one like you.” And stuck at intervals into the rusted fence are decaying bunches of dried flowers.

* * *

I see many older women pushing small dogs in baby carriages (or perhaps there are carriages made for dogs?) The dogs and/or the carriages are often beribboned. On buses or park benches, the dogs are removed and cuddled, often spoken to. They are replaced gently with a smile.

* * *

I am reading my Kindle in a doctor’s waiting room and the old man seated next to me asks how it works. Before I can answer he volunteers that he has no time for it now. He is 84, a lawyer till working full time, a specialist in trusts and estates who has published four books. All in less than a minute!

* * *

Home alone, I replay the sights and sounds of my days. I wonder how many people the man with the box found to talk to.

What would inspire someone to plead his anonymous love in such a dismal space? Do the dogs sleep in their owners' beds? Sit at their tables? (Is it even correct to speak of “owners”?)

And could it be that what sounded like shameless bravado in the doctor’s office was a geriatric pickup line?

Scenes of such naked need used to scare me. It felt as if all the loneliness, all the fears of invisibility I held within burst out and found shape and voice in unknown others. As if all the stored up love in the world, all the longing for connection could not be contained.

Which is, I finally realized, as it should be. I am not a mere observer of these scenes, I am a participant. I am the strangers’ “other” as surely they are mine. I am there to accord attention to their lives and in so doing, extending the boundaries of my own.

* * *

"Eleanor Rigby picking up rice
in a church where a wedding has been
Father McKenzie writing a sermon
that no one will hear.

It was 1966. The Beatles wrote those lyrics when they were in their twenties, surrounded by adoring crowds. I was just a few years older, cocooned in a mesh of family and friends.

I played the album with that song on it many times. The opening words sounded to me – and continued to sound until I just saw them in print, “I look at all the lonely people.”

But no, it opens with a sigh, “Ah, all the lonely people.”

I love that Ah. And bless them – the two who have died, the two who remain and grow old along with me. So wise they were to recognize – in the midst of bountiful lives – the essential self within, the invisible links that bind us together, and the special reward of bearing witness.

* * * * * * * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.

TGB's New Storytelling Feature and The Alex and Ronni Show

Your response last Wednesday was overwhelmingly positive. More than 100 yes responses to reinstating a regular feature of stories told by Time Goes By readers.

Here is how it will work:

I've taken several commenters' suggestion to start light – one story a week. That will be on Tuesdays and in time, maybe expand to two days a week by adding Thursday which is currently dark.

My biggest concern, based on the huge response last week, is that there will be so many stories we'll never get them all published at the rate of one or even two a week.

For now, let's see how that goes and if the story pile gets too high, perhaps I will open and close the submission window as needed depending on the number in the queue.

There is a new link in the right sidebar under “Features” - Story Submissions/Guidelines. That will take you to the Rules of the Road page and where you will always find a link to an email form to submit a story.

You may also submit stories via the “Contact” link at the top of each blog page. Just PLEASE read the guidelines before submitting.

There is also a new link in the “Categories” cloud in the right sidebar: Readers' Stories. That will take you to a page listing all published stories in reverse date order with links to them.

Author names and story titles are findable from the search box at the bottom of the right sidebar.

That does it, I think – all to be amended as needed, and you may now begin submitting stories. The first one will be posted next Tuesday.

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Here is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show recorded yesterday. If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests following our chat, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.