91 posts categorized "Readers' Stories"

A TGB READER STORY: Off to Buy Vitamins

By Deborah Cavel-Greant who blogs at Simple Not Easy

I'm on Facebook, it's how I keep up with my friends and family members. But the "targeted" ads I am served are a hoot and some days are more entertaining than the FB posts.

My favourite is the one about a 50-year-old woman whose dermatologist hates her for her age-defying beauty secret which makes her look 25 (and which she is willing to sell me).

I’m not interested because if I looked 25 people would expect me to act 25 and if there's one thing I love about being old it's that you don't have to apologize for being slow anymore.

Another frequent ad thrown at me is from a dating service that laments the fact that their "senior men" can't find "faithful senior women like you Deborah".

Since I’ve been married to the same old fella for almost 55 years, if I answered that ad I'd not be the "faithful" woman they're looking for would I? Besides their "senior men" (hunky bare-chested models dressed as policemen and firemen and doctors) - are all about 35! My sons are older!

Still hoping they have a merry and potentially wealthy widow on their hands (I gave Facebook NO information other than my name, age and hometown I left at age 11), they offer to move me into a high-end retirement home, then try to entice me to join a single-seniors-only cruise. I sense frustration as they try to find something, anything that I might buy.

An interior designer will come to my home and make sure it doesn't have that "granny vibe" we all fear. Sadly, I do not care for their recommended $12,000 sofa that looks like three metal ironing boards welded together into an isosceles triangle and covered with shiny fuchsia-coloured Naugahyde.

They are flummoxed. Abandoning the hope that I am a high-rolling, world-cruising-cougar, they test the theory that I am a crippled-up, penny-pinching old party pooper and offer to sell me the secret of how to get $35,000 of free money from the government because I am infirm.

When I don't even want to know how to get $35,000 of free-for-the-taking-money, desperation sets in.

It's well known if you are over 65, you are either decrepit or an elderly Olympian so they abandon all semblance of targeting and simply go with alternating stereotypes. They begin rotating advertisements for medical aids with those for hair-raising experiences.

Do I need a new electric wheelchair? No? Do I want to go sky-diving? No? How about standing out in the geezer crowd with a hand-carved cane from Borneo? No?

Surely I'd enjoy a life-changing (I read this as "life-ending") sledding adventure down the North Face of the Matterhorn? NO? Perhaps I need a medical lift or a potty chair to sit beside my bed? NO?

An all-inclusive travel package to Mozambique to run in a marathon? NO???

When I don't pitch my credit card at the screen, I visualize them hunched over their keyboards with knit brows, shuffling ads like a deck of solitaire cards. One, gnawing his thumb knuckle, says tensely, "Pull back a little, offer her (long pause) square-dancing lessons."

They watch with nervous expectation as the ad comes and goes, all Madison Avenue ad agency sweat under the armpits as FB stock ticks lower by the second. A vein in a temple pulses visibly. One swears, and spits out, “The old dame is holding out. She's still not buying ANYTHING!”

In rapid succession they promise to hide my varicose veins, cure my diabetes, lift my sagging bosom, reduce my dewlap and “turkey-neck”, ease my painful gout. This gives me pause. I don’t have any of these problems; perhaps Facebook has a "Coming Afflictions" application I have inadvertently signed up for? Should I worry about this?

But I crumbled when I got a message from my cousin Mack this morning. Facebook has apparently developed an app that does what no other web application has ever done before; transcended that final curtain which we have never peered beyond.

My dearly loved cousin Mack passed away last December. However, I got a message on Facebook from him today recommending a well-known brand of senior's vitamins.

They finally have me. I'm off to buy some. If those vitamins can make Mack feel well enough to post to FB from where he's gone, they might finally make a square-dancer out of me.

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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 Kay Richard

In the grainy black-and-white film of Aunt Evelyn’s home movie camera, Maureen and I are doing our version of the hippy hippy shake. I’m wearing cut-offs and a button-down collared blouse, along with the ever present headband.

The camera pans over to the kitchen table where Georgette, still wearing her white Henri’s School of Hair Design uniform, is teasing mom’s hair into a beehive French roll while mom plucks her eyebrows.

When her transformation is over, Aunt Evelyn asks me to stand behind mom for a family shot. I’m blowing bubbles with my wad of pink Bazooka and giving mom rabbit ears with my fingers.

They left for their night out on the town to celebrate mom’s 35th birthday. Soon the camera is spanning the club and the musicians are mouthing words to songs we can’t hear. There’s mom, crossing the dance floor with her drink and settling into one of the booths along the side wall. Cigarette smoke rises from ashtrays on every table.

I hear the front door open and close and get up to ask Mom if she had a good time. She is lying on the sofa, her left arm elevated on the back, her right hand in a fist sitting on her chest, creases between her eyebrows.

I asked her if she was alright and she told me to go back to bed. Kissing her on the cheek, I told her I loved her and returned to my room.

When I woke the next morning, Aunt Evelyn was sitting at the table. She’d been there for awhile, waiting to tell me that mom had been taken to the hospital during the night. She’d had a heart attack, but was stable in the newly constructed ICU.

A few days later, Aunt Evelyn drove me to Heywood Hospital. I wasn’t allowed to see mom because the age requirement was 14 and up, so we stood in the parking lot outside her room and she waved to me from her window. I blew her a kiss and we headed home. It was the last time I saw her alive.

If I could ask her any question, it would be, “Were you glad that you kept me”? An unwed pregnancy doesn’t elicit so much as a blink of an eye these days, but in the 1950’s she must have faced shame and ostracism.

We never had the opportunity to have the conversations that would answer so many questions about the circumstances of my birth but I like to think that beyond the fear, she felt that maternal love that made her carry me out the hospital door and into the large French-Canadian family that I grew to love.

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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: Rings and Things

By Kay Richard

A couple of months after sidling through the doors of the local junior high school, I was still trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible. My locker was side-by-side with Brenda, an eighth grader known mostly for her sarcasm and lack of empathy.

Always trying to fit it with my peers, I begged for sling back loafers to replace my Buster Brown lace ups, headbands instead of barrettes and pierced ears (no!).

For Christmas that year, I was given a white, three-ring binder with the profiles of the Fab Four on the cover. Suddenly, I was the envy of all the girls including Brassy Brenda. I sashayed the halls in my fabulousness.

It was short-lived, however, when I made a rookie faux pas. I’d been noticing that many of the cool girls were suddenly sporting a tie clip on their blouses. Ever wanting to join their ranks, I stopped at my Aunt Evelyn’s house on the way home from school and asked if my uncle might have an old tie clip I could have.

The next morning I arrived at my locker wearing Uncle Nere’s gold and rhinestone tie clip on my Peter Pan collar. Brassy Brenda was on me like a magnet to the North Pole.

“Whose tie clip is that”?

I turned and smugly replied, “I got it from my uncle”.

She crowed, turned to Cruel Candy on her right and said, “She’s going steady with her uncle”! They walked off in hysterics as I tore the tip clip off and ran to the bathroom where I spent homeroom period getting my tears under control.

The following spring, the school hosted a Friday evening dance in the cafeteria. Patty and I were sitting on the sidelines when the cutest boy in all of the junior high schools in central Massachusetts asked me to dance to the Beatles song, If I Fell.

I saw Brenda’s jaw drop into her glass of punch as Joey and I swayed to the music and when school convened on Monday, I was sporting his black onyx ring on a chain around my neck.

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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: Christmas Elves

By DJan Stewart of Djan-ity

One year when I was home visiting my parents and siblings for the holidays, my sister Norma Jean and I went to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I think I had been married for some time and away from home for awhile, but I really don't remember when it was for sure.

My parents had two distinct families, and the youngest three children were all six or under at this time, while Norma Jean and I were adults.

When we went out the door, Mama and Daddy had begun the Christmas Eve preparations for the young ones in the house (my brother and sisters) who had finally gone to bed. Daddy had begun to assemble a bicycle for our brother Buz, while Mama had to finish wrapping and putting Santa's gifts under the tree. It was a warm and happy scene. Off we went to Midnight Mass.

When we returned, the scene was anything but happy. The entire living room was scattered with glasses half-covered in salt (from partially consumed margaritas), and the bike was still only half assembled in the living room. The entire scene was, in a word, a nightmare. And our parents had stumbled into their bedroom and crawled into bed.

Apparently in the midst of their tasks, some friends had come over to visit and our parents had gotten quite drunk and forgotten what tonight meant to their young children.

We were aghast. For a few minutes we wandered through the living room and kitchen and wondered what to do. We decided that we would be Christmas elves and fix things.

Norma Jean set to the task of reading directions on how to assemble the bicycle and I began to clean things up. We toiled for several hours before inspecting our work and calling it good.

Norma Jean had learned how to follow arcane directions and actually put the bike together! (I was more impressed by this than I let on at the time.)

Well, in the morning the kids came downstairs to find that Santa had indeed come during the night and that his elves had done their work quite well.

It is one of the more satisfying Christmas memories that I share with my sister. We still smile about it. I had to write to Norma Jean to see if my memory of the event matched hers, and it pretty much did. She said,

”Maybe that's where I got the start of loving the feeling of accomplishment when I read directions and put things together...We cleaned up and set up the living room to be a real Christmas when everyone got up the next morning. It was certainly memorable.”

Over the years, Christmas has lost much of its magic for me. I don't like what I see happening to Christmas these days, but I am sure that there are still many parents, and Santas, and elves, making things happen for others.

(Oh, and by the way, I have forgotten what our parents' reaction to all this was, even though I am sure they appreciated the visit from the elves.)

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

A TGB READER STORY: The Data Dilemma

By Susan Remson

Every day we read, hear or see something about privacy and how our lives, and the specifics of it, seem to be watered down into one word. DATA.

Where I shop, what I eat, how I spend my money, who I phone, what I watch on TV, and who I vote for and so much more about me is reduced to numbers. DATA.

Everything about me is out there for lobbyists, candidates, marketers, insurers, health care providers and researchers of every shape and discipline to find out all about me. Easily, I am told. DATA.

DATA is my Permanent Record. Remember permanent records? If you’re as old as I am, you went through grade school and high school being told that everything you did would be on your Permanent Record (in my mind it was always capitalized).

From the time you started school you were told that your PM would haunt you for the rest of your life. Every third grader trembled at the thought that every mistake she ever made would follow her for the rest of her life!

Well, now my PM is DATA. Every time I pick up my phone or go to the bank or purchase a banana, my DATA is recorded, although if I don’t want the sale price on bananas, maybe not.

I have been hesitant to get those digital coupons that the grocery offers because I know they are recording my purchasing preferences. And selling my phone number which will lead to more calls from unknown phone numbers that I don’t answer.

I’ve only recently given in to online shopping – maybe that’s because all the stores in my neighborhood are closing and I don’t know where to go to for my basic needs except online. But I am still spooked by those pop-up ads that know exactly what I have searched for and what I might want to buy. And I’m not just talking about buying bananas.

But here’s the thing. Maybe I shouldn’t mind so much. After all, how different is that DATA to my school PM? Okay, maybe it’s more telling, more invasive, more revealing of my personal habits, but when I think about it, I was never very concerned about my PM.

The reason I wasn’t concerned is because I hardly ever did anything wrong in grade school, and in high school I was a meek, shy, obedient student with mediocre grades and few extracurricular activities.

If you were to track down my PM and read it, you’d be pretty bored. If you do want to read it, go ahead. I’ve nothing to hide – nothing of interest anyway, except that I was boring.

So what about that DATA that the world now seems to have on me? Well, I think it’d be pretty boring too. Does the world care that I do my banking mostly at the ATM, that my credit is good, that I have had one speeding ticket in the last 50 years and that I prefer bananas to oranges?

Perhaps, but I’ve really nothing to hide and actually I might even benefit from someone knowing my fruit preferences.

This past week I got an envelope in the mail from the store where I do most of my grocery shopping. It was filled with coupons and each and every coupon was for an item that I have purchased in the past and will probably purchase again. The DATA that the grocery store collected is actually good for my bottom line.

Really, how can I resist a dollar off on toilet paper and a free pound of butter? Not easily!

Maybe the real bottom line is this: If you live your life with nothing to hide, you don’t have to worry about the DATA. It’s not DIRT. It’s just DATA.

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

A TGB READER STORY: The Redemptive Power of Sunsets

By Lynn Bechtel of Write on Harlow

I don’t have a full view of sunsets from my house but I can see a faint rosy glow, the edge of the sunset, through the branches of the evergreens at the back of the yard. Sometimes that faint glow draws me out of the house and down the block to a field where I can watch the full display across the valley.

My mother loved sunsets. She kept a journal beginning in 1966 – she would have been in her late fifties then. She wrote in it sporadically, an entry or two and then a gap of years before another entry. The last entry was dated 1976.

She wrote several times about the sunsets she could see from the kitchen window. In the first entry, written on a January afternoon, she describes a sunset that was a delicate rose in color with black tracing of tree branches.

She goes on to say how frustrating it is that my father and I didn’t see this beauty: “I say, ‘Look at the sunset – it’s fabulous.’ They say ‘yes, very nice’ and they don’t really see. It’s so beautiful it hurts.”

And she’s right. As a teenager I didn’t see the sunsets – or at least I didn’t see what she saw – the painful beauty of them.

I wrote about sunsets in my own journal once a few years ago. I’d had a string of conversations with friends who were dealing with illnesses of various kinds. I wrote about driving home from work along the river one winter afternoon.

The sun was setting behind the hills across the river and it took my breath away - the hills, the scarlet sky, the reflection in the river. I wrote that I wanted to give this sunset to my friends as an antidote, a balm, something to hold onto when all else seemed to be giving way. The redemptive power of sunsets.

Maybe that’s what my mother saw in sunsets those many years ago. I wish I could come up behind her, circle my arms around her waist where she stands at the sink, rest my chin on her shoulder and see the sunset along with her. Yes, it’s gorgeous, I’d 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.]

A TGB READER STORY: How to Write a Good Obituary

EDITORIAL NOTE FROM RONNI: Thank you for all your story contributions this past week. We now have a good collection to keep us going for three or more months.

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By Kath Noble of Postscript by Kath

Someone you love has died. Suddenly you have a million things to take care of, and you don’t know where to start. I can help by sharing some tips on writing a good obituary.

When I began my business writing obits, Postscript by Kath, I read a TON of obituaries from all over. Many are full of trite phrases and lists of people, places and careers, probably assembled by staff at a funeral home.

Every once in a while, there was one that was obviously written by a family member or friend that made me smile or tear up. That’s the kind I try to write and teach others to write.

Writing a good obituary begins before the person dies. My mom and I sat at her kitchen table over the years before she died at 92, with me writing as fast as I could and her telling me stories, names, dates.

I used questions from A Grandmother’s Book but you can make up your own or just ask them to tell you their life story. Be sure and ask about spelling for names and places. You may end up doing a “G-rated” version for immediate sharing and an “X-rated” version for sharing later with intimates, as I did.

Alternatively, you can talk to someone else who knew the person well, and take good notes. Ask them about stories the person used to tell, what made them laugh or cry, and what they cared about the most in life.

Did they have a favorite joke? What were the high points and low points in their life? Did faith play a role in their life and how did that change over the years? What issues did they care most about? What role or job did they love the most? How did their friends describe them? Do they have a favorite charity in case others want to donate in their name?

Must you compile a list of dates, parents’ names, siblings, spouses, children, jobs, places lived, and so on? Yes, if you can, but not necessarily to include all of it in the obituary. This important information can be given to the survivors for their own use.

How about birth dates? A friend’s mom really did not want others to know her age, so she wrote, “Mary was born sometime in the 1920s!”

But there is another reason to avoid using exact birth dates. Identity theft often happens using data from obituaries, so consider using the birth year and place, but not the date. And NEVER list a home address.

Most obituaries include the cause of death. If a person died in an accident or by suicide, some families may wonder if they should leave out the cause. If they don’t, some readers may read the obit and wonder, “Well, what happened?”

This is a very personal decision, however, and satisfying readers’ curiosity should not be the deciding factor. Much of the stigma attached to suicide has diminished, though, and perhaps we can acknowledge that by being honest and saying “died by suicide.”

What should you actually include in the obituary? It doesn’t need to be a play-by-play of the person’s entire life nor a list of accomplishments. The obits that make me smile give a glimpse into a real person, not a saint.

Consider the obit for Mary “Pink” Mullaney.

“We were blessed to learn many valuable lessons from Pink during her 85 years, among them: never throw away an old pair of pantyhose. Use them to tie gutters, childproof cabinets or hang Christmas ornaments.“

If you are thinking about writing your own obituary, start writing now. Your family will be so grateful to have one fewer thing to deal with when you die and to have your story told the way you wanted it to be told. They can write eulogies and tell stories about you at the memorial service.

Decide what style of obituary you want to write for yourself: a traditional one written in third person or a more personal one, telling some of your life story in first or third person.

See my Facebook page “Postscript by Kath” for examples or search for “great obituaries” online. Read a lot of these so you can steal their ideas and style. Decide if you want help writing or editing your obituary and where to get it.

Just make sure you give several copies of your obit to your family and let them know your wishes about editing it and where to have it published - in the newspaper, on the funeral home website, and/or on a Facebook Memorial Page.

The latter two choices are free, whereas hard newspaper obits can run into hundreds of dollars and may not reach as many people.

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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.]


EDITORIAL NOTE: The queue of reader stories has gotten extremely low. If you are so inclined, this would be a good time to forward your stories for publication. Instructions are at the bottom of this page. I don't like begging for contributions, so if participation continues to decline, I will bring this feature to a close.

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By Jackie Davis

When I was a child in the ‘50’s and early ‘60s, there wasn’t much in the way of children’s programming nor was it necessary. We had many things other than screens to entertain us, particularly on the farm.

However, there were movies on television, old and not so old. By the late 1950s, as most of you may remember, major studios began making movies available to be broadcast on television. Some were older films, some had finished their theatrical release more recently.

In 1961, NBC began broadcasting Saturday Night at the Movies. That was a must-see at our house.

However, the first disturbing movie I watched was an older afternoon movie, shown by one of the local independent stations, The Sullivans. I remember running outside into the yard sobbing at the end it, and my mother so helpfully pointed out, “You know that really happened?” There are no words.

I can’t say just what year it was that I watched The Diary of Anne Frank (made in 1959) on Saturday Night at the Movies but I would have been eight or nine years old.

To say it made an impression on me is an understatement; I clearly remember afterwards asking my parents, “Did that really happen?” I was horrified, though I didn’t understand the extent of the horror at that time.

I read the book as soon as I could get my hands on it. At some later point in my youth, my grandfather told me that our family was German. Again, I was aghast.

The end of WWII was in the recent enough past that I even I had a rudimentary understanding of the implications. But he fixed all that when he told us our family was Jewish before they came over to this country in the late 1800s. That was in junior high.

I began to doubt the veracity of that story when I was in college and had a Jewish boyfriend; he told me it was doubtful as our last name didn’t translate right. (We knew for sure that he made it up when, as an adult, my sister checked out a genealogy book from inter-library loan. They were Lutherans.)

The Time Machine starring Rod Taylor continues to be lodged firmly in my memory. However, when I saw it as a child, what stuck with me was that in that movie, the atomic war occurred in 1964. Every time I heard a sonic boom in 1964 I went running for the cellar, sure the end was nigh.

These days, the scenes that come to mind are when the time machine goes too far into the future, as the earth is winding down and the sunrises and sunsets go back in seconds as time continues to speed up.

The finale on my scariest movie list is Fail Safe. I would have been in the fifth or sixth grade when I watched it at home on a Saturday night. There was no discussion with either of my parents after that one. At least I was able to appreciate more of Dr. Strangelove when I watched it at an age too young to fully understand the satire.

And yet we were not allowed to watch The Twilight Zone as it was deemed too scary. Geesh.

And then there was the fact that my father made me watch some of the historic events that unfolded both live and on the news in the late 50s and early 60s. “It’s history in the making,” he would say. And it was.

And I have been watching and reading those scary stories ever since.

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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: Eat All Day, Pee All Night

By Fritzy Dean

Recently I spent several miserable days ”in hospital,” as our British friends would say. Even though I was quite uncomfortable and anxious to get home, there were some lighter moments during my stay. Those moments are my focus here.

The very beginning was far from auspicious. The intake nurse was a young black man. He was clearly bored, having asked the same questions over and over all day.

In a monotone he asked, “How tall are you?”

I told him.

“How much do you weigh?”

I told him, adding, “That is my weight this morning in my birthday suit.”

Without a pause, in the same dry monotone, he said, “Thanks for the visual.”

“Oh, you’re welcome! I’m sure that image is burned into your retinas for all eternity!” It was a little funny and I would have laughed if I hadn’t been in so much pain.

Among other indignities, I was told I would be going down to the basement of the hospital to the ultrasound lab for a tesy. AND I was instructed to EAT ALL DAY.”

Now there was a time, not so long ago, when that order would have made me delirious with glee. Eat All Day? NO problem! Now? Not so much.

I got used to be being quizzed by the nursed. Did you order breakfast? What did you have? Have you eaten lunch? You should order a snack, you know.

When I got to the lab, I was so stuffed that the probe used over my abdomen was painful. I felt like the Goodyear blimp, about to blow. But the tech was happy; he got excellent pictures.

One of the discoveries from that lab trip was a small amount of fluid on my left lung. So, in addition to getting Lasix, a powerful diuretic, every morning I was also given the same dose at night. So there was no sleeping. None.

I got a routine down after a short trial period. Get up, drag my IV pole to the bathroom, empty my bladder, go back to bed. Lie down, arrange the sheet and blanket over me. Get up, drag my IV pole and repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Every few hours, someone would come into the room and and ask me to look at the pain chart on the wall. The chart had a series of faces drawn in a line, with a smiley face at zero for no pain and a frowning: face at ten, for a lot of pain.

“The face I need is not on there,” I told them. “The face I’m feeling is a fire-breathing dragon and your numbers don’t go high enough to record it.”

Finally the pain began to subside. I felt as if I had gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson. He kicked my butt, too.

One day the nurse, again a young black man, told me that instead of his usual five patients, he had six that day. AND he was the charge nurse so he would be extremely busy. Because of this, he asked if I would confine myself to the room, please?

WHAT? The only time I have left this room is on a gurney. Where do you think I would go? Just stay confined in the room, ma’am. Okay. Sigh. That is how I discovered I was in the maximum security Unit.

Another day, I was desperately trying to nap, while “housekeeping” was clearing the room. The housekeeper was picking up linens and trash and swinging a dust mop, all while speaking seriously into her phone. I was not trying to listen.

In fact, I was trying NOT to listen, when she raised her voice enough to be heard in Galveston. “Listen Here! I hope you don’t think my life is all rainbows and unicorn farts, 'cause it’s not!”

She saw me looking at her with my mouth and my ears wide open. She dropped her voice to a whisper, so I never heard the definition of unicorn farts. I was very disappointed. I’m still wondering if they smell like rainbows. What do rainbows smell like, anyway?

In spite of these light moments of levity, I was grateful to escape. My bed had missed me dreadfully. We were so happy to be reunited. If my prayers are answered, this will be my last visit to the charming, alarming oh-so-grueling eat-all-day, pee-all-night establishment in the Texas Medical Center.

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

A TGB READER STORY: My Season of “Not Quite”

By Carole Leskin

There is something about late August that makes me uneasy. A kind of sadness mixed with a desire to just get it over with and move on to September.

When I was a little girl, I loved the summer. August meant wearing as few clothes as possible, riding my bike all day, swimming, fishing and crabbing with my father, boating on the bay, playing hide and seek at nightfall, the magic show of fireflies in the darkness and just being free!

Today, I stepped out on to my balcony and was almost overcome by the humidity and a sense of lethargy. The garden is beginning to close for the season. Many of the flowers and plants are limp and struggling to live just a bit longer. There are already rust and brown leaves on the ground, looking out of place in what is still predominantly green, but a reminder of things to come.

The birds have raised their young, the nests empty, the fighting for places at the feeders over. The sun casts its shadows earlier and displays a different color on the water - a yellowish green, an artist finding a way to convey the mixture of life and death.

I remember my childhood August and wonder. Is it me? Have I lost something somewhere along the way of growing old? Why do I struggle to just go with the flow - lazy, unhurried and content? Why do I want this month to end and September to begin?

I yearn for the clarity and crispness of autumn - warm sweaters and cozy blankets, mugs of hot chocolate, the colors of turning leaves, the harvest crops, scarecrows and a fire in the fireplace.

Perhaps this is what being 74 is about. Learning to live in the season of "not quite". Letting go of what was, beautiful as it might have been, and finding a way to embrace what is - undefined, different, yellowish green - with an end in sight. But not yet.

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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

It is 1946 and I am 10 years old. The first night home after my tonsils come out, I begin to cough. Scabs and blood fill the yellow enamel pail with the green rim. Doctor and ambulance follow.

My nose is packed with cotton. Sirens scream. Outside the hospital are bright lights; nurses wearing big white hats hold out their arms to me.

I am flat on a table, more bright lights. I want to sleep but they keep slapping me awake, calling my name.

The next thing I remember must have been a day or two later. I am in bed and two young nurses enter. They carry scissors and speak in a soft Irish brogue. My hair is matted with dried blood. They must cut it all off.

I am a tall, skinny girl with a curved back. “What beautiful hair! ” is the only compliment on my looks I have ever received. My hair is long, thick, dark and carries a miraculous wave. With it you can shape corkscrew curls that rival those of Shirley Temple.

You cannot cut my hair! I cry and shout. Perhaps they take pity on me or fear that I will begin to cough again, but they soon agree.

They leave and return with a bottle of oil and thick-toothed combs. It is long, rough going. The oil needs time to soak in, it hurts as the comb is dragged through, the washing reveals missed areas, back to the oil, the combs, the washing. Finally, they are done.

I am handed a mirror. It is hard to take in who I am looking at. This chalk white face cannot be me. But, of course, it is. And when they leave, I go to sit by the window.

I am in the Floating Hospital for Children in Boston – recently re-established on land – and the window faces a deserted block by the harbor.

I look out at the dilapidated buildings (as clear in my mind’s eye today as the view I see each day from my bedroom window). And I say to myself in an adult voice that I don’t recognize, “You were going to die. Now you are going to live.“

* * *

I am seated in a small room, conducting an intake interview. I face a young, black woman who is telling me about her descent into crack addiction and the day she decided she had to quit. It is a harrowing story. I am listening hard. She has just said that she looked in the mirror and couldn’t recognize herself. I am there with her.

Then - we are rising, rising, swept up and swirling in a vortex. I am no longer the social worker with the degrees. She is no longer the client with the problem. Our identities have been stripped away. We are pure spirits – disembodied beings passing each other in the same swirling pattern, tiny molecules up there in outer space.

Then - we are back in the office, returned to ourselves. She is talking, I am listening. She is still speaking of the mirror. How much time could have passed – not as long as a minute. Seconds, perhaps?

* * *

One transcendent experience in a long life does not a mystic make. And it is totally possible that the image of an unfamiliar face in a mirror performed some neurological voodoo.

Yet, whenever I think of the hereafter, I picture myself and my beloved dead as spirits whirling around in the vortex.

The vortex contains all the souls who ever lived – those blessed with the riches of life, those who had the hardest of fates, those who died at birth, those who lived on to a ripe old age – all now equal parts of the same whole: together awhirling, atwirling, aswirling in the vortex.

* * *

[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: Sow’s Ear Guacamole

By Diane Darrow of Another Year in Recipes

The old saying has it that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but one day I thought I’d give it a try. My “sow’s ear” was a bag of three avocados I’d bought for the extremely low price of $2, intending to make guacamole. They were hard as rocks, so I left them out for a few days on a sideboard to ripen.

They didn’t. After a full week, they were still rock-hard and were developing some squishy dented and flattened spots. Grand! These bargain avocados were clearly never going to ripen. I’d just have to use them now, adjusting my recipe to cope with whatever would turn out to be edible on them.

Once I’d peeled the avocados and cut away all the ugly gray-brown parts, I was left with a small quantity of too, too solid flesh.


First adjustment (actually decided earlier): Don’t buy a bunch of fresh cilantro when you’ll need only a few sprigs. Defrost a cube of the cilantro base you’d made to salvage some of the last big bunch of it that you’d bought.

Second adjustment: Don’t even try to mash the flesh with a spoon or chop it with a knife. Puree it by machine.

That done, I could proceed with my usual approach to guacamole: chopping onion, tomato, and a serrano pepper and mixing them, along with salt, into the puree and cilantro base. It came out looking pretty good, much like a proper guacamole.

Hoping for the best, I set a bowl of it next to a batch of tortilla chips and served it as our dinner appetizer.


But alas, that guacamole was no silk purse. My gallant husband dipped one chip and said he tasted mold in it. It didn’t taste moldy to me but neither did it taste much of avocado. He stopped after the second chip.

Feeling an obligation, I ate more of it than that, but it was completely uninteresting. Maybe a plastic purse?

Regretfully, I discarded the rest. Let that be a lesson to me (which at my age, you’d think I would have learned already): Don’t buy avocados that you can’t pick up in your hand and feel at least the beginning of ripening!

* * *

[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 READERS STORY: Not Your Father’s Old Geezer

By Jack Handley

I have a certain reputation at the Senior Center which I discovered by overhearing a conversation:

SPEAKER NO. 1: "You bring up any subject and Jack Handley has something to say about it."

SPEAKER NO. 2: "Yeah, too much."

Which stabbed me with a twinge of embarrassment until I recognized the truth of the matter, which is that I know a lot of things that have never come to the attention of less favored men.

For instance, my pocket knife, a version of which I have carried since I was eight (when I discovered with delight that it was called a Jack knife) contains three blades which are named the spey, the clip and the sheepsfoot.

The reason I know a lot of wayward things is that I have experienced a lot of events in a wayward way.

I was born a Depression baby in the shadow of the 19th century, yet in the foreglow of World War II. My Grandpa Creore gave me six clay marbles which survived from his boyhood in 1870.

My father spoke of having witnessed the last fire horse team in southern Michigan eagerly clip-clop to their stations in front of the steaming engine and the thrill he felt when their harnesses dropped onto their shivering backs.

My first memory was being awakened to eat boiled new potatoes which my father had somehow foraged. It was dark outside but I had probably been fed oatmeal and put to bed early, then gotten up by my despairing parents to share their tiny joy.

I learned later that at the time he was being paid 25 cents a ton to break up frozen coal and shovel it out of a snow topped hopper car from a Pennsylvania coal train.

I made my first telephone call from a wood, wall-mounted Kellogg telephone, standing on a stool to reach the downward turned mouthpiece, holding the receiver in my left hand, and cranking the little handle with my right to send the magneto-generated ringing signal down the line.

Two years later, I clamped radio headphones against my ears to listen to Edward R. Murrow's broadcast from blitzed London and was transfixed when he opened the studio window to let in the chimes of Big Ben and noise of the sirens and the exploding bombs.

A year later, I and the other school kids enrolled in the “war effort” and roamed the countryside looking to fill our empty onion sacks with milkweed pods because of a shortage of Kapok for life vests.

During those war years of the 40s the antique past continued to intrude. I mowed hay with a modern hydraulic-drawbar Ford tractor pulling a 1913 horse-drawn McCormack mower. At the end of each windrow I had to raise the cutter bar by pulling rope connected to a cobbled up lever-pulley arrangement on the ancient machine, making travesty of Ford's farm implement engineering but building mighty biceps in my 12 year-old arms.

In the evening, after listening to the war news, I dribbled little solder balls onto the heads of sewing pins and painted them different colors to use as map pins, which were unavailable - as most everything was - because, as you constantly heard, "there was a war on."

Even after V-E Day and throughout my high school years, 19th century thrift and depression frugality ruled our rural household and those about. I salvaged lumber and extracted the forged nails, called "cut" nails, and pounded them straight for reuse in our house and barn which had been built with them.

After the war I took up radios again and went to the Big City of Detroit to take my ham radio license examination. I built a SW radio and transmitter largely from parts scrounged from the township dump which I had long visited as part of my childhood search for adventure.

My puny five-watt transmitter connected me to several ill-tempered veteran hams but impressed my father to such an extent that he allowed me to run an antenna from my bedroom window sill out to the barn, despite the threat of lightning.

Throughout my childhood and well into my college years, I continued to investigate farms and woods and barns and discover iron-age tools and old men who remembered seeing them used. Some I found in my father's old and forgotten musty wood tool boxes in the basement: draw shaves, horse shoe pliers, a Collins monkey wrench, augers, wood gouges.

A long time since, but 30 years back from now, my wife and I were visiting a small old-timey museum in California's gold country where a school bus had unloosed a horde of noisy but already bored middle schoolers, yet ungrouped.

As we walked by the exhibits I remarked on several I hadn't seen in 50 years, some of which I had used. Sensitive to mansplaining, and well aware of my wife's regard for my "rusty iron" crotchet, I kept in check my shock of recognition and the enthusiasm it engendered.

Still, who can point to and name a hand-operated grain fanning mill and not explain what it was, and how it was used? Or shingle maker's stool and vice?

A young man followed us, shyly listening. As my wife and I approached the exit, he introduced himself. He was a teacher, he had been assigned to lead a group of the youngsters through the exhibits, and wanted to know if I would accompany him and explain them to his students.

I proposed that, instead, I would take him on a whirlwind tour, brief him on names and uses, and give him “compare and contrasts” with modern successors which would provide him with the basis of teacherly authority.

So, I gave him what computer people at the time called a "core dump".

That experience taught me that colorful and lightly illustrated stories work better than an old man's fond and rambling recollection.

* * *

[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: Carole's Debate

By Carole Leskin

"You are old", says the voice in my head.
"You have many years left", says my beating heart.

"You are slowing down - it's to be expected", says the voice in my head.
"You have so much left to see and do", says my beating heart.

"You must prepare for the limitations to come", says the voice in my head.
"You should be open to new opportunities and adventures", says my beating heart.

"You must act your age - let your hair grow gray", says the voice in my head.
"You should do as you please", says my beating heart.

"You must be strong and self-reliant", says the voice in my head.
"You should not hesitate to ask for help when you need it", says my beating heart.

"You must be ever vigilant for it is a dangerous world", says the voice in my head.
"You should welcome and be grateful for the kindness of strangers", says my beating heart.

"You must learn to live with loss", says the voice in my head.
"You should view each day as a new beginning", says my beating heart.

"You must come to terms with the Inevitability Of Death", says the voice in my head.
"You should find Purpose and Joy in Life", says my beating heart.

The debate is intense. When it concludes, who is the winner? My head or my heart?

Can both be right?

* * *

[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: Framing My Story

By Carol Nadell

The delicate picture frame is almost as old as I am. It is made of real wood of a light gray tone perfectly suited to the muted shades of the formal portrait it once held.

That photo was taken more than 72 years ago, when I was not yet two years old. It is not really black and white, not really color, and not really sepia. Its hues are soft and soothing, just what must have been needed as the country emerged from the horrors of a long and brutal war.

The photo was part of a grouping, along with similar portraits of my older brother and sister, taken on the same day. They sat atop the piano in our living room for 20 years, until my mother, a widow at just 53, moved to a two-bedroom apartment.

The photos went with her and, perched on her dresser, I suspect they were a comfort to this still-young woman who found herself so unexpectedly alone. When two years later, she remarried and moved into her new husband’s house, the photos again found a prominent spot on her dresser.

A widow again 20 years later, my mother would eventually become a “snowbird,” dividing her time between an apartment in Massachusetts and another one in Florida.

And when she made the journey back and forth, she was always accompanied by those three photos in the soft grey frames. They became snowbirds too.

When she made her final move to a senior living facility at 89, she placed the photos on the credenza in her living room, along with those of the rest of the family, by that time including grandchildren and great grandchildren.

After my mother’s death, I took the old photo home with me. My husband had always loved that image of me – the profile with the turned-up nose and the soft curly hair. And, so, the photo moved from my mother’s credenza to my husband’s dresser, where it joined the smiling faces of his children and his long-deceased parents.

And after my husband’s death four years ago, that little girl with the turned-up nose continued to smile down on me, a reminder of the now-long arc of my own life.

The burgundy velvet backing of that soft gray frame became worn and discolored with age, but it still recalled an earlier time before everything was made of cardboard and manufactured in China. The tiny nails that attached the backing to the frame spoke of permanence: the frame would hold the photo intact forever.

But 70 plus years proved to be too much for the easel leg designed to hold the frame upright. It hung aimlessly, separated from the backing, and the frame only stayed erect when I leaned it against those on either side of it.

I kept telling myself that it would be too difficult to find a new frame that would accommodate the oddly-sized photo. But the truth is that I couldn’t imagine parting with that frame.

It was a link to my past, to that little girl with the pug nose and huge smile who had her whole life ahead of her.

And it was a link to my mother who had caused the photo to be taken and placed in that delicate frame and who had carried it with her to multiple homes for well over half a century.

And, finally, it was a connection to my husband whose smile I could still see as he looked lovingly at that little girl who would become his wife.

But when the frame toppled over several times in one day, I finally made my way to the local art supply store where I found a serviceable frame of just the right size.

It isn’t the soft gray of the original and it certainly does not have a velvet backing, but it stands upright on its own – still on top of my husband’s dresser, which is now filled with my clothes.

An hour or so after placing the old frame in the blue plastic bin in my apartment building’s trash room, I rushed to rescue it. Sending it to a recycling plant felt like abandonment or betrayal. Of my mother? Of my husband? Of the little girl in the photo?

I’m not sure, but for now the empty frame with the broken, detached backing sits unseen on a shelf behind a closed door in my living room cabinet. I am not yet ready to part with it.

* * *

[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: Remembering Kathy

By Kathleen Morse Noble

I met Kathy at a Scrabble Club in Phoenix with a bunch of other nerdy word nuts. After talking with her and playing a few games, I knew we would be friends.

Kathy was feisty and super smart and – like me - had an informed opinion about EVERYTHING. Like me, she really liked to be right! Can you see where this is going?

We were very competitive playing Scrabble in person but particularly online. I looked at our stats yesterday and she beat me 3 times out of every four and we played 379 games. She didn’t cheat, either.

Kathy felt very comfortable making comments on my friends' Facebook pages. Sometimes her comments started what seemed to be the equivalent of a Facebook cat fight, often with my conservative relatives and childhood friends!

I usually agreed with what Kathy said, but tact was not her strong suit and I have too few relatives left on earth to afford to lose them so sometimes I asked her nicely to back off. She did.

Kathy was also a fabulous storyteller. One of the funniest involved a certain future son-in-law who sleepwalked when Kathy was visiting her daughter and who came out and lay down next to her on the sofa where she was sleeping, thus trapping her.

She was so tiny, he apparently didn’t notice her behind him. She had to call for help!

In addition to being feisty and funny, Kathy was truly a woman of faith. She loved to go to the Franciscan retreat center, especially after she got colon cancer. She didn’t talk very much about her faith but she lived it.

She valued generosity, and loved nature, goodness and justice. She did not put on any airs - what you see is what you got from Kathy.

We loved to go out for movies, especially after she got sick as it was one thing that she could do easily. Her stomach would growl so loudly in the movie theater and I know she hated it, but I laughed!

Even after she lost so much weight, she always looked gorgeous and dressed so colorfully and I totally was jealous of all her earrings, as I love them too.

I had colon cancer in 1998 when I was only 52. Because I had been through surgery and chemo, Kathy and I could talk about our experiences and all the tough side effects, sometimes even over lunch. I tried to help her find ways to be more comfortable, but her cancer had spread and just got worse.

I talked to her when she was in the hospital and she told me a lovely story about a young doctor who came in, sat down so she could see his face and chatted with her about living in St. Louis, where he also had lived. She told me that it was so nice to have him see her as a real person and not just a patient. I don’t know this doctor’s name, but I am so grateful to him.

Kathy loved her daughters and especially her granddaughter so very much. Her face would just light up when she told me about funny things that little Teegan said nearly every time we talked.

Her cat, Sunny, also was a huge source of comfort and entertainment for her, and me, too, when I visited her. I was startled to walk into her tiny kitchen after she moved in and suddenly see the cabinet open up and Sunny sauntering out!

The last time I saw Kathy was the day before she died. I drove to the nursing home and brought a card that had 3-D hummingbirds on it and that I thought she would love. I held her hand and she got upset with me when I asked her if she remembered that my husband, Dave, also had cancer (“Of course I do!”)

The nurse came in with her pain meds and she told her that she didn’t want them because she wasn’t in any pain. We held hands and said that we loved each other. She had wanted to return to her own little house but it was too late, she didn’t have enough time. We said goodbye and she said I could come back again. I didn’t get a chance.

Facebook has a way of gobsmacking me every so often with an old photo or message about Kathy. “You haven’t played Scrabble with Kathy for a while…” “You and Kathy became Facebook friends…”

This photo is of Kathy with her daughter and granddaughter. She died soon after:


A TGB READER STORY: Why Amazon Will Rule the World

By Fritzy Dean

Dear Mr. Target,

Whatever happened to your express check-out lanes? I clearly remember a time when a shopper with fewer than 10 or 12 items could get in an express lane and in a reasonable amount of time, be on their way.

Today when I asked a red-shirted employee for the express lane, she first looked puzzled, then pointed me to the multiple self-check lanes.

I choose not to use self-check lanes for a few reasons. First, I am not an employee and don’t wish to contribute my labor to your corporation. Secondly, I know that every self-check lane allows the store to get rid of three employees.

I realize, of course, the scanner does not take shifts or coffee breaks or vacations or sick leave. They never get grumpy or need the bathroom like a human checker.

Still I prefer the human. So I will wait in a lane where an actual human is checking. I don’t need that job, but someone does.

However, I have a suggestion that should be implemented as soon a possible. Since you have done away with he express lane, I feel you need a designated slow lane. This lane will be for the shoppers who:

Have a cart full of items and EVERY single one of them requires special handling.

If you have a discount code and you have to scroll through 400 items on your cell phone to find it, go to the slow lane.

If you have a coupon in a printed ad and must flip thought the advertisement 15 times to find it, go to the slow lane.

If you buy an item that must be purchased in combination with another item to get a special price, make damn sure you have both items and get in the slow lane.

If you are oblivious to the world around you and don’t even notice the ever-growing line of people behind you, you NEED to be in the slow lane.

Mr. Target, I bet you could think of other shoppers who could benefit from a slow lane. But, Mr. Target, I have no confidence you will implement this sensible and reasonable suggestion.

That is only one reason, Mr. Target, that you and other retailers are losing ground every year to Amazon.

I truly wanted to do my part to avoid that scenario but, Mr. Target, I have seen the light. After 20 minutes behind one of those slow shoppers today, I finally asked the checker if I should move. She shrugged and said, “Well, she is almost half way done.”

I will not weep when Amazon rules the retail world.

* * *

[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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

A TGB READER STORY: The Lessons of Asymmetry

By Adele Frances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Father Time and Me

By Carole Leskin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I sighed.

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

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

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

He looked at me, not unkindly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then...

He was gone.

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