137 posts categorized "Timeline"

Mom's 20th Yahrzeit

Category_bug_timeline Today is the 20th anniversary of my mother's death, her “yahrzeit” in Yiddish.

I am not religious. Not at all. In fact, I don't believe there is a god. But I like this ritual of lighting a 24-hour yahrzeit candle each year in remembrance of the people I have loved and still love.

Soon after the new year in 1992, my mother was told that her cancer was untreatable; she had three or four months to live, said the doctor. I was lucky. I was able to take my job with me to her home in Sacramento where I cared for her around the clock until this date in April when she died quietly in the early afternoon.

Those four months remain the most profound period of my life and unlike so many other events from my past, are as clear and fresh and immediate today as if it all happened last month instead of two decades ago.

It would be redundant to say much more. I wrote about the whole experience in a series of posts during the first couple of months after launching Time Goes By. You can read it here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: Grandpop's Eye

Lake Oswego House



With the help of the G.I. Bill, my parents built this house in Lake Oswego, Oregon in 1946, after Dad returned from World War II.

There were two bedrooms upstairs, one for me and one for my great Aunt Edith who lived with us then. There was a large backyard where Mom grew vegetables and in the summers we set up a badminton game. Beyond the yard was a dense woods for me to play in.

I remember the day my Dad planted the hedge in front, telling me that someday the individual shrubs would grow together and look like one big plant. And so it does today.

When the house was built, Lake Oswego (then named Lake Grove), was a modest suburb of Portland populated by ordinary, middle-class people, many who were newcomers like my family, with young children and infants – the first of the baby boomers. When I visited Portland in the summer of 2007, my brother and I drove past the house. It was shocking.

The house, which in my childhood matched others in the neighborhood in general style and size, is the smallest on the street now, and shabby. The paint is peeling, the plantings are untrimmed and the lawn is overgrown with weeds. It almost looks abandoned.

It is surrounded these days by large McMansions that sell in the millions of dollars. I neglected to take a photo, but the house across the street - a small bungalow in the late 1940s where a playmate lived - has been replaced by a sprawling behemoth that is magnificent enough for a movie star.

No doubt my family’s little home, 60 years old now, will soon be replaced by something more grand.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Norm Jenson tells of an nearly forgotten catchphrase surprising resurrected in an elevator, in Good Night, Agnes.]

Ronni’s Little Red Car



When I reached driving age, at 16, I lived in a suburb of San Francisco – Sausalito, California. Public transportation there, as in most suburbs to this day, was almost nonexistent. A car was a necessity and I was as excited as any 16-year-old new driver when, in 1957, I got my 1947 Chevy coupe.

It was in terrific shape having previously been owned, literally, by that proverbial little old lady who drove it to church on Sunday. Now I’m that little old lady. The only difference is that instead of church, I drive to the market and Home Depot with an occasional 100-mile-trip here or there.

When I married, we bought a new, 1965 Mustang unaware, then, that it would become a classic.

Over the years, I came to dislike owning a car, even that little beauty. Cars always want something: gas, oil, tires, window washer juice, anti-freeze, insurance, inspections, etc. and something that is costly to fix breaks with regularity. There is an old saying that a boat is a hole in the water into which you pour money. I felt that way about cars.

So when my then-husband and I moved to Manhattan (where a car is a liability and public transportation choices are many) and sold our car, a great burden was lifted. I remained happily car-less for the next 40 years, renting when there was the occasional need.

From time to time, particularly when I was in Los Angeles where people are defined and judged by the kind of car they drive, friends showed off their Mercedes, BMWs and other even more exotic cars to me. I’m sure I disappointed them by exhibiting little interest. That the car would get me from here to there without incident is all I cared about.

In all those 40 years without a car, the only one I could identify was a Volkswagen bug. All the rest looked alike to me – and still do. Then, I few years ago, a new car began turning up on the streets during my walks around Greenwich Village – a unique, classic, gloriously retro shape that turned out, when I tracked it down, to be a Chrysler PT Cruiser. Wow! I told a friend. If I ever have a reason to need a car again, that’s what I want, never thinking it would come to pass.

Still, it was disheartening, as I planned my move to Portland, Maine, in 2006, to realize I would need to own a car. All those irritations of ownership – gas, oil, tires, etc. – would again become part of my life so as long as I would need to endure that, I determined to get the car I wanted – and I wanted that PT Cruiser in red.

With the help of a friend, Neil Thompson, who knows everything there is to know about cars, it happened – and even in the color I wanted which I hadn’t dared hope for.

And guess what? Those ownership irritations are not as bad as I remembered. Cars have come a long way in 40 years; they are easier to care for and although I miss the 24-cent-a-gallon gas of my youth, not so expensive that it breaks the budget.

I'll never have the kind of love affair with a car that I've seen in friends and the next car I buy will undoubtedly be a hybrid or whatever energy-green invention has come along by then. It is unlikely to be as cute as a PT Cruiser, but that is several years off and for now, I have to admit that I love tooling around town in my little, red retro car. It's just my size, just the right color and it's fun to drive.

If anyone had told me I’d ever feel that way about a car, I’d have sneered. But you never know - in life and even in old age - how your attitudes will change.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ronni Prior has a short, little tale of teenage transgression titled The Skeleton.]

A Home in Portland, Maine

[EDITORIAL NOTE: A new feature has been added to Time Goes By: Where Elders Blog. Get a peek at the places people blog and do join us by sending a photo of your blog space - the more photos, the more fun for everyone. The announcement/instructions are here.]

Category_bug_timeline This Photo Biography/Timeline has been neglected for too long. In fact, I haven’t posted new pictures in 18 months which has been an eventful period for me, having moving from Greenwich Village to Portland, Maine and all.


[8 June 2006] That's the day I closed on my new home and that’s my apartment on the second floor. I first noticed these New England-style “triple deckers” – sometimes called a “three-deckers” – on train trips to Portland from New York and back when I was looking for my new home; they are ubiquitous from Rhode Island on north.

Triple-deckers scream “working class” and “immigrant” and so they were when most were built in the early years of the 20th century. Mine was built in 1899. These days they are more likely to be renovated and sold as condominiums (shouldn’t the plural be condominia?) for middle class families.

Triple deckers are justly famous in architectural circles. The apartments are large, usually have decks or porches - sometimes both front and back - and because they are set on lots and not flush against one another as brick rowhouses generally are, there is light and air on all four sides.

Wikipedia has an entry on triple-deckers. An architectural blog calls them “da bomb.” There is even a long-running play about the residents of a triple-decker building.

Readers from other parts of the U.S. would be shocked at how small homes are in Manhattan, even many that cost millions of dollars. After nearly 40 years in cramped, New York City apartments, I feel like I have finally become a grownup having, now, so much space to rattle around in, including – oh, such grandeur! – a guest bedroom.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, kenju is having some fun with elder stereotypes in Mothballs and Throwrugs - the Mark of a Retiree?]

What a Difference a Year Makes

Category_bug_timeline [NOTE: Elaine of Kalilily posted a wonderful birthday greeting for me on her site that includes a drop-dead funny video clip. It's like peanuts - betcha can't watch it just once...]

[FURTHER NOTE - 5AM: I had set this to publish on its own this morning, but I woke early and discovered a whole bunch of birthday greetings. You are - every one of you - the absolute best. Thank you.]

Ronni at 65 So swiftly passes a year at my age. It seems only yesterday I was writing here about “when I’m 64” and today, I have reached what is generally considered to be the traditional age of full retirement. Sixty-five. Halfway through my seventh decade. One of those rites-of-passage birthdays - like 13 (if you are Jewish), 21 (legal adulthood) and 50 (the half-century mark) - that rings with portent.

No denying it: I really am old now, although bloggers Millie Garfield and Golden Lucy, both past 80, will giggle at that statement.

I am always irritated when people say, “I don’t feel 65.” Or 70 or 75, etc. Of course they do. Since not one of us knows what it feels like to be older than we are, whatever we feel is what that age feels like. Equally irritating are recent boomer slogans such as “50 is the new 30.” Anyone who can’t tell the difference is a case of arrested development and a contributor to our youth-crazed, ageist culture.

The downsides of becoming 65 have, so far, been minimal. I don’t have the stamina and strength I once had and need to spread out chores and errands over longer periods of time. But I don’t find that a burden. I like the extra walks necessary to finish shopping, and if it’s harder to stay awake into the wee hours, I’ve known since my twenties that nothing noteworthy happens at the party past midnight.

Famous and celebrated contemporaries who have defined the era in which I have lived die more frequently now. Just last year, Richard Pryor, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Prince Rainier of Monaco, Hunter Thompson, Arthur Miller, Johnny Carson, Betty Friedan.

Youngsters who know these people only historically probably can’t grasp the force with which each one, at their peak, etched his or her sensibility on the public consciousness of the second half of the 20th century. But that was then and this is now.

In recent years, the rightness of death makes more sense to me. Those scientists who spend millions researching life extension, predicting 200-year life spans one day, are selfish and wrong. Elders must make way for younger people who are unencumbered by attachments to the past and are a better match to new times, new eras, new issues. (More about this soon.)

The upsides of getting older far outweigh the negatives. I am more patient with myself and others. Experience has alleviated the fears that plagued my twenties, thirties and even forties. Having learned that aside from putting a gun to one’s head, few decisions are irrevocable, they come more easily now and with less anguish.

Well, maybe not all decisions. This turned out to be a significant year. Settling in New York City in 1969 was a childhood dream and in a sense, all 28 years before were prelude. I have been extraordinarily happy living here, so much so that when I bought this cozy, little apartment, 23 years ago, on one of the prettiest streets in Greenwich Village, it felt so permanent that I told friends I would be taken out feet first - it was my last move.

We should be wary of asserting such absolutes. At about this time last year, months of fruitless searching for work forced me to rethink that pronouncement. I agonized for weeks about what I knew was inevitable and then, in a long, sleepless weekend spent pacing, weeping, shaking my fist at the gods and the insidious bigotry of age discrimination in the workplace, I made a hard-won decision to sell my apartment and move to a less expensive part of the country.

I had many months to make peace with that decision as it took longer to sell my apartment than either the real estate agent or I expected. Now, with my New York home at last sold, I am eager to begin my next adventure in a new place.

Already, I have the core of a personal community in Portland, Maine. Packing cartons arrived this week. Moving day is set for late May with settling into a new home to begin a week or so later. And what a relief that will be.

My life has been disordered and disorderly for nearly six years. The dotcom at which I was employed collapsed abruptly in mid-2000 owing me (still) $25,000. I was unemployed that time for 14 months and the job I eventually found required a four-hour daily commute leaving no time or energy for a personal life for two-and-a-half years.

For nearly a year after I was laid off from that job, I beat my head against the wall of a bad job market and age discrimination until this decision to leave New York, and then I waited seven months for the sale of my apartment. Some downtime and routine will be a welcome change.

We celebrate holidays to remind us of our common history or our faith. Anniversaries and birthdays mark time, allowing us to take stock of the recent past, to renew our commitments to ourselves and others, and to create new beginnings. It is hard sometimes not to believe that the universe has its reasons, and it seems to me an excellent time to let go of one life and start another on such a momentous birthday as 65.

“For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away,
The sky is filled with stars invisible by day.”
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Morituri Salutamus [1875]


Ronni Then and Now

Category_bug_timeline THEN - 7 December 1941


The family legend about this photo is that mommy and daddy were taking pictures of baby Ronni in her bath when a shocking announcement was made on the radio: Pearl Harbor had been attacked.

This image began a snapshot journey that covers more than a hundred years. It ends today in the present. The world has changed since I was a little girl. We have television now, cell phones, the internet and we know that the moon is not made of green cheese.

I wonder if little kids today see the face of "the man in the moon" as I did on clear nights many decades ago or if, in our new knowledge of the Sea of Tranquility and other moon landmarks, they no longer imagine such things.

NOW - 31 October 2005

Rb2005_10_31gray In sorting photos for the Timeline, I learned a lot about myself, my family and friends, and my world. I remembered old stories I hadn't thought of in years. I realized how public events sometimes colored my personal life. I changed my mind about some people, places and things. And - there are still so many stories left untold.

All in all, it's been an interesting trip most of which has borne no resemblance to what I daydreamed as a girl about my adulthood. Would I, should I have done some things differently? Of course. But we all do the best we can with the tools and strengths we have at the time and I have no regrets.

It has been a little more than a year since I began the Timeline and ending it today, feels like a beginning. It feels as though I've put old mysteries to rest, put a button on my adulthood and I'm ready for a new adventure.

Is it serendipity that the Timeline reaches the present just as I close the book on one era of my life and embark on another in a new city? Or is there an order to the cosmos that perhaps provides symbols and markers for us if we are willing to pay attention? Personally, I believe that - and not - depending on the day of the week.

Although I had been researching aging for several years before I began this blog in March 2004, and have been writing on aspects of "what it's really like to get older" for 20 months since then, right now all that feels like a prelude.

There is a strong sense of reaching a divide, of crossing a frontier into new territory. Perhaps all my protestations on this blog of embracing old age have been practice, preparation, and now I am ready for the real thing. Should I take after my great aunt and grandmother and live to my early 90s, I've got a quarter of a century of doing that in front of me.

The Timeline has only reached the present. As time moves on and events and photo documentation warrant, it will be continued.


Ollie Then and Now



[2004 and 2005] One year ago today Oliver, who was then not quite three months old, came to live with me. He was tiny then and scared. Today, he is almost grown up, more than 20 pounds of lively, demanding cat. He won't have anything to do with store-bought toys. His favorites are an old sock tied in a knot and a six-inch-square hunk of sheepskin I got him so he would stop stealing and hiding my sheepskin-lined clogs.

The game he likes best is hunting for toys I've hidden beneath a corner of a rug or under a blanket and I've learned the special meow that means "let's play hide-and-seek."

It's amazing how our furry little creatures worm their way into our hearts and minds, and the efforts we make to accomodate and understand them. When Ollie has left a dozen toys precisely placed where I cannot avoid tripping over them, I think of Frank Paynter's delicious explanation of his dog's arrangement of shoes:

“It seems to me like the chaotic distribution of my footwear across the house when I return after a day's absence may have certain algorithmic properties that only an Australian Shepherd is capable of getting its teeth into…

“Oddly, I am sure the dog doesn't think the distribution of shoes is messy, but rather that it has order and beauty best appreciated by creatures closer to the floor than the housemonkeys that provide the food and water.”

- Sandhill Trek


Ronni on Escalator



[December 2002] My co-worker Steve Hopkins took this photo when we were waiting for the Metro North train in Stamford, Connecticut. I like it personally because it makes me look so glamorous - which I hardly am. But more than that, it is a gorgeous photograph. If you've ever been at the Stamford train station, you would know what a favor Steve has done with this photo for that most unlovely place.


Neil's Sideboard



[2003] There is in my living room an odd-sized cubby, a setback in the wall that is 14 inches deep at one end and 22 inches deep at the other. For years, I had wanted to have a sideboard made to would exactly fit, and on a not-entirely-sober, music-listening evening a few years ago, Heather and I measured the space - every possible length, width and depth - and sketched out a design.

We gave it to her father, Neil, who is a master woodworker and a few months later, he showed up at my door with this.

We held our collective breath while sliding the sideboard into the cubby hoping against hope that Heather and I had not been too far gone that night when we measured. As you can see, we did just fine and Neil did even better in creating this.

But the best part of the story is this: Neil also restores old cars. His pride and joy is an old Chevy pickup truck which was manufactured with a wooden bed. He replaced the warped and worn wood during the restoration, but set it aside – you never know when you might need some scraps of wood.

After some planning and finishing, he used the old wood to make the backing and some of the dividers in my sideboard and so…

Parts of my sideboard and I were born in the same year as Neil antique pickup – 1941.


Elsbeth's Christmas Wall



[1999] Remember how angry your mother got when you drew pictures on the living room wall with your crayons? Or, conversely at our ages, what a mess it was to clean up when the kids wrote on the walls?

A bunch of friends joined Elsbeth at her new home in Utah for Christmas and, filled with an abundance of, uh, holiday cheer one evening, it seemed a reasonable idea to write our favorite quotes and sayings on the dining room wall with Magic Markers. Even though long past childhood, we kept thinking our respective Moms would show up any minute to send us all to our rooms - which, of course, was part of the thrill.

Not to worry. In January Elsbeth knocked down the wall to expand her kitchen.


Painting from Sali’s horse period



In the years since my friend Sali immigrated to Israel more than 30 years ago, she has become a well-known artist there and beyond. Although she had invited me for decades, I didn’t get around to visiting Sali and her second husband until 1999, and now I cannot imagine why I waited so long.

Roaming the same ancient streets in the old city of Jerusalem, where people not so different from you and me have walked for five thousand years connects me, in a more direct, real way that reading history can, to the continuity of mankind – to the thread that runs backward among us, generation to generation.

Sometimes in Jerusalem, touching an ancient wall or running a finger along the outlines of a dice game scratched in the tile floor of a church by Roman soldiers, I have almost been able to imagine living in such a place thousands of years ago.

You can see some more of Sali’s paintings here and at her blog, Horsefeathers.





[1999] This was snapped in Israel where Sali has lived for more than 30 years. We first met in New York City in 1969 or 1970 when we and our then-husbands were anti-Vietnam War activists.

Her husband was also Bob Dylan’s Hebrew language teacher and sometimes when the class was finished, the four of us would play round-robin backgammon. I spent a lot of afternoons with Sali and her husband in 1971, in the early weeks after my husband and I separated. It was at their apartment that a mutual friend tracked me down to offer me my first television job.

Sometimes years go by between in-person visits, but Sali and I aways pick up the conversation as though we'd just left off yesterday.


Beau Bennett 1977 - 1996



[29 September 1996] In my flightier moments, I called him “Beautiful Baby Beau Bennett of Bedford Street.” He was smarter than your average cat, funnier too, and we worked out our living arrangements with more ease and success than is always so, in my experience, with male humans. Some things we did my way, others we did his way and we maintained our household without much argument for nearly 20 years.

Beau died at home in my arms in the evening of 29 September 1996.

There is Oliver now, unique and wonderful in his own way. But nearly ten years after Beau's death, sometimes I think I see him out of the corner of my eye trotting by on his way to check out the squirrels through the back windows.


Ronni at Her cbsnews.com Desk



[1996] I’d been at work since 6AM and at 10PM, we were almost done for the day – just waiting for President Clinton and Senator Bob Dole to finish a campaign debate so we could write the last story of the night.

My job as managing editor of cbsnews.com had come along at just the right moment when, after about 25 years, I was bored with television production, where the techniques of storytelling were well-established and unless a story is complex or personally compelling (which isn’t always the case), there isn’t much to think about.

But in 1996, no one knew yet how best to tell stories online and I liked being part of inventing the future. [Photo: Viktor Cea]


Ronni with cbsnews.com Staff and Interns



[1996] When we launched an open forum on the election website where readers could discuss issues, we needed to filter those naughty words some people like to use and others object to.

The web was so new then, there were no off-the-shelf filtering systems, so we sent the interns into a room one day and told them to come back with a list of every no-no word and every permutation of each of them they could think of for our home-made filter. We have wondered ever since what they wrote in the required report to their colleges of what they did on their summer internship.

The woman in the green shirt on the right is Laura Holder, then a designer at cbsnews.com and now one of the founders of Daylo which I wrote about a few months ago. [Photo: Viktor Cea]


lauratitian @ 2003-12-07 said:
What the hell shirt was I wearing?? that...can’t...be..me, can it? Where are Tim and Viktor??
i seriously don’t remember owning a mens` xl green shirt like that. Ronni, help me out here. Is that me? Eid someone photoshop my face over Tim Hyde’s body?

clarsen @ 2003-12-07 said:
NY has had an impact on you, Laura.

jkh_22 @ 2003-12-07 said:
No frickin’ way.

setya @ 2003-12-07 said:
Laura, you look like you are about 18 years old

williambernthal @ 2003-12-08 said:
How come I didn`t get to be a cbs intern?

sharonwatt @ 2003-12-08 said:
She was just a simple lass from Illinois before she came to the badass city.

zinetv @ 2003-12-08 said:
Ronni looks more at home with this setting and these people that she did in the 12/6 posted photo when she first started the project.

lauratitian @ 2003-12-08 said:
Hey, I weren’t no intern. Why does everyone assume I was an intern?

ronni @ 2003-12-08 said:
They think you’re an intern because you look so young, Laura. NOW HEAR THIS, EVERYONE. Lauratitian was no intern. Perhaps I should have been more clear. As fine a designer as Laura, is not to be found. She was staff and we could not have done any of it without her.

lauratitian @ 2003-12-08 said:
Hehe...not your fault. But thanks, Ronni!

Ronni and Meredith



[1996] I was writing freelance scripts for such television documentary programs as The 20th Century and Biography when Meredith hired me in January 1996, to be managing editor for CBS-TV’s first website.

We were charged with covering only election news that year – “Campaign ‘96” – and none of us (did anyone then?) knew anything much about web production so it was an earn-while-you-learn project. We worked around the clock, seven days a week and delivered – if I do say so myself – an election site that to this day holds up as one of the best ever. [Photo: Viktor Cea]


av_producer @ 2003-12-06 said:
Wonder if the technical limitations of the web at the time limited the "bells & whistles" and allowed you to be focused more on the content.

I could not have asked for the web to come along at better time, and although I had no IPO, the path I took landed me where I could have only wished for, but for which there was no place for me before the web.

williambernthal @ 2003-12-06 said:
God bless the World Wide Web.

albumyolima @ 2003-12-06 said:
I loved those early days of the web. It was such an exciting feeling to be able to communicate with the rest of the world in such a personal way. I don’t remember much from the more commercials sites of that time, I started surfing the web at it’s beginning, through the pioneer days of AOL. Seems like ancient history now.

Thompson’s Garden



[c.2000] I am one of a tiny minority of New Yorkers who has an outdoor garden - a patio behind my apartment that is, of course, laughably small by the standards of rural homes like this one in Pennsylvania.

Although it is not shown in this photo, the Thompsons have a plant called bee balm that attracts large numbers of beautiful orange bees the size of hummingbirds. I had never heard of this plant before nor seen such bees, so I am going to plant bee balm next spring in my new home I Maine and see what kind of bees I get.


shutter451 @ 2003-12-04 said:
Lovely garden, interesting plant. Just be careful what you ask for, Ronni. Three inch long bees with an attitude? Scary.

av_producer @ 2003-12-04 said:
I had a back garden space (approximately 400 sq feet) when I lived on Sullivan Street that was bigger than the apartment/ That’s how small the apartment was!

virgorama @ 2003-12-04 said:
Great story.. I have no garden of my own, just a communal one, but grew up surrounded by a huge one. I’`s a wonderful thing to have

bandman @ 2003-12-04 said:
That is a lovely garden. I live in a condo so there is lots of foliage and plants all over the development. The best part, I don’t have to tend it.

jdiggle @ 2003-12-04 said:
Great story, maybe you should invite the bees to a garden party in their honour!




[1995] Stanhope is legendary within the television news business and there are events you and the world might not understand as well as you do without his behind-the-scenes brilliance. I knew his reputation and had heard the stories of his exploits as a producer for the CBS Evening News and later at 20/20 when we finally met in 1995. We have been trying to decide, off and on ever since, what our relationship is and what, if anything, to do about it.


av_producer @ 2003-12-03 said:
I can see him in a high white collar standing around the in one of those Dutch masters paintings.

jdiggle @ 2003-12-03 said:
Great story, like this idea of a flog to preserve the past. In a way mine reflects what I am thinking as I post very few pictures relative to what I shoot!

zinetv @ 2003-12-03 said:
His gaze is enough to tell you he has been there and done that.

Joe With a Friend



[1992] Joe and I had become like brother and sister when we cared for my mother together during her last illness. A few months after her death, Joe visited me for two weeks in New York and he quickly came to love the city as I always have.

When he returned for a second visit in February 1994, Joe’s energy was low, but by pacing ourselves, we managed to visit every place on his list. Back home in San Francisco, his health deteriorated rapidly. An old friend, Jack, who had been an Army medic in Vietnam, cared for Joe and kept me informed when Joe was too weak to take phone calls. Then Jack called one day to say I should come quickly to San Francisco and I did. But Joe died of complications from AIDS on 28 October 1994, while my plane was still in the air.