Thank you…

I really appreciate all the care and support while I’ve been having my existential melt down. It helped a lot to write it down, it helped a lot to “hear” what you all had to say, your experiences, your take on it.

It actually helped me figure it out.

Five years ago I saw the handwriting on the wall. My job was being “outsourced” to another department at the university and no one was going to tell us. There were five of us who had 3 year contracts to teach Business Communication. I had a year left. I had every intention of finishing my contact before retiring, but I ended up without the choice. An “under-the-table” deal was made and, since no one went to the union to complain until I did at the last minute, it was, essentially, a fait accompli. But in English. Looking at most of my income gone, I had to retire and leave. OK. Psychologically I was ready. Physically? I was already showing signs of the hip arthritis I had remedied in 2018.

My move to Colorado was great. I’m happy to be back, but it was a little freaky that — though a native — I didn’t know how to live here any more. It all came back, but there was a long period of adjusting both to retirement and life in a very small town I’d only visited once.

This blog helped me a lot as did the one I wrote specially about my move. That blog is gone, but it was good for me to write.

The first thing I did when I moved here was get an Airdyne. I knew I was overweight and in terrible physical condition. I wanted to be able to hike in the mountains and do things I wasn’t able to do. I wasn’t me, but I’d had to work so much the last few years I lived in California that there was nothing in my life but driving, teaching and all the things connected with teaching — grading, prepping, meetings, etc. When I finally moved into my house, the dogs and I began walking on the golf course and going 1/2 mile was difficult for me (and for Mindy T. Dog ❤ ) but we got better. The Airdyne was good, I did get in better shape, I was able to do yoga again (meaning getting down onto and up from the floor) and I did lose a little weight.

Still, the struggle to regain my body took so much longer than I imagined it could. I didn’t even realize until the end of 2017 WHAT my mobility problem was. Then came the search for a surgeon.

Meanwhile, I wrote. I arrived in Colorado with a work in progress, The Brothers Path. In 2017 I finished an important book — My Everest which is about my time in California hiking with my dogs. It was a total labor of love to put that book together. Then I sucked it up and finished The Price which was very difficult to write for numerous reasons I’ve already written about. The surgery worked and my pre-op training and post-op training have returned to me a body with abilities I haven’t had in a decade. I still can’t run. Maybe I won’t ever run — I do try, though.

I’m grateful and lucky. But at this point in time there is also the feeling that another shoe WILL fall. I will be 67 this coming Monday.

We always say we want to have no regrets, but I don’t think anyone can reach this point in life without regrets. I’m surprised at what mine are. I wrote about that, and last night a friend said, “Lots of people say they want to write books but they never do. You’ve written 3 (actually 6 1/2 but who’s counting?)…can’t you look at writing them the way you look at all your hikes? You never thought about point B; you just went.” He is absolutely right. That’s exactly how I can look at my books and writing itself. Everything, maybe.

This morning I read Cara Sue Achterberg’s blog post, on “My Life in Paragraphs.” She writes about how she and her husband are figuring out together what they want the next step in their lives to be. They’re about to be “empty-nesters” and they’re addressing this question with colored Post-It Notes on which they each write something they want in their future or want their future to be. Cara ultimately asks, “What do you want?” and my first thought was, “A marriage like yours, but that ship has sailed.” ❤

As I read, I thought about the different transitions — the late-40’s transition and the late-60’s transition. I didn’t notice the late 40’s one because the usual late 40’s physical stuff happened to me a lot earlier. Looking back, the time between 47 and 54 were really great years for me and, thankfully, most of the time I knew it. Physical debility and a bad love relationship set the “tone” for the next decade, neither of which I could possibly have seen coming. I thought, “I had the house I wanted. I lived in the mountains. I had great dogs. I hiked with awesome human companions, too. I had the job I wanted. I had all I wanted and then…”

It’s always a balancing act between what we want and what we get, I guess.

Yesterday I wanted Cross Country Skis. I texted the local outdoor store — Kristi Mountain Sports — and asked the appropriate questions. Today I got an answer. As it happens, I had written things down on a Post-It note.


Basically, what Kristi Mountain Sports has for sale is exactly what I want.

Today I want $550. It’s right there! It’s even on a Post-It Note! 😀 But I also want to know that if I buy the skis (which means more debt until the tax refund) I’ll actually use them. I have this big white dog and she doesn’t ski.

Anyway, I realized that I if I were to continue with the Post-It Notes, that what I want is a new adventure. I feel a little nervous even saying that — let alone committing it to an actual Post-It Note — because the universe might go, “You want adventure? Ha! I’ll give you adventure.” No, universe, this time let me find my own. ❤

Halcyon Days

I have a feeling that one’s halcyon days might depend on one’s attitude. I’ve been feeling glum about things. Anyway, woke up in a blue mood, confused and disenchanted. The prompt “halcyon” wasn’t happening. 

I realized lately it’s probable that I’ve hit another one of those “turning points” or “crisis junctures” in life, often related to age. Also, maybe, it’s also related to the time of year which everyone agrees isn’t always the “holly jolly” thing it’s supposed to be. In my case, after all the HOPE and striving last year, I have landed square in reality again. It’s OK. It’s a far better reality than that in which I lived last year.

Over the past two days I’ve seen what story the Work in Progress actually is. It’s not a happy story, but it is definitely a Goliard story and it’s a view at a little known aspect of the Middle Ages, though that’s not all it is. I still want to write it, but it’s going to require a lot of discipline and mountain hikes. I wish it would really snow so I could find out if I can still X-country ski. I make take horse-riding lessons. To write this story my life is going to need a very powerful balance toward the good, the happy, the light. Thank goodness I have a pal who’s always ready to go outside with me.

Anyhoo, with all this in mind, I left the story for the day, shopped, cleaned, took the dogs for a walk. At the store a couple of guys were making fun of salad dressing and it just cracked me up.

“All there is is raaanch.”
“I hate raaaanch.”
“Me too, but look at that. Every brand of raaaanch.” (You have to pronounce it in kind of a nasal way like in a cowboy movie)
I had to go where they were to get salad dressing and I said, “You guys are totally cracking me up.”
“Yeah and we haven’t even had anything yet.”
“Wow.”
“What about rawnch.” (Faux British accent)
I laughed. 
“Oh, ranch” (French accent).
“Mai oui. C’est merveilleux.” I said. 

Lucky I’m easily amused. 

Still in a funk, I took out the dogs. We’ve been walking at the end of the golf course where, if I were a deer, I wouldn’t hang out. Now I think my herd of deer might actually “like” me. 

Bear notices them as soon as they are within our “range” which is about 100 yards. I knew they were coming and from where when Bear suddenly stood between me and what seemed to be the “big empty” to the west. I knew then it wasn’t empty, but I didn’t see anything. 

We kept walking and from time to time I looked toward the north, toward the parked tanker cars beyond which the deer hang out. Not always “beyond which” I know for fact from their footprints, spray on snowy trees, tracks and Dusty and Bear’s passionate sniffing. Then I looked over at the train and saw big ears turned in my direction under one of the cars. I stopped. 

Bear resumed her guardian position. I took Dusty’s collar because we were pretty close — maybe 50 yards away and no real barrier. If he saw them, there was every chance he’d bark and chase. I turned and kept going. When I turned around, one of them had emerged from under the train and was walking toward us. 

Well, my deer. “We’re not friends,” I told her. “These are dogs and your dad or husband doesn’t like me.” She stopped. Dusty, Bear and I walked away from them and when I turned around, they were gone. 


Then I thought, “What’s really better than this? I can walk. I can write this difficult story. It’s in my power now, but it wasn’t before. I live in this beautiful place. I can spend the winter getting ready to climb mountains this summer. Never before in my life have I had this kind of freedom. So what if I’m old and ugly? Dusty and Bear don’t care and neither do my friends. That’s MY female ego problem, nothing more. So what if I’m approaching that ‘three score and ten’ they go on about in the Bible? I don’t want to live forever anyway. Sure, right now I’m disappointed about some stuff, but who isn’t? These are halcyon days, these winter days with the steeply angled light, the indigo mountains and the promise of snow.”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/12/17/rdp-monday-halcyon/

Thankful…

Usually on Thanksgiving, I re-post one of my articles about Sarah Josepha Hale and the true story of Thanksgiving, but this year, I have other things to write about. 

November 2017 I was diagnosed with severe osteoarthritis in my left hip. I was in a lot of pain and searching for the right surgeon. I found him in March, 2018, Dr. Edward Szuszczewicz (shu-SHEV-itz or Dr. Ed) in Colorado Springs. This was great because my friends live there. He is not only one of the best surgeons in the US for the minimally invasive hip replacement procedure, he’s my kind of person. The surgery went well. I spent the night in a beautiful hospital room cared for by young nurses whom I liked. I came home in the care of my precious friend, Lois, who stayed with me until I was doing pretty OK on my own. She had ten days of giving me shots, changing my bandages, helping me get up in the middle of the night and helping me with chores. ❤

I couldn’t drive, so Karen, my neighbor and friend, and I went to the store together. We had a blast. Who knew that two women in their sixties would find shopping for food to be so much fun? My other neighbor, Elizabeth, took me to my local doctor (14 miles away) to get my stitches out. When I took my daily walks, neighbors came out to walk with me and ask me how I was doing. 

Lori, the owner, Marylou and everyone working at Noah’s Arff, the kennel where Dusty and Bear stayed for six weeks, loved my dogs. They also made sure that if I wanted to come and visit, I would be able to see Dusty and Bear without danger to myself. Lois took me the first time, and as soon as I could drive, I went out to see them on my own. I was still wearing my TED hose and using my walker. 🙂 The kennel gave me a discount on the price for which I’m very grateful, AND an anonymous person chipped in $100. I have no idea who, but WOW. 

Visiting Bear 
Visiting Dusty and Bear at Noah’s Arff. You can see how they love Lori ❤


When the day came that the dogs could come home Lori brought Dusty and Bear to me. 

Besides my great doctor, my friends, the kennel and my town, I had great physical therapy.  I owe a lot to Ron Muhlhauser both before and after my surgery for the fact that I walk WELL now. He prepared me well so I was in good condition before my surgery and he helped me rehab which basically meant learning to walk again. I turned out that I had osteoarthritis in that joint much longer than I knew and I had forgotten how to do many simple things like take a long stride or go up and down stairs. Really.

This year I learned a lot. It’s not easy for me to need people or ask for help. During my rehab, I DID need people, and I HAD to ask for help. It took courage for me, but I got nothing but “Yes!”

My hip replacement was, naturally, the biggest event of my year. I can now walk as if nothing was ever wrong. I am grateful every time I take a step. In my three-month check-up, Dr. Ed said, “No restrictions. Do whatever you want. Run up hills. Maybe I’ll see you on the slopes. Where will you ski?”

In October, Elizabeth and I took a short — but real — mountain hike to celebrate my recovery and living here for four years. 

At the trail head — not even the trail we planned to take, but we had fun.

I decided to spend the “down time” after my surgery working on my novel, The Price. The kicker there was that if I were going to work on it, it needed to be finished before my surgery. I was stuck and didn’t want to go further, so I contacted Beth Bruno whose editorial skills have helped me in the past. I sent her the novel and asked for help. Beth’s response told me exactly what I had to do. I knew already, but I had resisted the knowledge out of laziness? or not liking the characters? I still don’t know. I spent the summer working on it and guiding the characters to an ending that would satisfy readers — and me. I am very proud of it. 

I’m grateful for all the moral support I got from people who read my blog. I’m grateful for being alive at this moment so I can “know” interesting people all over the world through writing, my preferred communication. I’m grateful to all the people who’ve reviewed my books and appreciated them, to my friends for caring for me, to my town for being the beautiful, kind and human place it is.

Lessons? 

I was an athlete and the loss of “self” has been a huge challenge for me — probably the biggest. I’ve had to consider exactly what that means now, and what it will mean in the future. I’ve had to face my age — at 52 my hiking pals were two young men, professional athletes in their 20s. One was a 21 year old weightlifter who “used” me as a partner in his aerobic training. The other was a professional surfer who had just learned (from me) that there was a lot of fun to be had on dry land, too.

At 66? I have no idea what’s ahead in that realm. I have cross country skis now, I have a dog who is learning to be a wonderful companion. I’ve also learned the pleasure of a slow walk, looking around me, stopping to see things, where once I covered four back-country miles in an hour. I looked around me then, but there was much less savoring.

I think major surgery is a taste of mortality. I could live 30 years longer, but evenso, will they be years of increased physical ability? Probably not. I might achieve more than I have now, but that won’t last.

Learning to savor a beautiful mile on a bright fall day is a gift from my time adjusting to being unable to walk well and walking in pain. Beauty is an analgesic, and since my surgery, I’ve realized how often my pauses on my pre-surgery perambulations were just to allow nature’s wonder to distract me from the pain I was in. That my dog likes to smell everything along the way was just an added happy quality. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to racing through the hills — even if I’m ultimately able. I don’t want to race any more.

Mortality…death is the end of the journey for every living thing. I don’t know what it will mean. I do know that I love the mountains that surround me, the sky, the things that grow here, their changes, the shadows and changing light, a chance sighting of a fox, a deer, a hawk, an eagle, golden trees in fall, the wind, the smell of snow before a storm, snow on my face, new snow crunching under my feet, snow on the distant peaks, hoar-frost, lenticular clouds, cranes, the sound of cattle lowing in the distance, tracks of elk in the mud, a furtive snake hurrying away pretending I didn’t see him (but I did), the smell of sage, the golden blooms on the chamisa, red dust on my shoe, the potatoes blooming in the summer, the sun setting anywhere…. I love all of it so much that sometimes I feel my heart will burst. I don’t want to miss a single thing by hurrying through.  

This time last year I was in pain, scared, determined, unsure. The year has been a long strange trip, but, literally, the bottom line is I’m grateful for my life.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/11/22/rdp-thursday-grateful/

Thoughts on My Brother’s 65th Birthday

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My brother, his ex-wife, and daughter, 1979

The other day I read an article by a guy who’d lost his brother to alcoholism. I got very angry with the writer. His whole point was that if there were a scientific and methodical way to treat alcoholism, no one would die of it. The writer (I wish I could find the article and if I do, I will insert it here) railed against AA and other 12 step programs because, mainly, they put the cure of alcoholism in the hands of the alcoholic.

Statistically, AA works for only between 10 and 20% of alcoholics. Personally, I don’t think the statistics matter when one sober person is enough (IMO) to call the program a success, at least for that person’s family.

I get it. No one wants to rely on the drunk to cure his/her own problems. Who is more unreliable than an alcoholic?

Anyone who loves an alcoholic wants a powerful outside force to come and wrest the problem from the drinker and awaken that person to the wonder of a sober life. I wanted that for my brother every single day of his life. For a time I thought I could BE that power. Later I thought I could ally myself with that power (various rehab programs and hospitals that tried to help my brother). I busted my ass working extra jobs to pay for my brother’s rehab, housing, food, medical care. In all that I learned something important.

There is no such power.

The United States already spends about $35 billion a year on alcohol- and substance-abuse treatment, yet heavy drinking causes 88,000 deaths a year—including deaths from car accidents and diseases linked to alcohol. (“The Irrationality of Alcoholics Anonymous” The Atlantic)

Science continues to research the problem of alcoholism (which is as old as humanity, I think, since we started brewing brew and vintnering vino early in our history) and comes up with chemical aids to treat and help alcholics. The bottom line THERE is that even with the help of science, the alcoholic has to be motivated to use the medications or the psychological treatment.

It’s a pretty common-place notion now that many alcoholics have underlying psychological problems and that booze is self-medication. My brother very likely suffered something like borderline personality disorder. Both our childhoods were traumatic at key moments in our development, and we were very different kids. Some people are intrinsically more reslient than others, less dependent on others, react differently to stress, able to develop alliances outside the family. I am a survivor; my little brother wasn’t. Even as kids if someone picked on him, I beat them up. My reaction was to fight back or leave. My brother’s was to stay there and take it.

In 2004 I realized that though he called me, he didn’t even know where I lived, what my life was like, or much about who I was. I was just an open wallet to him and he would — and did — lie and con me to get money. It was hurting me teaching 7 classes and holding down a 20 hr/week clerical job. His life wasn’t worth more than mine. “Don’t call me again until you stop drinking,” I said on the phone, feeling like my heart was being pulled from my chest.

“Fuck you,” he said.

I never heard from him again. I was totally OK with that. I had realized that I couldn’t do anything to fix my brother. It was 100% beyond me. I wasn’t mad at him, I loved him as much as ever, I wanted him to pull his shit together as much as I ever had, but I finally understood that it wasn’t my job. I had a lot of help reaching that point, the kindness of loving friends who’d experienced something like this in their lives and some of whom knew and loved my brother, too. I took a lot of shit from some of my family over my decision, but those who understood really did understand. I will always be grateful. ❤

No one ever saves anyone who isn’t already clinging to the shore asking for help while he or she tries to pull him/herself up.

My feeling now about alcholism is that there isn’t, and will never be, a “one size fits all” cure for this problem other than the one we know and that is that the alcoholic can stop drinking if he or she is motivated to do so. I’ve known several people who stopped drinking because something outside of them mattered more to them than drinking. My dad’s sister, my dad, my grandfather — just to name three, but my list is longer than those three family members. People do stop, but my brother didn’t. He died of an alcoholism related stroke in 2010. I didn’t even know until five months later.

Today is my brother’s birthday and he would be 65. The ONE thing he refused to try was AA. Who knows?

In any case, I miss my brother, and I would much rather be baking a cake today than writing this. I think I’ll go take a walk. ❤

Two songs for my brother and me:

 

 

The best song about addiction I know:

Old Dog

Dusty is suddenly old. He was a young 13 two weeks ago and now he’s an old 13 (which is to say, 13). Dogs his size and the two breeds he seems to be made of have much shorter average lifespans than that. He’s restless and frightened at night. He can’t see. He’s scared (his basic nature) a lot of the time.

Tonight he’s kept me awake at night pacing on the hardwood floors, panting, looking for me. He has challenges controlling his bowels that he never had before. I don’t want to drag this out, either.

I know where this ends. I know it’s considered wrong to jump the gun. We have to wait until he can’t move under his own power and is urinating and pooping everywhere. I hate this dilemma. But we’ll visit the vet this week and see if there’s relief for Dusty’s nighttime anxiety.

Then we’ll see. He’s been a hard dog to love since the beginning, but I do love him. His early puppyhood trauma left him scared and aggressive (sounding). He was hard to train and ultimately needed a professional to see that he was properly socialized and calm enough, in general, to ride in a car or go for a walk. I also don’t think anything or anyone has ever loved me as much as Dusty does.

I’ve drugged him (mildly) hoping we can both get some sleep now. I’m very tired from my trip to Colorado Springs. I slept badly Sunday night and went to bed early tonight (9!) and went right to sleep, to be awakened by Dusty pacing and generally freaking out.

Anyone who rescues a dog from a shelter (which I highly recommend) could face a challenge like Dusty T. Dog. Some dogs are just easier than others.

He’s lying here at my feet, finally calm. I don’t know if it’s the drugs finally kicking in or whatever was disturbing him has stopped. It might have been the sprinklers (which switched on about the time he started pacing and I have now turned off) or maybe it was a bad dream. There’s no question in my mind that dogs have more access to our thoughts than we to theirs.

He’s finally asleep. Dare I? ❤

 

Mitigating​ Factors

I’ve known this tree since I was 16 or so. The first time I saw it, my friend Kathleen and I climbed up the cliff face. Back then the “Bluffs” was a quiet, seldom visited, mildly wild-and-woolly place. It was Sunday afternoon after church. Kathleen and I went to the same church, lived in the same hood and went to the same high school. We walked to school together every day and hung out on weekends. She had a horse named Irish Luck and a great dog, a Border collie named Ronco. We had a lot of fun rambling around up there and life was (mostly) good.

Life in my family wasn’t so good. My dad’s abilities were deteriorating quickly from his MS, and I was scared about losing him. There were family fights almost every night. I avoided home as much as possible by doing lots of extra-curricular activities at school and getting a job.

So anyway, one Sunday afternoon Kathleen, Ronco and I went up to the bluffs, found a trail, took it until it petered out, saw the sandstone cliff, climbed up and arrived at this amazing tree. I was stunned. Out of the ‘dead’ trunk of this Rocky Mountain Juniper rose a straight new tree, back then about 18 inches tall.

I grew up with poetry and the whole thing of metaphors and symbols. I immediately saw in that tree a metaphor that was useful to me. The tree grows in sandstone. There’s no soil or anything from which you’d think it could derive sustenance. It’s hundreds of years old. Where it looked like it might have been on its last roots, it wasn’t. Right then and there I took the lesson. Whatever’s going on around, you don’t let it defeat you. You just quietly and according to your nature, keep growing. It may seem strange, but that tree became a kind of surrogate mother to me.

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From then on, pretty much every time Kathleen and I took a hike, we’d visit the tree for a few minutes unless it was our destination and then we’d go there and hang out. Today, you can drive to it if you want, but back in the late sixties, that wasn’t the case. Also, we walked from home. I’d pick up Kathleen and we’d trounce across a then nearly-deserted Academy Boulevard, run across a hay field, and into the thickets of scrub oak of the lower Bluffs, the neighborhood wilderness. That world is gone.

The day before yesterday, I saw my orthopedic surgeon. He X-rayed the hip replacement, examined me and said, “No restrictions. Go run up a mountain. Go ski. Where will you ski?”

Yesterday, my friend Lois (who grew up in the same neighborhood and also rambled around in the Bluffs with her brothers) and I went to see my tree. I had a lot to tell it. I can’t say I went up the hills like a mountain goat, but I did OK. My only struggle now is a lack of confidence in my footing. I will have to relearn the confidence I once felt on rocky slopes and sharper hills. We got near the tree and noticed a small one, pretty much just like my tree, but younger — maybe only fifty years old! It could easily be my tree’s daughter. They are the only two Rocky Mountain Junipers in this immediate area.

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Young Rocky Mountain Juniper

At my tree, I did what I did as a girl. I wrapped my arms around her. I cried, releasing all the emotion of the past several months, and I told her everything. Then, my feelings spent, I looked at her and saw how well she is doing. She has secreted sap and she was loaded with juniper berries. ❤

Have you seen God in His splendors,
heard the text that nature renders?
(You’ll never hear it in the family pew).
Robert Service, “The Call of the Wild”

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/rdp-sunday-secrete/

Tiny Bear

Lots of unfathomable stuff goes on in the world every day. Most of it is way over my head. One of the strangest things in my life this past few months has been the effect of anesthesia from my hip surgery.

Vets often say, “I don’t like to do teeth cleaning on an older dog. Anesthesia is very hard on them. The longer they are under, the more dangerous it is.” Lily almost died in a teeth cleaning. I should’ve been warned…

One of the advantages of the type of hip surgery I had is that a person doesn’t have to be under as long as with the traditional type. Still, I went very deeply under. The effects are lingering. My physical therapist said that for an older person (and I qualify) it can take eight months for the effects of anesthesia to vanish completely.

Almost every day I find something that reminds me how out of my mind I was (and perhaps still am). Yesterday I got my little pack to take to the quilt show.. It’s a hydration pack, but the bladder has long vanished. I put my water bottle in the insulated part that would hold the hydration bladder and I put my stuff in the front.

As I was digging around in a front pocket I found two new tubes of hand cream and an organza bag with Tiny Bear inside. I bought Tiny Bear from a friend’s shop in La Veta on the way up to Colorado Springs for surgery. She was made by a Native American artist of alabaster and turquoise. These little animals are meant to protect their owner.

A couple of months ago, in between my coming home from surgery and my excursion yesterday, I threw this day pack into the washer. Tiny Bear and the hand creams have enjoyed Splash Mountain and a Tide Pod. I didn’t remember putting anything in the pockets.

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/16/rdp-sunday-fathom/

Vanity…

Just got home from the supermarket and I am tussling with vanity and reality. And I want to punch a self-important little gay kid in the face and say, “Dude, when you’re 66 you see how it is for you, you little faggot!” I know he’s gay because — besides the obvious — he’s wearing a very conspicuous rainbow ring and speaks with the kind of lithp one might pick up from TV or movies as part and parcel of the identity. I have nothing against gay anybody — one of my most beloved boyfriends also happened to be gay — and a person’s gender preference is none of my fucking business (and vice versa) BUT we’re talking major advertising.

OK everyone’s shocked but here’s what happened.

I pull into a lane to check out my groceries. I’m behind an extremely obese man about my age in a motorized cart with his groceries in front of him as one who uses such a cart is likely to do. He’s fine. He’s typical. He’s got on a blue and white gingham shirt, red suspenders and a c’boy hat.

“Are you with him?” asks the child wearing the store badge, the rainbow ring, a Roger Waters moustache and is clearly a checker.

“WHAT?” I ask a question that means many many things beyond “I didn’t hear you.”

“Are you with this gentleman? Because if you aren’t, I’ll check you out on lane 5.”

“Cool,” I say and follow him to where he can do his job briskly and as he was trained including annoying the shit out of the people behind me by explaining to me my receipt (because I’ve never seen one before?) “If you give me a review you’ll get extra fuel points.”

You don’t want my review, child. You do not want what I would say.

I would like to meet ONE woman who EMBRACES being old, who loves gray hair and a body that responds to neither diet nor exercise, who thinks walking with a limp is the be-all and end-all of human experience. Who KNOWS that no matter WHAT she does, she is never going to look all that good. She might look fine. She might look “attractive for her age” or “that color is great on you” but (with rare exceptions) she’s never going to be pretty (except for her age). My Aunt Martha, for example, was a 9 — maybe even a 10 — for 80. Except, maybe, for the chin hairs.

How in hell would I be with a grotesquely obese old man? And why did I feel insulted by the kid’s assumption? And why didn’t he just say, “I can help you on number 5. ‘Hubby’ would’ve come along had that been the case.

And what about hubby? How did he get there? Broken back? Farming acccident? War wound? What right did I have to be insulted by the kid’s assumption? That’s the part that bothers me most. Yes, the kid had poor social skills, but I’m a superficial bitch.

With whom WOULD I be if I were with someone? That’s a moot question. I wouldn’t be with anyone. I’m not and it’s (pretty much) by choice. Mr. Right probably DID come along but I’ve never been Ms. Right. Too emotionally warped. And am I so superficial that I am insulted that this little twerp would think someone as spellbindingly lovely as I would be with a fat old guy wearing red suspenders shopping from a motorized wheelchair? Yes. I am that superficial. Exactly that superficial.

And I feel bad about it — and that’s weird, too, because how many times was I NOT asked to dance in bars because I wear glasses and, though pretty, nothing flashy or glamorous? I can tell you. I was NEVER asked to dance back in the “what’s your sign” days.  As a friend said of me once, to a guy she wanted me to meet, “You won’t notice her when she walks into the room, but after 20 minutes, you won’t see anyone else. Martha is THAT interesting.”

Maybe the guy in the wheelchair is interesting, too. I don’t know.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/07/07/rdp-37-embrace/

Mushy Post about Friendship

Yesterday two of my neighbors came over for a pre-surgery tea party. We had a really nice time.

I’ve been thinking about friendship a lot since I moved to Monte Vista where I did not know anyone. It’s kind of a “different” thing to do (as I was told repeatedly). I did it knowing that if I never met anyone I’d still be OK. I’m nothing if not internally resourceful. But I did meet people — quite a few and most of them I like.

Friendship changes throughout our lives, I think. I remember as a kid wanting playmates, mostly, and that one BEST friend. Both of those things were hard for me to make. First, I was a little kid. Second, I was very sensitive and, since I was a little kid, I didn’t know that other people might be just as sensitive — or more! — than I was. I didn’t know then that people react differently to things than I might. It’s not that little kids think they’re the center of the universe. They’re figuring out who THEY are through the ecolocation of childhood. It’s pretty hard to figure out who OTHER people are when you don’t know who YOU are. I had a friend who sulked when she was mad. I didn’t understand that at ALL. I lived in a family where you threw tantrums and got it off your chest. I was always trying to go to Debbie to get her to talk to me. I always felt her silence was forever. My mom said, over and over, “Just leave her alone. She has to sulk. She’ll come back.”

Mom, of course, was right.

I discovered playmates through team sports (baseball, softball, kick ball, kill the man with the ball) and I found a best friend (finally!) in sixth grade. I looked her up a few years ago and we still like each other.

In high school I remember wanting a (male) soulmate (was I really thinking of my “soul”?) and girl friends to do stuff with. It was important that we UNDERSTAND each other in some ineffably deep way. In adolescence we don’t understands ourselves very well. Maybe that’s why we seek understanding from others. Any little bit of help, right?

In my working years, friendship was often transactional and transitory. It depended on the people with whom I worked, but I did, in my 20s, discover the second best friend of my life.

An we still like each other.

All this to say at this point in my life my understanding of friendship is completely different. By now I’ve known tens of thousands of people (many of whom wandered in and out of my classrooms). Friendship now is not about all the things we have in common, or shared memories, shared goals, as much as it’s about the actual PERSON inside the physical carapace. All of our lives are so different from each other, our experiences, our responses and reactions to those experiences, the disappointments we’ve had, the hopes we still hold, our responses to any given moment, that once you know who you are, you don’t expect to have all that much ‘in common’ with others. I know I am like an iceberg in the Atlantic — there’s a bit up on the surface, but most of it is below) and everyone else is an iceberg, too.

It takes a lifetime to learn who we are, I think, or maybe I’m just a slow learner.

Listening to my friends talking yesterday (I mostly listened) I thought about all this. I don’t have a lot in common (superficially) with my friends in Monte Vista, but on other levels that don’t come into the conversation over a pretty table with cookies on it, I do. The biggest thing is we are all survivors and we want to share the good we have with others. I think it’s one of the perks of being old(er).

2

As the party was breaking up, they asked, “When exactly is your surgery?” We knew why we were all there. I wanted to spend time with them before I go up for my “procedure.” Why? Because once in a while, people die in surgery. I know it, they know it. We know people who have died that way. You don’t talk about it, it’s nothing to be spoken of (though I am) but it’s there. You also don’t talk about being afraid, but you (and your friends) know you are afraid. I told them all the basic information when they asked, and the subject went back to dogs or something else.

There are the rare friends who know your heart, though. And I’ve been amazed — blessed — in my little town to have found that.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/tide/

Intimations of Mortality from the Living Room Floor

You can end up alone and old in a lot of ways. My way was simply that I had no kids, and I was never able to make a long term relationship work. I honestly didn’t want kids, so when it happened that I didn’t have any, that was OK with me. As for the LTR? I don’t know. That’s a lie. I do know. I didn’t learn the skills when I could have, should have. Instead I learned how to survive in the family I was born into. Ironically, that family did not survive me. So, in my case it’s not just that I don’t have a husband and kids, I don’t have siblings. When you’re in my position and have medical problems, there are systems designed to help you out. Yet, somehow, I feel that I failed. I sense that people — medical people — speak to me of these systems in whispers, though they probably do not. Innocent questions sound like accusations, “Do you have someone to take care of you when you go home?” (“Otherwise you’re a loser.”)

But… It doesn’t matter. Many people are going to survive everyone. My grandmother, in her 90s, told me how hard it was to be the last one among her friends. There were no people left in the world with whom she could share the memories of HER life. She lived with her daughter — an arrangement that was good for both of them — and had lots of contact with grand and great-grandkids, but we had not shared her young days with her. The life we shared with her was OUR lives, not hers.

My little fall and minor rib injury this weekend prompted care from the people around me ❤ and from friends at a distance, one of whom was worried that if something happened to me she couldn’t get to me fast enough to help.

It haunted my sleep. I might live in Heaven, but Heaven is a not place where I can sell my house and make any money. I am going to stay here for the duration. And where would I go? I have a really small income.  But in my dreams, I headed north looking for an affordable home closer to friends. I kept trying to wake up, but there was no way that was happening. I thought (in my dream) that I am really old and frail. I thought, “No, I’m not. But I look that way because I have white hair and I’m small. People who haven’t known me longer than five years might think I’ve shrunk.” Still, I acknowledged that my will and spirit are much younger than my body. I thought about attempting to reconcile the two, and saw quickly which has the upper hand. It’s the one with the actual hand (ha ha).

This morning I’ve decided this isn’t worth thinking about. Dusty is older than I am and HE’S not thinking about it. I’d be astonished if he did!

An homage to my dad who did not get to live long enough to deliberate these problems or dream these nightmares, but who was right in giving me the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam as a lesson in what matters in life.

XXIV
Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and–sans End!

XXV
Alike for those who for To-day prepare,
And those that after some To-morrow stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries
“Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There.”

XXVI
Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss’d
Of the Two Worlds so wisely–they are thrust
Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn
Are scatter’d, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust.

XXVII
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument
About it and about: but evermore
Came out by the same door where in I went.

XXVIII
With them the seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with mine own hand wrought to make it grow;
And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d–
“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”

(The whole poem is here)

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/astonish/