Growing Old Gracefully

When the class with the above title was announced at our church and the teacher is everybody’s favorite older woman, Shirley, I signed up. I’ve never been a particularly graceful person, so I thought, hey, maybe I can do this aging thing gracefully. You know, finish well, not trip over the finish line, stick the landing.

My youngest grandson after achieving new heights. Looks like he stuck the landing.

Not that I feel old, I typically don’t. That is probably aided by the fact that my mom, who is 91, lives with us, so I am the youngest person in the house. She has demonstrated aging gracefully and has also let me in on some of the challenges of aging. This class combined with my mom’s fine example would be beneficial.

Last Wednesday, for the first of the three sessions, Shirley covered, or I should say taught us about, our aging bodies. (The next two sessions will cover spirit and soul, as we are made up of three parts.) I am a woman in her sixties, so I am painfully (no pun intended, I just can’t help myself) aware that there is something of a decaying nature going on. That is verified in 2 Corinthians 4:16 – “though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.”

Eyesight starts going south around age 40. Some of my joints let me know when the weather is changing. And worst of all Alexa (our Echo) has begun to get confused by my commands to her. I have wondered if I’m slurring my words, but I’m also working on the theory that our Alexa is getting old, too. Perhaps Amazon wants me to upgrade her and they built that into her system. But I digress. People were designed to age, but we are also charged with stewarding the body that God has given us. In other words, we aren’t supposed to aid the deterioration that’s going on in our bodies, we are supposed to care for and strengthen them.

I don’t know about you, but I need reminders to do the things which I am supposed to do. The Bible does repeat itself a lot. I think that is because we tend to forget or become distracted. God knows that’s how we operate, so I’m thankful for the repetition.

Three days before that first class, I started feeling a twinge of pain on the lower lid of my left eye. The twinge became a pang. The pang became a pain. By the Wednesday meeting I had a sty the size of Rhode Island. And it was an angry sty – the kind that could scare small children, but I went to the meeting anyway. There would be no small children to frighten at that meeting.

By Thursday I had officially named the sty Rhode Eyeland. I figured if my entire body represented the 48 contiguous states, then my left eye was probably that size. When I saw the ophthalmologist on Friday, he said it was the largest he had seen in quite some time and added that it was “a dandy.” I told him I figured I’d go big or go home. Of course, when you have a sty the size of Rhode Island, you tend to want to stay home.

Dena (my daughter) and I caught up with each other on the phone on Friday afternoon. I had already sent her a picture of my eye when it was at its worst because she’s into gross things like that. In case you know Dena, you will understand why I made her give me her most excellent promise not to share that picture with anyone. To the best of my knowledge, she’s been true to her word.

She is also an encourager. She told me she was proud of me for going to, what she calls, the aging class.

Two things come to mind here:

  1. It’s kind of weird but okay I guess that she tells me she’s proud of me. I thought that was my job to be proud of her and her brothers, and I am, but whatever…
  2. I didn’t really care for the name Aging Class, but again, whatever…

I told her that one of the great things about being older is that you can go out looking like I did and it’s okay (except for frightening small children). Also, if I were to go anywhere with Rhode Eyeland, the aging class was the place to go. We don’t tend to major on that kind of thing. We have much bigger fish to fry than an eye with a sty.

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I had to include a picture of a sty for you. This one’s not nearly as messy as the one on my eye, which is doing much better with drops from the doctor. Photo Credit: freepik.com

I’ve Decided They Can Come

They bring with them a lot of energy and it can seem like they take more than they give. I had seriously contemplated what it would be like if they didn’t come this year. I’d get more rest. The budget wouldn’t take the enormous hit it usually does. There would be no consumption of mass quantities (of food).

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Do you remember the Coneheads when they appeared on SNL? Supposedly they were from France. Photo Cred: FilmFed.com

But I can’t say no and I really can’t stop them anyway, so I’ve decided to let them come. That’s right – Thanksgiving and Christmas are welcome in my home this year.

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No Grinching for me this year. Photo Cred: tvline.com

Can you imagine what it would be like with no Thanksgiving or Christmas? I tried and I can’t. For me, the struggle is that my kids and grandkids are spread across the country now. Some are close, thankfully, but it’s not the same as it used to be. It hasn’t been for quite some time.

I’ve decided, once again, that that is okay. I’ve also decided that it’s okay if I have a favorite season of life. I have a favorite season of the year, so why not extend that to life’s seasons. Mine would be the years when my husband and I had all the kids at home. I loved it in spite of the sleepless nights, crazy hormones, constant calendar challenges, and all.

For favorite season of the year, it would have to be summer. Long days of sunshine, trips with the family, more relaxed schedules. I can almost hear the waves crashing on the beach as I type. My least favorite is winter. I hate to be cold and I don’t like the short days, but I do enjoy the coziness of it and the holidays.

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One of the movies we have to watch every Christmas – It’s a Wonderful Life. Photo Cred: imdb.com

Don’t get me wrong. I am enjoying the season which God has me in now. It’s just not my favorite one, and that’s okay. It really is a wonderful life all through the seasons. Do you have a favorite season? Either of life or of the year?

Love is Blind

Bob, me, and Dena 1983

When we were in our first decade or so of marriage, we had to be creative with our date nights. Inflation was out of control (raising four children is the very definition of inflation). Funds were always tight. Sometimes Bob and I would go to the mall and walk around, get ice cream, or go to the bookstore. Not too exciting, but it got us some time together out of the house, and we enjoyed it.

I am one who believes that you can make your own entertainment if you just put your imagination to use. That is why Bob didn’t care too much for walking around the mall with me.

During these walks, sometimes I would challenge him by acting like I was blind. This was especially fun when he would walk a few feet away from me and I would act panicked with my hands outstretched grabbing at the air while calling his name. Sometimes I’d even add, “please don’t leave me alone again,” just for effect.

Bob loved this game as much as you can imagine he did. I often marvel that our marriage is going strong after 44 years!

Of course, I thought I was hysterical. Poor Bob! The thing is, since that time we have watched both of our fathers lose their eyesight. Yep, it doesn’t seem quite as funny anymore, except when I think about my sweet husband navigating marriage through the Altamonte Mall while I was acting like he had navigated himself away from me, I can’t help but chuckle. Even Bob will smile at that memory.

I made the mistake of telling this story to Dena (my daughter). She loved the dark humor and suggested I post it on Halloween. Personally, I wasn’t sure I wanted you to know about this weird side of me, but since I came up empty in the idea department, I relented.

I have matured since those early days. Now I would never act like I’m blind – that’s a little too close to home. I am in my sixties though, and I can tell you that this aging thing is quite interesting. If you want to be scared on Halloween, think about that. My father-in-law once told me that being old was the hardest thing he had ever done, and he was a WWII vet.

Today, I might act like I can’t remember some things – like cooking or cleaning or how to defrag my computer. But there is a method to that madness.

Are You Ever too Old for SeaWorld?

SeaWorld used to be a calm, risk-free place – a place for animals and shows with one lone roller coaster to break things up a bit. Now, it’s the opposite.

For Christmas we gave our local grandsons (10 and 12 years old) a day at SeaWorld with us. We love to give an event when possible. It’s so easy to wrap! We had the date prearranged with our son and his wife to make sure our calendars didn’t collide. The fun began on the way there. (more…)

Words

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, it’s time to pack up.”

I was preparing to put away my many Christmas decorations, when I made the above statement out loud. It made me stop in my tracks. I wasn’t swearing, I was talking to my manger scene. I’d never talk inappropriately in front of Baby Jesus. I wasn’t thinking of the beauty of Christmas and the blessings of the season. I was missing Christmases gone by and looking at the work involved with packing it all up until next Christmas. I was contemplating which grandchild might want which thing when they start their own households and wondering when I would start to streamline my decorating. That’s the context from which I uttered that weird, easily misunderstood sentence.

It served to snap me out of it as I laughed out loud at myself and wondered if Bob or my mom had heard me. I’m guessing they did not because nobody came in to see if I was drinking heavily while dismantling Christmas decorations. (I wasn’t.)

The letdown after the holidays is real. We go from shiny and bright accompanied by cookies, candy, and company to ordinary life without the twinkling lights. Returning to the normal of pre-Thanksgiving is lackluster. Plus, it gets dark so early – even in Florida! But I was ready to get my house back to normal. I was even ready to vacuum all the mess from taking the tree down. I just wasn’t ready to be productive. I wasn’t ready for those January fresh starts.

That’s why I don’t do them. For me, every year is 13 months. It starts January 1 and ends January 31 of the following year. That allows me to be fairly guilt-free in January. I use January to put away Christmas, organize, vacuum, and nap. I also use it to think and pray about projects, especially writing projects, all this while consuming the leftover Christmas sweets. It’s very effective.

I should say mostly effective. The downside of eating the leftovers, is multifaceted. The thing I notice first is that I am down – my outlook, not my weight. I know the sugar has negative effects, and it pushes me lower. (Not to worry, though, it’s almost all gone.)

So, until I can once again think with a non-sugar-coated mind, how do I snap out of being so melancholy?

I do what I always told my kids and grandkids to do. I use my words. I talk to God. I talk to Bob. I talk to friends.

My big thing this year was that I felt like I had used up all my encouragement and every word swimming around my head about myself sounded like condemnation. I was tearing myself down. I asked God for encouragement to get me moving. I didn’t want to stay in that negative, self-absorbed place listening to lies of the enemy. I was tired, too, so that made it worse. But God is always faithful.

The next day I spent part of my morning quiet time with God just being thankful – specifically for the way that people in my life have encouraged me in the past. I named names (for instance, Vanessa). I remembered. Gratefulness is powerful. The fog started lifting, but I kept my fog lights on. I know how this works. Sometimes you drive in and out of fog before it’s really gone. But there was a breakthrough, which brought more thankfulness.

Letter of EncouragementIn the afternoon mail a letter came for my mom. She read it and gave it to me saying it really was more for me than for her. It was from a woman whom my mom had met through my dad. Dad was in WWII. He was a gunner in the Pacific theater. The men he flew with became his wartime family.

Years after the war, Dad started contacting all the men from his crew. He found out about their current lives and made a newsletter featuring each man and his family. He’d mail it out to the crew and keep their friendship alive. It was not unusual for me to find pictures of children and grandchildren from this group sitting on Dad’s desk. He and mom visited many of them throughout the country after retirement. To say this was special would be an understatement.

You may remember that my dad died in 2017. He was the last of his B-29 crew. I always thought it was fitting that he was last. God used him to keep them in touch with each other.

The letter was from a woman named Mabel. I remembered her husband’s name from Dad’s stories. Mabel was writing to tell my mom that she was reading my book, Always Look for the Magic, and couldn’t put it down. She said she could picture my dad as she read it and she was enjoying laughing along with his antics. She wanted to thank me for writing it. She requested that I send her a card with my autograph on it for her to paste inside the book so she could keep it. She also said she hoped I would write more books.

Well, I was flabbergasted. This sweet woman, who is probably around 90 years old, took the time to write such a beautiful encouragement as part of her correspondence to my mom. She certainly inspired me, not only to write but to take more time encouraging others.

Encouragement is food for the soul. When was the last time you received encouragement out of the blue? How about the last time you gave it? Writing it down and sending it to someone gives them something that lasts. I’m hoping that comes back in style. I think we should fill our January with uplifting words to people. Don’t you?

By the way, if you haven’t ordered my book yet and would like to, click on the picture of it on the right. Thanks!

Seasoned Greetings and Happy 2019!

The holidays are behind us now and that means another of my husband’s office parties is in the books. That makes 39 of them. My guess is that we have only one more to go before retirement.

As I sat at the Capital Grille with engineers the age of our children, I pondered parties gone by. I remembered that first party. Bob, a recent college graduate, was enjoying his first career job. We had a ten-month-old baby. I had quit my job to stay home with him and was where I had longed to be – home with a baby.

What I didn’t realize, though, was how out-of-it I would feel among a group of professionals who were quite a bit older than us.

Here’s another shocking realization: They were about 15 years younger than I am now. That meant they were in their mid-to-upper forties and I was a mere 23. Engineering was a predominantly male dominated career choice, so I was sitting with a bunch of seasoned women who knew each other and knew the company and drank a lot. It was awkward.

Except for one woman. She was so kind. She picked up on my quietness and drew me out of my shell enough for me to almost enjoy the party. She was also my husband’s boss’ wife. I felt like a little kid there, and rightly so, but she assured me that everyone would love to hear about my life as a young wife and new mom. She said they could all relate and never tired of hearing about babies. She was wonderful.

Back to the present, as the oldest woman at the table (and possibly in the room), I felt completely at ease – another perk to getting older. Plus, Bob works with an amazing group of people who seem to have found equally amazing people to bring to the party – be they spouse, child, or once even a good friend who happened to be the kid, now grown, who lived behind us for years and was like an extra son to me. It truly is a small world.

This year, our table was greeted by the Chief Something-or-Another from the home office, who again was young enough to be our son. Anyway, he started up a conversation with the four engineers at the table trying to ascertain who worked on which project. I sat there happily with nothing to add until he asked the spouses some questions and seemed genuinely interested in our opinions of the company. The twenty-something version of me probably would have said freaked out. The current version of me didn’t care how what I said sounded, as long as I didn’t make Bob look stupid.

Once he left, I had a few questions for the young engineer who specializes in AI. He had all the enthusiasm about his project that every engineer I have ever met has. That’s a lot. It also meant he used words that once upon a time I had never heard, but as I said, this wasn’t my first rodeo. Of course, I had heard them. I didn’t know what they meant, but I had heard them.

This young engineer and I had a connection. He had recently taken his kids to see Ralph Breaks the Internet, which I had seen with my grandchildren. When I asked him about the scene from that movie where Ralph and Vanellope take a trip down a wi-fi router and find themselves at the google help desk, he lit up like a Christmas tree. He loved this scene, too, and said it should be required watching for everyone as it was a great description of AI and how it’s used by google. Would it stretch things to say that it turned this Disney movie into an educational film? Probably, but it gave me the “in” I needed.

That’s my journey from young mother to grandmother. It’s all about confidence and relaxing in the situation. It’s all about talking to people. It’s all about making good use of the cartoons you watch. They’ve always been a significant part of my education.

That’s all folks!

 

First Father’s Day

After someone important to you dies, you go through a series of firsts. Firsts that they were always a part of. Firsts that leave a little hole in the day. I know that this is completely normal.

In my case, because my dad died at 94 after suffering with limitations that strived to define him, which he fought bravely to conquer mentally if not physically, it has been easier than I thought that it would be to go through this series of firsts.

Father’s Day was a BIG first that I wondered about, but I made it through. And it wasn’t too hard. Watching someone age and get ready for Heaven changed my perspective on my dad’s death. Truthfully, the dad that I knew the last few years was a representation of the dad who I had for most of his life. The thought of Dad in Heaven is a happy place in my heart. No limitations! Yes!

Dad retire at 50 years old, so he spent almost as much time on this side of retirement as the other side. Bob, my husband, has never worked close to home. His commute has varied from 45 minutes to 2 hours. So, when the plumbing was gushing up through the toilet or a tire had flattened, I’d call Dad. (These things happened more often while Bob was at work. I think that’s part of the mechanical-things-fear-Bob deal.)

That is the Dad that makes me smile. I hold both versions in my mind, but one has a bigger place in my heart. One has the bigger file of memories.

As I type this today, I’m smack in the middle of the second BIG first that I have wondered about. Today is the 70th anniversary of my parents’ wedding. I wondered how Mom would get through that. How would I get through watching Mom? The floodgate of memories was sure to break.

But you know what? Those memories washing over you can be pretty refreshing and special. That’s what I’m experiencing today (and she is, too), and since you’ve been so kind to listen to me in the past, I thought you should know. There are more BIG firsts down the road, but why borrow trouble? God really does supply the grace needed for all of life’s moments – big and small. Some will be harder than others. That’s okay.

I do miss my dad. He’s come up a few times in my blog, and my book ALWAYS LOOK FOR THE MAGIC, is based on his life. He got to read it before he lost his eyesight, before the final edit. I’m thankful, even though I know he struggled with the fact that I fictionalized his life. I guess that would be weird for anybody, but he was proud of me and happy to have stories of his life preserved. That, too, makes me happy. In a lot of ways, you never stop being your dad’s little girl.

Here are a couple of pictures I’d like to share with you. Hope you enjoy them.

Dad the magician, the early years

Dad always liked animals, but he was happy to have this friendly guy out of their Florida lake.

Dad with my first son, Jesse. He loved his grandkids.

The Pencil Sharpener (There is a Point to this Story)

I may not be the sharpest pencil in the drawer, but I can sharpen those pencils.

As we prepared my parents to move into our house and say goodbye to living autonomously after 69 years of marriage, I learned a few things. Life is unbelievably hard when you are old. Giving up control is one of the most challenging things a person can do. Pencil sharpeners may hold hidden meanings.

We moved Mom and Dad into our Florida home two days before Hurricane Irma hit. Six weeks later, Dad graduated to heaven. He was ready. His body was worn out, as was his hearing. His eyes that used to sparkle so blue had clouded over and gave way to blindness.

His legacy includes being an efficiency expert. He was a micromanager, which was my biggest challenge. He wanted to inspect each and every item that they owned to judge its usefulness and potential in their new home with us. And being raised during The Depression, there were a lot of items.

There were 13 telephones hidden in various places, plus 2 in use. When asked about this, he supposed my mom was the responsible party. He even grasped at the straw that someone had been stashing phones in their home. Certainly, a foul plot was afoot!

My dad was sharp until the end. His mind had to derive an option that did not include his inclination to never throw away anything that might have some future use. We didn’t bring up the eight razors or the seven pairs of TV ears. He didn’t need the frustration.

But the pencil sharpener fit into a category of its own. Possibly Dad loved this office supply more than all the telephones put together. He was determined to bring it with him. I lamented our lack of need, for we had a sharpener, not to mention that I personally have not used a pencil since 1967.

That began an all-out search. At Dad’s direction, I called my son to see if they needed a top-notch sharpener. I asked my daughter. I called my brother in New Jersey. Sadly, it looked like this sharpener would be reduced to living on the streets.

Dad ultimately accepted that the sharpener was no longer needed. Its usefulness complete.

I did not see the parallel in this story until weeks after Dad’s death when I tried to sharpen a pencil with our sharpener, and it failed to work.

I guess Dad got the last laugh. His beloved sharpener was retrieved and has a place of honor in our home. It took me a while, but I finally got the point. May it sharpen our pencils forever.

 

The 2017 USA Total Eclipse of the Sun (for your safety, please read before viewing the eclipse)

Me preparing for eclipse viewing – practicing not seeing things in the dark

Oh, Total Eclipse of the Sun 2017, you’re so vain, you probably think this post is about you. I could deny it, but why bother. This is about you! Today, you’re the star! (I mean that metaphorically and literally.)

There is no need to fly a Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun. It’s not there this time. I could simply drive to South Carolina. But I won’t.

At 2:50:58 pm, from my very own, easy to get to, front yard here in Central Florida, 85.6 percent of the sun will be obscured by the moon. That sounds like a solid “B” to me. I will be satisfied, though a little sad, to stay home for this event. Even though I hate missing anything of this magnitude. And, the realization that just a short eight-hour ride up the road is a potential “A+” total eclipse (depending on whether the weather cooperates) might make me crazy if I let it, but I won’t. I don’t want to be a lunatic over a solar eclipse. That seems wrong.

I understand that (possibly) this is a once-in-a-lifetime event – a total solar eclipse going from coast to coast. I should be more excited. I should pack a cooler and my ISO approved solar viewing glasses and go. But the thing that I keep going back to is that I can’t actually look at it. Not even a little bit. So, the thought of hurrying north to not watch the eclipse confuses my thought patterns – especially when I realize that I am very tempted to go. I want to not see the sun and experience darkness in the daytime, just like everybody else.

Engineer Bob, my sweet husband, brought home a pair of the viewing glasses for me – a gift better than flowers (though not as good as jewelry). I think he knows how tempting it will be for me to look at the sun and he is looking out for me and, I might add, himself. Both of our fathers have gone blind in their old age, and Bob is hedging his bets to keep my eyesight. We look out for each other that way. We have seen the future and we want to be able to see in it.

So please enjoy not watching the eclipse. It will be a memory of something that you didn’t actually see that you will enjoy for years to come.

 

“The Wheel”

We used to watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy on a regular basis. That was before cable TV, Netflix, and the realization that these shows were geared toward senior citizens. Truthfully, the shows are really great for any age (especially when students are on Jeopardy, which gives the vast majority of us a fighting chance). It is the advertising on them that reveals their target audience. Now, with the DVR, we don’t need to watch and see if the lady who has fallen will in fact be helped up. (Spoiler: She will be.)

Last Saturday, Bob and I gathered at my parents’ house along with my brother, my sister, and her family. The clocked chimed seven, and we sat down to watch Jeopardy and The Wheel.

My dad is blind, but my mom calls the play-by-play for him during Wheel of Fortune. It is challenging for him, a man who was always involved in everything going on around him, to sit and interact in this manner. But to his credit, he does.

Let’s ramp up that challenge by acknowledging that Dad has a huge hearing loss. With his hearing aids, he can converse, but a lot of chit-chat and our yelling out answers at the TV makes it hard on him. With the rest of us engaged in being the first one to get the answer, we hardly notice their challenge.

The puzzle was “Found in the Kitchen.” It had two words.

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

Got it yet?

The letters started to fill in a few at a time.

_ O O _ _ O O _

_ O L L _ _ T I O N

Mom kept Dad informed. Dad, who can’t see the television much less what is displayed on it, who can barely hear, who has trouble with a lot of noise, softly said, “Cookbook Collection.”

We all went crazy. The blind man solved it before the five sighted adults in the room did. My sister asked if somebody whispered the answer to him, but we aren’t that kind of family, plus he would have never heard us! We are fiercely competitive, and we also would never insult our father by giving an answer to him.

This still has me shaking my head. Maybe Mom and Dad are using some of the products advertised on the show. Maybe they are onto something that keeps their brains sharp. Maybe I should be a regular watcher (not a joke about being regular). For now, I will just shake my head and smile when I think about what a great team my mom and dad are. I guess after 69 years of marriage, the two really do become one.

Mom & Dad celebrating their 65th anniversary,                                 4 years ago