I have no regrets

sorrySince college age, some of my positions have not changed.

I have no regrets about my actions – my heart is almost always “in the right place”, but I am often notoriously ignorant of other people’s perceptions. This causes me to be sorry that I may have hurt others’ feelings or even have caused damage. But there is nothing I can do about that.

With no regrets, I have been able to face death easily since the age of eighteen. I don’t expect to contribute anything to this world or even people close to me, and I haven’t in the past. There is nothing to hold me to this life, never has been since my children reached maturity.

When we bring children into this world, we owe them the best we can give them financially, emotionally and intellectually. By the time they reach maturity we have done all we could, good or bad. I had wanted to add color to my grandchildren’s lives, but that opportunity has escaped me.

I have come to the revelation that, while the “Happy Days” life style my parents afforded us died with them, I cannot adopt the loose or restrictive life styles my children have adopted. I was hoping to pass on some of the family traditions about meals, holidays, pleasant surroundings, stimulating conversations and laughter. But it looks like I won’t be able to; I can only hope that my children value some of these and will pass them on. In the meantime, that life style (albeit on a less grand scale) is mine to enjoy with myself and my friends.sorry-2

In my perception of reincarnation, there is yet another life for me so leaving this life is alright. If my perception is wrong, there is literally nothing after this life – but then, as they say, I “won’t live to regret it.”

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Growth – first loss

source: MicroSoft clip art

Commencement. This is the time we lose our childhood and step into the adult world. I am talking about graduation from high school for those who don’t go on to ‘higher education’, since they will have to get a job and start being responsible. For those who go on to college, commencement doesn’t really start until after that graduation, since despite the harder work at learning, those people are effectively continuing their childhood. And fear of going into the cold hard adult world is often the excuse for going on to graduate school.

After commencement, we can no longer cling to our teddy bears when going to sleep. Play converts from games of tag to gin rummy. Even our sense of humor adjusts and we might develop a taste for jokes based on the news. Our taste in music often gets arrested at this point, however, and golden oldies become a staple in our listening pleasure. Clothing changes from muscle shirts and short-shorts to suits and dresses. With no more school dances or proms, we often stop dancing completely.

There used to be a collection of great books called the Syntopicon. They ran an ad in the New York Times Sunday magazine showing a headstone. The title said (I’m paraphrasing here) “Here lies John Doe. He is still alive but his brain died at the age of 30.”

How often this is true. Without formalized education, we feel as if we have reached our goals and settle in to living the age of thirty, marrying, and having children. We no longer learn in any fashion. We give up dreams of fame and fortune. We develop a tunnel vision encompassing The Job and the family. Men stop playing sports and start watching them. Hairstyles and the way we dress seem to be etched in stone, worn past retirement age.

How sad. Parts of childhood should keep going – the curiosity, the play, the nerve to try something new. We should commence a new life, not mourn the loss of childhood then settle into a limbo of life. This would probably take a concerted effort, due to the time demands of a spouse, children and a career. But the rewards would be great, and instead of just losing life we would be simply transitioning to a new one with its own pleasures and discoveries. We have to keep dancing.

 

It’s not easy being Gran

Kermit_the_FrogReaching the age of seventy feels like a milestone. You survived adolescence, the drive of the early adulthood years, the disappointments of middle age. The tendency is to continue as you have in the sixty-years decade, but reality is starting to sink in. You have lost some friends and a lot of family. The family concentration is on grandchildren and/or great-grandchildren. Your children are entrenched in raising their own families. Friends developed and kept over the years are dispersed all across the country. Life expectancy is a crap shoot – you could drop at any moment, or you could make it another twenty years. And after 80, those years could very well be mired in dementia. This is a great time to make a serious shift in your lifestyle.

There are some really good advantages of old age, as long as you don’t feel old. Term life insurance is a bet – that you’ll die before the term is up. Well, at this point, with term life being normally 20 years, you have the odds in your favor. No need for expensive whole life, since you don’t have enough time for it to grow to a viable size.

You can now walk in a park without fearing rape or kidnapping.

You can finally stop collecting recipes. Let’s face it, you already saved 400 of them that you never even tried. For that matter, you can finally stop collecting everything. Time to go through those stamps, coins and bills, organize them, then either cash them in or pass them on to another generation. You have so few visitors by this time, there is no more need to display a bunch of collections no one else has interest in – they are often just dust collectors. It’s a good time to contact those you want to leave things to and ask them what they would like to inherit. You will be surprised at how little they want, and what odd things have sentimental value to them. Save a great deal of family wars by sending what you can to the inheritors now; this only relates to small things which wouldn’t come under the ‘gifts’ act anyway.

You can now take a good look at your memorabilia. Among the photo albums I inherited from my mother were albums of greeting cards she received and saved. After a single look through to relive some memories, it’s apparent that these cards have no value to younger generations – or even to me. Time to discard them. There’s a lot of stuff that is of value only to you – homemade gifts from the kids and so on. A great time to pack up the memorabilia for each child and send it to them, so they can enjoy the memories while they are not burdened with your death to handle.woman ice fishing

What about your car? If it is in good condition, will it last 20 years? Knowing you are now living on a fixed income, if you are going to take on a car loan, do it now. If you don’t want to take on that burden, keep the car care up; what seem like expenses for maintenance and prevention will save you a headache in the future. Instead of dumping money on insurance, keep it at a minimum; tuck the money you would have spent on extended coverage into an emergency fund; at least that way you will be getting interest on the money until you need it.

Speaking of emergency funds, do you have a nest egg? This is a good time to keep $10,000 in the Emergency Fund (for when the car breaks down, the furnace erupts or the roof gets blown off); split the rest up and bestow it on the people you want to inherit it. If your children are comfortable and not in need, consider setting up college funds for your grandchildren instead – these college funds are usually tax-free both in donations and withdrawals. And no matter how diligent your children have been to save for your grandchildren’s education, there will never be enough. Grandparental accounts are not included in the finance reports a prospective college student has to make, and even if it’s a very modest amount, anything will help.

Gotta face the fact – you will no longer consider starting a new career. You have no interest in getting trained or educated in anything new. But you can start a new life. Earnestly write up a bucket list. Start with crazy stuff and end with little things. Don’t be afraid to add to it as time goes on.

Now that you have a wish list, don’t let it collect dust. Look at the things you spend your time doing, and find ways to end some of the chores or change them. You no longer have little children running around; vacuum only once a week. Unless you have company coming over, don’t make the bed; instead, pull the covers down to the foot and let the bed air out; this discourages bed mites. If you don’t have a garage, hose down the car to get rid of dust and pollen; in the winter, hose down the undercarriage if you live where they salt the roads. Any way you can find to loosen up some time, do it.

Hang OnThen work on the bucket list. If you dream of travel, but can’t afford a cruise to Bahama, start with car trips to friends and relatives you like.  Take advantage of the sights along the way; don’t be afraid to pull over and see the largest rubber band ball in the world, or explore caverns. Don’t lock yourself into a timeline – tell whomever you are visiting approximately when you expect to get there, then pull out that fancy smart phone when you are about five hours away and alert them of your arrival.

It doesn’t really matter what is on the bucket list, or whether you can afford to do it up brown; it only matters that you at least get a taste.

America isn’t noted for venerating the elderly for wisdom, but that shouldn’t hold you back. At no other time in your life have you been able to voice your opinion without worrying about the consequences. Start a blog!

After a lifetime of doing what you had to, what was expected of you, and what was best for all concerned, you can now respond to “I don’t feel like doing that” by not doing it! You can get up in the morning and say “What do I feel like doing?” – and do just that. As soon as it gets boring, leave it undone and do something else you feel like doing. Sprinkle in a few chores you were always planning to do but never got around to. Eventually everything gets done. And at the end of each day you feel you’ve been productive. Throw away the schedule – it really doesn’t matter if you do laundry on Monday or slip it in between jigsaw puzzles.

Remember that you have no idea of how long you will have your health or sanity, so now is the time. Enjoy it!!

 

 

A good weekend

weekend-1I like to separate the weekends from weekdays for a variety of reasons, even though I am “retired”. As a consultant, I often worked weekends, and when I didn’t I had to run all the errands my workaholic life delayed. So setting up a couple of ‘days of rest’ is a nice break for me. Online vendors for shopping are open, so I can do a little shopping, especially for Christmas or birthdays, without coping with crowded stores. But I can’t contact any businesses or services by phone, so I am relieved from a lot of busy work.

Saturdays, I like to put Music Choice Olden Goldies on the plasma in the living room. While I am doing whatever, my mind wanders back to the good times, from elementary school through college. I not only reminisce, I think out problems, and often find topics I want to write about, both fiction and non-fiction. I leave Saturdays for minor errands around the house – water the plants, switch winter/summer clothes and home décor, laundry. Then special projects like cleaning and rearranging the china closet. I sometimes call friends in the hope that they are home (a crap shoot) and write to people like my grandchildren. I grew up with old-fashioned hand-written letters, and still cherish them.

Around noon I call my mother. At the age of 89, her dementia has gotten so bad that I doubt she even knows who she is talking to. But she enjoys the one-to-one attention, and I feel as if I’m doing what little I can for her. I challenge her mind – name three colors, what’s the weather like, which should I do, A or B? In this situation she doesn’t feel as if she’s being backed against a wall, so she becomes a little proactive and tries to respond. It may not be connected to reality, but even confabulation keeps her mind working. And I get to remind her that she is loved and missed. While it is an upsetting experience for me, at least I feel like I’m doing something to fend off the dementia dragon. When she is bored (most of the time, since she has no short-term memory), I give her ideas of things to do, and she often remembers long enough to try to do these things.

The rest of the day is open to do whatever my inclination leads me to. Sometimes computer games, sometimes writing. I’m a terrible night owl and usually stay up until 1 or 2 AM, so sleeping in or an afternoon nap is okay.

If the weather is warm, I go to my patio, bookended with my flower gardens, watch the birds at the feeders, and read a book or do crossword puzzles.

wishing for a hammock

wishing for a hammock

Sundays, I like to put Music Choice light classical on the plasma in the living room. If it’s rainy or there is snow outside, I flip on the fireplace. The peaceful view through the lace curtains, and the precious objects I keep in there offer eye candy and peace. A good place to meditate. Again, if the weather is warm, I spend the time outside, possibly gardening, but at least enjoying the patio.

If it’s football season, the plasma switches to the games at one PM and stays on them till they’re all over. If I have it, eggs with bacon or sausage and rye toast for breakfast, and fresh-ground coffee. I often dress in a lounging robe, since I rarely go out on Sundays. I never make appointments on Mondays because I don’t even look at my calendar until Monday morning.

Nighttime is met with a full dinner if available. Although I was once a gourmet cook, I can’t be bothered fussing over food for myself during the week. If football is on, I forego the dinner and munch on canapés all afternoon and evening; this is what my husband and I used to do on Sundays once I learned he preferred that to a big Sunday dinner in mid-afternoon, even if it was scheduled for half-time.

my "fireplace"

my “fireplace”

Sunday is Me day. Manicure, pedicure, shampoo, and so on, ending in a soak in a bubble bath before bed. If I have a needlework project going, I work on it while watching television or sunning on the patio. I often treat myself to a glass of wine or a cocktail in the afternoon.

What would I like to add to my weekends? Visiting friends and family, or fulfilling my bucket list (Patriots game, parasailing, zip lining). This area is rife with culture – lilac festival, jazz festival, museums and so on. If I can find someone to go with, I like to do that.

I have never been known for having a routine, and weekends are no exception, so nothing stated here is carved in stone (except, maybe, the pro football). The freedom to ask “What do I feel like doing?” – and do it – is the beauty of my weekends.

The burden of an eidetic memory

eidetic-1Definition of eidetic :  marked by or involving extraordinarily accurate and vivid recall especially of visual images <an eidetic memory>

This should not be confused with a photographic memory, where one is capable of retaining pictorial impressions. That is a visual memory, whereas an eidetic memory is not only visual – it also encompasses everything the person reads, hears or sees.

I wasn’t even aware of the difference until I was an adult. My mother had me convinced that I had a lousy memory, since I kept recalling things she did not. Then one day my father and I were discussing the first house they owned, in Baldwin, New York (I lived there from about one year old to five). He and I reconstructed the whole floorplan, while my mother, who cleaned that house for four years, could recall none of it.

I was chatting with a psychologist once, about my memory. I explained to her:

I can tell you how Descartes started with “cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am) and ended up proving the existence of God. I can tell you I read it in a red book, about 1/5 of the way in, starting on the left page about halfway down. What I cannot tell you is the name of the book or its author/publisher.

She listened intently, then said it was obvious – I have no respect for authority!

How right she was, as all my friends know.eidetic-2

My earliest memory was of being in the kitchen in Baldwin. There were a lot of adults around me. One of them offered me a juice glass full of beer. When I downed it they were all entertained that I would do so. I related this incident to my father and he remembered it – he said I was one and a half years old at the time!

I suspect my father also had an eidetic memory, considering his love of odd facts, and his rise as a self-made man with only an Electrical Engineering Associate degree. His constant thirst for knowledge infected me and mine.

One would expect that such a memory would be a blessing. But it keeps a person from breaking ties with the past when these ties are painful and unproductive.

Every time I eat an orange I remember my mother showing me how to peel it with a spoon.

Every time I eat a liverwurst sandwich, which is one of my favorites, I remember my father showing me how to make one. I was maybe eight. I remarked that instead of liverwurst, it should be called shmearwurst, and he laughed.

Every time I eat a fresh pear, I remember Daddy lifting me up to the tree in the back yard to pick my own pear.

Both of my parents are dead now, and these constant memories make me miss them all over again.

My grown daughter has labelled me “toxic” (thanks to her social worker counselor?) and will have nothing to do with me. I should by all rights write her off and continue on with my life. But there are so many memories of her dancing, her as a photogenic and charming little girl. I keep a stuffed bear in my car. One Valentine’s Day morning (my daughter was in her teens) I got in my car to go to work and found a helium balloon, card, and this bear outfitted with aviator goggles, a leather helmet and a silk scarf. I name him Flybear and keep him in my car as my co-pilot. I am constantly bombarded with memories of how she showed her love to me and the reverse. Makes it hard to let go.

I can never re-read a book or re-watch a movie unless it is very convoluted so I need to catch nuances. Even then – I already know who dunnit and what the ending is.

eidetic-3Injustices never disappear. The kid in school who spread untrue stories about me; the landlord who put greed ahead of courtesy and fairness; the incompetent probate court and attorney that decimated my mother’s estate; the boss from hell; the bank and lawyer that wouldn’t work with me to save my home from the economic crisis – every instance where despite my efforts I was left hopeless and helpless can rear up in my mind at the slightest provocation, there to stew and whirlwind with no closure. This is why I need to have the television on when I go to sleep – I need a program to hold my attention so I can fall asleep in the middle of its running. Sometimes I am awake until dawn, when the television cure doesn’t work.

Then there’s the stigma of being a know-it-all. Apparently everything I read even as a schoolchild is tucked away in the little gray cells. When a question arises about, say, what is the “top” of a banana, I have the answer right on my fingertips. And I know the answer is correct, despite an inability to cite the source of my knowledge. My mother, also a voracious reader, had the same knack, and I knew never to doubt her answers to my childhood curiosity. Unfortunately, other people resent a walking encyclopedia, not just because it demonstrates their lack of knowledge, but it makes them feel stupid. In my opinion, they are not stupid at all, but rather just don’t remember running into that fact. Nonetheless, I have been called on the carpet for this air of superiority by bosses, friends, relatives, ‘professionals’ and strangers. I have spent my life trying to dose information with humility to prevent bruising egos, and I fail miserably.eidetic-4

The last problem is with change. While I am a risk-taker and embrace change, I don’t always know it occurred. For example, in the 1960s, the atom was depicted as being the same as our solar system, with electrons orbiting around the nucleus. In the 1970s these orbits were adjusted to be barbell-shaped. By the 1990s there were no orbits, but rather a cloud where each electron actually exists in more than one place at a time. Granted, these are theories rather than facts, but physicists feel they have ‘proven’ the theories. And unless I read about the change, my “facts” are behind the times.

Historians, archeologists and scientists are constantly rewriting facts according to new findings. A person who simply absorbs everything needs to learn when this information is updated before opening mouth and inserting foot. That’s an awful lot of stuff to track.

There’s also the problem of misinformation. The eidetic memory does not discern veracity. With all the information in the Internet, television and even in personal experiences, one can absorb a lot of wrong data without realizing it. I will research information if it doesn’t “feel right”, and I have a friend who is a lawyer and history buff who occasionally sets me straight. I don’t mind being corrected, but it does mean that one needs to research information a la James Michener to be sure of the facts. What is legal in one state is prosecutable in another.

eidetic-5

The upside of this condition is in research. Having such a huge amount of data available, one can see patterns and links that are missed by others working with more tunnel vision. But in any other phase of life, I don’t see it as a good thing.

The Zen of blogging

blog-1The nice thing about blogging is it can be your personal op-ed page. Some people use blogs as therapy.  Some demonstrate their knowledge of history. Some just want to get their side of the story out. Some are building a family tree. Some are already experts in a field and have found a way to get paid for their critiques. All reasons are justified. This is the beauty of the Internet, and the ease of the World Wide Web.

blog-3One must still remember that just because it’s on the Net doesn’t make it truth. Nonetheless, it is my hope that we bloggers, when we do expose facts or opinions, have integrity like a newspaper to corroborate information before publishing.

It’s one thing to post a political smear on Facebook that you took from some non-legitimate source. After all, Facebook is a social network, not a literary force. People constantly remake themselves there – sexy, young, above-board, grown-up, innocent…. Facebook is in some ways a fantasy site, not that all members approach it that way. But that grain of salt – there are those who will.blog-2

Meanwhile, a blog is an intellectual exercise of one sort or another. If you disagree with me – write a responsive comment right on the blog post. If you are offended, don’t read my blog. If you feel slandered – sue me for libel and hope I don’t have proof of what I opine.

What were you thinking??? – NYS lottery

lotto-1I went online to purchase 6 months or 12 months of Lotto pulls, something I’ve done a couple of times before, since I am rarely in a store where I could (or thought of) buying them. Being on a very limited income, when I could afford it, even a partial win would help out.

However, when I attempted to purchase the quick pick, I was notified that my charge/debit card was not approved. Okay, there was $2,000 in there. But my bank had “protected” me before from any out-of-state purchases; I actually had to go into the bank to get the “protection” lifted, since I travel between states frequently and make a lot of purchases online that are from companies with headquarters outside of New York State. Well, maybe they forgot that; either way, this is a purchase from the state, so what’s the problem? I had to wait for the bank to open to inquire about the restriction. Before I had a chance, I got a call from the bank’s fraud department.

From a terrible connection, the question came out, “Did you recently try to make a $109 purchase from a lawn store in China?”

No ….lotto-2

I was then connected to the fraud investigation department. Again, a terrible connection, and I had to ask the man to repeat the questions and answers several times.

Okay, let’s go through your last three purchases – this included a $107 purchase from the New York Lotto. Yes, those were all mine.

Surprise – the New York State Lottery financing is managed through a company in CHINA! Since this was out-of-country, they were still busy protecting my interests. The man suggested that I can ask the bank to suspend the international block for 24 hours in order to make this purchase.

Um … no, thanks. China is the worst hacker in the world – there is no way in hell I’m going to send them any financial information! I went to a store and purchased 3 months of lottery pulls on the same debit card.

lotto-3But I have to ask the state of New York – what were you thinking?? You are opening the door for  your citizens to get ripped off by the worst cyber spies on the planet. Another example of civil service lack of integrity.

Bless this bureaucracy

frustration-2Someday the left hand just might discover the right hand … and then it will take a year for them to learn to communicate.

In the beginning of December, I got an e-mail from the Health Well Foundation saying that my grant had not been used in 45 days; if unused in 90 days, the grant would be cancelled. Since it took me four months to get the grant, I was concerned. Call 1, to Curascript . This is the pharmacy that provides the Xolair to my doctor for injection. They are supposed to hit my insurance for the amount, then Health Well for the copay. Me: Health Well tells me that you are no longer billing them; they haven’t seen a bill for 45 days. Curascript: We show a zero balance on your account. You should check with the Foundation; maybe they missed the bills.   frustration-1Call 2, to Health Well Foundation. Me: I spoke to Curascript and they show a zero balance. Could you check your records? Health Well: We show that the last bill paid was September 28. Nothing since then. Me: Well, something changed in October. If I find I don’t need it, how do I cancel the grant? Health Well: Don’t bother; you’re covered until April. We’ll put the funds into general coffers and you just contact us if things change. You need to contact Curascript. Me: Did that. Health Well: Then try calling your insurance company.   Call 3, to MVP, my insurance company.frustration-4 Me: I’m concerned that I will suddenly be hit with a whopping bill. The Foundation says they haven’t been asked for money since September 28, but the pharmacy says I’m all paid up. Did something change in October? This is considered a medical bill, not pharmaceutical. MVP: Nothing has changed on your coverage. We last paid Curascript on November 18. You should call the Foundation to be sure they are paying the copay. Me: Did that; they say no bills have come in. MVP: Then call Curascript and be sure they are not billing the wrong place. Me: Did that. They are very familiar with the Foundation and say my bills are all paid up. Would you please look up the last payment to Curascript and tell me the date and amount? MVP: November 18; $3,166.46. Me: Sounds like the full amount for one month. Could you please look up August and see what you sent to Curascript? MVP: In August we sent them $2,459.46. Me: so there’s a decided difference between the two. Did Xolair coverage change in October? MVP: No, you have no coverage changes until January. Me: Could this be the Social Security Special Help in action? MVP: You mean Medicaid is covering the difference? Me: No – it appears you are covering the entire bill now. Under Special Help, there is no doughnut hole. Once I reach a certain point, there is no more copay. MVP: Oh, yeah. That’s right. Yes, that could be it, so you wouldn’t be charged any more copays until January first. Whew! And it only took three calls and my time of an hour and a half, not counting the menu waits and holds, to know everything is fine.