Old 

It comes as a surprise to me that I’m old. I don’t feel old, and have a hard time seeing myself as being old when I think about the future.

One reason is denial. I am not old because there are people older than me; they are old, not me. As long as there are Baby Boomers cluttering up the place I am not old. And I just learned Lenny Kravitz is older than me.

Being old now is different from being old in the past. Not that many people got to be old, but the previous century changed a lot of that. Just referencing “the previous century ” makes me feel a little old then I remind myself this century is less than 20 years old, so chill. Not old, not me, not yet.

This was made clear a few weeks ago, from of all things,  watching All in the Family, a 70’s sitcom. 

As a little kid watching this show Archie and Edith were Old, with a capital O. He was balding and gray, and always bringing up World War II. She was frumpy and absent minded, confused by new and modern things. So I had this image of them as practically elderly and even watching the show with my dad now they are still old. 

The high school reunion episode blew my mind. Edith was invited to her 30th year high school reunion and Archie, who didn’t graduate, didn’t want to go with her. I did some math and realized they were 48 years old. I’m older than both of them were at that time. That was what 48 looked like in the 70’s. Mind blown. 

To me being old is being sick, weak and afraid. I don’t want to be any of those things and I fight against it. I am aware my mother died when she was 7 years older than I am now. Jerry was 52 when he died, but had the physical condition of an 80 year old. So I walk, occasionally do yoga and try to take the stairs when possible. I did the Memorial race thinking about people I know who couldn’t do this, people my age, some older and some younger and I felt grateful to be there. I hope to be active and healthy as long as possible and to kick diabetes’s ass for years to come. 

The only time I feel old is when I look in the mirror. I wonder who is that old hag  and what happened. There are bags under my eyes no matter how much sleep I got the night before. 

I still have reservations about plastic surgery, but procedures like injections are not too extreme. I’m vain enough for it. I may be old but darned if I’m going to look it.

I don’t intend to be dowdy and timid like Edith. Once a woman is 40 she is supposed to cut her hair, to wear neutral colors and flats. I did not, except for the flats but my low heeled shoes of choice are sneakers. Always have been, I  still wear jeans, t-shirts and hoodies. I’m beyond wanting to impress anybody.  I still have long hair, dyed not my natural color. I am quiet but will assert myself and make my presence known, if needed. It’s a strange thing, I couldn’t do it when I was younger but now I can. 

I am much the same person I’ve always been. Conventional wisdom says people get more conservative as they get older but my politics haven’t really changed, the main difference is I don’t freak out as much. After all this time it takes a lot to shock me.  Gossip, supposedly a hobby of old ladies, does not interest me. A lot of stuff that old ladies are supposed to like, such as sewing, crafting and quilting, is not for me, mostly because I lack the skills but I don’t really care to acquire them either.

Yet there’s so much I still want to see and do. I want to travel more, to go to places I’ve never been,  I want to see the new Wonder Woman movie, read the new Neil Gaiman book, read a lot of books really. I want to do another half marathon, maybe more than one. I want to learn to make spring rolls. I want to see if this colonizing Mars thing really happens, and see if a woman becomes president. I want to see the Wings win at least another Stanley Cup, that alone may take years.

Old people retreat from new ideas and technology, change is the enemy. Stuff was better back in the day, no matter what. Perhaps I am getting there because music was better way back in my youth. I like Art Deco and movies from the silent era to the 50’s.  But I don’t fear or hate change the way old people do. I admit I am ticked off at Microsoft over Windows 10, trying to make people pay for Word and Excel–that’s a rant in itself. Maybe I am old after all. Crap. 

At least I haven’t yelled at the neighbor’s kids to get off my lawn.

I think Maurice puts it well. From one of those old movies I like.

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Monday at the hospital

I’m in a hospital waiting room. My sister had shortness of breath yesterday and I brought her to the hospital.  She was admitted and will probably be here a week.

I’m one of the few people who feel at ease in a hospital. I spent more than 10 years in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals with my husband and with various family members.  I can’t say I enjoy being around hurting, scared people, exhausted nurses and vending machine food but I’m used to it, I can cope. So that’s why I stayed with her most of yesterday and today. Why I’ll be back tomorrow and so on.  I am like Anne Elliott, the first one who is called when somebody is sick, it is expected of her as a spinster (widow in my case).

Not that I had stuff to do and I admit I would rather be here, to be on hand when the doctor comes, orders change and to ask questions. I did it for Jerry.

She is not used to being sick, forced to stay in bed, or follow orders.  She’s feeling better,  she was bored earlier because there wasn’t anything on TV.

But there is one difference.  She’s had visitors. Yesterday and today, people came to see her and pray over her. I’m glad, really but I am a little perturbed, not pissed but a tad upset. This is why.

None of this happened when Jerry died. No one came to visit me and Bear, we received a few cards but no visitors. No one came to check on us. Even though its been nearly two years I’m surprised I am still this resentful. Yes, nearly two years, in five months it will be two years.

It doesn’t change anything, today’s events or 19 months ago. I am glad she had visitors, it’s important to feel loved, to know people care. But it reminded me of how alone Bear and me are, and how it felt.

Mental

I’ve learned that those pumped up inspirational quotes and memes about the mental aspect of exercise and training are really true. I’ve known it on a superficial level for years but secretly considered most of it hype and hyperbole. The physical is more important; without the ability there’s no game, no results no matter how positive your mindset.  Or so I thought.

In the past I considered the mental aspect as that little voice pushing me to finish, to go harder, try a little more, a little longer. It was just positive thinking.

Ironically one reason I walked was it helped me deal with change. When Jerry died last year going for a walk was one way I could think and clear my head. The extra oxygen helped too. This year when my son told me he wanted to start walking we did, he started slowly but being younger he adapted quickly. Our distances increased and it gave us both something we needed, time to talk about things including his father. He told me his plans to go overseas again and by the time he left he had lost nearly 30 pounds. The only physical difference I noticed was my butt wasn’t as loose anymore.

This summer I was doing well, even going for little one and two minute sprints during my walks. Then there were some big changes: my son left to work in Vietnam, I left my job, and I moved. So I stopped walking, it was time-consuming and I had to pack and sort Jerry’s things. There were more important things to do. Being summer it was also hot, even in the evening it was in the 90’s..

I quit for two months, then started again in a half-hearted way. Sometimes I walk three times a week, sometimes just once. I gave up yoga because I couldn’t afford it anymore.  I’ve been lazy, finding reasons to not walk. I can, I know I need to and I know it’s good for me but I can’t find the motivation to go.  This is when I learned that mental strength is important , without the will there is no way the body will follow. It’s a heckuva way to learn a lesson.

I walked today, a short walk, because I was forced. I put on my walking clothes this morning  thinking it would push me into going. It didn’t, I made some weak excuse and it wasn’t until my sister pointedly asked me if I was going to walk, so shamed into it I did. I still didn’t feel like it, the day was warm but there was a cold wind blowing. I went anyway,  I felt better after but I know I’m a long way from being where I need to be mentally. If I can get that back the physical part will be easy.

Being realistic

I hate being realistic when it is depressing and the result isn’t what I want. Yet I know I have to face facts, truth and be prepared for what may come.

My future is like a rickety swinging rope bridge. I have to cross it, what lies on the other side might be good or might be lousy. But crossing that bridge comes first and I have no choice in the matter. I can’t look down, can’t go back or stop in the middle.

Right now I’m aware of how fragile my situation is. I’m unemployed, living at my sister’s house, and have no idea what I’m supposed to do or where to go. Also a widow. So I got all that going for me. The only creature who has any faith in me is a chubby Chihuahua. The cat gives me side looks and I swear sometimes he shakes his head at me.

image

What I hope for is to have a good life. To move to a city that accepts rather than tolerates a nutty old broad like me. Where there is interesting stuff like bookstores, opera companies, and museums. Somewhere I can breathe, but I’m afraid that’s not my future

I know what lies ahead, at least the most likely scenario. It’s not great but not terrible,  just mediocre. I’m trying to psyche myself up for it so I’ll be ready.

I see myself coming home from my job, going up some stairs, walking my dog and reading a book before going to bed and starting it all over again. I’ll go to Mass on Sunday, and not much else. In some ways I’ll be withdrawing from the world. But that’s my plan, while I hope to make friends I know I will depend on my own company most of the time. I know it sounds lonely. But there’s not much here for me, my interests and my politics don’t fit in here, and being an introvert I’ve got all the qualifications to be a hermit. I’m reconciled to the idea even if it seems depressing.

I will have my freedom and independence, hopefully a long time. I won’t have to do things I don’t enjoy if I don’t want to.  Being an old broad gives me that privilege. It comes with a price, being alone and occasionally lonely but I know what to expect. Better to go into it knowing than not.

dealing with disappointment

I feel like Inigo. I have had job interviews but no job offers, mostly because I tell them that I’ll be gone for 2 weeks over Christmas. Which also means the only income I have is my savings, which was another debacle. A regular transfer took 2 weeks to complete, something that normally took 2 days and I had to see my bank account overdrawn for several days knowing I could do nothing about it. I would consider going into the revenge business myself, if only I could wield a sword.

Besides being friendless, broke and unemployed (but at least not in Greenland) I am watching over my sister while she suffers with cirrhosis. It’s not something she’s thrilled about either, she has swelling in her abdomen and feet, hurts and spends most of her time trying to rest or sleep. We may be taking her back to the hospital, 3 hours away. I’m disappointed in that because the town where the hospital is located doesn’t have a Sonic; the closest Sonic is 20 miles away. And now my dad learned an old friend has passed away, the funeral is next Sunday, he’ll probably want to go though it’s 2 hours away. I may have to drive him.

I spent a year and half being a caregiver to my great-aunt, six months of that I spent every day at her house. I even left my job. It was the hardest and longest time of my life, between her and Jerry I was tired and most nights after I left my aunt’s house I cried while I drove home. I have a sense of dread it’s starting over again, it’s beginning to smell like deja vu. My dad watches most of the same shows my aunt did and now he’s even sitting in her old recliner.

This month is Jerry and my anniversary. We never did big things, no trips, no parties. We usually had dinner somewhere, gave each other cards and maybe a gift. In those early years Bear was little and we were broke. Even when Bear was older we rarely went out because Jerry wasn’t up to it. But he always remembered and I knew to expect a card, he usually put it out before I got up in the morning. I am sorry to admit I’ve thrown away most of those cards, each time we moved I tossed things that seemed like clutter. I still have a few, somewhere in those boxes in storage. Last year there was no card and though I knew I was still disappointed. There will be no card this year either, I plan to go out to eat somewhere. Last year I didn’t feel like it but this year I think I will.

Just crap

That describes so much: my mood, my general situation and possibly what I’ll have for lunch.

I  am accepting that I probably won’t find a job until the first of the year, at the earliest. That’s at least 2 months, 2 more months of being broke, feeling like a loser and bum, 2 more months of nothing. My sister is letting me stay with her and I’m kicking in some for the bills, from my savings which are slowly dwindling down. Like feeling sand slowly slipping through your fingers, down your palm and disappearing. Gravity and life pulling it down and away, nothing can be done, it just is.

Telling a potential employer I am leaving the country for 2 weeks around Christmas is not helping my cause. I had a job interview 2 weeks ago and really hoped I might get it but I didn’t, it was retail, working in a bookstore. Christmas is the busiest most intense time of the year and telling them that I couldn’t make it sabotaged my chances. Telling them I was a cannibal wouldn’t have been as bad.

Interviews have been scarce. I’ve had only 3, and I’ve been looking in Seattle for 4 months and here for 2 months. It is discouraging. Yet I have hope the law of averages will be on my side and eventually I’ll find something I can live with, live on.

I have been unemployed before, for a year I looked for a job before I found one. It was different then, Jerry was here then. He told me it was okay, told me not to worry or feel badly. He seemed to like being able to take care of me and Bear. And it was socially acceptable, being a married woman who didn’t work, very traditional. People didn’t automatically think I was a parasite or loser. Jerry even encouraged me when I got frustrated and impatient with the whole job process.

This time is different. It sucks big time. I’m more aware of how alone I am now, except for my sister who is letting me crash on her couch, there’s no backup or support system this time. Although the couch is technically mine the house it is inside is hers ( and partly mine too, thanks to our aunt’s convoluted estate). But I know I have to look after myself and the pets. I can’t look to Jerry to pay rent or give me money for groceries. He isn’t here to tell me it’s going to be okay, that he believes in me.

Which is another reason this sucks. I feel like I’m letting him down too, that I’m not as strong or smart as he thought.

Tomorrow is a 5K I signed up for a month ago. I wasn’t as bummed and still walking and going back to yoga. I felt better. But I haven’t been walking as much and went to my last class last night, I can’t afford yoga anymore. I will do the race, and it will be the last one til I can afford the luxury again.

Shepherd’s Crown ( a book review and warning)

This is more like a public service announcement instead of a book review.

I finished reading Terry Pratchett’s last book, The Shepherd’s Crown and had mixed feelings about it. Pratchett wrote it before he died, he suffered from Alzheimer’s and took his own life earlier this year. He had been an advocate for the right-to-die movement and even wrote editorials arguing to change the laws in Great Britain. Assisted suicide is still illegal even though Pratchett killed himself with the knowledge and consent of his family and friends.

Shepherd’s Crown is the final book in his Tiffany Aching series, which was originally a trilogy. It’s a Young Adult book but might be categorized as Fantasy, Sci-Fi or even fiction depending on the bookstore or library’s whims. I enjoyed this book but I want to keep people from buying it and reading it.

If you see this book and think “I’ll just get this for my friend/family member who is still hurting and in  mourning, who needs a good laugh and distraction from grief” do not do it. I repeat, do not do it. Step away from the book. Put. It. Down. Now. Even if this is a person who loves Pratchett, fantasy, good strong female characters and puns, walk away from this book.

One of the best loved (and feared) characters in Discworld dies. Pratchett kills Granny Weatherwax, a old wise woman. Though she’s officially a witch she’s not the typical Macbeth/Halloween witch though she does wear a pointy hat. She’s not satanic or evil, there’s none of that here and she would be offended by the thought. Granny Weatherwax is a midwife, healer, herbalist and leader. She doesn’t do nice, she does what’s needed. She is a badass. I love her and she reminds me of my Aunt Donnie, who passed away 5 years ago. And that’s why I don’t want anyone in mourning reading this book, especially someone mourning a mother or grandmother. Anyone mourning anyone really, fresh mourning and grief are way too raw to read this book. Even if the person is a Pratchett or Tiffany Aching fan, suggest they re-read some other Pratchett book. If you are the person in question leave this book alone for awhile, trust me on this.

Granny Weatherwax’s death is handled beautifully and with care. Pratchett loved Granny too; he even dedicated Shepherd’s Crown to her. She faces her last day without fear, she knows what’s coming and prepares herself for her visit from Death and his horse Binky. She even makes her own casket and stakes out her resting place. She makes this painful event as efficient for those left to find her body and bury her. She even leaves a note, a will actually, on her chest. I cried reading these pages. They come at the beginning. The death of Granny Weatherwax is felt throughout the entire book, showing how a person’s life can affect people and events long after they have gone.

The simple descriptions of what she does and how Death finally comes was hard for me to read. It was very like what happened when Jerry died. He had a peaceful death, at home, and died sometime in the early hours, like Granny. It was difficult to read because my Second Thoughts were that Pratchett was dying when he wrote her death and how he faced his own mortality by sharing it with the world. Reading Granny’s death was painful and dredged up hurts I thought had gone away. Jerry passed away 15 months ago and I know there’s no way I could have read this any earlier. I hope no one starts this book thinking they can detach their own pain and grief, telling themselves that because Granny isn’t a real person it won’t be so bad. It is. It will. Put. It. Down.

What happens after Granny dies is going to be familiar. It’s like being poked with a stick, over and over, pointing out this detail and that reaction, in case you forgot, From not getting time to really grieve, like Tiffany and Nanny Ogg to dealing with troublesome people like Mrs. Earwig, it will be real.

There are feegles, fairies and jokes,even a passing Python reference, it isn’t grim throughout. Those things make the loss bearable but the loss is still felt and touches everything in some way. This isn’t a sad or depressing book, it is funny and has some great moments, great lines and there’s Pratchett’s cleverness. I will probably re-read it at a later date but only when I’m ready. I don’t know when that will be.

I’m going to listen to the rest of the Wings-Oilers game now.