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MOSTLY TRUE


Some said they would come back as horses, my husband thought he could be a giraffe, most said they’d be some sort of cat; but I noticed that no one chose the dog, and I don’t know why.

The horse, by tradition, lives outdoors rain or shine and gets sat upon by people large and sometimes larger. I asked my husband why a giraffe, and he thought it would be nice to look over high fences. I wonder if this is indicative of some sort of perverse peeping Tom syndrome. The cat people are nice for the most part, though prone to play hide and seek often, and I was never any good at that game, because I’d always make enough noise so they would be sure to find me. When they got to me I chose the dog because I can’t imagine a life without dogs, and dogs know about things children and old people need.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that there are no guard giraffes or cats, though cats sometimes earn their keep by good will hunting. The various ways a dog hunts is not always with good will. Watching a Border Collie at work shows how it should be done; shoulders hunched, eyes squinted, a crawl on the belly while eyeballing the sheep, a quick dart, and the race is on. A Jack Russell Terrier, on the other hand, feels he needs to shout at them until they submit to him. He cannot be deterred from the chase, though to my knowledge never catches sight of his prey.

Do we as humans, carry similar animal traits? If a dog, I could choose to emulate our old German Shepherd or now, in later life, perhaps our Old English Sheepdog. In the first choice, I could be alert, a little intimidating, loyal and protective. As a Sheepdog I could just take it slow and easy and enjoy life while waiting for my next meal. I could do that.

I wonder if I was a Jack Russell as a young woman—barking a lot but not accomplishing much. On the other hand, Jack Russells are very smart, very intuitive. I WAS a fast learner, and my father told me I had good common sense, so that’s a plus. I was low maintenance and put up a good appearance. I was great at parties and never embarrassed myself or my hostess, which is unlike the JRT I know who would enliven the party too much and has been known to do so. Which is why there are places for dogs and people like that.

When I die perhaps I’ll come back as a tree. It’s much less complicated.

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MYSTERIES OF WOODWORKING


I am mechanically minded. I used to delight in following directions printed in tiny, obviously translated steps to put together a new tool or device. Going through each step to make sure it follows the instructions was like a jigsaw puzzle. As time went on, the written steps were not as clear, and the object did not operate as promised. The vernacular became less familiar, and a lot of time was wasted trying to determine what was intended if they had only written it in English.

Years ago we ordered a redwood picnic table which arrived in pieces. Not being one content to wait for the man of the family to put it together, I laid it out on our deck with instructions in hand and proceeded to put the screws in the holes and suddenly it became a large and handsome table. I was understandably quite proud of myself, though I’ll admit a bit miffed that the man of the house was off playing tennis with his buddies. I later learned that the other men were impressed that I had actually done the job. The frost began to form when I found that my husband had said that he had known I could do it. A great way to get out of a job I’d say.

That was forty-five years ago, and the deck was replaced with a large family room shortly afterward. The table lived for a time under a pavilion at one end of the garden, obtaining a coat of white paint at one point, and joined by eight chairs. One summer we were seduced by a metal garden set with comfortable upholstered chairs and a built-in BBQ pit in the table. Quite handsome really. But what to do with the old table? Something that large and heavy is hard to get someone else to take home. As it was lying on its side and being rolled from one end of the yard toward an exit, it came to rest between a very large 50 year old orange tree and a lovely large fig tree. It seemed to feel at home there and it may have planned the move all along. You can’t trust old things. In its current and more convenient home, it has given us pleasure for many repasts, party and pick up. I wonder if it has a memory of its humble beginnings? Last Sunday on Mother’s Day, it hosted a crab quiche, fresh berries, and a delicious shortcake made by our grandson, while we brunched in the garden overflowing with roses and hummingbirds.

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HAIL NO


They say April showers bring May flowers, but our Spring weather has become ridiculous. Woke up in the night to the souond of a deluge which turned out to be a hail storm. Woke up to brilliant sunshine, and the local news stations broadcasting pictures of hail covering most of the Bay Area. The fluctuating temperatures are bewildering as one is never sure what part to cover or uncover.

I know I have been rather proud of the fact that I used a flip phone and didn’t knuckle under to a collection of electronic devices. But slowly, without even realizing it, a collection has formed, many of which, like us, need frequent battery recharging. A small battle occurred the other evening over which plug fit which phone. Lines must be drawn.

Most of the devices which have found a home with us are useful in more ways than as entertainment. As eyesight diminishes the iPad is invaluable for reading books after paper books become things of a delightful past. Reading isn’t quite the same with them. One can’t really jump back and forth rereading a well-written phrase, or even an entire chapter. I suppose one could, but it would be cumbersome. The Smartphone for me offers the chance to use Uber for transportation in possibly the near future. We are in a holding pattern right now while waiting for Dr. A’s new drivers license to arrive. As the chief cook, I have been accumulating ways to get groceries from the store to home at some point. All part of trying to adjust.

I spent the morning listening to music I had forgotten about via our new friend Alexa. Our daughter gifted us with her and it is very nice to be able to instantly order someone about. It must be a latent fault. Alexa knows all and pops off the answers quicker than a wink. As far as music goes, she has most, though I have tried to trick her with odd selections she cannot supply. She is a toy, and one we certainly do not need, but in these days of stay at home days, traffic and afternoon hailstorms, she is a ray of sunshine.

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THE CHINA CONNECTIION


I miss the sight of the roasted ducks dripping succulent juice into the trough below, and promising the harbinger of good eating. Alas, the Dragon BBQ restaurant is no more. It is only the latest restaurant which has closed with no prior notice. Though this city has a huge influx of Asian people, we don’t seem to have a decent Chinese restaurant. One or two Chinese buffets have come and gone through the years, but they don’t last long. Where do they go for good Chinese food? Conversely, we have many Mexican restaurants.

During the years I took Tai Chi each morning, we had a monthly pot luck picnic. I was the only Caucasian and usually took cake or a casserole. They brought ethnic food including chicken feet. unidentifiable dishes and many delicious steamed buns. Always with an enormous jug of hot tea with leaves floating around. It was a great way to get connected.

A number of years ago I wanted to buy goose livers for a pate recipe, so I went up to Oakland which has a large Chinatown, taking my mother in law for a day’s jaunt. Popping into several markets, I realized that no one spoke English which left me wondering how to connect with them. So I flapped my arms and quacked, hoping I sounded like some sort of barnyard fowl. I never got the goose liver, but I got duck liver and we both got a free lunch.

My mother in law was raised on a ranch in Chico, CA, where they had a Chinese cook, who still wore a queue. A ranch hand, thinking it a joke, cut it off one day. My husband’s grandfather chased the culprit off the ranch, whereupon he and the “Chinee” cook shook hands. Amazingly to my husband’s grandfather, the cook offered him a Masonic handshake. I now have a large porcelain teapot which came with the cook from China.

My MIL was quite fond of the Chinese, partly stemming from the herbalist who cured her mother’s paralysis. Would she be pleased or not with the amount of Chinese immigrants today?

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WELCOME TO THE 90’s


To call something a fad, is to think of it as a passing fancy; something to entertain us for the time being, and then move on. A few years ago I had not heard of DNA testing except on TV cop shows. Now it seems that everyone is having the tests done to determine their ancestry and ethnicity. Not to be left behind, I spent yesterday afternoon spitting into a tiny plastic tube, to accumulate 1/4 inch of my precious saliva. At the age of 90 what do I hope to find? Will it prove my indomitable Grandmother wrong in her assertion that we stem from strong English stock with perhaps a drop of Irish blood derived from my sweet Grandpa? This of course does not include any scientific information from my paternal side. Grandma was quick to overlook anything she did not have an interest in. At any rate, it is a talking point and shows I am not entirely behind times.

I was feted royally by friends and family to acknowledge the undeniable fact that I have reached the vaunted age of 90. Dr. Advice reached this pinnacle two years ago, and when I saw the advanced age did him no harm, it removed the stigma I feared might occur. Though I have never been one to dwell on age, it is now amazing to me that I have so many friends who are in their 90’s and still upright and active.

Granted that some people need a little help one way or another as they age. My high school group in Alameda has increased from the original 6-7, as one is now in assisted living and her daughter brings her to the luncheon. Two others bring daughters who drive them now, and I have a good friend who does the same for me. The important thing is that we still come, and our intentions are still good.

We offer “tea and sympathy when needed as well, when we heard that one of our members is being forced out of her home. She gave the home some time ago to her daughter and son in law, but still lived in it. Her daughter passed away last year, and now the son-in-law is moving and plans to sell the house. A clear case of legal elder abuse. Another classmate a few years ago sold her home in Washington state at the request of her daughter and son in law and moved to Texas into an apartment which she hates. She has lost all her long time friends and her money from the sale of her house has been used to support her daughter and unemployed son in law. This is not to put sons-in-law in a a bad light, as I have had very good luck along that line.

All this proves is that as older people we need to stay aware. Hopefully Life has given us some measure of health and where-with-all, with a few brains left to protect both. We don’t need to become pistol packing mamas, but we do need to realize that we have become vulnerable and targets for those out to get somebody. anybody.

There are things to think about as elders though, which were’t a problem in our youth. Some communities have internet sign up groups to put people in touch with handymen, dog walkers, house cleaners, gardeners, and what have you. Chores which we once did for ourselves, but which require more muscle than we have left. Shopping can be a problem as well. We are awaiting the renewal of Dr.A’s driving license and mulling over possibilities to get to wherever in the possibility that he will someday have to stop driving. Last week we did a trial run with Uber to the local Safeway store and back. A good experience and relieved any anxiety we might have had.

Ninety is shaping up and they can start planning my 95th!

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A TALENTFOR LIFE


Have you ever noticed that there are people who simply have a talent for life? They are the ones who gather other people, plan the parties, go to the cool places, see the latest movies and read the latest books, and always seem to have a smile on their faces. The ones who come up with great ideas for fun. The ones we wish we could be. We all know them. They are people for whom the glass is more than half full, and the sun is always shining whether it is or not.

Children have that capacity. Watch the creativity of small children playing alone. They can build a sand castle on the beach and it with all manner of imaginary creatures, only to laugh when the waves roll in and knock it down.

When did we lose that capacity? When did the struggles of education, the worries of love affairs. and the trials of a working life take over? We should be able to see that life, while not the same for everyone, is there to be enjoyed.

I remember asking my mother on her 70th birthday if she felt any older. She answered that she still saw things the same way as always, but having lived a couple of decades longer myself, I don’t believe that our perceptions remain the same as they were in our youth. We need to have grown with the years, to understand things we overlooked at an earlier age. Probably most of all, we need to have learned to understand the world around us. Or at least make a stab at it.

I have noticed that I no longer find joy or amusement in many things which caused a giggle in the past. Am I growing old? Possibly, but I do use more of my common sense when striking out into unknown territory. I can’t be critical about teenagers putting themselves at risk in an effort to have fun, because I did it too.

Is that what growing older does? Let you remember the odd and perhaps dangerous things you got into and out of in your youth? It’s fun to laugh about it with others of your own vintage, because they did it too.

Another thing I have noticed lately with some people in their later years; the need to have photos of parents and long passed relatives. The years of their lives have gone by without the visual reminder of their forebears, but suddenly it seems important to relive the years of their youth by recalling family time before their hair became grey. Perhaps it relates to the sudden interest in the church some people get as the days grow shorter.

I do find I am reading the obituary pages more often these days since I occasionally see a familiar name. They are always written in such glowing terms of the departed, that I hope they had imparted those good thoughts to them while they were still here. A friend who used to do the obit pages in a local newspaper said some of them cost as much as $600. That’s pretty good pay for a few last words.

All of which puts me in mind of a late friend in the mortuary business. He came from Ireland in the early part of the 1900s, with no money and no noticeable talent. While sitting on a bench in Boston eating a cantaloupe, he was approached by a group of local hoodlums who let him know in no uncertain terms that the Irish were not welcomed there. A few years later they couldn’t keep them out. Anyway, he hopped on a train, played his accordion across country and ended up in California, still without a job or prospects. Seeing an ambulance going by, he thought he could get a job driving one. When he saw the destination was a mortuary, he got a job there, and eventually owned it.

Eventually he found some notoriety when the Oakland A’s baseball field was named for him, since it was built on land he owned. Some might say that’s a talent for living.

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ONE-EYED JACKS WILD



Charlie in forbidden chair

A Jack Russell Terrier in the height of his powers is anything but temperate. Inside the adorably innocent exterior, resides a razor sharp brain wrapped in a chaos of planning his next adventure. Though his DNA includes the destruction of unwelcome rodents, Charlie cannot be bothered with the effort, instead he chooses to share the wealth of fallen fruit with all comers.

To say that Charlie is a dog of many talents is an understatement. He is a fast learner and as a puppy he learned a few tricks to show off, and mastered a few household chores as long as the treats kept coming. As he ages we find that his ideas frequently take precedent over ours, and as we age along with him it sometimes seems easier to let him do it his way.

As dogs have their own way of aging, it is hard to determine just where they are in the human scale of things. It seems to vary between breeds. We have been blessed to have several different breeds in our lives. Healthy small dogs as a rule live longer than their larger companions and we have had both, sometimes two at a time. A miniature dachshund with some health problems, stuck it out for 17 years, while a supposedly healthy German Shepherd dog developed cognitive problems at ten, as did a lovely quiet Old English Sheepdog at the age of eleven.

As with we humans, it’s a mystery that we, along with the medical profession, are determined to solve. Which brings me to the subject of today’s veterinary services.

Though we have been able to handle most veterinary problems through the years, save the annual vaccinations and occasional surprise injuries, we chose to enroll Charlie in a Wellness program when he came to live with us. For this privilege I pay approximately $50 per month. It entitles him to two big visits a year “free” of charge. Complete exams, dental cleaning and vaccinations. Charlie has been well cared for in exchange for the joy he has brought us.

Last week I discovered a roughness behind one of Charlie’s ears, and since he was due for an exam and tooth cleaning, I mentioned that there might be “something” to look at. When we collected him later in the day, the vet gave me the breakdown of his visit. The rough spot was a tumor, which when addressed, would come to approximately $600. and put him in the famous plastic head cone for some time while it healed.

Today we went in for the second part of the annual check up. On the way home he seemed pretty lethargic and lay in my lap in the car, where I cuddled him and stroked around his ear which showed no sign of roughness or a mass. That was good because we had already decided not to pursue a surgery at his age. When we got him home I looked over the papers which showed the results of his visit.

A small liver problem: a daily pill. Possible eye issue: we had already noticed his hesitation on coming through a partially open door: a paw reaching out to make sure it was open. Possible ear issue: no problem there, Charlie hears a footstep on the front porch long before I know they were there. Lately Charlie has been hesitant upon jumping up onto places he shouldn’t be anyway. I no longer tap dance.

For each of these things there were suggestions of tests to be given. No test for my dancing however.

For those of you familiar with the medical profession, does this sound familiar? We are grateful for the strides the medical profession has made, both human and animal, but as with humans, there is only so much which can or should be done regardless of the cost. We come, we are young, and then we age. and suddenly we aren’t as good in many ways. Nothing is perfect and maybe it never was. Enjoy it all while you can and play the hand you drew.