DAILINESS


Print by Marvin Oliver

The hot days of summer make us move a little slower, taking time for puttering. But they also give us time for introspection; for taking stock of what is important. Dailiness sounds like my childhood diary, where page after page said “Nothing happened today.” But of course something happens every day. I’m happy with our morning routine where Dr. A presents me with a latte to start the day. It’s a nice gesture intended to soften the TV news of fires and politics which is never good. We keep thinking we will turn the news off and cancel the newspaper which is nothing more than two or three pages of what was seen the night before. But we do not, because the habits of a lifetime keep us curious, and that constitutes dailiness.

Greek mythology relates how a large white bird fell from favor and was transformed into a large black raven, a favorite omen of warning, tragedy or disaster, and the negative messenger in Poe’s famous poem.

The image above is by my friend Marvin Oliver, Professor of Indian Studies at University of Washington. The interpretation of Art is in the eyes of the beholder, without which there is no Art. To me the broken heart he is presenting to the ancient abandoned village in the background signifies loss. Loss of a way of life and of a proud people whose Dailiness was not enough to sustain their culture. The tribal Journey Paddle to Puyallup brought canoes from as far away as Alaska and from California, which shows that the culture is alive and well.

The days of our youth and unyouth did not include frequent trips to visit the doctor, or the quack as my British friend calls him. Today if I miss calling a friend I find that he/she has had a hip or a knee replaced in the meantime and is already up and ready to go. Our capacity to maintain seems to lessen as we grow older, so I was not surprised to learn yesterday from the young foreign-born eye quack that I am now considered legally blind. Of course that term is broad and subject to qualification. I cannot drive, which I accept as another of those things I don’t have to worry about. One learns to gracefully say goodbye to things with as little regret as possible. The handicapped have so many options for a so-called “normal” life today, we should be grateful. The good new that day was from the leg surgeon who said he would see me in one year.

While waiting somewhat patiently for the pretty young retinal specialist to appear, I thought of the days when if you went to a doctor he could fix your hang nail, clean your ears, offer advice on every part of your body, and possibly tell you to stop complaining. Today each of those parts needs someone whose expertise seems to have ended after they learned to spell their discipline.

The interesting thing about Dailiness, is that it really does change every day. If it doesn’t try using the new app GOYA; Get Off Your Apps. Turn the TV off, stop looking at your e-mail, go for a walk. It’s a beautiful summer day.

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THE HEART GROWS SMARTER


The human mind is an over-confident machine which gives itself credit for things it really didn’t do. For instance, 90% of drivers actually believe they are above average. They are probably included in 75% of the accidents which “weren’t their fault.”

In the teaching and medical professions, college professors and doctors think they are above average, and it follows that most college students overestimate their chances of getting a high-paying job, even though in today’s job market, they may be holding down two or more jobs just to make ends meet.

When shopping for clothes, middle-aged people buy too-tight clothes—thinking they will take a few pounds off, though the majority of people gain a few each year. You are a different person from who you were twenty years ago. I wouldn’t recognize myself if I met me today. I’m not sure if that is good or bad.

As they grow older, many people, me included, feel less sure of what they were sure of twenty years or more ago. Have the rules changed, or is it us? We take on new interests, which take the place of the old ones. Suddenly, an activity which was once so important is replaced and the brain willingly lets the old one go. Rather like cleaning out the junk drawer.

Aging is inevitable, but it is not consistent. There are plateaus of time stretching over years when the faces of friends look unchanged. Then Time accelerates and the metamorphosis takes place. Time has an apparent power to move at different speeds. Of course our own faces remain forever young and unlined, and we are surprised when a forgotten friend doesn’t recognize us.

There is the inevitable blunting of the mind’s keen edge. The connectors of our brain become less efficient. You may find yourself looking at the ocean or into a cheerfully burning fireplace, and longing for something, but you don’t know what. The unconscious mind, it turns out, is most of the mind, a creative and enchanted place, where most of the brain’s work gets done.

We are capable of change even into our 80’s and 90’s. With a little judicious pruning, we can rewire ourselves and regain the self-confidence of our youth.

We all want to belong; to be assured of our own self-worth. To be selected from the crowd is always gratifying to self-esteem. One feels the need to make some return, a fact which accounts for a number of otherwise surprising marriages. It’s like mistaking beef stew for prime filet.

Growing older is not a roller-coaster ride into oblivion. It can be a grand new adventure because the heart grows smarter.

THE AUTUMN OF REPAIRS


I don’t usually name seasons for the activities they bring.  You know, like Steinbeck’s “Winter of our Discontent”, but this one brought lots of good stuff which culminated in my becoming well-acquainted with several nice men in the medical profession.

First, the good stuff included a lovely trip to Carmel, courtesy of our family to celebrate our amazing 65th anniversary.  Amazing because neither of us is old enough to have been married that long.  We basked in the sun, shopped till our legs felt weak, dined in style,  and spent the evenings enjoying the sunset while overlooking the ocean and large resident flock of sheep who looked as if they never missed a meal.

Arriving home, our children and grandchildren put togther a grand party for 65 people in two days that would have taken me a month in my best days.   So much for good genes.  They obviously did not get them from me.

And that’s the last of the good stuff.

Next came the matter of repairs.  First came cataract surgery, which today is a piece of cake.  You get a bigger and better exam than usual, and in my case, was told that I am “color deficient”, which to the uninitiated, is color blindness.  This, and I have been fooling the public and my students for years that I knew what I was doing.  Then they treat you ever so nicely while you wait your turn among a roomful of old people.  “Why am I here?”)  When I got into the tidy little OR (that’s short for operating room) the doctor I already didn’t like because of the color blindness crack, said abruptly “Well, I hope you don’t cough.”  (That’s because I DO have a coughing problem.)  Not the beginning of a great friendship.  I felt like doing it anyway except he was the one with the scalpel.  This led to new glasses of course, which were much stronger, and very expensive, but introduced me to a charming young optometrist I could really get to like,  so that could be added to the good stuff, because I probably will have to see him again sometime.

OK.  All is going along beautifully, until a bad toothache told me I had come to the end of the line, and would have to break up the lifelong friendship I have had with my teeth.  My charming nephew told me one day “Auntie, I can’t patch you up anymore.”  He went into the next room while I pondered just what he had in mind.

When he came back into the room I was having a lovely conversation with one of his cute nurses, so I was relaxed and unprepared when he said that all the teeth on the bottom had to go.  They were no longer carrying their part of the load.  What the hell did this mean?

Next I went to visit the oral surgeon, who made an appointment for me to come in and he would happily remove them all and give me two (or maybe 4) implants  Easy for him to say.  It’s me that will have to suffer the pain and sacrifice and economic disaster.

I have a deeprooted belief that suffering will make me a better person, thanks to my grandma Nellie.  Who by the way was a Christian Scientist, and didn’t believe in pain and suffering.  It simply was not there.  It’s that kind of upbringing that makes you an agnostic.

Surgery day came and out came the teeth.  All of them.  I kid you not.  The surgery is not bad (I might add that there were a number of teeth which were broken off at the gum, ) and I was in dreamland during the process.  Not as bad as I thought.  After all, I had lost all the upper ones some time ago and survival is possible.

Dr. Advice had a good time giving advice about putting my food into the blender, and calling my new teeth “choppers”.  That’s OK for him to say, but just try putting the Thanksgiving turkey into a blender.

But all is wll, and I have gorgeous new  teeth, which will be the envy of all the other old ladies I know, and maybe even the young ones. Now I just have to get them to work.

And more good stuff.  I no longer have to brush and floss after every meal.  And when someone says “Say cheese” with a camera pointed my way, I can grin with the best of them.