SWIMMING IN YOUR HEAD


Amy Tan, writer of such memorable works as “The Joy Luck Club” as well as so many other insightful books, once advised us to write what’s swimming in our head. The mind is never a complete blank, though the ability to transcribe the void can be difficult.

My mind is usually so crowded, it’s hard to separate the ridiculous from the sublime, which is why I occasionally walk into another room and wonder why I went there. I would feel bad about it, but my daughter says she does it too. There is too much information out there to remember it all. A friend excused the sensation by imagining a little man bustling about trying to organize a roomful of feral cats. Obviously it can’t be done, so why worry?

We entertained yesterday with a late lunch, and Charlie behaved himself grandly with friends who had known him from a tiny puppy. Only once did I hear someone say “Charlie, stop eating your bed”. Charlie, like many humans, seems to get energized when company arrives, and while some people are propelled into talking mode, Charlie, in an obvious effort to extend a welcome, drags out all the toys in the toybox to see if he can encourage someone to pay attention to him. It’s sad really.

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. The people who make them in hopes of improving themselves, usually don’t need much improvement. The monthly lunch with my high school girl friends, has gained a couple more ladies, who decided to join us when they heard about it. We used to meet every 6 weeks or so, but as we get closer to decrepitude, it seems wise to meet more often. One friend has moved into a retirement home, and another cannot drive the distance required. A third who until a year ago, drove to Reno often to see family, no longer drives the freeway. In our case, the resolution to come together more often is imperative.

We make the decision to stop driving at different ages and for different reasons. One friend and neighbor will be 95 in a few weeks and is still driving, though no longer on the freeway. The traffic has become horrendous at any time of day, and accidents and road rage intimidate the most intrepid drivers. I gave up driving this past year when I realized my AMD had progressed to the point of danger. Now, several months later, I have limited vision, finding certain things simply disappear. I can’t believe it, but it’s another interesting part of growing older, and more people than we know suffer from the condition. It’s somewhat like the roomful of feral cats, so why worry?

I am reminded of a cousin, who is 99 this year, had a relationship with a gentleman friend a few years ago. When they were both widowed, they decided to marry, and planned a wedding aboard the USS Hornet, a wartime aircraft carrier moored in Alameda, which had some meaning for them. The gentleman’s adult children however, disapproved of the marriage, casting a pall on the affair which ended shortly thereafter, due to the prospective bride and groom living in different cities, and unable to drive any longer. The ability to drive in their case was crucial. It was obviously before Uber.

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HIGH PERFORMING SENIORS


bathing ladies

These women with whom I spend time every month are tied together like knots in the rope mooring us to shared memories. We traveled in parallel lines in the long ago, touching base when necessary, but not really reaching the stage of complete truthfulness.

Knots“Knots” original watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Memory is a complicated thing. A relative of truth but not its twin. Ann Beattie says “People forget years and remember moments.” I’m sure that is true, because as we meet over lunch, moments of our pasts are revealed and relived by some but not all. “Where did we go for our Senior picnic, do you remember?” Several choices may be given, but who can be sure?

Our ballet dancer remembers marching a squad of ROTC boys straight into the railroad yard, whereas I, marching along beside her with another squad, have no recollection of it. Memory can be a squirrelly thing. Looking back I was clueless until the age of 50.

We are beginning to lose friends, but I’m at a time of my life when illness and death and grief aren’t the surprise visitors they once were. The casualties are increasing among the people I loved and even the people I didn’t love, but they still shock and unsettle you.

We had role models as young people, but none in old age. How do you learn how to be old? My friend says we are ‘high performing seniors’, and that seems good enough to me.

WHAT WILL I REMEMBER?


What will I remember when I get old; when now becomes then? Will it be something from the rarefied past, cleansed of impurities and less dense?

Once I had the self-assurance of the very young. Now I realize that everyone looks better in the rear view mirror, and no one is very different from anyone else. Sometimes an artist’s first invention is himself, and it usually needs a little alteration. I never doubted that my direction was the right one, and plowed right through a problem till it was solved. Now I sometimes spend time doubting if I know what I think I know. Or maybe it’s simply a failure of the imagination.

We go through many levels of becoming in a lifetime. It takes more than a village to mold a memory; we are creating new ones every day. I will choose to remember the good things; the things no one else knows. Small fleeting bright spots which flicker through my consciousness unbidden like the swelling of the ocean beneath your boat.

Mt. Rainier
Mt. Rainier, photo by Jerry Johnson

A small sailboat easing round a bend on a sunny morning, and seagulls crying at the beach. The thought of Mount Rainier rising majestically through the clouds above the rabble below, or Mount Shasta in the moonlight. Just glimpses. Quick flashes of memory tying me to a moment in time. I will remember the smell of wet clay or the warm smells of sugary desserts coming from my oven. We all have them, and they are like the warm yellow windows of home on a dark night.

The larger memories of precious family, present and past, and friends who graced me with their presence, I will think of often, and I will snuggle in my bed smiling in contentment thinking of my husband, and the luck which led him to my doorstep so long ago.

I will hide the dark things, the roadblocks which come to us all. We have survived. There is no need to relive them. Sometimes nature takes pity and leads us to a better place.

Albert Schweitzer’s quotation says it better than I could:
“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

50+ LIVE BETTER, LONGER


As the Mills Brothers said years ago “No one wants to be old at thirty-three”. But some people really Are old at that age. A friend asked me how we were handling the aging process, and I realized what a great question that was for ANY age you might be. No one wants to be considered OLD, but as the joke goes: think of the alternative.

In Nora Ephron’s best-selling book, “I Feel Bad About My Neck”, she laments about the sorry state of her 60-something neck. “Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth.” Well, it’s true I’m sorry to say. You can only get so much “stretch” out of skin, and unless you have a long neck, what’s the point? Face lifts are great and I know a lot people who have them. One doctor friend came to a function of ours, looked at another guest and stated “Face lift and nose job”. And he was right. Another friend approaching her second or third marriage had a lift so that she would knock the socks off the groom. Unfortunately it turned out badly, so she postponed the wedding until things calmed down.

We do spend a lot of time and money trying to reverse the signs of aging. We need to get over our stereotypes about growing older and the loss of our beauty. But it’s going, so do what you can and forget it. It’s even bad to refinish antique furniture because you greatly diminish its value.

The change of decades in our lives brings many different reactions. Long ago, a friend asked if he might spend the evening with us as it was his wife’s 30th birthday and she was feeling testy. I began asking people how these changes affected them. Several men seemed to feel anxious at forty, feeling they had not accomplished what they had hoped by that age. It’s different for everyone. Dr. Advice seems to take a great deal of pride in informing people that he will soon be 89. Women, while not exactly hiding their age, do not broadcast it so readily.

Don’t get bogged down in all the hype about aging. There’s nothing you can do; the clock is going to tick away.

Your life won’t stay the same, aging changes everyone. Our frame of reference changes. Our bodies change, and ill health sometimes puts us out of commission. A dose of healthy denial can improve your attitude. The people who do that aren’t thinking that much about getting older. They have accepted the changes and are aging gracefully.

If you live to be 95 years old you’re a survivor. You probably are not going to be living in a big house and driving your car to the grocery store and walking a mile for exercise. Life grows smaller, we get slower, and our steps get shorter. But if you know that ahead of time, it’s much easier to manage it.

But is it possible? Of course it’s possible. It may take a little more effort than you have become used to, but we all have to accept the challenge and learn the new “language”. You don’t REALLY want to be younger again no matter what your age. You simply want to fit in with whatever age group you are with.

One of the best parts of growing older is you have so much more to remember, but you need to keep making those memories all along. Keep learning new things; remember that people are learning from you. The GenFab (those in their 80’s) have no role models; they just have to keep making it up as they go along.

50th Anniv

COWS AND CROWS


Cows and crows are great judges of genius; you can take my word for it. I have sat under trees scribbling my nonsense, and in the middle of open fields attempting to place in paint the indescribable beauties of nature. Ever alert, the eyes of cows and/or crows have often sat in judgement.

cows

We all have a sense of personality; a lingering feeling about a person, though not specific. Often you remember that they were either good or bad, but can’t remember why. What sensory perception triggers memory? Is it sound, sight, smell, or perhaps the waft of a soft afternoon breeze. The afternoon breeze puts me comfortingly back into the bed of a much loved aunt while taking an after-lunch nap together. Do the cows and crows depend upon the same sense of perception?

crows 2

When entering my garden while Henry and his pals are testing out the birdbath, do they know my face? In walking past the open field, when several cows look up in unison from their eternal munching, is it the sound of my boots on the gravel, or the motion of my passing that attracts them? I find it endlessly fascinating to believe these creatures of Nature recognize and accept me for what I am, as I accept and appreciate their attention.

sanjulian

I often wonder if the thin veil between the animal world and us will ever be shorn. Meanwhile, we anthropomorphize our relationships with these amazing creatures, which pleases us no end.

Jan horse 3

Who can explain the thrill of discovery we feel when a small yellow horse in a corral containing several others, looks up at the sound of his name being called?

054
“My Beau” original watercolor painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

The thing about moments–once they are gone, they’re gone forever.

A THIRD HAND COUCH


SOFA

A THIRD HAND COUCH

What is in everyone’s living room?
Couch, sofa, divan or at least
Something to sit upon.

We had wedding rings and silverware
and a rented maroon something
which belonged to Aunt Helen.

Father talked old Harry Hal
out of a salvageable relic
just for the fun of the bargain.

Dirty, torn and uninviting
With stuffing reaching out of horsehair
Yet for 20 bucks it was his gift.

Second hand stores hold mysteries
Unbeknownst to most who
shy from pursuing a treasure.

Suddenly beside the wedding ring
and the silverware
We had a someday couch or sofa.

The antique relic meanwhile
fermented further in the dark
enclave of the in law garage.

The tack man came with bolts of
Green velvet and transformed
the orphan with magic. And reborn,

the foundling proudly lived again
in another living room where
it took pride of place.

One day, green velvet faded and
looking a bit shabby, it knocked on the door
of the wedding ring and silverware.

The tack man came again with bolts
of color for figureheads of polished wood.

Where is the next someone who has
Wedding rings and silverware but
nothing to sit upon?

IT WAS PROBABLY DOROTHY PARKER


image_0952

Look in all the usual places.
My ear is a purse into which I
placed all your stories.

Where is the name I
cannot remember today?
Faces crowd my brain and I
wonder if we are invisible.

Go through the alphabet and I
might find the path back to it.
Open for clues, how many times I
pretend to know the future.

Names crowd in and I
ponder; was it Keats or Shelley’
or Dorothy Parker whom I
swear liked the word woebegone?
*********************************
(Image by Audrey Mabee)