Saturday, February 9, 2019

LETTING SLEEPING DOGS LIE

If you're one of those short sighted uncaring people who are tired of reading about old guys talking about being an old guy, then you can unplug now and save yourself a ton of grief.  

OK, if you are still here I was wondering what is it about being an old guy (I know I should be saying 'person' but that seems so clunky.  I know there are old women - don't worry about it.) that sooner or later you think, "Wouldn't it be great to go looking for an old childhood pal you have not seen or heard from for fifty or sixty years"?

There is a clue built into the very thought of searching for an old pal and it is this: how often do old pals look you up?  Get it?

Anyway, I went looking for this guy who I was good friends with back in the fifties.  Are you with me now?  That's several wars ago. I actually found him on FaceBook in the search field and so I contacted him.  He was surprised and said he thought I was dead.  But he sounded excited to re-connect.  So I sent him a catchup email and he acknowledged it promptly saying he was glad to hear that I was still alive and  would soon send a note catching me up to his life for he past sixty years.  Nothing.  Not a peep.  It's been months.

At first I was disappointed but then I came to my senses - which is not always the case, in my case.  I thought: Well, it seems that he ended up at ivy type school so he must have been brainy and probably had so much in his life to report that he was still writing his catchup note to me.  The sad truth is that he's probably suffering from dementia.  It's pretty common among my contemporaries.  Probably doesn't even realize we exchanged emails.  Sad.  I'll send him a get well card.

I have this other high school friend who sends out notices of the passing (read death) of members of our HS class.  He and I reconnected through our shared experiences dealing with prostate cancer and the treatment thereof.  It seems that there is a greeting, growing in popularity among older men - "How's your prostate"? It's a clubby sort  of thing.  If you are not an old guy with an enlarged or cancerous prostate this won't mean much to you.

Here's the thing - why try to resurrect relationships that died of natural causes a lifetime ago when there are dozens of people in my own generation who are practically within walking distance?

The answer, of course, is curiosity.  Raw, unadorned curiosity.  Nothing wrong with it but consider the excessive time and energy it would take to fill in all the gaps between then and now when within arm's length are many who can share life as it is now with all the liver spots, stiff joints, wrinkles, flabby bellies and scary diagnoses.  I mean - how good can it get?



Sunday, January 20, 2019

I'M GONNA LIVE UNTIL I DIE

Every year at this time my bank sends out a form letter - I have long ago stopped expecting" any kind of personal communication from a bank - notifying me of the status of a very small IRA account I have had for a number of years.

By law, as you know, when you reach the age of 70 and  ½ years you must  begin taking what is called a minimum distribution from your IRA.  The wording of  this announcement is catchy, "Based on the IRS life expectancy table and your plan balance as of 12/31/18 your minimum distribution is $ - - - - "

Having a quick mind, as I am sure you all know, I did a little calculating dividing the amount of the IRA by the projected distribution and .came up with a number that was what the IRS figures is how long I will live.  Well, you know the IRS, they are precise.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I'll be 88 this year - the year of the IRS calculation about my life expectancy.  And according to the IRS I am scheduled to live 12.7 more years.  The last guy I knew who boasted that he was going to live until 100 died when he was in his late 80s.  If you've been paying attention, you know that's about where I am.
Well . . . . The bank is careful not to say something like, "Hey Jerry - you got 12.7 more years to go!  Ye Ha!"  But if you read between the lines, well, the handwriting is on the wall and that's enough about the wall.

Some years ago there was a popular song sung by Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and Frankie Laine and probably a few others and the last verse went like this:
Gonna dance, gonna fly,
I'll take a chance riding high,
Before my number's up,
I'm gonna fill my cup,
I'm gonna live, live, live, until I die!

. . . and so shall we all.











Wednesday, December 19, 2018

TIME CHANGES THINGS

And speaking of Christmas: It's just not my favorite time of year. I like the part where we can see friends and perhaps talk on the phone or Face Time with those who are far away - - - and therein lies the rub.

We are so scattered. To attempt long distance traveling during the Christmas season - well, it's just stupid. At best it's ill advised. Already the weather gods are posting dire predictions. I hope they are wrong.

Home for Christmas! It's almost as American as gerrymandering. I can remember when I was in school loading the kids on a mattress in the back of that old Ford and driving twelve hours to grandma's house. There is little to equal the restorative powers of a mother's embrace. When the distances reached 2000 plus miles the complications multiplied.

I don't think this is my private problem. I think it comes with age in an age where long distances separate the young, who are off where jobs are or spouses or dreams, from the old who tend no to be as mobil. When I was a kid the thirty odd miles to grandma's house was easy for twenty to thirty children, grandchildren and great grandchildren - all of whom lived that near - to gather up and open gifts, eat in shifts and enjoy the embraces and faces of the closest of kin. There were twelve living children in my father's immediate family during those years. The numbers don't lie.

These days it's all just history. One day they are there - the next they are gone. I think of them all throughout the year but during these days those thoughts come in tsunami like waves. I hold my breath until they pass and then go on.

Thing is, I wouldn't trade those memories for anything. Those days were among the richest of my long life. We all have those memories and many of you can still reach out and actually draw them to you in a loving embrace. Do that now. These days don't last.

Be well, dear friends, and stay tuned. MERRY CHRISTMAS

Sunday, December 16, 2018

COUNT ME AMONG THE DISABLED

First of all my disability is not visible.  If I were to walk into a room full of people it would be assumed that no special consideration should be given to me - and there is the problem.  Were I to be in a wheel chair, or on crutches, or tapping the floor with a white cane automatic responses would kick into play at once to accommodate my obvious disability.  

Second, though I know I am disabled I do not usually think like a disabled person.  This problem comes from both directions.  A blind person doesn't take a step without considering his or her disability.   I walk into a situation thinking I'll be able to function like a normal person - and now and then that's exactly what happens, but that's rare.  I believe most people with a hearing disability go through their days hoping for the best, taking their chances and swallowing the truth that they are not getting 100% of what is being said.   

Some time ago at a gathering of good friends I became aware that all I was understanding were the thoughts inside my head.  I saw a friend sitting over on the side of the room and I wandered over and sat down beside him and leaned over and said to him, "I'm not understanding a damned thing".  He said, "Neither am I".

I often think about this when I am in noisy situations.  Who else is here that feels somewhat left out of the current of current events?  Who else is here who needs to have a hearing check-up?  Then I go into my merry go round of thought that ends up with the question, "Why isn't hearing loss considered a medical problem and treated as a part of any medical examination instead of a second tier lifestyle issue which is where uber expensive hearing aids enter the picture - which is why many people do not bother with seeking help?".  Fortunately over the counter hearing instruments are now coming on the market that make help more accessible for mild to moderate hearing loss.

I was seeing audiologists for years and their solution for any issues I was having was a new set of very expensive hearing aids.  I became desperate and asked my primary physician to refer me to an otolaryngologist - an ear nose and throat specialist.  I had never had my hearing evaluated by a medical doctor.  It was determined that my left ear was far beyond qualifying for a cochlear implant (CI).  He told me that such a procedure would vastly improve my hearing and understanding.  He referred me to Tufts Medical Center in Boston and the rest is history.

Not everyone who is hearing disabled needs a CI.  The thing is, if hearing loss is treated earlier enough its progress can be monitored while quality of life is maintained.  A hearing aid may be all that one may need.  Get your hearing tested just as you would have your blood sugar tested, or your prostate specific antigens or your cholesterol.  Make it part of your medical profile.  The sooner the better.







Thursday, September 6, 2018

"TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT ONE MORE TIME" - Eagles

"What we learn from history is that we don't learn from history."  Then there is this:

Some time ago, several couples, all ofd friends, sat around a table laden with good food and drink when the realization settled in on everyone that we were all enjoying our second and even third primary relationship.

Smiles greeted everyone - knowing smiles that represented lifetimes filled with persistence, not giving up, optimistically carrying on.  The conversation didn't linger on the number of divorces that were represented around the table but rather on how many times we tried.  These were not "twenty somethngs" still trying to figure out how to say "hello".  These were veterans.  Decorated heroes who have made peace with imperfection, who have looked into the mirror and not turned away  -  knowing that there is only one truly perfect thing in life - a well made martini, stirred not shaken - by the way.

People are not perfect therefore relationships are not perfect.  Hopefully, we who keep voting for relationship will learn from our histories.  It's a convenient hope that such is the case.  With age comes the problems of aging but also that particularly liberating truth that companionship had been devastatingly underestimated in our early lives.

Appearance, that most fragile of human qualities, doesn't hang around long enough to be the glue that holds us together.  Billions are spent in the effort to make it last.  Sex, that hormone driven behavior, which in humans is not bounded by estrus or limited much by morality, must come face to face with the irrepressible forces of aging.   I have known old men who claimed to be as randy as ever and ready for a hot sheet session at the drop of their drawers.  Oddly, they always seemed to be alone - at the moment.  Probably means nothing.  What I'm saying is that no one gets to that proverbial "ripe" old age without becoming - well, a bit ripe.  But isn't that the exact moment when the fruit is most delicious - when love is most profound - when being with someone gives exquisite meaning to your life?

I'm an old man in love with an old woman.  I don't think it gets any better.


Saturday, July 21, 2018

... AND THERE WAS LAUGHTER

There is no accounting for the power
of freshly minted love - it's forever

We wrote our names on a laughing rock
chosen from that rocky beach that
applauded with each receding wave

We looked at each other and in that look
knew that the Universe did that just for us

That little beach with its raucous applause
was just for us and no other - our love so pure
With indelible ink we wrote our love on
a chosen rock to remind us - to remind us

We believed what we wanted to believe
You can't blame us for that

Monday, June 4, 2018

NOISE

NOISE

I turned the volume down
to take the edge off the noise
The world is becoming louder
What is that you say
Lately I wait to install my hearing aids
cherishing the silence of morning
A high keening tinnitus is all I can hear
as though a mourner is miles away in pain
I adore the sound of wind the
happy chorus of spring peepers
and late summer cricket song
But not the emptiness of constant talk
And not noise for the sake of noise
And those places that thrive on cacophony
as though some good would come of it
as though loud was the new American dream