Archives for the month of: August, 2015

This all started when I saw a news story on a senior center where the residents were playing Pickleball and I thought it looked like fun. Where have I been? There are Pickleball courts all over town that I knew nothing about. One of the most popular is less than a mile away, so I went down to watch. Wow! It’s in a senior center that uses a church area and gym and offers a wealth of programming for old folks (defined as 50 & over).

OK. I know I’m a senior, hopefully, a young seeming senior. This place was inspiring, positively inspiring. First, I joined at the crazy low price of $25 a year. A year! I started walking because they have an indoor track that circles over the gym floor, allowing me to watch all the various activities. And, then I took Pickleball lessons from the dynamite 81 year old instructor, who was obviously a gym teacher in her previous life. I also learned she had been a nun, so double whammy of discipline there.

In this place, I’m kind of in the middle of the age groups, so I fit right in. Nobody hesitates to welcome you or visit with you, so I jumped into Pickleball, where I’m also in the middle of the skill ranges at this point. Pickleball is a cross between tennis, badminton and ping pong, played with a paddle and a whiffle ball on a short court. I always feel like I’m on a giant ping pong table due to the sound of hitting the ball.

Don’t let the fact that I’ve been playing with 70 and 80 year olds make you think that these people can’t play. Good grief! One of the first people I talked to was a woman who retired last year after working 54 years for the same company. 54 Years! Unheard of for today’s workers. She retired because she had a stroke, but she’s recovered except for a little memory loss. I’d say she has also had knee problems from the way she moves. Anyway, she told me she also plays on the women’s basketball team in the 75-80 bracket and then she spotted a woman she said is on her bowling team. I will say she doesn’t always move fast on the Pickleball court, but she can sure hit the ball hard.

I played with a gentleman who I estimate to be 83 (my firm wild guess). He slowly walks onto the court and then, WHAM! I couldn’t believe this guy. He doesn’t move fast to the ball, but he hits hard with strategic shots. Several of the other women, good players I have played, with have asked him to go soft for us. Very deceptive, these old people. The line to play is always long, so they play fair with everyone changing partners every game and nobody is too obnoxiously competitive so far. Of course, I don’t play on the Advanced play days, so they may change in those games. This lady told me she’s been playing a  year and she’s good. I think she’s finally accepted me as a player and won’t wince when we end up together. She also told me she sometimes lets shots go by because she doesn’t feel like running for them. My kind of player.

IMG_7773At the end of a game, the players meet at the net to touch paddles and tell each other what a good game it was. Very fun. You’ll note the knee brace on one player. I watched a game stop for a minute last week when a lady’s pacemaker came undone. She hooked it up and kept playing. She’s another very good player.IMG_7781From my walking vantage point, I watch some of the other activities, such as Tai Chi, a great activity for balance and strength. There is also Zumba Gold, a low impact dance exercise class. Watching these ladies, listening to the variety of music to which they were moving, I realized that these ladies were always dancers. They did ballroom, swing, cha cha and rhumba, Western line dances, and rock & roll. These ladies did the Twist when they were young and now they’re moving to those same tunes. They cooled down to Frank Sinatra after some faster numbers and I thought of how many dances they had been to in their lifetimes and how many of them were probably dancing without their life long partners these days since the women do tend to outlive the men, no matter what we’d like to think. The memories moving to this music must bring to mind…IMG_7725Another day, I walked my two miles very quickly, watching a Functional Movement class that made me tired to think about. These ladies were bending and pulling in ways that I’m not sure I could do or even want to try, although I should. In this one, they walked with a partner who pulled on the giant rubber band to give them resistance. That’s not so bad, but the floor exercises…IMG_7782Today, I walked while the basketball teams warmed up, watching gray and white haired ladies make basket after basket as they practiced their drills. I don’t know if they played a game or not, but the drills were fun to watch. They all arrived with their own basketballs, which is so amazing to me, although I have my own Pickleball paddle now.IMG_7813These aren’t the only ones moving or active around the place. There is a small gym with exercise equipment, Yoga, and seated exercise and seated Yoga classes which are always full, plus activities for the mind. There is Bridge, Mah Jongg, Skip-Bo, Canasta, a knitting group and a painting group. One of my friends goes to a group called Stories, where people meet to share memories and stories. Some of them bring things to read, others tell stories, some share things they have written. One lady in her 90s reads poetry she writes. There are several 90+ year olds in this group with a great collection of memories to share. And, of course, there are Pot Luck lunch on Fridays.

I find this group so inspiring to watch and be a minor part of, especially since these are my peeps after all. It’s also a nice contrast to the days when I work on the university campus and feel every bit my age watching the students pass me by. I have a lot of things going on in my life, so I’m just walking and playing Pickleball, unlike some of them who are there every day for many things. Mostly, I love seeing that they laugh and share and think and remember and play and, most of all, move! We all need to move, no matter what our age. And, I like movin’ with these nice people. I’ll let you know if I get good enough for the Advanced group in Pickleball. I’m not sure I’m old enough!

As I sit here procrastinating, waiting for my vacuum cleaner to be fixed, I’m thinking about the log cabin I visited last week. It was set up with some of the furnishings of the time, a real reality check for me in this high tech 21st century. First, there was the home itself, actually larger than some of the Tiny Homes that are all the rage these days. Unfortunately, I can’t see myself in a tiny home for more than a few days before I would miss everything or anything. Anyway, the log cabin had three rooms, making it a pretty good sized place.

My first impression was this window with its little bit of curtain, a sign that a woman (I’m speculating on that, but pretty sure, so I’m not being sexist) had been there trying to make the place a little bit more homey. It touched me and I pictured her sitting at the table with her washbasin looking outside, probably at all the work there was to be done out there. IMG_7688Stepping through the front door, I was confronted with dirt floors and all that implies. I know they got packed down, but there was still dirt. Did they track dirt into their beds at night? For the women who moved from nicer places back east, this must have been an OCD challenge of the highest order, trying to keep the dirt out of everything. In the corner, was this tool that I think was to push the dirt or pack the dirt. With the crack under the wall, I guess you just pushed it outside. Please get my vacuum cleaner fixed soon! Next to is it an ice box for which you’d have to have ice stored from the winter. Maybe they stored other things in there, too. IMG_7700The fireplace is in the center of the room, a big fireplace that probably acted as the heater for the house. Pots and pans were stored inside it with other utensils on the mantel. The dining table was in front of it. Cleaning those pots must have been fun! IMG_7698On one side of the fireplace was the bathtub, which was another challenge. First, you have to get water and heat it and take turns unless you want the whole family there with you. We think we’ve got it bad when kids are knocking on our bathroom door, interrupting our private moments! How do you dump the water at the end? The tub full of water looks like it would be heavy to me.IMG_7697

On the other side of the fireplace was a display of laundry equipment (well, I use equipment loosely). The tub and washboard are well known, but think about using them. My grandmother had one of those along with a wringer washer. We’re not that far removed from all this when you think about it. Praise to my washer and dryer! Note the short clothesline by the fireplace. They didn’t have many clothes. The rug beater on the wall is a prop since there are no rugs in this dirt floor house, but I remember those. Put the rug on a line and beat the dirt out of it. It worked, but you had dirt flying. I wish they’d call for me to pick up my vacuum cleaner! Don’t know about the ironing board here, especially since there was no iron displayed, but it’s another thing to think about. Having one of those heavy irons sitting on the stove to pick up with a cloth and iron the clothes doesn’t seem like fun. At least steam irons are easier if you like to do ironing, which I do if I’m in the mood and don’t have a stack of it like the old days. These days, I tend towards knits.IMG_7695

The Master Bedroom (fancy term) was large for the times. There was one large bed with a chamber pot, which reminded me of the times I stayed with my grandmother who still used one of those. It horrified me as a child, but she didn’t like to walk down the hall at night to the bathroom because she rented out rooms in her house to pensioners (retired men), but that’s another story. There was no outhouse in this little display, but I’m sure they either had one or walked to the woods somewhere. Thanks for indoor plumbing all around! You would think the people had bad backs from the kind of work they did, but those mattresses weren’t made for helping with that. They were grateful to be off the floor, while I’m grateful for soft sheets. Can you imagine what they’d think of Sleep Number beds? And, again, I have to think about tracking that dirt into the bed. I didn’t think I was such a clean freak.IMG_7692At the front of this bedroom was the dressing table beside the curtained window. This still touches me…as do the hooks with the clothes. As I walk (I said walk) into my nice closet filled with choices, I need to remind myself what it would be like to have one or two dresses to wear until they wore out. Most of the lady’s belongings were probably stored in the chest at the foot of the bed. I have my grandmother’s cedar chest, which was probably filled with everything she had at one time. I also have a little trunk that was my great-grandmother’s and probably held her belongings at the time it was new. And I’m sitting here in shorts and a t-shirt and running (well, walking) shoes. Could these people even imagine?IMG_7693The other bedroom had two beds and little else. As I said, this was actually a pretty good sized house with its three rooms. I’m still getting past the dirt floors and the reality of what that meant. When it rained, there had to be mud added to this picture. My my.

Outside, there was a crudely made rocker, the only relaxing place I saw to sit, with a churn beside it. At the side of the house was a large outdoor oven with a big pot. Did they use that for big meals, laundry, or everything I can think of? The dinner bell was the only form of communicating with each other as they worked and played.IMG_7703These were strong people, working from dawn to dusk, taking care of the house, the garden, the livestock and each other. I hope I carry these images with me through my day to remind me of where my people came from to bring me to my life today. This wasn’t my family’s cabin, but I know I have ancestors who lived like this or with even less. Somehow, they raised children who went on to better and better lives until we reached the present generations. This log cabin life is still possible if you want to go back to simpler times, as some people do. I like the simplicity of it, except for the dirt floors and that bathtub and…  Actually, I’m awestruck with how far technology has advanced us in such a short time and I appreciate it. Even more, I appreciate the past and what it can teach us today. I appreciate that woman putting up her curtain and sitting at her dressing table, dreaming dreams. Here’s a tip of the broom to her and people like her in all our generations past!

My oldest grandchild left for college yesterday. Another milestone for the family, for this cute guy. It’s not like he’s going that far away and I’ll even see him next week since I work on campus part-time, but it’s still a milestone. For me, the grandmother, the emotions run across many decades.

Watching him packing, I saw his mother and father helping him with everything from checking the car to doing his laundry. It’s amazing how much he’s taken for granted and I know this because I was the same way when I left. I’d never really been away from home other than to stay with relatives, so college was a cultural and environmental shock. I graduated with 650 students and my new roommate was from a class of 6. Wow!

My grandson went to visit the campus a couple of weeks ago just to walk around and see where his classes were so he didn’t have to stumble around the first week. I bet he still does some of that because Freshmen tend to stand out, no matter how sophisticated they think they are. Everything is new and your parents aren’t there to ask for help. Of course, now the kids all have cell phones where we had to get change and wait for the pay phone and make a long distance call, which was through the operator in those long gone days. It doesn’t really matter what the differences are in technology because the emotions are all the same.

This grandson is the oldest of the three boys who were born before my husband died, all born in an 8 month period before and during the time he was battling cancer. This oldest one had his first birthday exactly one week before his grandfather died. And here we are at our next chapter. My mind spins with memories of my own college days, his mother’s, and now the new images of him leaving. And then my mind takes many turns as it goes through memories of his mother as a child and this one’s birth and all the years in-between. Is it a wonder we get emotional with all of those images flying around?

My eyes get teary from happiness for him mixed with the ever-present concern based on the years of knowledge of all the things that can go wrong. I expect his parents will experience what we did, going from waiting up for him to come home to wondering where he is and what he’s doing in a new, wilder environment where we aren’t minutes away. What I can tell them is that parenting never stops, never ever. I still worry about them and feel a rush of relief when they are all home, safe and sound. It’s an uncontrollable component of parenting for me. I know there are people who let go and that’s fine, but I don’t seem to be able to do it. My kids are grown, accomplished, wonderful adults and I love and trust them, but they’re always going to be my kids. I’m a sentimental idiot about them. Nothing they do is too mundane for me to enjoy hearing about, good or bad. But, my mind wonders again.

That’s the problem with this college thing. It’s releasing all the old emotions and memories again, giving them new places to roam. Next year, my next two grandsons leave for college, so this is just the beginning of letting these kids go ahead and live their grown up lives. I have two grandsons in tenth grade this year and a grandson and granddaughter in 8th grade. I’ll be going to graduations and seeing them off to college a lot in the next few years. And then, there’s the one who’s heading into kindergarten. Will I be here to see her off to college and launching her new life?

The average person now starts having kids in their late twenties or thirties. I’ve commented many times about the danger of edging out grandparents along the way. My own grandparents were such an important part of my life that it makes me sad to think of generations of kids without grandparent. I hope I’ve been an important part of my grandchildren’s experiences and memories and I hope their parents can do the same for them. It’s one of the greatest gifts you get in life.

I’m imagining my grandson waking up in his room in the fraternity house with a new roommate from Texas, probably getting up late after staying up all night talking and getting to know each other and the other guys or finding his high school friends on other parts of the campus. It’s a heady time in life with all your dreams ahead of you and all the realities right in front of you. It’s a giant step. Working with college kids, I envy them the experience but not all the challenges that lie ahead as they study for exams, look for jobs, build relationships. 11899866_10207157287068278_5262443680856584506_n - Version 2

This will be an interesting week and I can’t wait to hear from my grandson. I’m proud of him and all my family and I’m so very grateful to be here to watch all of them in these next steps, step by step really, through life. 

 

As I very rapidly approach 70 in the next few months, I can’t help but be aware that this age seems really really old to most of the world. What kicks me about it is the fact that you can’t ignore you have more years behind you than ahead of you. But that’s been true for a long time, so this is awareness that I have even less time today than I did yesterday. There are things that scare me to varying degrees as I approach yet another milestone, so I’ve narrowed it down to five. These are kind of in order and I know they’re pretty universal from conversations I have with friends.

5. Fear of the earth not lasting. This is a new one but I sometimes wonder if any of us will survive as our planet goes through its own aging process, exacerbated by our own mishandling of our natural resources. Will the west coast fall off into the sea, will a giant split drop middle America into the earth, will global warming burn us all up, will the toxic pit in Butte, Montana, pollute the waters of the west? This one goes on and on and there’s not much I can do. My fear here is more for future generations because I’ve been able to enjoy earth’s beauty in my lifetime. I guess dying in some kind of global shift won’t be any worse at my age than dying in a hospital bed. I’d probably be smarter to be afraid of being shot since that seems to be just as likely in our country these days.

4. Fear of outliving my money. I’m ok, thanks to Social Security, investments and a part time job. I own my home and am relatively healthy, so how long will what I have last and will I still have some to leave to my kids? I have Medicare and supplemental insurance to help with health costs. But still, how much is enough? You can read all the charts and listen to the experts and you’re still not sure.

3. Fear of either my mind going before my body or my body going before my mind. Nobody wants either of these and it’s not a random thing to wonder about. Even if you exercise your body and your mind, you’re still wearing out. Which part will go first – or next? I find myself walking much more carefully to avoid injuries to bones and parts that many of my friends are having replaced. We’re a generation of bionic elderlies, thanks to modern medicine. Our minds are full, overflowing, with information, so full it takes longer to access those mental files. The wear and tear on our bodies is inevitable. We work with what we’ve got.

2. Fear of not getting everything done. Sigh. There are so so very many things I want to do. Places to go, people to see, books to read, things to organize for my children. Some days I seem to be on frenzy trying to finish all that I’ve planned. As long as I can still go and do and move, I can work on this, but the list is endless. So many beautiful places to visit, so many people I want to see. The Bucket List only seems to get longer. And my checklists are never-ending. Moving along…

1. Fear of losing those I love. I’ve lost my parents, my husband and my son. I’ve lost other family and friends. I can’t control this, but I don’t want to lose any more. I’m pretty stoic about it most of the time, but there are times this becomes the most palpable fear I have. I don’t want to lose any more family or close friends. That’s it. Damn it! And I know this is unrealistic, but it’s there for me to worry about.

Whew! OK, I got those out there in public for all to see. That always makes it easier, especially since I know that others share these same concerns and we can even laugh about it when we’re together. When we’re alone, these thoughts creep in. My cure for the worries to remember how much time I’ve had, how many wonderful memories of places I’ve been and people I’ve known and loved. Most of these worries are because my life is good and I want it to continue. I’m grateful that I have a past worth remembering. I’m grateful for every day I have with my family and friends on this beautiful planet. That’s not a worry. That’s something to smile about.DSC_0639

When you have good health, you take so many things for granted. Last week I aggravated the arthritis that I have been told is showing up in my thumb, affecting my ability to grip or squeeze. I can feel it sometimes, but never like this when I spent a morning assembling a park bench and used my twisting and squeezing actions a little too much. I was fine until bedtime when pain started shooting through my thumb down to my wrist. In the morning, I was told to use a prescription gel and get a thumb splint and it should get better. With the help of those things and Advil for the inflammation, it has improved. Thankfully.

IMG_7644The impact of this inconvenience was the recognition of how much I use my left hand (I’m right handed) for everything, including getting dressed, picking up things, everything. I’m a two-handed person. While I struggled through the constant shooting pain the first day, all I could think of was the people I know who live with this all the time. A dear friend had a stroke years ago which left her with one weak side. I’ve helped her with the minor things we take for granted, such as pulling up your pants or putting on a shirt, especially one with buttons, putting in earrings, doing your hair. Even fastening the seatbelt in the car was difficult for me. My two days of inconvenience was nothing really.

My mind wondered on to a young woman I know who has only had one arm since birth and how she can diaper a baby or put her hair in a ponytail without thinking. She’s adapted. The only other injury I’ve ever had was breaking a chip off my elbow and having my arm in a sling. They probably treat that differently now, because I still notice that my arm won’t straighten all the way from keeping it immobile for so long. Nothing like having your arm blown off in battle or losing it in a car wreck. Nothing.

My biggest problem with my minor injury was the pain at first, which made me think of the people who live with severe pain all the time. I have friends with severe back pain, migraines, debilitating pain that stops them in their tracks. My son worked while suffering pain in his jaw from radiation treatment for cancer. I still don’t know how he managed.

I could go on, but my main takeaway was to remember that I need to put myself in others’ shoes every once in awhile, walk their path just a little bit so I don’t turn away from their genuine needs. Even though we adapt as best we can to the changes life throws us, it’s still nice to have someone offer a helping hand, let them lean on us for a bit. At the very least, we applaud them again and again for their perseverance and strength.

Caretakers should try not using a limb or not seeing so well or some exercise that puts them in the other’s shoes. We can’t imagine the pain, but we can be more compassionate. I’m looking on my weekend of inconvenience as a sampling of what others live with and a reminder to never take what I have for granted. I’m watching with kinder eyes this week. I hope I never forget.