A Rainy Day Analogy

Northern CA. has been getting pounded with weather this past month, and if the truth be told, I’m one of those crazy individuals who actually likes the rain. I find it cleansing and sometimes a signal to slow down with the day-to-day busyness of life and curl up with a good book.

Slowing down and napping on a sunshiny day just doesn’t seem right. One time I actually told my Pastor that I couldn’t understand how people could in fact die on a sunlit day – that death seemed more appropriate for rainy, cloudy days – and that life and living seemed more suitable for sunny days. Needless to say, my Pastor was a little flummoxed with our conversation that day. She awkwardly changed positions on our couch many times, while she tried to explain to me just why I may not have a choice in the matter.

I respectfully listened and acknowledged her reasoning, but it’s been 8 years since we had that little chat, and I still think it’s unnatural to die on a cloud-less day. Just seems like an oxymoron of sorts to me, but what do I know? The Princess and I are moving to the state of Washington, soon.

I don’t think I’ll have that problem any more.

That’s what all my well-meaning friends and relatives keep telling us: We’re headed to the land of constant rain slickers and duck boots, and sunglasses are a thing of the past; or so we’ve been warned. Guess it’ll make my impending twilight years and eventual death easier to deal with, eh?

At least my rainy-day analogy says so.

And it’s not death that has me so concerned these days, as much as the concept of growing old while trying to maintain my dignity and independence.

As I write this, I’m struggling with the fact that my mom and loved ones are three thousand miles away from me trying hard to maintain some semblance of independence; some modicum of respect and autonomy. Each of them fighting hard not to be an imposition on their friends or relatives, and each of them realizing that Father Time is playing havoc with their bodies.

In 1983, in response to her 55-year-old mother’s need for extended care after she suffered a devastating stroke, Keren Brown Wilson built her first assisted living house in the state of Oregon. What she and her husband envisioned when they built Park Place was an assisted living center that provided assistance, while at the same time giving the residents a sense of independence and privacy. She wanted the elderly to feel the sense of being home and not imprisoned or institutionalized, and by many accounts she succeeded.

The problem, as I see it, resulted when she wanted to reach more elderly and went to Wall Street for capital to build more places. Her company went public and their original concept of assisted living got watered-down. She went to Congress and spoke across the country trying to enlist the help necessary to sustain her original ideology, but was hit head-on with the medical and legal road-blocks of the ever-elusive concept of the “continuum of care” ideology.

And sadly, the idea of assisted living, as she defined it, all but died.

As I sit here today in the heart of Silicon Valley and think about how advanced we are in so many areas of society, I can’t help but see the paradox: is our technological evolution creating a people bereft of compassion and humanness, and do we need to seriously re-examine what is important to us as a civilization?

I don’t know about you, but when it’s time for me to hang up my saddle before I ride in my last rodeo, I want to know that I’m going to be assisted by people who care about me. I need to know that I’m not just a chore. It’s important that I am seen for who I am: a loving, kind woman who gave to her family and society and now requires a little assistance in return.

Dr. Wilson continues to advocate for hard-to-serve elders both in the United States and in Central America. I pray that her efforts are soon legitimized and honored by those in power. We seriously need to change our view on aging and what it means to “grow old”.

Until next time, be kind to one another, and I’ll catch you the next go-round, looking at life from my shoes.

 

 

 

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People Wanna Know if I Write Fiction

Now that I’m retired, people want to know what I do with all of my spare time. Many are pleasantly surprised that I don’t have a problem filling up my day with meaningful activities.

Between breaks with some heavy-duty storms that Northern CA was pounded with last week, I was bent over on my arthritic knees; looking head first, into a 4-foot hole, with my arse saluting my unsuspecting neighbors. I was trying to figure out why our back-yard sump pump wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do – sump water away from our home and into the streets.  I had difficulty assessing the situation because of all the standing water in the hole and decided to try using a portable pump to help me.

Un-hun.

I got my garden hoses attached to the pump and lowered it into the hole, when it started to rain.

Again, I was bent over with my larger – than – life buttocks shooting straight up into the air, when I suddenly felt water trickling down my hiney.

“No biggey,” I thought to myself. “My socks are totally wet and I need to change them anyways. Not a problem in changing a wet pair of undies, right?”

So, into the house I traipsed, grabbed a new pair of drawers, changed my underwear and socks, and headed for the loo before leaving to my exercise class. I opened the bathroom door, and Molly – the cat that I have the door closed for because she likes to piddle on bathroom rugs –  sashayed pass me.

“Cazzo (Ot-so!),” I said out loud, as I slid into the cat pee.

“I must have accidentally locked her in there when I left this morning for my walk,” I said to myself, while shaking my head in disgust.

“Shoot!”

All right, this was also no big deal. I have many pairs of socks. I changed into pair number 3 and out the door I headed for my morning A.P.E. class at the Senior Center.

Yep.

My Subaru decided that it did not want to start.

Dead battery.

O.K.

No big deal. I had a camper van that wasn’t used in a dog’s age and needed to be run. It was sitting under an ash tree for the past umpteen storms and unbeknownst to me had accumulated all kinds of goodies on the cowl of my van’s hood.

As I began to drive to class, it started misting, and I unwittingly turned on my wipers. Suddenly, my windshield – that was kissed ever so lightly by the morning’s mist – was now an impenetrable lens of mud and muck.

As I drove down Virginia Avenue, blind as a bat, I looked up to the heavens and shouted, “Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Ya wanna give me a break today?” As if on cue, the heavens promptly opened up and it began pouring – really pouring –  enough so that it cleaned the gunk off of my windshield.

Yep.

The Big Guy came through for me once again.

I got to the Center, pulled into the parking lot, made an abrupt stop and got slapped in the back of my neck with water that apparently had accumulated under the canvas of my pop-up roof.

At that point, I looked up to the skies, told God that he had a great sense of humor, but that he needed to find another muse for his merriment.

And People want to know if I write fiction?

No, People, this is my boring, retired life. Who needs fiction when you’re living life in my shoes?

Stay well, and I’ll catch ya next adventure.

Too Many Runs Down a Snow-Covered Hill

My mother taught me to play fair, be honest, treat people the way you want to be treated and say please and thank you. She forgot to teach me life is sometimes unfair, individuals can be dishonest, people will crap on you, and don’t expect a please and thank you from others.

As an undergraduate of a small, all-woman’s, upstate NY college called, Russell Sage College, I remember my dorm buddies telling me, “Lucie, you need to close and lock your door when you’re out of your room and tooling around. You’re gonna get ripped off some day and someone is going to steal your TV or stereo system. Lock your door, ya damn fool. This ain’t the country, Girl!”

Uh-hun.

I never did understand how someone could take something that didn’t belong to them and claim it as their own. Never made sense to me. I worked for it. I earned it with my hard-earned money. My logic said that if you wanted a portable TV or a stereo system; go out and get a job and earn it.

I was clueless.

Still am to some degree.

I was an education major in my undergraduate days. My friends were at Sage for nursing and physical therapy, so we didn’t see much of each other in our classes throughout the day. Evening meals were special because we’d gather in the cafeteria and swap sundry stories about our eventful days and express our various displeasure with the over-demanding instructors and talk about everything and anything important to young women of our time.

We studied hard, laughed often and shared our hopes and dreams of a promising future. On those rare occasions we got a snow storm and the urge to get silly in the snow, my friends would devise a plan to steal the food trays from the cafeteria to use for sleds. And off we’d go with our contraband and head for the snow-covered hills surrounding the school’s historic brownstone buildings for an evening of sledding and snow-angels.

Being the hell-raiser and prankster that I was, of course I was involved in the whole sordid scenario and was racked with guilt because we were doing something dishonest; something totally against what momma taught me.

“Relax,” Jonesy said, “and walk through the line real casual-like. I’ll put a tray down the back-side of your sweats and nobody will notice. I’ll walk real close to you. Just make sure you don’t walk funny, for Pete’s sake, or we’re all gonna end up in front of J-Board and put on probation.”

Yep.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized my special walk stayed with me well into my high-heeled, corporate days at San Francisco’s Bank of America. Nader, one of my co-workers and buddies, teasingly commented one day, “Benedetti, you need to learn to sashay like the other girls. You walk like you’ve got something stuck up your butt!”

And just in case I didn’t get what he was trying to tell me, he proceeded to imitate what I looked like when I walked; and what Sylvia, the office flirt, looked like when she walked.

Sylvia never walked around with a food tray in her pants.  I, however, was a master. Apparently, I was so proficient in the skill that it came second nature to me.

Served me right. I should have never taken that food tray. It was dishonest, and it was wrong. And I ended up with a funny walk that stayed with me well after my corporate days.

I did have a hell-u-va good time sledding that night, though. Laughed and had a blast until the tray cracked with one too many runs down the snow-covered hill.

We never did get caught stealing the trays that winter. Or at least the cafeteria lady never ratted on us. I always felt she knew what we were doing, but saw no harm in it, ‘cuz more often than not, we returned them, slightly battered and used, but still good for their original purpose.

I’m 61 years old and still can’t sashay like the other girls.  And on those occasions when I’m at a salad bar and spot a food tray, I find myself smiling with fond memories of a time when I remember how important it was to be honest and fair and treat people kindly and courteously.

As we go forward into the next four years of this country’s new administration, may we all be honest, kind, courteous and fair.

And lovingly remind those among us who aren’t, they need to be…

In the meantime, I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.