TOO OLD TO COUNT

When I heard the announcer say there was going to be a trial of a new way of lowering blood pressure without pharmaceutical intervention, I listened more carefully.  My numbers are not terribly high, but enough that a doctor has prescribed pills to keep my pressure low and I would like to cease ingesting the drug.

So I was interested in participating in this trial of altering sleep habits to lower blood pressure.  My enthusiasm waned when the announcer stated the top age limit for the trial was sixty-five.  This was not the first time I heard that magic number as the upper age for joining in a study.

I am well over that cutoff point as I approach my seventy-fourth birthday this summer.  I don’t like to think of myself as old, but examples like the one I am mentioning remind me that the medical community views the numbers differently.  Are people over sixty-five not worth studying?  Don’t our experiences count?

Apparently not and I must resign myself to the baggage of older age, like not being significant in medical trials of experimental new therapies.  As our population ages, it would seem to be useful to examine the effects of new drugs or behaviors meant to extend our lives or at least improve the quality of the years we have left.

Maybe I am just growing into a grouchy old lady looking for something to complain about.  But I view my concerns as legitimate and worth examining.  Maybe, someday I will learn about a study including the elder edge of the population or perhaps that will happen when it is too late to benefit from the results of the study.

At sixty-five most people are still working and not considered(at least by me) to be old.  Why not widen the spread of ages participating in new theories of ways of dealing with the infirmities of growing older and open the gates to those of us still young enough to want to extend and improve the quality of our lives?  Is anybody listening?

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CURLY GRAY

The title is the state of my hair these days.  Without professional attention, my brown locks morph into gray squiggles, and I struggle with the decision whether to fool with mother nature or let time and truth take their toll.

I have spent much of my life letting hairdressers yank the curl out of my hair with their magic straightening potions so I could look presentable-at least to myself.  Curls would run amok all over my head in no particular pattern and look like an unmade bed or unironed clothes.  I was never satisfied looking unkempt and yearned for the orderly heads of hair that my friends with straight strands possessed.

Mr. James was a big part of my existence when I was a teenager and I drove to his inconvenient salon  to have the maestro make music out of discordant curly notes.  I wished and dreamed that I had been born with straight hair, but without success or luck in changing my sartorial fate.  I was a curly headed girl, then woman and my grandmother even gave me the gift of weekly appointments at a salon in New York City where I attended college.  It was that important to me to look “good.”

Now, my displeasure is magnified as the gray color has begun to work its way through the curly strands.  Do I get it colored or go natural?  If I didn’t like brown curls, how can I accept gray ones?  I am in the process of finding out.

With my unwelcome newfound difficulty driving, I blame my indecision on the my inability to locate the place where the transformation could occur.  I even practiced driving to the salon to see if I could find it.  I think I did, but not am convinced that I won’t locate a parking place.  Any diversion to draw attention away from the true dilemma of whether to go natural as I age or revert to my transformative ways.

I struggled with a round brush and blow dryer this morning to create some semblance of order with my hair, but it’s not as good as when the pros make the curls straight with Keratin.

As for turning gray, I am not certain when my parents crossed this ageing threshold as my Mom had beautiful dyed blond hair and my Dad had hardly any hair.  I admire and even envy women who gray gracefully and without apology.  But I wonder if I can be one of them.

Only time will tell, and on different days I come to different conclusions.  Laziness may win out as it is easier to stay home and let the locks go natural than to make an appointment , drive to the place and sit for several hours and pay a hefty price to be transformed.

 

 

CITY OF DAUGHTERLY LOVE

I was scheduled to take the train to Philadelphia On Saturday morning.  But when I told my daughter, who lives there, of the unfavorable biopsy results the Friday morning before, she offered to drive down to pick me up and take me back with her.  She said she didn’t want me to be alone, and thus began a weekend of being loved and cared for in a way that warmed my heart.

We drove back in her pretty Honda Accord, and I felt taken care of by the person I love most in the world.  I experienced arriving at her house  like coming home more than when I return to my empty condo.

A trip to Whole Foods was yummy as I perused the many prepared foods and chose my dinner.  The last time I was there, I ate a chocolate donut while still in the store.  This time I resisted.

Laura and her husband asked me to join them at Friday night synagogue services and I was suddenly part of her family.  I relished the sensation of being part of their family after so many years alone.  She wanted me to go with them and I did.

We prayed together and celebrated the rabbi’s thirty years at their congregation.  Being part of a their temple family gave me the feeling of belonging and I enjoyed being a part of the group.

Waking up Saturday morning to a home where my family was sleeping was so much cozier than arising alone as I do at my home.  After decades living by myself, I had forgotten the sensation of family.

My daughter and I visited a community where she hopes I will live one day.  I don’t want to grow older alone, and she welcomes the idea of my moving close to where she lives.  We met some lovely older folks and I tried to imagine myself living there.  Taking such a big step is scary and I will need some time to warm to the idea.  But knowing she wants me is a reward in itself.  Just because I have grown accustomed to so much aloneness doesn’t mean I like it.

Laura treated me like a valuable person she wanted to spend time with.  Her love and caring for me were overwhelming and much welcomed.

Saturday night we dined at a gourmet healthy restaurant and I ate a salad whose ingredients were a mystery.  Maybe I am not too old to learn and try new things.  I hadn’t been out on a Saturday night in months, and I liked it.

I was growing comfortable in Laura’s hometown and could entertain the prospect of perhaps making it my new residence.  I will need some time to fully accept the idea, but being home after the trip I feel more alone than before.

Thank you Laura and Bob for a wonderful weekend, your gracious hospitality and inviting me to be a part of your lives in the future.

EARLY MOURNINGS

I used to be a morning person.  I would wake up very early and be full of energy and ready to take on the day.  I would arise happy and eager to begin.  Breakfast was my favorite meal and would consist of peanut butter on toast-yummy.  Actually, today I am going to have my peanut butter on matzo and try to get off to a good start.

But lately, I have woken up sad and lonely.  Sometimes, I imagine that another person is in my condo-my deceased sister or my grown daughter and am disappointed to discover that I am alone.  What happened to my joy at being alone and free to pursue my own pursuits?  I have no idea.

My plan of action to kick-start the new twenty-four hours is to engage in physical activity.  Fortunately, my condo has a gym, so I head for the room with the treadmill.  Dressed in a tee shirt and comfy, soft leggings, I usually head outside to walk the few steps to the place with the equipment.  Most mornings, I am alone in the gym, too, but don’t mind exercising alone.  There are two television sets available for use, but I eschew turning on one of the them.

Twenty minutes on the treadmill lifts my spirits slightly and although my back hurts afterwards, I feel a sense of accomplishment and return home somewhat energized and a little perkier.

Recently, I have stopped watching TV, except for golf on Sundays, and occasionally QVC if I am really bored.   I think I watched the tube so often when I was young that I overdosed on the visual medium.  I do enjoy golf on Sunday afternoons because the settings are visually attractive and nothing  worse than someone goofing up and having a bogey happens.  In contrast to the news, golf is relaxing to view and passes the time pleasantly.

The rest of that day is empty and fills with worries and ruminations.  I plan the calls I have to make during the week, but am unable to put my plans into action.  But I like Sundays because there is no mail delivery, so nothing that demands my attention.

One good event is that a new senior(they call it 50-plus) center opened right up the street from where I live.  I have attended discussion groups focusing on positive thinking and some current events and met some new people.  Also connected to the center is a new library, but my habit of reading has dwindled down to almost nothing.

I know I am complaining a lot, and in truth have much to be thankful for.  I will try to focus on my blessings-especially my daughter and her family, and a safe, comfortable place to live, and stop feeling sorry for myself for being alone so much.  There are so many people with worse circumstances to face that I need to be grateful and not bitchy.

So, with matzo in my belly and a better frame of mind, I will don the comfy clothes, head for the gym and look forward to afternoon golf.  I am greedy to want or expect all happy days.

MARRIAGE MATERIAL

Often, these days, I wish I was(or were) married.  I imagine those people who have  partners to never be lonely or feel like an outlier.  It is so simple to assume that those living a life different from ones own to be happier and more content.  I am certain there are many unhappy married couples, but right now I just want to be part of a couple.

Just today, while registering me for a class I will take at the local 50+ center, a woman asked me for an emergency contact to notify if I needed help and I could give her no answer.  My daughter resides in another city and I am not very close to anyone nearby.  Not having an answer to her query made my single status all the more real, and it is only recently that it has begun to bother me.

I was married long ago to a perfectly nice man, but I am not certain I was such a good wife.  Maybe discontent is my nature, and I will always yearn for what  I don’t have.  I know that way back then, divorce was common, and becoming single was not viewed as odd.   Today, more people seem to stay married and perhaps they know what I didn’t-having a partner as we go through life makes the road seem smoother and the journey less treacherous.

I didn’t like what I saw in my parents’ coupling and didn’t want to repeat the pattern, but why didn’t I figure out that there are many ways to be married and that I had the power to create a different sort of marriage?  I walked down the aisle at the tender age of newly-turned twenty, still in college, without a clue how to make a successful household.  Why the hurry?

I know I wanted to be a mother, and on the day I graduated from Barnard, I was expecting my first child.  That embryo did not survive, but fortunately I became pregnant soon again and delivered precious Laura.  I always loved being a mother and don’t regret her arrival and never have.

I am in a discussion group with all men-all married.  I look at men’s ring finger soon after we meet, scouting for possible mates before I even know their names.  All the men I meet seem to be married, and when dating, I made certain to tell my mate for the evening that I was not interested in marriage(why did I assume they might be?)

But, as I grow older, something has shifted and alone isn’t much fun anymore.  I will always need time to myself, but assume the best marriages allow breathing room for both halves.

It is probably too late for me, and I fill my time with friendships and activities.  But I can’t help feeling something(or someone) is missing.  I would be a better wife today-less selfish and self-centered, and more willing to compromise and make accommodations to suit my partner.

I am not desperate, just acutely aware that I could be happier.

TIGHT SPACES

This Monday morning, I begin the week having to remove the snow that accumulated on my car overnight.  I do not look forward to the task.  My arms are sort of short, and have trouble reaching the top of the Acura to dispense with the snow that might fall on my windshield as I drive.

Here’s the rub.  I own a garage-it came with my condo, but I rarely use it.  I always have trouble maneuvering my auto into what seems to me to be a too-small space.  Obviously the are is large enough for me to park in, it is just not big enough to put the car in to comfortably.  Like an old dress that I can wiggle into but is too tight from years of eating too many cookies, I won’t wear it.

That is how I feel about my garage-minus the cookies.  I don’t understand why I have such a hard time parking in the shelter designed for this purpose.  My neighbors glide their SUVs and other larger cars than mine into their assigned garages seemingly without effort every night.  While, when I return home, I search for a vacancy in the unassigned visitor’s parking area hoping to snag a spot.  I may even walk a distance to my home.  Anything is better than parking in my garage.

One time, while trying to navigate the car into it, I banged the mirror off my car and the fear remains today.  I am a good driver and even parallel park without effort.  It’s the damn squeezing my car into the garage that is the problem.

When I woke up Sunday morning, the snow had already fallen several inches, and I figured it was too late to try to get my car into the enclosed space.  So, once at 8AM I used an old scraper/brush to push the white frozen stuff off the car.  Then, voila!, the snow stopped, only to start again several hours later, when I had to repeat the process.

I saw an older(I’m not young) woman attempting to clear her car.  Even though she appeared to be more competent than I was at snow removal, I offered to help.  That gesture made me feel a little better.  But, once again, later in the afternoon, the snow began falling once more, and once more I went outside, in boots and a hat and repeated the process of earlier in the day.  I even prayed the snow would stop.  I feel guilty wasting a prayer on such a trivial matter.  But I felt I could use some divine intervention.

Unfortunately, it snowed again last night and I face the prospect of once again bundling up and scraping off the car which I usually love, but now feels  burdensome.  Who ever coined the term “snow angels,” I beg to disagree.  Yes, the scenery is beautiful and children love to play in the white stuff of winter, but until I learn how to park more easily in the garage, I prefer the term, “snow devils.”

CREDIT

I was happy when Glen Close won the Golden Globe award for her performance in the movie “The Wife.”  In this story, a woman writer pens her husbands celebrated works and stays in the background.  This arrangement seems to succeed until the husband wins the Nobel Prize for in literature, and the couple travel to Stockholm to accept the award.

While on this journey and  once in Sweden, the wife begins to bristle under the names of helpmate and inspiration for her spouse’s accomplishments.  She knows the truth-often a dangerous secret to keep.  Finally, although not admitting to the Nobel judges the fact of her writing the fiction, she decides to leave her husband and end the lie.  For me, this was a satisfying, although late in life decision.

Women writers and artists have occasionally disguised their identity to achieve success.  Some people say that JK Rowling used her initials in her byline so young boys would read the work of a gender unknown author.  And George Sand, who wrote in the 1800’s was really a female who hid behind a man’s name for her work to be taken seriously.

The true story of Margaret and Walter Keane reached the movie screen in the cinema with the name “Big Eyes.”  Remember those portraits of mostly children staring in a piercing way at the viewer with questions and heartache in their visage?

Well, the true story is that Walter Keane signed the celebrated works and they commanded thousands of dollars in sales.  For too many years, Margaret hid behind her husband’s fame and who knows if she was content to let him garner the glory.  But the truth is hard to accept, as once more a woman gains fame only by hiding her true self.  Finally, the truth emerged that she was the artist, but was it too late?  I have no idea of the consequences.

Personally, in the early 2000’s, I experienced gender discrimination in the newspaper world.  A contract freelance writer for The Baltimore Sun, I authored articles including: sports, litigation and features for many years.  By this time, the days of relegating women to the topics of gardening, cooking and social events was history.  At lease I assumed that much progress had been made in opening the realm of subjects to include all topics as suitable for women.

But, I was proven wrong.  As mentioned in another blog, I was always interested in the NASA and the space program.  So, as an adventure and to feed my curiosity, I traveled to Houston where the final shuttle erupted in flames, killing all the astronauts abroad.  When I asked questions about the disaster, no agency personnel provided me with straight answers.

So, when I returned home, I wrote about my experience signing merely my initials in the byline and the article was purchased by the Sun.  The problem arose when they referred to me as a man.  When I revealed my gender, they killed the piece and the possibility of a female penning a semi-scientific piece.  So it goes.  I had no recourse.  I have the feeling I have already told this story in a previous blog.  If so, please forgive an again brain that not even caffeine can perfect in detail.

So, bravo to Glen Close and the authors of “The Wife.”  One cannot learn the truth often enough.  Women are still navigating the world to be heard and seen as whole people.