getting older

The Funny Thing About Aging

First of all, IS there anything funny about aging?    Probably.   I just can’t think of anything right now.

I can tell you this much—the aches and pains associated with aging are no laugh riot.    The weird smells and certain odd little hairs that start growing in the damnedest places don’t warrant a chuckle.     There are other issues…balance problems, vision and hearing impairments, the napping which you so LOATHED as a child, but crave past age 55 are all interesting phenomenon, but not funny,

I have an arthritic knee that hurts me every second of the day.   I have injuries from  a severe car accident 26 years ago that the passage of time has only made worse.   I have sclerotic lesions in/on my hippocampus within my brain, I tire more easily, I have balance issues, I can’t tolerate bright lights., loud noises…even loud music.    I can’t hear as well as I once could,  I can no longer drive at night, I can’t drive without glasses during the day and the thought of driving long trips alone scare me .  In the past nine  months, I’ve mourned the loss of very, very  close friends.    Death knows aging well because from the beginning of time, aging co-opted with death.    They shook their boney  hands in agreement.

But Death isn’t picky.    It loves the old,  but has  no qualms with  the young..   But those of us at a certain age may not obsess over our mortality, but the changes we feel mentally and physically, make it hard not to realize it’s an ever  closer eventuality.

As for me,  I’d rather be home and watching TV on a Saturday night and I’ve become extremely confrontational.   I’m talking well beyond shouting things like,  “And I would have gotten away with it to if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids!!!”   No, it’s beyond that.     In the past six month, I’ve made three people cry……one was a Marine.

With a few exceptions, I didn’t experience any these things as recently as five years ago.   But here I am.    It’s because I’m older and aging by the second……like you….like that guy oddly griping cucumbers in the produce section, as the woman singing an old Gary Puckett and The Union Gap song with the window down, stopped to your right at same stop light.

But as much as life physically hurts every single second of every single day, I wouldn’t go back and I decided  this well before the pains caused from my nasty car accident 26 yesrs sgo.   If I had a Fairy Godmother and in a poof of glittery dust and smoke, appeared before me, magic wand in hand and said she’d  grant me the ability to go back and relive my youth starting at any age,  I’d politely decline.    Now, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask if she could completely remove certain people from my past.      But going back?   No thanks.

Despite my whining, this piece was initially written for my niece who tuned 35 months ago.  June.    Apparently, I celebrated it with her, but I don’t remember it.    So, the rest is for Becky .

She’s a college educated woman,  married to a man not afraid to be a good husband and father to their six and eight year old children.     She says she’s content in life and as far as turning one year older, she says what everyone says about birthdays…..”it’s only a number”.

Well, it is…..and it isn’t.        My heart bursts with joy for the 94-year- old (a number) who can still swim six (a number) Olympic pool size lapse everyday ,    My heart aches for the 71-year-old (a number) to enduring the awful ravages of Alzheimer’s.

When I turned 35, it too was just a number, then fast forward 24 years—it was another number.    And it will be for Becky, too.

Aging is a slow process that acts rapidly.     Personally, I’m not bouncing off the walls with glee about being 58, but the thought of having to repeat everything that got me here,  galls me so that it makes being here worth it.

My life, like my niece’s, has been graced with certain flaws that ironically, have proven to be rather beneficial.   Failure wasn’t always an option….at times,  it was a necessity and with each one came new knowledge.      I’m not saying I failed on purpose, most of mine came in the form of bad decisions.    Entering into bad jobs or relationships perhaps subconsciously knowing I was repeating a bad cycle.    But as I stated, with each failure came new knowledge.    With knowledge comes wisdom and wisdom, serves as a doorman to open doors to gratitude.    And with gratitude comes a better life, whether it’s  lived out in a mansion in the Hamptons or in a dilapidated two room hovel in Compton.     It’s all about gratitude concerning who you are and what you have…..but not the stuff you have.   It’s about your contributions, the good you do; the satisfaction you get from doing something worthwhile.   Something beyond yourself.

And then you keep quiet about it.    Keep it to yourself.

I’ve learned that the hard way.    It can be very unfair to proselytize one’s gratitude or happiness, even the ability or willingness to do good.   You keep quiet about how much money you have in the bank, or the  “perfection” of your marriage, your wonderful, superhuman children, your terrific body, your health, that oh so glorious trip to Bali that’ll take you ten years to pay off.    You know, things like that and basically, every other lie on Facebook.

Which is why I’m no longer on Facebook.    And will never return.

It’s like being in high school…..we’re not all Seniors.     Some still have to go through our Sophomore and  Junior years to reach that level of education.   Everyone has to go through their lives as youngsters and middle agers…..as inevitably, and if we’re lucky to live long enough, as old people.

Becky lost her sister on Valentine’s Day, 1999.  My niece, Holly was 19, a Freshman at Baylor.  She died in a head on car crash that unfortunately, was her fault.   The young man she hit, suffered severe head trauma and his life will never be the same.  This incident continues to leave two families in a state of grief that even after 18 years, ebbs and flows, but the pain is still there.

One minute, Holly was driving back to college after a weekend visiting her cousin at Texas A&M.     In a heartbeat, Holly missed a turn, overcompensated and the world for the people who knew her and loved her, changed forever.

So, I urge you to embrace your present, the right here and now, dear niece,    I urge that of everyone.   I do that because you’ll go to sleep tonight and wake up 30 years from now.  Aging happens that quickly.    See?   A second has already passed since reading that last sentence.    And in this life, there are a very limited number of do-overs, providing you have the awareness to even try to redeem yourself should the situation arise.    Some  can walk blithely through life unaware of the disruption they’ve caused, the pain they’ve inflicted.

Others are more aware.   Others have lived a life talking and have reached a point where silence is gilded joy.     One person’s need for privacy and solo down-time might be deemed as neglect and abandonment by someone else.    And let’s take that further —- death for some (suicide) is the only solution for what’s thought  to be an extremely desperate situation.    For others,  it’s the scariest final act they know and could never do it.    Nor do they want it to be at the hands of others or some dreadful life thief like disease.    Would that we could all go quietly, peacefully in our sleep.

So, for the self- conciliatory belief that birthdays  are only a number well, they are, but it depends entirely on the number.   I would never say “it’s only a number” to someone turning 43 (a number) who has Stage 4 (also a number) liver failure.    Like your Facebook embellishments, please keep mindset that to yourself.

As for anything being funny about aging?     Well, how about this:     Three old guys, all hard of hearing, were playing golf one spring afternoon.   One says to another, “Windy, isn’t it?” “No,” the second man answers, “it’s Thursday.” The third guy, listening in, pipes up, “So am I! Let’s grab a beer.”

 

 

 

 

These Are Petty Annoyances, But Why????

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Well, I think it’s all about a phrase that we used to hear bandied about far more frequently 30 plus years ago.   Oh,  the gist and concept behind the phrase is still very much alive and well and confounding grandparents about their grandkids  just as it did back in the day.

For example:

There you go.

Here the deal:  I can tell I’m getting older and this ability goes well beyond the physical indicators.  It’s the way I think.  I’m now, for some reason,  more content to be alone, because I’m so much more unnerved by the perceived idiocy in others.

Do I mean to be that harsh??  Is it really idiocy?   Or is it just my unwillingness to cope with the things about these people that I find ultra annoying?   And is “idiocy” is just a convenient catch-all word?

CASE IN POINT:  A few days ago, I was forced to take a meeting with a young woman who reently moved to Houston.  Now, before I get into her, let me address my thoughts on where she came from…

(CUE MUSICAL EFFECT)

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She came from Austin.

Lovely city….the home of intelligentsia, Texas dot coms,  state guvmnet and those Longhorns, but Austin in the New Millenium irritates me.  And yes, I can honestly say that.  You see, I’ve lived there twice.  I attended The University of Texas in the mid 70’s;  left, then moved back to Austin in ’79, then spent the first five years of the 80’s there.    

When I graduated from college in 1985, I was ready to leave.  Couldn’t wait to leave, in fact.  I had grown out of Austin and I didn’t return until 1993.   I hardly recognized it.  It had grown; it expanded and it had changed.  It felt like California—East.   

It was like going back to the home in which you were raised and then, your parents sold the house during their divorce.   Decades passed and you finally gather the courage to face the demons that might still live there. You come back to the house  and the new owners grant you a tour it.     That comfy familiarity you once knew and desperately wanted to see, to experience one more time was nowhere to be found.  Danish Modern furniture had been replaced by antique Baroque.   It didn’t fit..well, it didn’t fit in your memories, anyway.   It’s no longer your home and it had changed so much, you even doubt the veracity of your own memories of the place.

Based on a few visits to the Texas State Capital in recent years, I’ve been able to deduce that a new breed of Austinite had taken over.  And this woman was one of those people who I feel certain helped make me question my memories of that once hip oasis of “live and let live”.   Oh, Austin was still that alright…but when I lived there, that was a natural fact.  Now this attitude seemed forced and scripted as if every body’s attempt to be unique and strangely Austin was like every one else’s attempt to be unique and strangely Austin.    There was this sameness that covered the city.

But the question beckons:   has Austin changed that much?   Or have I?

Anyway, this youngish woman who bore all the obvious accoutrement of her generation, sat across from me at a huge mahogany  conference table and in the course of one 45-minute meeting said, in an attempt to emphasize salient points, “At the end of the day…” no less than six times.   I kept a running tally on my notepad .   Instead of saying that she would get in touch with someone, this woman said no less than five times, that she would “reach out to….”  whoever.

Why did these saying bother me?  I don’t know.  Why do tattoos and wearing 18 earrings (in one ear) bother me?    Why does ignorance bother me?   And catch phrases, too.  In the 80’s, I NEVER inquiresdas to the specifics of where the beef was located–Wendy’s be damned. 

I am so much less tolerant than I was ten years ago.   And this intolerance brings with it less much less patience and a rather negative hair-trigger response to  anything and everything that bothers me and  these days, sooooooooooooo much bothers me.

Back in the 60’s, I can remember watching network news with my grandmother in the room.   Hippies would hold anti-war demonstrations with their long hair and crazy clothes and peace signs everywhere and my grandfather would shake his head and invariably say for the millionth time that day that those “Crazy fool kids!!!!!.  That damned Hippie man with his long hair looks like a woman!  I’ll bet he even sits down to pee”.     

My grandparents didn’t like change….or anything  or anyone that questioned or threatened their reality.   Sayings like “23 skidoo”, the Charleston and bathtub gin were the keynotes of hipness for their generation.   And I’m sure their love of their own gilded era probably made their bustle wearing mothers scratch their heads. 

At what point in their lives did they change and they in turn came tio regard their jitterbugging, Glen Miller loving children as being “crazy fool kids”?

Here’s my reality:  I like my friends, but I need them less these days.  I like my life, but I want it less complicated.   And if I must have chaos in my life for whatever reason,  I prefer to deal with it myself.  I longer want to handle things with an audience or an enterouge.    I’m  fine being alone and at times, prefer it.

So, my question then becomes, is this normal?   Do we become less tolerant (within reason), more isolated (by choice) and prefer to traverse the paths that offer the least resistance as we age?   

And if so, why?   Have we just lived long enough to finally reach that true, much debated, “we could care less” status???

And lastly, when in God’s name did all of this happen??    Where was I?

/;.

I Really Need To Wear My Specs, Ya’ll!!!!

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Now that I’m 50 and officially a “Golden Ager”,  I have become keenly aware of all the things that happens to the body at the onslaught of serious aging.   At first, it creeps, slowly.  Then, past a certain age  (I noticed a change if you will, right around the age of of 47-ish), it comes at you all at once.  Speeding, racing…and at record time, too.

Hello Titanic, meet the iceberg.

I already have the requisite age appropriate aches and pain and I also pluck the occasional gray hair from my head and these bastards are far kinkier than what’s remaining of my blond locks.   I’ve also  been lucky enough to keep  Crow’s Feet hidden in their epidermal nests.  Lucky?  Maybe, but not so much when you consider that I’m blind as a bat in terms of seeing things  at a distance.  I’m extremely near-sighted, though that too is waning.   My vision at this point in time can best be described as “fun house” like.    Why not?  I guess I deserve it because I’ve spent years telling everybody that how theyfun-house-image

saw me was fiction; that my short, squatty stature was just an illusion or some strange but vivid flashback they were having from tripping on acid while laughing and stumbling through a “House of Mirrors”  at one of those nasty traveling carnivals that usually find themselves in low rent strip mall parking lots.  The trashy, dirty kind where you get on a ride and your seatmate is day old vomit.

I have glasses and I need to wear them more often but well, vanity thy name is Laurie.   That means most days  I assume this ugly squint face–one that looks like I’m perpetually smelling a fart,  but have no fear;  the Houston streets will soon be safe once again.  You see, something happened that made me realize that I need to wear my specs all the damn time.

I had a few things to mail this afternoon, so I ferried me self to ye olde Post Office and stood in line like all the other drones and waited for my turn with one of the “NEXT!!!!” shouting,  rude and angry slaves to bureaucracy behind the counter.  The line moved slowly so that gave me a chance  to do something I rarely EVER do at a Post Office in Houston—I looked around.   And that’s often a gutsy move.    The Post Office is like the DMV in that it attracts a very motley crew.

Anyway, there was a very large, plate glass window on the right hand side of the lobby, near the office where you go to get queried and verbally poked–all necessary things for obtaining a U.S. passport.

I looked through the window for a second or two, then squinted to narrow my myopia even more and damned if I didn’t see a bunch of men  standing under a tree and they all had long, whitish beards.

Odd, but I thought I recognized at least one of the guys.

I concentrated.  Of course!!  I figured it out!  

It was  that crazy Pai Mei cat,  the bearded, but powerful and possibly ageless practitioner of the lethal Bak Mei style of king fu.   In Kill Bill, Volume 2,  Pai Mei taught Black Mambo (played by the very white Uma Thurman)

how to do all thatpai-mai

karate stuff, like sucker punching her way out of an interred casket.

Could it be?  I was less than two miles away from one of Houston’s many Asian communities, but no!! Men, regardless of ethnic persuasion or culture, usually don’t run around Houston dressed like Maid Marian;  not even in Montrose, Houston’s equivalent to the West Village!!!

OK, I was able to eliminate the samurai.

Then,  I looked closer.  It was.. huh?  What the  fu—?

It was Amish men??????

amishmen

But how could that be?  Houston isn’t home to any Amish that I know of and neither is Texas, for that matter.  Even so (irony of ironies) traffic was awfully, awfully slow as I snailed my way to the Post Office, but  that deduction was way too far-fetched.

I wiped my eyes, hoping to reset my focus.

Wait…..

My god!   Was it?  Could it be?   Yes, it was.  It was Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons, the bearded front men from the storied rock group, ZZ Topp!!!!

zz-top

It made sense.  Dusty and Bill are from Houston, after all.  But why would two aging rock stars hang around under a tree outside a Post Office?

Well, that rhetorical question allowed me to mark  ZZ off my mental list of possibilities,too.

But who or what in the hell was under that tree??

Hillbillies?

Can’t be.  Houston doesn’t have any hills.  Plus, we’ve got plenty of White Trash living in the flatlands to fill that demographic.

By that time, I was getting frustrated beyond the pale.  I just HAD to know who these men were.  So, I asked the woman behind me to save my place in line.  She did and I walked over to the window and got a  much better look.  I touched the window; felt the cool pane of glass and realized that all this time, I’d been watching……

spanish-moss

…..Spanish Moss, swaying gently in the breeze..

.

Aging is a bitch, ya’ll!!!

,

The Relevance of Corrective Lenses

As I teeter perilously close to the precipice of turning 50, I’m becoming keenly aware of all the things that happens to the body at the onslaught of serious aging.   At first, it creeps, slowly.  Then, past a certain age  (I noticed a change if you will, right around the age of of 47-ish), it comes at you all at once.  Speeding, racing…and at record time, too.

Hello Titanic, meet the iceberg.

At 49.9 years of age, I have and have had the requisite aches and pains for a while.  And I also pluck the occasional gray hair from my head and these bastards are far kinkier than what’s remaining of my blond locks.   I’ve also  been lucky enough to keep  Crow’s Feet hidden in their epidermal nests.  Lucky?  Maybe, but not so much when you consider that I’m blind as a bat in terms of seeing things  at a distance.  I’m extremely near-sighted, though that too is waning.   My vision at this point in time can best be described as “fun house” like.    Why not?  I guess I deserve it because I’ve spent years telling everybody that how they saw me was fiction; that myfun-house-image short, squatty stature was just an illusion or some strange but vivid flashback they were having from tripping on acid while laughing and stumbling through a “House of Mirrors”  at one of those nasty traveling carnivals that usually find themselves in low rent strip mall parking lots.  The trashy, dirty kind where you get on a ride and your seatmate is day old vomit.

Yeah, vile.

I have glasses and I need to wear them more often but well, vanity thy name is Laurie.   That means most days  I assume this ugly squint face–one that looks like I’m perpetually smelling a fart,  but have no fear;  the Houston streets will soon be safe once again.  You see, something happened that made me realize that I need to wear my specs all the damn time.

I had a few things to mail this afternoon, so I ferried me self to ye olde Post Office and stood in line like all the other drones and waited for my turn with one of the “NEXT!!!!” shouting,  rude and angry slaves to bureaucracy behind the counter.  The line moved slowly so that gave me a chance  to do something I rarely EVER do at a Post Office in Houston—I looked around.   And that’s often a gutsy move.    The Post Office is like the DMV in that it attracts a very motley crew.

Anyway, there was a very large, plate glass window on the right hand side of the lobby, near the office where you go to get queried and verbally poked–necessary things for obtaining a U.S. passport.

I looked through the window for a second or two, then squinted to narrow my myopia even more and damned if I didn’t see a bunch of men  standing under a tree and they all had long, whitish beards.

Odd, but I thought I recognized at least one of the guys.

I concentrated.  Of course!!  I figured it out!   It was  that crazy Pai Mei cat,  the bearded, but powerful and possibly ageless practitioner of the lethal Bak Mei style of king fu.   In Kill Bill, Volume 2,  Pai Meipai-mai taught Black Mambo (played by the very white Uma Thurman) how to do all that karate stuff, like sucker punching her way out of an interred casket.

Could it be?  I was less than two miles away from one of Houston’s many Asian communities, but no!! Men, regardless of ethnic persuasion or culture, usually don’t run around Houston dressed like Maid Marian;  not even in Montrose, Houston’s equivalent to the West Village!!!

OK, I was able to eliminate the samurai.

Then,  I looked closer.  It was.. huh?  What the  fu—?

It was Amish men??????

amishmen

But how could that be?  Houston isn’t home to any Amish that I know of and neither is Texas, for that matter.  Even so..irony or ironies..traffic was awfully, awfully slow as I snailed my way to the Post Office, but  that deduction was way too far-fetched.

I wiped my eyes, hoping to reset my focus.

Wait…..

My god!   Was it?  Could it be?   Yes, it was.  It was Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons, the bearded front men from the storied rock group, ZZ Topp!!!!

zz-top

It made sense.  Dusty and Bill are from Houston, after all.  But why would two aging rock stars hang around under a tree outside a Post Office?

Well, that rhetorical question allowed me to mark  ZZ off my mental list of possibilities.

But who or what in the hell was under that tree??

Hillbillies?

Can’t be.  Houston doesn’t have any hills.  Plus, we’ve got plenty of White Trash to fill that demographic.

By that time, I was getting frustrated beyond the pale.  I just HAD to know who these men were.  So, I asked the woman behind me to save my place in line.  She did and I walked over to the window and got a  much better look.  I touched the window; felt the cool pane of glass and realized that all this time, I’d been watching……

spanish-moss

…..Spanish Moss, swaying gently in the breeze..

.

Damn, aging is a bitch, ya’ll!!!

,

Doctor, My Eyes…..

,,,,,, ….

I am 49 and I embrace my age.

I have no issue with the fact that I am 49. I’m OK with it. I don’t look it (I have my mother’s skin. But I intend to give it back someday) and I sure as HELL don’t feel it.

Most of the 20-something kinder I work with think I’m 12 years younger than I am. This is coupled by the fact that I don’t act anything like their moms; my contemporaries. But there are some aspects of being this age that give me pause. I mean, hey! Let’s face it, I’ve never been this old before. I’m not sure what to expect.

Now, some might say that physically, mentally, emotionally, being 49 isn’t all that different than being 48 and 50 will be a similar experience to what 49 was.

I believe that with one exception: my eyesight is getting progressively worse. If there is one “Getting Older Pitfall” that I’ve tried to avoid at all costs, it’s going the glasses route.

I’d been lucky. My two older sisters needed vision assistance long before they hit the big four–nine. Plus, quite a few of my same aged friends are blind, as is my Stevie Wonder-esque paramour. But within the last year or so, I’ve noticed a huge change happening occularly. My big, baby browns just ain’t what they used to be. I can no longer read small print at a normal distance. Now, menus are moving further back of their own accord. Newspapers, too. Certainly, I’ve got nothing to do with this.

OK well…maybe a little.

In fact, I now find myself doing that combo move that indicates I have in fact, reached that inevitable genus/phyla “Homo Erectus Middle Agedicus”. I move my head back and squint my eyes as my hand, which clutches the text in question, extends farther and farther out.

Then, add this insult to the mix: I also have the distinct honor of being both far sighted and near sighted.

So, if I factor in all those factors, I have to concede: unless life can unfold within four to ten feet from me at for the rest of my life, I need glasses.

Time to make an appointment to get my eyes checked.

But I have a fantasy about this process. I walk into the optometrist’s office and he’s this dashing, handsome sort…early 50’s…slightly graying at the temples and he takes one look at me and gasps!! He can’t believe that a 28 year old would be having these vision issues.

But that’s not how it went. Not at all.

I made an appointment. I was asked if I could make it in that afternoon.

I could.

So, I walked in and met my doctor. She a large woman, rotund at best and her hair was styled in this old lady coif. And true to her occupation, she was sporting glasses with lenses thicker than Coke bottle bottoms—the kind that are so strong, they could burn ants if she walked by a mound at 4pm in August—even at 20 feet!!

She was nice enough. She asked me pertinent questions about my decline in visual clarity. After a few minutes of that, she told me she’d have to dilate my eyes. As she applied the drops, I got a good look at her face. She had enough crow’s feet to scare Tippi Hedren and her make-up was oddly applied. Her pencil eyeliner underneath her bottom lashes was crooked. It looked like the zig-zag pattern on Charlie Brown’s shirt. I guess she applied that sans the Hubble telescope she calls glasses.

Then I saw it.

She had a large flesh colored mole on her chin that had two long, coarse and wirey looking whiskers protruding from it.

How long were they? Well, let me put it this way: if she had a tiny TV on her shoulder, she could’ve gotten Venezuelan TV with crystal clear reception, simply by nodding.

As we waited for my pupils to enlarge with chemical abandon, we indulged in small talk. She asked me about my life. I told her I was a Broadcaster in Houston and moved here in 1990. I regaled her with stories about growing up in a small town in South Central Texas that was teeming with Polish people and their crazy ass Polish ways.

She conveyed that she was a native Houstonian….a mother of three and a firsts time grandmother as of last year. She went to Texas Tech and divorced her successful engineer husband five years ago. She’s a Francophile; loves all things French; speaks the language and studied at the Sorbonne. Because her divorce settlement was lucrative (as is her practice) she plans to retire early and move to Nice.

The pretense continued to flow until the chit chat reached a screeching halt. The subject of age came up. Well, as it turns out, Madame d’Estaing is only three years older than me.

She looked at me and sighed and I looked at her and sighed. Stark reality then entered the examining room and crowded us. I do believe she looked at me and thought, “That’s what I lost”

I looked at her and thought “Is this what I have ahead of me?”

I thought about this for a minute. Three years can make a difference, but not by virtue of the calender or time, necessarily. It’s what happens in those years. Life experience. Make-up can only cover up so much. Attitude can do the rest. Beside, who we are on the inside always creeps through to the outside. And that will always be the case when we let life call the shots as opposed to our dictating what happens in our lives.

We have more power than we realize.

The exam continued, but it was far more clinical. There was a discernible shift in mood. It verged on being uncomfortable and I know she noticed it as well.

After my eyes were properly dilated, she put that big binocular looking device up to my eyes, asjusted it accordingly, flipped a few lenses into place, then made be look at the eye chart.

“Please read the third line, Ms. Kendrick.”

I read a few letters, “B-D-E…is that the symbol for the Euro?”

Nothing.

“Just read the line please, Ms. Kendrick”

I did as instructed…..”B-R-E-S-Y-K-W-A-C-Z”

“Good”, was her only response.

I didn’t like the tension. I decided to say something in attempt to dispel it. “Doc, I have to tell you, considering my Polish upbringing, I think I dated that guy!”

She smiled.

.

My very hip looking, seamless bi-focals arrive next Wednesday.

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Strength…

I know that I’ve been very lucky. My life has been rich.

The industry in which I work has always allowed me to see things, meet people and participate in events that defy the word “standard”, by any definition.

While I’ve met people who’ve done extraordinary things and lived extraordinary lives, I’ve always been more impressed with ordinary folks whose main goal in life was just to survive yet another day intertwined in the mortal coil. In this hectic, often heartless dog eat dog world, it’s the things they’ve accomplish in the minutia of life that wows me. I’m talking about survival.

Case in point:

My friend, Martha was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago. She was the definition of “amazing grace”. That’s exactly what she exuded. She stared her mortality in the face and on one occasion, came incredibly close to dying, but she rallied; she lived. She’s cancer free today and a changed woman as a result. She regards her mastectomy as more of a badge of honor, than a mass of scar tissue. Indeed, it’s one she earned.

The removal of her breast, meant the arrival of her spirit. She is awe inspiring. Remarkably, Martha is magnanimous enough to be grateful for having had cancer. She told me once that her battle with the disease was “just another crucible of life”, at least, in her eyes.

Maybe, but she continues to be a monolith of a strength and courage in mine.

I’m amazed by my sister, Karol. As the youngest of three girls, I was always heralded as the smart, funny one, but Karol is the one with the ability to hurdle life’s vicissitudes and she’s always done so fearlessly.

By comparison, I’ve only exhibited hubris.

Karol buried her oldest child. She lost Holly in a car accident on Valentine’s Day, 1999. Nine years later, I continue to be non-plussed by my sister’s incredible strength and fortitude. She walked her daughter from the cradle to the grave and somehow survived, with her heart relatively in act. I don’t think I could do that.

I hate that anyone has to.

In my life, I will admit, I’m never been a stranger to heartache. The sad reality is that everyone can say that. No one is immune to at least, some degree of pain. The road of life is paved with tears. And while I’ve suffered through ills myself; while I mourned for my niece, grieved with my sister and stood by Martha’s side, I’ve never known that gut wrenching sense of loss; the kind which launches utter perdition.

I learned that a childhood friend died on my birthday.

Jerry had been sick recently. Doctors spent years running her through a gauntlet of tests, but everyone knows what really happened: she died from a broken heart.

Her young son passed a decade ago.  I understand that Jerry had a very difficult time with his death.   She had many questions, but ultimately, perhaps the reasons how or why he died didn’t matter to Jerry. He was gone; taken from her. She was robbed of the joys of watching him grow up—her soul was augured from her, most egregiously. In so many ways, his death robbed her of life, too.

She was never the same.  How could she have been the same?

News of Jerry’s death saddened me a great deal. A great deal. I grew up with this woman. Christmas mornings together and countless other vivid, life affirming events spent in each other’s company. We shared a common past…a common bond. My memories of childhood were hers, too.

Selfishly, I pray that I’ll never know the kind of heartache and pain that killed Jerry. I pray that those around me will never know it again.

That’s my hope.

And as I sit here, now one year older, I’ve GOT to be optimistic about hope. It’s a cardinal virtue and to the enlightened person, it gives scope and purpose. I think many people deem hope to be a wish. True, it can be wished for, but it’s more than that. It’s a golden link that connects human aspiration with Divine truth. It strengthens fragile human will to be able to accept anything and everything that life throws us.

Ultimately, hope allows us to withstand heartache, defy fear and tolerate everything in between. It is the anchor of the soul.

That said, I hope I’ll wake up to yet another day tomorrow.

I hope American GI’s will be home soon.

I hope all heartache is short lived.

I hope I’ll be able to attend Jerry’s funeral, but I wish to God I didn’t have to.

Time Marches On….Our Faces

I recently saw an old, old TV colleague of mine from my days in San Antonio.

1988.

We hugged. We laughed. We reminisced about what life was like “back then” and how it had the audacity to change on us as it had.

He’d gotten married and divorced. Twice.

I hadn’t.

He went on to anchor the the 11 o’clock news in a major market in the northeast.

I hadn’t.

He got got out of the industry and invested in an IT firm in the 90’s that actually made money. A lot of it.

I hadn’t.

He had aged 40 years.

Mercifully, I hadn’t.

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SCORE: Paul 3 LK 1

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But as I sat there looking at this man who had at one time, Hollywood good looks, I thought about how we both looked 20 years ago.

Time.

It’s a wonderful thing, in that it helps heal us, phsycially and emotionally. Yet, it can be cruel, too. It weathers us physically and emotionally.

How we age, I am told, depends on many factors. Did we smoke? Did we expose ourselves to the brutality of the sun, unprotected? Did we moisturize, moisturize, moisturize???? Do we have a good plastic surgeon?

But the biggest question: Did we choose our parents wisely?

If Mother aged well, you will, too.

My mother got her first crows feet (eye wrinkles) in her mid 60’s. In that regard, I am lucky.

We all age. Getting older is an inevitability and we need to cut ourselves some slack. A 50 year old man will not look as he did at 25. Why should we expect otherwise?

I embrace my age. And probably would, even if I looked like a completely wrinkled old crone. You see, I’ve earned my right to be here. I have lived.

I have survived.

And so have you.

True, sometimes time is kind; sometimes it isn’t. Either way, we need to be more forgiving. Aging is the process by which we live….and learn.

To witness how time progresses us physically, please watch this slide show to compare and contrast.