GAME CHANGER, NAME CHANGER

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Readers for whom new posts from this blog arrive via email may not have noticed. Between the last post and this one, “The Getting Old Blog” acquired a new name.  It was time.  How long can you go on “getting” old without eventually reaching your destination?

“The Getting Old Blog” began life nearly five years ago, in November 2013.  (This was after three weeks or so of baby-step experimentation in “Learning to Blog” — still out there in the ethernet if you’re interested, although I don’t see why anyone would be).  Despite the scary-sounding year of my birth (1931), I didn’t feel particularly old at 82, and thought a blog marking my passage into the “later years” might be a good place to park bits of memoir (old folks tend to look back), memoir disguised as fiction, and general reflections on what was happening to me as I reluctantly rolled towards becoming 83, and then 84, and so forth.

But as you’ve already read (two posts back in “So What Happened?”) last year was for a nanosecond the end of me. Having your heart stop beating, although they get it going again, really does change the rules of the game. Not to mention the months and months of medical and pharmaceutical tribulation that necessarily follow such a near-terminal event.  Who was I kidding with this “getting old” stuff?  I was old.  I am old.  In bed at night, with the lights out, I can still fantasize that a near-crazed-with-lust eighteen-year-old is pressing hard and stiff against my luscious seventeen-year-old body. It helps, of course, if I’m on my back and an eleven-pound cat is lying vertically on top of my mid-section or else pushing in rhythmically with its two front paws. You think that’s funny? With the lights on, I do too. I know what I look like undressed; I still have a full-length mirror. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life, but no one ever called me stupid.

One of my grandsons, who at twelve of course knows nothing of his Nana’s occasional nighttime fantasies, tried to reassure me last week that “you’re only as old as you feel.” Like many pre-adolescents he’s a sponge for grown-up expressions — even though he still lacks the life experience to know when they’re cliches. To which I immediately replied, “That’s a lot of crap!” and everyone burst out laughing, partly because it’s true, but also because 87-year-old grandmas aren’t expected to say “crap” out loud– at least not in the suburbs of Brandon, Florida.

I’ve therefore been thinking for a while of what to rename the blog. Some ideas — “While There’s Still Time” or “Near Journey’s End” — were too funereal. “What It’s Like To Be 87” was appealing; I could change the number each time I acquired another birthday. But it would be inaccurate. Each of us ages somewhat differently, and what 87 is like for me will not reflect the experience of every 87-year-old woman. I seem to be an outlier.  One example only: I know a number of near-87-year-old women who sleep with their cats but are glad — at least they say they’re glad — their sex lives are over. Hand-holding might be all right, but anything more than that: no-siree, an expression that dates them as much as anything. Bottom line: “On Being Old” seemed most descriptive without necessarily being depressing.  It’s also an accommodating title. It can encompass scraps of memoir as well as details of my life in a so-called “over-55,” but really more like “over-70” or “over-75,” community.  In fact, it will accommodate just about anything about being me at this stage of my life, whatever that stage is.

So welcome to “On Being Old.”  Don’t get hung up on the new name and go away.  It’s really just the same old same old… me.

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Selfie taken in Florida last week. (Slightly retouched but only slightly.) The sunglasses do help.

 

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FOR CAT LOVERS: SIX SMALL WAYS TO BE HAPPY

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These six notecards turned up in the gift shop of The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in the Berkshires.  They’re all from The New Yorker, which means they have nothing to do with Wharton, or The Mount, or its gardens, or my trip to the Berkshires — except that I bought them in The Mount’s shop.

So why were they there? Because Wharton advocated finding happiness in small ways? (See previous post for details.) That would be a very good reason, although it probably isn’t the reason. I’m sure a baker’s dozen of these small pleasures were in the shop because they sell.

They sure got me. When I saw them, I couldn’t not smile. (Of course I also thought, almost at once, “Blog!” Which opened the purse strings even if I’d had more self control.)   My apologies to dog people.  What can I say?  I have cats?  But you know that already.

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COP-OUT

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I was all set to do a companion piece to my last post.  I was going to call it, “Medicare Part D: Between a Rock and a Hard Place.” It was going to weigh the annual cost of the “optional” Medicare Part D insurance premiums deducted every month from Social Security benefits paid to eligible seniors in the United States against the very real risk of finding oneself in need of having to pay out of pocket at some time in one’s future for prescription pharmaceuticals that could bankrupt you in order to keep you alive.

(Like, just by way of example, $84,000 for the latest, and most effective, treatment for Hepatitis C.  What’s Hep C to you?  Well, I don’t know. But it’s estimated that four million Americans are walking around with those little Hep C suckers swimming in their blood streams and slowly destroying their livers. Many of the four million don’t even know they’re infected, because it happened before the virus became identifiable and could be screened out of blood banks.)

Then I discovered I had already written this companion piece — two years ago! (It was minus the reference to Hep C medication, which came along later. But still….)  The post was called Why Am I Paying $101 a Month for Medicare Part D?  You may even remember it if you’ve been hanging around “The Getting Old Blog” that long. And if you don’t, because you haven’t, you can certainly click the link to read it now.  The piece hasn’t aged a bit, except for the stated price of the Part D premium, which (of course) was somewhat lower two years ago. So rather than repeat myself, as old folks are wont to do, I had better change the subject.

The first thing that comes to mind as a quicky replacement post is a cartoon recently placed on our refrigerator door by Bill, who has taken to musing aloud that our life together would be even more perfect if we had a third cat.  Not so coincidentally, the cartoon is another example of someone beginning to repeat himself  (like me).  But it’s somewhat more amusing than anything I wrote, or could write again, about Medicare Part D. So here it is, even though it may very well fall flat with dog lovers.  I’ll try harder next time.

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WRITING SHORT: 43/50

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[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.]

Living with two house cats is instructive. Our condo is their universe. They know in intimate detail the three upstairs rooms and two bathrooms, the laundry room, closets and linen closets. Downstairs is a long open space, from kitchen and family room through dining room to living room and front door. They’ve commandeered all of it – counters, tables, chairs, sofas, cat tree – plus the utility room and guest bathroom.

They also enjoy the open porch off the kitchen, one flight up from the ground, with birds at the feeders, and bugs, and the occasional squirrel. They can explore the garage, the furnished basement and, more rarely, the unfinished storage section next to the finished part of the basement.

But that’s it. That’s all Sophie, the younger, knows of the world. When the weather and my schedule permit, Sasha, the older, has sometimes been outside on a leash. So she knows there’s also a heaven beyond the front door, carpeted with grass, orchestrated with birdsong, and decorated with fragrant bushes and trees. We’ve never crossed the street though, and she regards the occasional quiet car moving slowly through our residential neighborhood with grave suspicion. Moreover, getting to heaven always requires me.

Jokes about cats letting us live in their houses are ubiquitous among cat owners, and I’m no exception. But joking aside, our cats live at our pleasure. They’re here because we want them here; we could wipe out their known universe by giving them away. That will also occur to a lesser degree when Bill and I move elsewhere as we grow still older. And given our respective ages, one or both of our relatively young cats may well outlive us. Then life as they know it would end when we die.

I’ve set aside money in my will for their care, and stated the hope they can stay together. But such concerns are mine, not theirs. They lack knowledge of a greater universe, a different tomorrow. They have no fears, except of loud noises. They simply enjoy what’s now: treats, smells, washing themselves, petting.

Even though we’re more aware of what’s across the street, foresee some of what’s coming, we might learn from our cats. It’s a wise human who, like a cat, can simply enjoy what’s now.

WRITING SHORT: 30/50

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[Come summer heat, much of my blogging momentum melts away. Hence an experiment until Labor Day: fifty minimalist posts about whatever.]
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Our bed in its prime.

Our bed is leaving us. The cats have torn several holes in its underside in which to hide. The whole thing squeaks whenever we sit or turn, and not just when something interesting is happening on it. It’s time.

I bought the box spring and mattress from Mattress King in February 1988, under the guidance of the man who’d been my first serious boyfriend when we were young and was then being recycled, as my older son put it, after my second husband and I had separated. That makes the sleeping part of the bed twenty-seven years old.

The headboard and footboard came later, purchased with a year-end bonus after the boyfriend’s second departure from my life.   I had always favored Victorian brass beds; I thought they were romantic (and still do). Second husband and I had one, but I left it with him when I departed.  This set was as close to the first as I was able to find. I could still hang on to its posts (if hanging was needed) and when made up it looked as good, or better, than the first.

Like the marital original, it was a standard double bed.  No Queen- or King-size degrees of separation for me.  If I’m alone, I’m alone; so be it.  But if I’m not, I need spooning — and always did. Second husband and recycled first serious boyfriend slept straight up and down. Alas, Bill espouses the diagonal “Z.”  I can accommodate that under protest, even in a standard double, by making myself into a complementary “Z.”  But then came the cats, who both favor my side of the bed. When the three of them are in place by the time I get there, I can hardly insert myself under the top sheet.

So this time we’re going for a Queen. (No room in the bedroom for a King.) Bill, who takes aesthetic pleasure in how things look, was prepared; he’d picked out the new bed well in advance of my capitulation to the need for it. He favors minimalist, expensive Italian design. I’m not arguing. Hanging from the bedposts at our age?  Really?  All the same, it’s hard to part. (Sob.)

Goodbye, dear bed. Goodbye.

CATS: AN INTERMEZZO

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SOPHIE, ON EXPENSIVE KNOLL CHAIR SHE SHOULDN'T BE ON

SOPHIE, ON EXPENSIVE KNOLL CHAIR SHE SHOULDN’T BE ON

[From “Stand Up for Your Cats,” by Julia Baird, New York Times, March 29, 2015]

Cat men and women, we have the numbers. There are now roughly 95.6 million cats in America [compared to 83.3 million dogs].

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Part of the appeal of cats is that they are independent and discerning. They have few needs. They come to you when they want; you can’t force them, or cajole them. They can be fiercely affectionate. They are gloriously indifferent. Cats don’t pretend to like you, and don’t care if you like them.

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[From Honorable Cat, by Paul Gallico (Crown Publishers), pages 8-9]

Everything a cat is and does physically is … beautiful, lovely, stimulating, soothing, attractive and an enchantment.

It begins … with the compactness of construction, composition, size, proportion and general overall form. The domesticated cat is the tidiest of all animals. There is an almost divine neatness and economy about the animal. Completely packaged in fur with not a bald spot showing, rarely two specimens wholly alike, it often comes decorated with designs that Picasso might envy and always functionally streamlined for every activity; just another case of the practical made glamorous.

SASHA AT HER MORNING POST IN THE KITCHEN

SASHA, AT HER MORNING POST IN THE KITCHEN