When WE Become the Elders

When we are children, our “buffers” are our parents, siblings, grandparents and aunts and uncles. We feel secure in the knowledge that we are loved and protected. We know that we belong to a family and that we can count on all those wonderful people who are in our lives.

Then we grow older, and go out into the world on our own. But we still have family members and friends. We grow older still, and lose our “protectors” over the years. All of a sudden, we find ourselves at wakes and funerals. We realize that we are truly on our own, and, if we are lucky, our families have prepared us for this.

Of course, it doesn’t make it any easier to lose a loved one. But life does go on. When we become the “elders,” we realize that we have choices; we can be well-versed in kindness, empathy, humor, and can now be both strength and comfort our young people. Even if we are not thrilled to be older, it’s a gift and a privilege to listen to and help our young ones go through their trials and tribulations, their good and their bad times.

Our life experiences can do much to help or at least comfort those who are coming up behind us. We now are the “parent birds” who urge their young out of the nest. We can assure them that they can do it, and, hopefully; see them through.

There is nothing wrong with being an elder; in fact, it’s a wonderful time. We have retired from work, and use our time as we please. We can finally take time for ourselves and enjoy the life we have and the lives all around us. At this time of our lives, we realize that the bothersome and petty little things that used to aggravate us are nothing at all, just minor annoyances. We may have lost our “looks” and have gained or lost weight; but we have learned to live comfortably in our own skin.

As elders, we have learned what matters and what doesn’t matter. We have a choice to be all we can be. We can now look in the mirror and laugh at wrinkles, hair loss, more or less weight; as elders we realize that the petty things just don’t matter. What does matter is how we live the “elder life” and how we treat other people. Most of all, we finally can see ourselves for who we really are: well lived, well loved, well meaning and well met against the tides of life.

 

On Kindness

I fear that we have become a “me first and the hell with the rest of you” nation. It seems that kindness is getting pretty thin on the ground, and that’s a real shame. I recently read an article about people who recline their seats all the way back on airplanes with no regard for the comfort (and safety) of the person behind them. They don’t even bother to look behind them when they recline.

The person behind the recliner may have a laptop or a cup of coffee on their tray, and so on. Would it hurt to just ask the person behind if it’s ok to recline? We know that, unless you pay for first class seats, you are going to be somewhat uncomfortable. But there’s no need to be selfish and just plop your seat back so that you are comfortable—at the expense of the person behind you.

Then there are the drivers who realize that they are either on the wrong road, or they’ve passed by the store they meant to go to, and so on. In their minds, they think it’s completely fine and dandy to make dangerous moves while driving, such as running through two traffic lanes to get to where they want to go. It’s a risky thing to do and can be quite dangerous. So when you are driving and make a wrong turn by mistake, DO NOT flub up traffic trying to scoot over to another lane. Doing this could cause an accident. Just man up, take a safe turn and get out of traffic; it’s not like a few more minutes of your time is going to kill you. However, doing risky things can kill you or innocent others.

I would hate to see the death of kindness. However, I still believe that many, many people are kind and compassionate. I still believe that kindness still exists. I still believe that, in spite of all appearances, people are basically good. My granddaughters have given me hope and joy in the way that they treat their parents, their friends and each other, and us, their grandparents. They want to help others, they are kind to animals (living on a farm as they do, they love and care for every creature from yaks to chickens), and they believe in the power of goodness.

I still believe that kindness exists. It would be nice to see more of it, but still—kindness is still there. And it can come from unexpected people or places, too. Just yesterday the Crankee Yankee and I drove up to Wolfeboro (NH) to tag the stuff in our storage unit; what to keep and what to auction off. After that, we drove into town and visited the cemetery where my grandparents and parents rest.

I had asked the funeral director who buried my parents when my dad’s military footstone would be placed quite a while ago. But yesterday, there it was. And of course I burst into tears. Just at that time, an older lady drove up (I found out later that she was looking for her own father’s headstone). The lady saw me crying and said, ‘no crying, now; it’s all right.’

And you know what? She was right. Another act of kindness!

 

 

 

Christmas Trees

I put up our little Christmas tree recently; actually, it was the one my parents had; already decorated. The lights still work, and it’s on our bay window, looking as beautiful and bright as always. It seems that, no matter how old we are, we still get that thrill of the first snow fall, putting up the Christmas tree and hanging up the lights. I always hark back to what Christmases were like when I was growing up. On Christmas Eve, my parents and I went to my grandparents’ house. I brought my tiny suitcase as I always stayed over night on Christmas Eve.

My grandmother always made a fabulous seafood chowder (which I now make every Christmas Eve) for supper. It was wonderful, and there were homemade pickles and rolls. Dessert was always something extra special. While the adults sat around the table having coffee, I would go into the parlor where the Christmas tree stood. All the ornaments I loved were on it, and below it was beautifully wrapped Christmas gifts. I would lie down under the tree, and look up at the lights and wonder when Santa Claus would arrive.

When my parents went back home, I got into my nightgown and took my plate of cookies upstairs to what my grandmother called the “pink room.” It was her favorite color, and the walls and ceiling were pink, as was all the bedding. There was a window to the side of the bed, and I always opened it a tiny crack; I loved the smell of the pine trees. I would read until I was tired, and then I would turn out the light, and listen to my grandparents talking.

As I drifted off, I swore that I could hear Santa’s sleigh bells in the night.

 

Does Anyone Use the Dictionary Anymore?

Ah, the American Heritage Dictionary! Does anyone still use it? I realize that it’s pretty easy to check your device to find the correct spelling of a word, especially something out of the ordinary, such as “haboob.” (From the Weather Channel, “Haboobs are dust storms caused by strong winds flowing downward and outward from thunderstorms.”

“All thunderstorms produce these gusty winds, so for a haboob to form, the storm needs to be in a location where the winds can pick up small particles of dirt or sand in a dry desert area.” Pretty interesting, right? And you can find all this easily in your dictionary.

Way back when I was in grammer school, we learned useful things such as using a dictionary, how to check out a book at the library (as long as you had a library card), and how to understand (and use) the *Dewey Decimal Classification. Another helpful tool was the Thesauras; which offers more than 150,000 synonyms, related words, idiomatic phrases, and antonyms. Words are alphabetically organized for ease of use, and each word comes with a brief definition to describe shared meanings.

Later on in school, we learned about Strunk and White’s . I still have my copy and I use it often. The book’s mantra is still on point:

“This much-loved classic, now in its fourth edition, will forever be the go-to guide when in need of a hint to make a turn of phrase clearer or a reminder on how to enliven prose with the active voice. The only style manual to ever appear on bestseller lists has explained to millions of readers the basic principals of plain English, and Maira Kalman’s fifty-seven exquisite illustrations give the revered work a jolt of new energy, making the learning experience more colorful and clear.”

I realize that we now live in a techno world and can look up things in a flash. But, as an older person, I still love the feel of real pages and the fun of looking up words and phrases. Trust me, there is always something new to learn and appreciate.

 

*From Wikipedia:

“The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC), colloquially the Dewey Decimal System, is a proprietary library classification system first published in the United States by Melvil Dewey in 1876.[1] Originally described in a four-page pamphlet, it has been expanded to multiple volumes and revised through 23 major editions, the latest printed in 2011. It is also available in an abridged version suitable for smaller libraries. OCLC, a non-profit cooperative that serves libraries, currently maintains the system and licenses online access to WebDewey, a continuously updated version for catalogers.”

“The Decimal Classification introduced the concepts of relative location and relative index which allow new books to be added to a library in their appropriate location based on subject. Libraries previously had given books permanent shelf locations that were related to the order of acquisition rather than topic. The classification’s notation makes use of three-digit Arabic numerals for main classes, with fractional decimals allowing expansion for further detail. Using Arabic numerals for symbols, it is flexible to the degree that numbers can be expanded in linear fashion to cover special aspects of general subjects.[2] A library assigns a classification number that unambiguously locates a particular volume in a position relative to other books in the library, on the basis of its subject. The number makes it possible to find any book and to return it to its proper place on the library shelves.[Note 1] The classification system is used in 200,000 libraries in at least 135 countries.[3][4]”

Why We Shouldn’t Yell at Our Pets

I learned the hard way that losing my temper and yelling at my cats doesn’t help them stop bad behavior; it makes them fearful and can make them lose trust. When we first adopted Scooter, a small black cat who is only about four years old, it wasn’t easy to get the other (and older) cats to get used to him. When Scooter would approach one of the cats to play, they would hiss at him and run. It takes time for pets to get comfortable with new pets.

Of course, the inevitable happened; Scooter would approach the other cats and they would either swat him or run from him. When this happened, I would scold the cat that swatted. This did nothing but make all the cats scared. It may sound funny, but I realized that all I was doing was scaring both the swatter and the swattee.

When a new pet comes into a house with already established pets, there is always a learning curve and a lot of getting used to the new pet. For our four older cats, Scooter was an outsider and a pain in the tail. It takes time for the older cats to get used to a new cat, especially a young one. Poor Scooter just wanted to play, but the other cats weren’t having it at all.

When I saw Bailey (who was my mom’s and dad’s cat) swat Scooter, I just lost it. I yelled at him and swatted his tail. Of course the poor thing was terrified and went into hiding. It was then that I had one of those “ah ha” moments: my yelling and swatting was not helping; it was teaching Bailey to be afraid of me.

After I had a good cry over it, I stopped yelling and swatting. I even apologized to all my cats and promised that I would never ever yell or swat them again. (And I know what you’re thinking: ‘oh SURE they listened!’) But I’ve kept my word. Although the four older cats are getting used to Scooter these days, there is always a small dust-up here and there. When I see or hear it, I just say (not shout) “hey, hey—that’s enough.”

Our pets have no idea why we are yelling at them; all yelling does just making them scared. If your dog likes to chew on your leather slippers, put them in your bureau drawer. If your cat just loves to knock your doo-dads off the living room table, then put them somewhere else where the cat can’t get at them.

It does no good at all to yell and tell them that they are bad dogs and cats; they seriously do not have a clue why you are yelling at them. Yelling will just make the pets scared of you, nervous and afraid.

Make sure that your pets have playthings that they like. I’ve never owned a dog so I’m not much help to you on that one. But cats absolutely love catnip toys. We always have “stinky fish” (check them out on Amazon) which are stuffed with catnip. There are also “kicking sticks,” which are long cotton tubes which are also stuffed with catnip. Cats go nuts for them and will amuse themselves for hours. Those plastic “jingle” balls are fun for them as well. Often the cats will play so much that they end up taking a long nap afterwards.

And as for Scooter fitting in with the others; it’s happening. Of course there will be minor dust-ups now and then, but as the months go by, our other cats are becoming more tolerant. I learned the hard way that bullying and yelling and swatting do nothing; all those things only make the cats scared and afraid. I don’t yell any more, and I don’t swat their tails anymore. When a little dust-up happens, I just say “hey now, that’s enough, kids.” Then I pat them and tell them what good kitties they are—now that’s something that they really understand.

Lesson learned: please don’t yell at your pets or swat them.

 

 

When Men and Women Travel

I wrote this a few years back, and nothing has changed.

The Crankee Yankee and I enjoy our road trips, and go on them at least a few times a month. Unless we are visiting my step-daughter and her family “up Maine,” we tend to take our time, go on back roads and enjoy the scenery and each other’s company.

However, even with that relaxed scenario and not much of an agenda, there is still that whole “man/woman perspective.” No matter how casual our jaunt is, there are still some unspoken assumptions and expectations. Mine are usually these:

  • That we will take the time to stop at a fun little restaurant or diner for lunch or an early dinner (NOT fast food)
  • That we may stop to check out an interesting shop.
  • That we will take bathroom breaks.
  • That when I say, “oooooh! Let’s stop here!” that we will stop there.
  • That we are some place we don’t always go, so let’s take our time.
  • *That I don’t necessarily have to hear ‘well, we’ve come through here before, don’t you remember?’

That said, the Crankee Yankee (and, I’m betting, most men) feels this way:

  • We are driving to <wherever> to do something, buy something, see something, and that’s IT
  • We may or may not stop for lunch; if we do, McDonald’s is cheap and perfectly fine
  • We are not here to wander around shops all day
  • That if we are going to stop to pee, make it in a place where we have to stop anyway
  • We need to get back before dark

For the Crankee Yankee, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. For me, it’s ALL about the destination. I do enjoy being a passenger and letting someone else worry about the details. So I don’t expect to have to answer an impromptu quiz about routes, back roads and railroad tracks. Sheesh.

Needless to say, there are some lively disputes about this…

Here’s the bald truth: when I am a passenger, I pay no attention to route numbers, road signs, weather vanes, etc. I’m there for the ride and possibly a short nap. If I’m not driving, I’m not paying attention to how we go anywhere. So don’t ask me.