It’s Not Alzheimer’s, It’s “*CRS”

Well, it’s finally happening to me—I am not only forgetting things, but I seem to have even forgotten that I have forgotten something. For years now I’ve been walking into a room, and then think “why did I walk in here?” But that’s pretty common…..right?

These days even more weird things are happening. For example, last evening I happened to glance at my wrist, and there was a green rubber band on it. I do NOT remember putting it on my wrist. How do these things happen?

The Crankee Yankee, as always, has a theory. He tells me that I am “so focused” that I may be misplacing things (or putting rubber bands on my wrist) because I am thinking ahead instead of thinking in the present. Ha—he should talk!

For instance, he knows that I am manic about putting things back in their proper place when I’m finished using them. I’ve lost count of how many times I have said loudly when he is around, ‘where did the kitchen scissors (or my favorite little spatula, or those cute and handy miniature wire whisks I used to have, or my old sterling salad spoon, etc.) go?’

I KNOW that the Crankee Yankee did not put them (or whatever else I can’t find) back where they belong. I will probably find them in the garden, or lying beside the bottle of water he also left outside, or downstairs on top of the washer. Or on a spaceship speeding back to Mars, probably.

But back to losing things, forgetting things, misplacing things, well—it does make me wonder if my heretofore good brain is running out of gas. However, I am still the person who notices that the paper towels or toilet paper are on their last sheet, so I replace both so that no one (meaning ME) will be caught short.

Funny that as often as I espouse the “be yourself” and “do your own thing” and “everyone join hands and sing Kumbaya,” way of life and so forth, I get pretty testy when people (meaning of course the Crankee Yankee) don’t do things as I would. Which only proves that I am still a fallible human, and I always think that my way is the best way. My heart knows better, but I have a very stubborn mind.

This reminds me of the **Red Green show; the men on it belong to a so-called men’s club. Their morning ‘prayer’ is: “I’m a man. I can change. If I have to. I guess…”

I think I’ll have to start repeating that to myself each day, of course substituting ‘woman’ for ‘man.’

*CRS: Can’t Remember Sh*t”

**The Red Green Show is a Canadian television comedy that aired on various channels in Canada, with its ultimate home at CBC Television, and on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) stations in the United States, from 1991 until the series finale 7 April 2006, on CBC.

My Place at the Hip Joint

Funny how when we are in our 20s and 30s we never give a thought to our bones, muscles, skin tone, etc.. There we are; beautiful specimens of youth and health, with strong bones, muscles, joints, etc. All of our parts are in great working order, and we simply take it for granted that we will always be young and strong and healthy. If we get an injury, we heal fairly quickly. If we wake up with a hangover, then hot coffee, some aspirin and a good breakfast clears that right up. Bumps and bruises don’t phase us; they heal in no time.

Then fast-forward 30 years later, and we notice how, when we get out of bed, our bodies make ‘popcorn’ sounds. When we walk, we hear ourselves saying, ‘ow, ow, ow!’ as hips and knees and backbone and feet protest being used so soon after sleep.

For a while now, my right knee has been bone-on-bone; I can hear it grind at certain times. At night it wakes me with its deep aches, as if to say, ‘hey—I’m up! Let’s talk!’ So I made an appointment with the knee doctor, and he suggested I attend a a two-hour informational seminar on joint replacement so I can get an idea of how the process goes. The seminar included all kinds of information you need to know before embarking on the road to painless knees and hips.

I walked into a crowded conference room at the local hospital, and sat down beside a nice couple; the wife immediately told me that she was here for her husband, who needed a new hip. The three of us talked about how age does a number on your bones, and how lucky we were to live in a time where there were such miracles as knee and hip replacements!

The couple to the other side of me said that the wife needed a new knee. We talked about how funny/but sad/but funny it was to have your knee poop out on you. We laughed together about what that nasty old S.O.B., Age, does to a person. Then one of us said, ‘oh well, as long as I’m on this side of the grass, I’m good!’ We all had a good laugh.

At this point, a nurse started the seminar. She explained the process clearly, and asked who needed knees and hips replaced; we were about evenly divided. The information was helpful, questions were answered, and we all seemed to get what we needed out of it.

What’s funny about all this: even though I just turned 65, I still feel young. I still consider myself a young person (funny how your eyes conveniently glaze over in looking at saggy muscles, facial lines, dark spots, cellulite, etc.), even with a bad knee, worn out from years of use. Inside we feel as young as ever, and sometimes it’s a shock to see an older version of the face I knew in the mirror. More shocking still (to me, anyway) is wondering if everyone around me thinks I look old!

But be that as it may, I too am happy to be here on this side of the grass. I’m thankful that I live in a time where I can get my worn-out old knee replaced. After all, I have two granddaughters I’d like to keep running around with; it’s too much fun not to. So whether or not I see you at the old hip (or knee) joint any time soon, I’m grateful for the gift of a still-useful body and mind, for family, friends, good (and bad) jokes, for hobbies that intrigue me, for ever more books to read, for good movies, for four beautiful seasons, a roof over my head, love in my heart and soon, a shiny new knee!

If you’re looking for me in the next month or two, I’ll be at the knee joint.

When Your Mind Goes Off Leash…..

These days it feels as if my mind is ‘off leash;’ that is, it wanders more than it used to. When I was younger, I could carry all kinds of things in my head at one time. In fact, my mind was a fabulous layer cake; seven layers usually:

  1. Tasks to do that day
  2. Things not to forget to do, such as lock the doors
  3. Work stuff, all in neat orderly rows
  4. Home stuff, such as meal menus
  5. Pet stuff; feeding the cats, getting them to the vet for their checkups, etc.
  6. Significant other stuff
  7. Me stuff

But alas, these days my brain cake seems to have shrunk down to one miserable little layer….and that one is pretty crumbly. These days I am saying things like, ‘pass me that, oh, you know, that thingy you write with,’ or ‘I just met whathisname up the street,’ or best of all, my frequent ‘word salad’—when I mean to say, ‘I put gas in the car today,’ it comes out as something altogether different, like ‘mint tea and ginger snaps.’ Surely I am too young for this degree of mental foolishness….or not.

Then there is the annoying physical part of getting older. When I got interested in karate in my 30s, I went all the way to 4th degree black belt. I had my own school with two other instructors, and loved it. Over those years, I must have done thousands upon thousands of kicks and punches, not to mention being a punching bag for overenthusiastic students.

So now, mere days away from 65, I have not one, but TWO torn rotator cuffs, plus hip and knee pain. When I get out of bed, my body makes more sounds than a bag of microwave popcorn. I now fart whenever I bend over (always the lady), and when I do yoga or stretching exercises, I always have to repeat this mantra when getting up: “ow, ow, ow, OW!” Sheesh.

I also find that, in the six months since my mother died, my emotions have been all over the place. Oh, I’ve checked those websites about women losing their mothers and all the different emotions they go through. Intellectually I understand the mental hopscotch.

I thought I might benefit from therapy, and went to one session. I cried and gulped and wiped my streaming eyes and nose all through it, paid the man $100 and never went back. I realized that I was afraid that, upon reliving my experience, I might explode into millions of tiny shards.

What I feel now is a weird combination of grief, fear, worry, anger and something else I can’t quite name. It’s a lot like the Wheel of Fortune game, but with no stopping for too long on any specific emotion. I never know if my day will begin with tears, irrational anger, self-pity, self-doubt, worry or, or something worse. But then often some days I feel like the old me, the one who had a mother.

It isn’t like Mom and Dad and I didn’t prepare for this. As with everything in my family, we worked through all the details of dying and death. As we always have, we talked openly with each other, and dealt with this as a family. We said everything to each other; we declared our love over and over and over again. When Mom began to decline physically, it was with love and deep affection that Dad and I cleaned her, brought food in to her, talked with her, kissed her and watched her sleep.

When everything came to an end on December 16 last year, I could feel her joyous and ebullient spirit shoot straight up to Heaven, exclaiming “It’s about damn time!” She was ready to go and looked forward to her next adventure.

But there is just something about not having that physical presence any longer. I keep a favorite picture of her and Dad ballroom dancing right beside my chair in the living room. Both of their faces are lit up with love and joy and the pure fun of dancing together. That special smile, the one I had known since babyhood, lives for me now in my mind and in pictures.

Trust me, I know all the emotions that go along with the death of someone you love deeply. But knowing them and living with them are two different things. What I am going through now is nothing new under the sun—just new to me.


Being the Person You Were Born to be

I don’t know about you, but when I was in high school I kept trying to be someone different than I was. I remember one day where I decided this: ‘today I am going to be completely cool. I won’t be the yakking dork I usually am; I will be quietly and undeniably cool, and not let anything bother me. Today I’m going to be in charge of my emotions and not let anything get under my skin.’

So, how’d that go, you may ask? Not well—not well at all. Within mere seconds of walking into my homeroom, this happened: I tripped over my own big feet and dropped my books and purse, which immediately vomited up its contents, including my bright yellow tube of pimple cream, which landed at the feet of the handsome foreign exchange student from Spain. He gallantly handed it to me, saying in his charming accent, “Thees is yours, no?”

My face was flaming as I muttered my thanks amidst laughter from the class. All day long people would sidle up to me, saying, “Thees is yours, no?” and laughing their heads off. So much for being cool, calm and collected!

But in our youth we seldom know who we are, and we try out different personalities in an effort not to be who we believe we are. It is a rare young person who is confident in their own skin; generally it takes years to do so. However, whether we like it or not, we are who we are for a reason and a purpose. We may initially see real or imagined flaws in ourselves, but generally we grow out of most of it. In our youth, we are often unaware of the gifts we bring to the table. It takes time to find them, and often longer to appreciate them.

It took me a long time to believe that people around me liked me for who I was; family excluded of course. It was my family who kept telling me and showing me how much they loved me for simply being me. It took me years and years to realize that I had valuable gifts to share–and to believe in them.

This has been my experience, and yours may be different. But what we all share is that we are here not by chance, but for a purpose. You may be reading this and think, ‘well, I’m nothing special–I don’t have any gifts.’ Respectfully, that just isn’t so. You may not see what you have to give, but others do. You may not believe that you are anything but ordinary; your family and friends would disagree. Your life touches many, whether you speak to people, shake their hands, email them, or join an online forum. Your influence and personality touches others, and we may never know the impact that we have on others.

Do not doubt that you are here at this time to fully be the person you were born to be—who you are matters deeply.

That Was Then, This Is NOW

I’m sure that all of us  at one time or another have looked at our high school picture and thought, ‘I was a good-looking kid back then–why did I think I wasn’t?’ Well, that’s age and perspective for you. School, especially high school–where some of us wanted so badly to be cool and popular, pimple-free, good looking and confident–was a trial by fire and scorn.

Upon hearing the oft-repeated phrase, “oh, just be YOU. You’re fine the way you are!” didn’t help one bit. Back then it was so easy to pick out flaws and definitely ‘uncool’ things about ourselves. I realize that back then I was looking at each individual tree and not the whole forest. It was all too easy to try to compare myself to other girls, and in my mind, I always came out the loser.

Now that I am creeping perilously close to 65, I see things differently. I look at the wonderful pictures my dad took of me when I was in my teens–in them, my eyes are pleading ‘please like me. Please think I’m pretty.’ Back then I hadn’t yet figured myself out or realized that the gifts I’d been given had little to do with looks.

I used to work with a guy a few years younger than me who always kept a picture of his 17-year old self on his desk. When I commented on it, he said sorrowfully, ‘just look at all that glorious hair I had then! Look at how thin I was!’ His “present self” was older, of course, and had very little of all that hair. Each and every day he looked at that picture and compared himself to that younger, hairier self. I used to tell him, ‘that’s your past; that’s not who you are today. That was then, this (pointing to him) is NOW.”

Clearly he wasn’t pleased with the NOW. I never forgot that–the wistfulness in his eyes while looking back at his young self. Just about everyone looks good when they are young; that’s pretty much how it goes. But living in the past is like willing the tide to turn, or pulling the moon down to the earth. Things just don’t work that way.

It’s perfectly fine to look as good as you want to at any age. It’s ok to want to be young again, but since that can’t happen, why not embrace the person that we are now, right this minute? We don’t have to be perfect, we don’t have to look young. We just need to be who we are, and so what if we are no longer the hairy drummer in our old band, or the perfect prom queen we once were?

That was then, THIS–right here, right now–is NOW. Let’s not waste another precious moment mourning our past selves, but move forward to enjoy all the things that our PRESENT selves are and can be. It’s the ‘looking ahead’ that keeps our souls young and our eyes bright. In fact, here is list of some of the things that, being older, I no longer have to do (and am tickled to pieces about it):

  • No more going to work
  • No more wearing uncomfortable (but good-looking) shoes
  • No more running around the house with my hair on fire trying to do everything at once
  • No more taking all that time to look ‘perfect’ each day
  • No more worrying about what others think

And here are some of the many great things I DO enjoy and can do each day:

  • Cook whenever I feel like it
  • Apply minimal makeup with no ‘trendy stuff’ (NOTE: leave the glitter to the teens)
  • Walk outside in flowered capris, a t-shirt and a floppy hat to garden
  • Wear all the jewelry I want, even if I’m just going to the post office
  • Sit on the porch, drinking coffee and enjoying the parade of the world going by

Life is GOOD, but it’s especially good when we are old enough to REALLY appreciate it.

The “Honey,” “Hon,” “Sweetheart,” “Sweetie” Syndrome

It seems to me that the instant I started showing some silver hairs, I stopped being a “ma’am” or “miss” or even “guys” (when I am with the Crankee Yankee) at restaurants and retail. Now I’m called “honey” or “hon” or “sweetheart” or “sweetie.” I understand that service folks are trying to be friendly and chatty, but each time I hear those words, something that’s still young curls up inside me.

I’ll be the first to admit that I fully embrace age and retirement (and didn’t they come quickly!), including my looks and what I wear (let’s call that ‘comfort chic,’ shall we?). I still load up on jewelry; lots of silver bangles and rings, earrings and so on. I suppose that this only draws attention to my various lines, wrinkles and age spots, but I don’t let them bother me. Shoot, at my age my motto now is not “less is more” (that’s the one I use for makeup only), but “more is more!”

I am actually comfortable with my age and appearance. But it’s hard for me to keep hearing the “honey” or “hon” or “sweetheart” or “sweetie” appellations each time I go out to lunch. Again, I KNOW that the hardworking servers are doing their best to be friendly. It’s not their fault that those nicknames make me want to squirm.

Funnily enough though, I have no problem asking for the senior discount wherever I go. Hey, it’s one of the perks of being older. When I was young, I used to get impatient when older people around me constantly asked the price of things and was there a discount on such-and-such? In my then-young mind I’d say, ‘oh, for heaven’s sake, just pay the price already!’

But these days I get it. If I order the two tacos with a “signature side” of the house special mac and cheese and the waitress tells me how I can get a better deal by ordering the lunch special, where the mac and cheese is a dollar less–I’m all for it! That doesn’t sound chintzy to me at all; it sounds smart.

Ah, well, this is all what I call “POP,” that is, “Part Of the Process.” This particular POP is the getting-older one, and I guess the senior perks stack up higher than hearing the occasional “honey” or “hon” or “sweetheart” or “sweetie.” (I just hope that they don’t mistake my wincing at those names and think I’m having a stroke!)