Category Archives: aging

What I wore to the rally

So there we were, T and I, walking up Maple Street headed to the Rally against White Supremacy. I was in Oxford, Ohio, the campus of Miami University, my alma mater. Dare I count the years? B.A. in English, graduated 1972. Could it really be 45 years?
Two young women crossed the sidewalk in front of us. One of them paused, then turned to me excitedly, “Is that an Obama t-shirt?” “Yes, Obama ’08. I’m old enough to have been there.” I was pleasantly surprised—amazed even—at the wholesome young student’s excitement. And at that moment I felt a strong intuition: I needed to write and blog about this.
My activist date and I continued walking until we found the Sun Dial, the rally’s meeting point.
There were a few hundred people, mostly students but some boomers like us. I’d found out about the rally from Facebook Events and also knew De’Vante, the co-organizer. We had met at the opening of one of Hillary Clinton’s campaign offices. He had confidently proclaimed from the stage: his goal was to be the first black—and gay—President. I admired his ambition.
A young woman asked if I would answer some questions about why I was here. Sure. She was working on a capstone project. I assume she selected me because I was a gray haired one. I told her I grew up in Hamilton, several miles east. Remembered my first knowledge of racism: African Americans lived on the east side, my white family on the west. My babysitter was a Cohen; I was shocked to discover some people disliked Jewish people, too. I knew early on that something was seriously wrong with Society; I realized what I learned in school was partly lies. My sister married a black guy and I came out lesbian. Our poor mother! At some point years later I told her she’d done something right—taught us to think for ourselves.
The speakers were outstanding. I wish I’d had a program so I knew who they were and what organizations they were associated with. One was an African American female reverend running for Cincinnati City Council. She was one of the most powerful. I appreciated her contrasting her decades earlier time at Miami with how things were now: racism still, unfortunately, but in 2017 people were standing up to it publicly. Even so, some Civil Rights Freedom Riders are memorialized at the former Western College side of campus. In 1964 hundreds of volunteers — many of them white college students — trained in Oxford before heading south to register black voters and set up freedom schools and community centers.
Three civil rights activists — Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman — were murdered in Mississippi soon after leaving Oxford. Their deaths stunned the nation and sparked a major federal investigation. It was code-named “MIBURN” for Mississippi Burning after their charred station wagon was found.

All these memories swirled through my head. It wasn’t until a speaker asked that we hold hands with one next to us that I totally returned to the present. It was the first time I’d held hands with my activist date. Then the March began.
I definitely got my 10,000 steps for the day though my broken Fitbit wasn’t on my wrist. I tried to keep track of what direction we were going so we could find our way back to the car.
T & I are both in our 60’s. Although we are both fairly active, her right knee was hurting and my left hip started acting up. After the halfway mark, we did have the sense to move to the edge of the marching crowd. It was hard to keep up with those younger marchers with long legs!
Near the end, we separated from the marchers when they turned from the street toward the rally area. As we walked across the green space a young woman asked us what the march was about. Evidently, all they could make out was KKK. We reassured her that the march was against the KKK. The chant went “No KKK, no Fascist USA, no Trump!”
We were pleasantly tired as we drove back to Cincinnati. Glad we had made a stand—and contribution to the cause—as elders now.

*** Thanks to Laurel for the writing prompt!

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Holiday weekend ennui

I drove my dad to the cemetery where our Beiser’s are buried. As you can see from the photograph of the headstone, there is an opening in that plot, in the ground below us. My father, “Norman,” has a space waiting for him next to his deceased wife (this is the woman he married after my mother and his divorce).

Here’s our conversation in front of the headstone:

Me: “Doesn’t it feel weird to see your name on a headstone?”
pause
“Do you believe–or hope–you’ll meet [his wife] at the end of the light?

Dad: “What I HOPE is that someone will have my date filled in!”

That’s our dry family wit.

But that’s not the end of my holiday weekend ennui. Ennui is a French word describing a feeling that combines tiredness and boredom. It’s more complex than this. Here’s my intuitive fastwrite of a post trying to get to the bottom of these holiday weekend sadnesses:

I am single. No children. Being a lesbian still makes me an outsider to much of the world in spite of all the gay news lately about same-sex marriage. I have no family, automatically in place, to spend a holiday weekend with. No grilling out with the grandkids, no movies to watch together, no hopping in the car for ice cream.

Now, in many ways I have chosen all this. I mean, some lesbians do have children and grandchildren. I’m not one. And I’m well aware that there’s a certain Norman Rockwell sort of insipid fuzzy gladness in these images.

So I need to create my own family, circle of intimates, friends. As a matter of fact, I did have an invitation to a lesbian party Sunday evening. But I spent the entire afternoon picking dad up fifteen miles away, driving to the Bevis Cemetery near my neighborhood, taking him back home, then driving myself back home. Sixty miles. I was happy to do this (especially happy I had the energy post-cardiac surgery). It meant, however, that I’d be too tired to drive to Lebanon later for the women’s gathering. So I missed out.

So there is usually this sense of something missing most holiday weekends.

Later I realized there were two events that happened past Memorial Day weekends: Only a few years ago, I had to have my handsome elkhound Bodhi put down. He could no longer walk plus he stopped eating. Spent the night on the living room floor, never getting up.

Last year, I spent two nights in Maine meeting a woman I’d met only online. We’d shared months’ worth of emails and took an online class together. We were both in our 60’s and (now I realize) wistful for a love partnership. If I tell you I changed my plane ticket to fly home a day early this will give you the ending. One year ago. Hope and illusion.

It may take a few more Memorial Day weekends to soften the memory of Bodhi and Ms. Maine. These memories are attached only to Memorial Day weekend. I know I am strong as well as sensitive. I’ll get through this, especially now that I am aware of it. The one thing I CAN do is invite people over. I don’t have a grill but I have a spectacular deck and backyard!

It’s all about the heart

For some time I have suspected that spirituality is all about the heart. Now I get to experience my own physical, literal heart.

Tomorrow morning I will undergo angioplasty and cardio catheterization. Sure, I’d heard of these terms, even knew people undergoing them, but never me. This time, I’m in the Cath Room.

After three episodes of chest pains and shortness of breath in less than a week, I phoned my doctor. A referral, please. Something’s going on. Two times were on a treadmill at the fitness center. But when I felt pain walking my dogs in the community center’s field, I knew something was seriously wrong.

I got in the next morning to the Ohio Heart and Vascular Center on Harrison Avenue. How fortunate I was to see Dr. JoAnna English, cardiologist. After an EKG showing abnormal t waves, she insisted I chew five baby aspirin on the spot. I felt safe in her hands:  not only was she intelligent, she had empathy–a combination not always found in physicians.

My task is to be a “couch potato” all weekend. I did pretty well yesterday but spending most of the time on the phone and internet made that easy. I’ve been an activist and doer for decades so this does not come naturally to me. I am enjoying being at home, not having to do even those fun things every day. I have yet to get back to that book I was reading.  I am forbidden to walk my dogs. I am doing a laundry of sofa covers as I write since I am having company this afternoon.

But back to my heart. Cuz it’s all about the heart. Honestly, I’ve taken it for granted. How do I know? Yesterday morning as I lay on one side, I heard and felt the regular and reassuring beats. Thump thump, thump thump. “You’re there,” I thought, “working even as I sleep, even as I forget that you are the most important organ of my body.”  THANK YOU.  In the afternoon I took a short nap midway through reading the pamphlets that go over my procedures in language and pictures that even a kid in 6th grade could understand.

“How Your Heart Works.” “How Angioplasty Treats Heart Disease.” Understanding Angioplasty.” “Understanding Cardiac Catheterization.”  [c Krames Communications]

Step-by-step, they explain what will happen. You see, I’m the kind of person who wants to know, no, NEEDS to know. I’ve always been like that, asking WHY?  to my poor mother. I became a reference and research librarian, after all. Got paid to look things up and help the public find everything they wanted.

So, theoretically, I know. But I am 64 11/12. Ironically, turning 65 has been a Big Thing. I’ll (hopefully!) celebrate this one February 17th–only nine days away. And this year I will certainly appreciate my mortality in a deeper, more heartfelt way.

“When I’m 64”

That Beatles song has been in my head lately. “When I’m 64” has finally come true. This is my day, my 64th birthday. Hard to believe I am this old.

Yesterday I celebrated by going to a poetry reading. I bought a chapbook of poems from one of the poets, Susan Glassmeyer. She is a member of the Greater Cincinnati Writers League which meets once a month. I like the poems I’ve heard from her! I believe we are kindred souls. So when I read what she had signed-thanking me for my support “and lovely poems,” it made my day!

My lovely poems are lurking inside waiting to see the light of day. I have a strong feeling that once they start coming through, there will be a lot of them. But Susan’s vote of confidence will keep me going.

This morning for my birthday, I ordered some poetry chapbooks from Finishing Line Press. I ordered poetry by Kate Fadick and Karen George. I know these two women, sister poets, from the GCWL. I admire their words and commitment to the craft of poetry. I am glad to support them. They, also, will serve to keep me on my path as a poet.

My lunch with two friends was postponed due to impending freezing rain. It’s tough to be a February birthday “goddess babe.” But I have my two dogs napping on the bed next to me and the profound art of poetry.

Vulnerable about death today

I check my cell phone early in the day. It’s a habit, to be sure. What could be so earth shattering on Facebook, after all, that couldn’t wait until after breakfast?

This morning as I scanned the new items, I noticed a photo of an elephant that seemed to have tears in its eyes. The caption said they remember horrible things that have happened. I started to cry. I didn’t click to find out more. I wasn’t ready for any details.

Then I decided I was tired and needed a relaxing break so I watched a dvd from the public library: Delhi-6: The Journey Within. With music by A. R. Rahman, it had to be good. But I chose it because “the story is told against the backdrop of the ancient walled city of Delhi who is a character in herself.” It was a moving story of a grandson accompanying his grandmother back to India where she wants to die. He has grown up in the U.S. so must learn the ways of his extended family in Old Delhi. Turns out his father was Muslim and his mother Hindu. So this forbidden marriage of his parents out of love is set up in the macrocosm of the Muslim-Hindu tensions in the neighborhood. It gets a little silly with a black monkey monster loose in the city and the media’s animated obsession with this unknown evil. By the resolution, Roshan (main character) realizes the town fool is correct: look in the mirror and you see the divine but there is also potential for the black monkey terrorist when anger and fear lurk.

I was crying by the end of the film. Roshan nearly died, and in fact, he did for a few minutes but regained consciousness. His love, who almost elopes with a boyfriend, realizes Roshan is the one and they will somehow surmount her father’s objections.

Realizing I’d been inside all day, I took the dogs a walk to the creek behind our house. We walked down the west field a bit, passed through high grass where the deer cut through, then reached the creek. I sensed something before I could focus. There was something large lying there on the side of the creek: a dead deer. Eyes still open, blood from the rear–my dogs seemed to take it in stride but me? Now a rush of tears.

What was it about today? I had to take a look at what was going on.

In last night’s writing group, we were reading from Brenda Ueland’s IF YOU WANT TO WRITE. Here is what stood out for me:

“He [William Blake] did not mind death in the least. He said that to him it was just like going into another room.” When it was my turn to check in, I shared this memory about my mother’s death in 2007:

You know when Steve Jobs died and his sister shared with the world that his last words were “Wow!” Well, I can’t believe I could have forgotten but I did. Fortunately, I had documented her last hour at hospice in a poem. Toward the end, my mother had said “Amazing!” I had been so afraid of death, the final mystery. In recent years with meditating and chanting with my local Siddha Yoga group, I had become less so. While I want to believe that death is like going into another room, intellectually is one thing and getting closer is quite another. I will be 64 next February and aging is a concern of mine. So is death evidently!

So when I cry for that dead deer, am I sad she died? For we all must. Am I projecting my own? After all, alone in a creek is better than dead in the road. It is not rational, this much I know. And the moon is not full and maybe I just have had too much time alone these past few days, time to reflect more deeply. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with crying. Doesn’t it mean I’m open? Being vulnerable is part of being human. I just didn’t know I’d wake up and feel so human today.

Together 30 years! — against all odds

Congratulations to Carolyn and Crystal! These friends left Cincinnati decades ago to build a place in the country outside Athens, Ohio. Their relationship survived harsh winters, racism (Crystal is black), homophobia, two children, and lots of animals. My good friend Victoria and I drove there Saturday night for their celebration.

Even though they’d been emailed that we were planning to attend, it was worth the drive to see Carolyn’s face light up when she saw me. We shared a great hug and pulled back to look at one another: although we were both over a decade older, our faces were the same (funny how that is). She and Crystal looked great; you would never know they’re in their fifties.

The dinner was gourmet potluck, outstanding. Too bad I ended up with a queasy stomach and couldn’t enjoy it all more. I may have overdone with the grande latte on the way in. Vic and I had some good conversation with a woman sitting at the same table — it turned out she is Crystal’s massage therapist. We watched the giant slide show on the wall of Carolyn and Crystal through the years. There were one or two of me from the DINAH lesbian magazine years when I worked on this journalistic labor of love with Carolyn.

Then people began dancing. Vic and I knew later that we should have got up to dance to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” because we are so picky about our first dance among strangers! But we didn’t and then the dance numbers were not so much to our liking. I drank Diet Coke, hoping my stomach would settle. It did but then we two old ladies felt we’d better hit the road for the return trip to Cincinnati.

The sadness of saying goodbye was eased because we are so psyched to go back and reminisce when it’s not so wild! We may even bring the videorecorder and capture Carolyn and Crystal tales for the Ohio Lesbian Archives.

Until then, our 24 hour whirlwind trip is a sweet memory.

conversation with an 87 year old / poem 107

I saved Mr. G. for last today. Most Fridays I deliver meals to some elderly people in my neighborhood. Today I would have a chance to visit with Mr. G. since he got out of the hospital.

I had taken him for a same day cystoscopy procedure on Monday. Because of the anesthesia, his doctor required him to stay overnight in a hospital since he lived alone and wouldn’t have anyone to watch him. Because his tumor was causing bleeding, they were waiting for the blood to lessen in his catheter before releasing him.

We drank some coffee together at his kitchen table. After delivering meals to him for nearly two years, we’d come to this neighborly habit most Fridays. He showed me the papers from the hospital. A librarian there had printed out information about his illness and the medication. I was impressed. “See,” I said, “This is the kind of information you can find on a computer. You are such a reader and so inquisitive, I bet you’d like getting online.” In response, he showed me a few magazines he subscribed to and asked if I’d like them after he was done reading them. I told him I hoped I’d be so mentally sharp when I’m his age — if I make it to his age.

how long do I have?

This is a useless question but one I sometimes wonder.
All my zen practice disappears in the dust
when the 59 year old faces the future.