What’s New With Being Old

Note: This is the next in a series of posts contributed by our 90 year-old author, ~~~M Wave~~~. Show her some love! Visit her category “Memoirs of a Nonagenarian” at the right to see what else she has written.

I’ve been thinking about “being old” because in my mind I don’t feel old. I still want the same kinds of things I have always wanted. I am fortunate because some of them I can still enjoy. I still take walks…short ones with my cat. Yes, she goes right along with me and doesn’t run off. I think it may be because she is getting old (for a cat) and appreciates still being able to get out. I enjoy using my computer to be in touch with family and friends. I still play the piano enough for my own enjoyment. I like to read. I enjoy some TV shows. I can visit with friends almost any day.

I would still like to go the pool and swim; I would still like go to France and visit my niece who is there during the summer. I would still like to fly to California and babysit my great granddaughter and allow her mother some time for herself. I would like to have my family members who have left this earth back here with me. I would like to………, but I am not able to have or do everything I would like. That is part of what it means to be old.

But I’ve never been able (for other reasons) to do all I’d like to do. So that’s nothing new.

So what is new about being old?

Of course, I know what you might say. It is that you are hurting. Again, that isn’t so new, either. Life has given me more than a few hurts.

I guess, the new thing is that we yearn so much for the old things that were good. Then the hurting gets worse. Your arthritis hurts more. Your fibromyalgia hurts more. Your hurting from a fall lasts longer. You hurt because you can’t process plots on movies and plays as fast as you used to and you appear dumb to others. You hurt because you can’t see as well as you used to and you can’t read as fast. You hurt because you make foolish math mistakes that you never used to do. You hurt because a friend’s husband just died and you cannot go to comfort her. You hurt for all the things you still want to do and cannot. You hurt because you feel you are not of any help to anyone. You hurt just because you fear you are a burden to others.

So, I guess what’s new about “being old” is just hurting more.

Thus, what you do, if you are old, is what you have done all your life. Survive the hurting. Do all you can to be a cheerful person, smile, think positively and live each day as best you can, realizing that each of us is interlocked with everyone else as all of us age each year.  Then you won’t hurt so much.

Remembering a Sip of Cream

Note: This is the next in a series of posts contributed by our 90 year-old author, ~~~M Wave~~~. Show her some love! Visit her category “Memoirs of a Nonagenarian” at the right to see what else she has written.

I know that last week-end will remain memorable in my mind as I had a wonderful visit from one of my nieces and her family. I had not had the chance before to meet two of her three daughters, nor her husband. What a joy each person was. These girls are my great nieces and I am their great aunt. This fact stimulated the memory of a great aunt of my own…

When I was small, many extended family members lived nearby. As my brother and I walked home from school, we passed our grandparents’ house. And if we just turned right at the church house before we reached our grandparents’ and walked about a mile or so, we would arrive at my other grandfather’s sister, Lavina Smith and her husband Will’s house. We called them Aunt Vine and Uncle Will.

I was quite young when the grandparents of whom I just wrote were put in charge of my brother and me while my mother was in Chicago at the University of Illinois hospital with her mother whose own story is quite unique. It was at a time when X-rays were rather new and it was not known exactly how they could be used. Our doctor used X-rays “treatments” on my grandmother’s abdomen before he realized she was receiving what was actually, I guess, radiation and now grandmother was one of the first patients who needed help for a radiation burn which would not heal. In fact, since it seems that medical photography was not immediately available, an artist was commissioned to paint the interesting new look of a radiation burn. My grandmother used to joke that, somewhere in Chicago, perhaps she had quite an interesting picture of herself hanging on a wall. Eventually, skin was grafted from her hip onto her abdomen and she recovered. But, “Don’t touch me” became her motto.

On one of the days that Mother was away, my grandparents who were in charge of us had to be away when school was over and my brother and I had been instructed to walk to Aunt Vine’s house, which we did. When we arrived, however, both Aunt Vine and Uncle will were gone somewhere and the doors were locked. So my brother and I explored the area. In one of the nearby buildings, there was something rather special. It was where the milk was stored. (Remember this was wintertime.) It was skimmed milk, and the cream that had been skimmed off was there in a separate container. A tincup was hanging on a wire on the outside water pump and we, being typically hungry right after school, decided we shouldn’t allow ourselves to starve, so we took just a sip of cream. Back then, thick cold cream was tasting a bit close to ice cream in the middle of winter. Anyway it tasted great to us right then and we each had a good helping.

Then reality set in. We knew better than that. This was just like stealing since we did not have permission. We were in bad trouble. Maybe we should just keep quiet about it and no one would notice. Aunt Vine and Uncle Will came home and drove us back to my grandparents’ who had also returned home.

It was days before Mother called us in to her and said she had something important to ask us. “Did you help yourselves to the cream that was stored at Aunt Vine’s house the day you were there after school?” She instructed us to be sure to answer truthfully. Hesitantly we confessed. Mother went through the explanation of all the reasons that was wrong. First of all, Aunt Vine and Uncle Will sold cream at the town creamery and then bought groceries with the money. So we were affecting their having proper food. Secondly, since we did not have permission, it was too much like stealing. We both hung our heads. We felt guilty, and also were dreading punishment. Mother went on. It seems Aunt Vine had told my mother about it, but told her she did not want us punished, but just be given the explanation about the situation. Aunt Vine said she could recall how hungry she always was as a child when she had just arrived home from school and realized that we must have been famished. What a good soul–and how great that her memories were there to help our being forgiven–and to give me a wonderful memory of my great aunt and uncle.

I hope you are building sweet memories. Many friends around my own age have lost almost all of their brain power except for very old memories like this one. Some of these friends appear quite content with only those memories! Perhaps that isn’t all bad.

Changing Times

There is no need to call attention to the changes of the times.  It is only too obvious. Change itself is neither good nor bad. It is inevitable.  We ourselves change from day to day. But I feel that the acceleration of change that is occurring today is bringing frustration and tension to the populace.

It is not surprising that I find that I am not using all the great features of my at least three-year-old Kindle to the best advantage.  But look at all the advances in the last three years just to the kindle, along with the multitude of other electronic devices. How does one keep up? Are all you younger people keeping up?

With these quickly changing times, how can I keep from joining the chorus of elders who love to start their statements like, “When I was a child.” So, let me begin… When I was a little girl, I had a brother who was 3 ½ years older than I, my only sibling. Let me tell you about him. He was my idol. He was so smart and taught me everything. For example, I was very small when he told me that if you remove a hair from the tail of a horse, carefully put it into the horse’s watering tank, and leave it overnight, it would turn into a snake by morning. I was just a bit skeptical, but the next morning when there just happened to be a gentle breeze, my brother pointed out how that snake was wiggling and that settled it for me.

My brother’s logic was impeccable. It showed up when it came to closing the yard gate after we carried in the wood for the kitchen stove the following day. His logic went like this: I must be the one to shut the gate since I was the last one into the yard. If he had shut it I would not have been able to get in. Very true. The next day, I made certain to not be the last one through the gate. I was wrong again.  His logic: I had opened the gate and the gate would not be open if I had not opened it; ergo, I must be the one to shut it.  It seemed to make good sense to me!

Let me add that since my brother started to school much sooner than I, he would play “school” with me. Hence, before I was five years of age, he taught me to read and know my numbers and how they could be added together.  This enabled me to start in the nearby country school when I was only five years old and–going at my own pace–end eighth grade at the age of twelve.  I owe so much to my brother, a bomber pilot in WWII, a commercial pilot who later died prematurely of a brain aneurism.

But that isn’t the story I want to tell here. Once, my brother and I felt we badly needed a coaster wagon.  There were great hills nearby for coasting, so we contracted to sell Cloverine Salve.  This was and is a very good salve.  The company gave us this deal: After we sold a particular number of tins of salve, our parents could purchase this wonderful wagon at a reduced price that perhaps they could afford. Not only was the salve only $1 per can, but we also offered a gorgeous 9 x 11 picture suitable for framing, depicting a beautiful scene of nature, a wonderful likeness of a famous actress, a Persian cat or even a St. Bernard dog saving a life, absolutely free with every purchase. We managed, with wonderful relatives and neighbors, to sell our quota and had many bumpy exciting rides down our nearby hills.

My memory of this was brought to mind when I received a catalog yesterday with a few “Trusted Remedies” included.  There it was. The picture of our Cloverine Salve in the same attractive tin.  But, as I have said, all things change.  In this case it is the price1  How lucky my neighbors were to have purchased Cloverine back in my early days when we made it available to them for one dollar.  The retail price in yesterday’s catalog was $7.99.

I am thankful that not everything changes.  The love of family, friends, and neighbors is still there today.  Sometimes we forget to appreciate its presence; we should talk about it even more than we do.  We should hold fast to some things–family relationships, values and the like–as we accept the changes that we cannot change and work diligently at stopping the changes that threaten us and the world we know.

Reminiscing

I have mentioned having thoughts about aging. They become unavoidable the older you get. Actually, it comes as a surprise sometimes to still be alive. Your past is so much longer than the anticipated future and you know it. Hence the temptation to turn to the past becomes so great. You fear it will all be lost unless you can somehow stamp it in the minds of the next generations. I recall the time one of my grandfathers set me down and said “Now listen carefully. This is important.” He told all about Sgt. York in World War I and I tried hard to listen. I’m sorry to say that I had forgotten most of the details when I read later about World War I, but I always will remember there was an important Sgt. York.

I have been recalling other stories that my grandparents told me. Since I am almost ninety years of age, it is obvious they were about long ago. My other grandfather was born in 1860, and one of the stories he told took place when he was four year old. This was one of his favorite stories because he was so young at the time but remembered it so vividly. He said his mother had acted very strangely one day. She had gone out and had let the screen door slam behind her, though she was already running through the yard gate by the time he heard the door slam. He started running after her, but she was now into the field to the back and side of the house, running faster than his four year old legs could hope to go. His tears began to gather. He cried for his mother. He sobbed and screamed. His mother had never acted this way before and especially like this–ignoring his crying need for her. He could only wonder what was going on.

When little Simon finally stopped, looking through his tears, he could see two people coming his way. It was a bit puzzling until he could see that it was his mother with her arm around a man clad in soldier clothes. It was his Daddy!!!!!!! The year was 1864. Daddy was coming home from his service in the Civil War. No letter, no telegram, no telephone call had announced his coming. His mother knew when she looked out toward the field through which he would be returning and saw him, that he had made it through the war. My grandfather could later certainly understand his mother’s action. When I later studied about the Civil War, I found it much more interesting by having heard my grandfather’s story.

One of my grandmother’s childhood stories that greatly impressed me and still amazes me until this day is about one of her experiences when she was very little. Remember, she lived in the midwest, in Illinois. Grandmother thought she was probably in the first grade or so when she was trudging home from school through the woods with three of her five brothers. Henry, her oldest brother had died at the age of 14 when she was around 4 years of age. Sam was the only brother younger than she. Since he was 2 years younger than she, he was not in school as yet. Laura, my grandmother was the one last in line as she trudged at her own pace the path that was a shortcut home. As she walked along alone, gently swinging her dinner bucket, she heard an odd noise behind her in the trees. Looking up, she saw a panther looking as if it were ready to pounce. Grandmother did not remember being afraid. She took off her bonnet and waved it at the panther. As she told me, she had no idea why she did that. It might have signaled an attack. Instead, grandmother just went on home. I decided that the panther sensed what a wonderful, sweet, loving person that little girl was and would always be and let her live to become my grandmother!

As we try to encourage the preservation of more animals in our environments, this memory of grandmother’s sticks in my mind. It appears that this urge to preserve the past has a value and is not just a useless feature of senility. Whether it be for an appreciation of nature, of our loved ones who are safe and healthy, or simply an appreciation of where we have come from, the act of recalling and sharing is something that binds us together and to the great story that goes on and on…

~~~M Wave~~~, our newest author!

I want to introduce myself. I will be celebrating my 90th birthday in January, 2012 and I find it exciting to share some of the things that were/are of interest and importance to me. As you might surmise, many interests are intertwined with memories as well.

I have never felt the need to make a huge splash in the world, and I like the concept of being a wave interacting with all the other waves making up the ocean of life. However, there is a great need now for actions that may result in such splashes in order to accomplish the changes greatly needed in various aspects of today’s world.

I was born on a working farm in central Illinois and left the farm after my marriage to my college sweetheart for us both to begin our careers in teaching, then on to having children. My husband became a principal for children, kindergarten through 8th grade; In a different school, I taught 7th, 8th and 9th graders the subject of mathematics. Both my husband and I felt our home and our own children must be our first consideration, but were fortunate to achieve our goals in our careers. Our marriage outlasted our teaching days and our days of rearing children and we celebrated our 68th year of marriage before his death.

It is interesting that I now find myself back in the city nearest the farmland of my birth. The memories of my childhood on the farm and the relationship with all the people and the animals of my youth are back so strongly. My husband also grew up on a farm and has written a few articles about his farm life which I shall probably use in my writings as well. His love for children and animals was so evident. After his retirement, Bob volunteered to help second graders improve their reading skills; read stories weekly to some pre-schoolers and, after not having the chance to do much of the teaching in his school as principal, did substitute teaching in the town of our retirement. He was in his early 60’s agewise, quite ancient to a small child, and during one of his substitute teaching assignments in the second grade, we learned a phrase that we used often to handle particularly rough moments in our lives. Bob was holding only one sheet of paper as he was speaking and there was a bit of a tremor. A little girl, with her childhood concern, asked “Mr. Frame, why is your hand shaking?” Before Bob could reply, a little boy popped up with “Wal, he’s a gettin’ old!” Although we often chuckled over that comment, it was straight to the point and of such value that, when we happened to forget something important, we just quoted “Wal, I’m a gettin’ old!” A good sense if humor is so vitally important to help anyone slow the aging process whatever his present age.

The aging process has become one of my newer interests and it is actually somewhat fascinating. The greatest help in coping with the process is, as I inferred above, maintaining a good sense of humor, and especially the ability to laugh at yourself. The aging process gives innumerable occasions for such times. Perhaps I shall review a few of them in later writings.