Monday, March 29, 2010

From an infected toenail?

 It is possible, probable, ultimately unavoidable that our deaths will be caused by something. We are born to learn this lesson; I find it comforting to be so sure of something, and know that at age 90, whatever that something turns out to be, I have had an exceptionally long and happy life. I am ready and accepting; I know, also, that I am good to go for years to come. My life, to me, is a miracle. 

My latest tale is about a toenail, and the new miracle that developed just this week-end. I was awakend at 3:00 a.m. Saturday morning by a pain so severe that it felt as though my toe was in labor. A throb, then a minute let up, then the throb again. It passed through my mind that it might be gout. Gout! I haven't had much alcohol at all in a decade; none at all in the last four years. Eventually,  extra strenth Tylenol earned me a few hours of dozing. By daylight, I could see that I had an infection in a corner of my toenail. Rosie, my caregiver, dabbed some neosporin on it. D.G. made her 9:30 call, and insisted that I call the doctor's office. They used to have a physician cover the week ends, when he would check in hourly for any calls for help that had been phoned in. That is no longer a service. 

And I called Dr. Stephen Shell, at home, and reached him as he was leaving for the airport. He phoned in an anti-biotic perscription for me, and Rosie flew to the Walgreens right at my corner, and I had my first pill by 10:00 a.m.

As much as we know about infections today, I need not lay out a "what-if" scenario for you. 

I had just finished a book, Friday evening, Lit by Mary Karr.  It is a sassy, funny, poignant memoir of her recovery from alcoholism, and how, when she was at her lowest, she was saved by religion. 

I didn't need the lesson of "Let go, let God". I have held to that thought for years, and on my sitting room wall is a plaque that reads "Bidden or not bidden, God is here."

Mary Karr describes the long road to learning that. I have had the miracle of knowing. 

I think it is ok for me to talk about my miraculous life; this is a thank- you note to whatever supreme being is watching over me, and all of you. 

I'm adding my toe to my grateful list.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Political Pot Pourri

My request for an absentee ballot arrived in yesterday's mail, asking for a minimum amount of information, so that I could be sent an absentee ballot. They asked my party affiliation, and my birthdate and my address. I was pleased they did not ask for anything extraneous, but I thought they could have used much cheaper paper instead of this "card stock."

 That same mail also brought the reminder census post card, the THIRD piece of mail I had received from the census bureau.  First, a notice that the form was going to arrive, as if I hadn't read that in the papers and seen it on TV for the last six months; the form, itself, followed in two days. I returned it immediately, only to receive the reminder card. How many millions of dollars was wasted on that foolish process?

Hearing constantly about waste in government,  we think of "pork" and  "bridges to nowhere" and special deals for Nebraska. That is millions in waste; I am talking pennies, or maybe even dollars. I am a child of the depression years, not really affected personally, but I saw those men selling apples on street corners, in freezing weather and no gloves! That such poverty could exist, and still does, taught me that  savings, large and small, can make the difference between comfortable and miserable. So I want the lights turned off when they aren't needed; don't let the refrigerator door stay open longer than necessary. I was an energy saver before Al Gore told me why it is so important. (My husband, Bob, told me.)

On the absentee ballot, I marked Democrat with a bold, black check mark. My voting record is pretty consistent. I cast my very first vote, as a senior, at Wellesley, for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, continuing to vote for him until he died. When Eisenhower ran, I didn't care whether he was an R or a D. Like so many voters, I just liked Ike. That slipped me in to the Republican camp, and before I knew it, I was a Rockefeller Republican. He had the credentials and the values of the Democrats, which, I think is why he lost his place in line, and here I was, stuck with Nixon. I came back to the more liberal side of the fence as soon as I could, and have been there ever since.

In the winters we spent on Longboat Key, I am sure most of my friends were Republicans. An air of civility prevailed, and one just didn't discuss politics at dinner tables or cocktail parties. From 1980 until 1998, I only once declared, "I am an L". I think they were somewhat surprised, but Bob was born and bred an R, so all was well.

It has taken me a lot of words to get to the point: political civility has completely disappeared. I am appalled at what I see on the internet and in comments to columns and news articles.

I am overjoyed that Obama's health care plan has passed, even though now we are back to the ugly infighting. God bless the United States of America, land that I love.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Death by a thousand paper cuts

Don't worry! I'm not really dying by anything. What is true, and has been true is what I have written before; I am really fine, I feel good, but, hell, I should, I am only 90!

I have just finished an amazing book, by  Diana Athill, a great English editor, Somewhere Towards the End.  She is startlingly honest about her life, to much of which I could not relate. She had been a highly sexual woman who never had, nor wanted, children, and she was an atheist. But as she confesses to the small humilities and indignities that we old folk face,  she gives me the freedom to complain just a little bit.

I have never been thin-skinned; I don't take offense easily or often. And my actual skin, my epidermis, that which covers my bones, has been as tough, or tougher than most. For years, my pleasure was to burn myself to a crisp in summer or in Florida, and not be sun-burned, but just a nice, dark brown. The few little skin cancers that I had have been easily removed, and if the price I paid was a few more face wrinkles, I pay that gladly.

Now, however, I have so thin a skin that, at the slightest touch, I bruise or bleed. It hurts. And trying to heal small wounds is so hard to do. At one time, I owned a little Johnson and Johnson stock, but I sold it the minute I heard that a Chicago pharmacy had sold some bottles of tylenol in which cyanide or something like it had been placed by, obviously, a deranged person. I should have held on to the stock; I have contributed mightily to their bottom line, buying all their wound-care products for the last three years.

There is no easy fix; there is no fix at all. So, I shall continue to bump and bruise and bleed, knowing that it doesn't matter all that much.

As Diana Athill says, "One doesn't necessarily have to end a book (blog) about being old with a whimper, but it is impossible to end it with a bang."

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I read this quote somewhere on the Internet: "Our fingerprints don't fade from the lives we touched." Google attributes it to Robert Pattensin, but it has showed up in a lot of places the last few weeks, on FaceBook and Twitter. I want to be utterly honest (as always) and so, now you know these words are not mine.

I wish they had been, but I would have switched it around to say that the lives that have touched mine will never fade from me; I tend to keep relationships going as long as I can. Of course, I am not that good at remembering names, but it is very seldom that the "touch" disappears.

For instance, I met a woman in Florida, once, in a pre-arranged tennis game, and. as we sat out between sets, she talked about a handicapped grandchild who had found a new world in a computer. This happened years before the advent of the computers as we know them today. I think it was that five minute conversation that propelled me to computers, in their earliest commercial form. And from which I am deriving so much pleasure as I write this blog.

A small fingerprint grows to tremendous proportions.

There is an entire other story that popped into my head as I read the quote. In 1956, or thereabouts, Tim brought home from pre-school, his hand-print in clay.  I'm sure his older brother and sister had done the same, but, for Bob, this was the time and this was his inspiration. The Bron-Shoe Company where Bob began and ended his business life, was thriving because sentiment was their business, the ability to bronze baby shoes ( foremost) among other things they did. Bron Shoe was the largest, and then the only such manufacturing company in the country.

Bob dreamed of setting up a new product for the company, and we began to count our riches. We envisioned a future with a yacht, we really were that naive!

Our high-school baby sitter was a beautiful artist, who went on to be an artist in the advertising department at the Lazarus store, and after that, taught art in the Columbus Public School system. Roseann sketched a circus wagon, with a wheel to fit the hand-print. The box, that eventually would contain a ceramic version of the circus wagon design and a package of clay for molding, was eye-catching and well-done. The name of the product was Imprints.

On a Saturday, for friendships' sake, Bob was given a "square" at the front of Lazarus, and there he stood, all Saturday afternoon as customer after customer passed by. And did not buy.

Imprints was a dream unrealized, but I had a closet full of boxes that I gave to all my friends' children as our Christmas gift to them. Today, on my "family" wall in my sitting room, I have a round, black ceramic plaque, with Tim's handprint in bronze,with a small bronze engraved plate that reads, "Tim's kindergarten handprint, 1958.

So "the dream lives on, ( obviously not my quote, either). And the fingerprints that have touched me will remain visible to me, always.

Monday, March 15, 2010

It's 3:30 p.m.; do you know where your 60 year- old daughter is?

 Okay, I admit it. I am an inordinately anxious mother. Most of the time, I am just an ordinary anxious mother. Sometime, even a regular mother-mother. But my very grown children are never far from my mind. And, truth be told, I think it is all a part of being a M O T H E R for all of us.

Calling-on-the-clock has its upside and it's anxious side. DG calls at 9:30 almost every morning. Until it gets to be 10:15 and I haven't heard from her, I calmly think she is asleep. But at 10:16, I simply have to call her to be sure nothing bad has happened to her. Neurotic, maybe, but that is why she calls me at 9:30 a.m., to be sure nothing has happened to me overnight.

I found myself way beyond neurotic the other afternoon. I had spoken to her, as usual, at 9:30, but at 12 noon, there was some news that seemed important at the time, and called her. The answering machine was on. So I called again at 3:30, and still I got the answering machine. I was, for whatever reason, freaked out. And I left my nervous voiced message: "Where are you?"

When she called a short time later, she told me she had been doing her usual errands. Of course: CVS, the Post Office, the Cleaners, Trader Joe's. Thinking about the foolishness of it all, we had a good laugh. It was stupid/funny of me; but how I felt was how I felt.

Remembering back many years... I had been staying with my mother at an apartment in Florida as she was recovering from a heart attack and a newly implanted Pace-maker. I was with her at a Spa (at a five-star Hollywood Beach hotel) when she had the heart attack. The hotel's doctor diagnosed the attack, but wouldn't call an ambulance until I gave him a check for $50. He sent us to a second-rate hospital, but we were strangers in a strange land. We were there for five or six weeks, as I remember it. 

My husband, my brother, my sister-in-law all spelled me over the long ordeal from the ICU through to this last stage, in a lovely beach apartment, waiting to be released to fly home. We had an RN with us during the day, and, one afternoon, I rented a car to drive to visit Bob's mother who lived in Bay Harbor. I had to take a bus down to what is now South Beach for a car rental place, and then drive north, visit for a little while, return the car and, bus on home. I was gone less than three hours, but when I returned, my mother began to cry tears of relief, she had been worrying so about me. It was irrational, just as I was irrational last week.

We have come a "furr piece" from 1982; rental cars will pick you up at home, there are cell phones to make instant contact. We don't have to know where anyone is, yet we can reach them. So why didn't I call DG last week? I didn't want to distract her on a freeway with a call.

So call me irrational, call me illogical, call me unreasonable, but, DG, just call me. Or better yet, I will now call you. I have nothing to say but I want to hear the sweet sound of your breathing.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Shared History

     This could have been titled "Another Leaf," but I don't want to scare you off. And it ultimately isn't about the death of Harriet Bracken at age ninety, although I mourn her passing.  Her daughter called me yesterday, saying she knew her mother would want me to know. And then the Columbus Metropolitan Club sent an e mail to notify many people that one of the Founding Mothers and the Club's first president had died.

     I first knew Harriet in the Lazarus advertising department.  She was Harriet Oelgoetz then and my boss. During the war, with Bob overseas, I went to be a copy-writer. I had majored in English so I knew my nouns from my verbs, but I had much, much to learn about journalism. It was a great experience, but as soon as Bob came home, I didn't want a career; I wanted a family. The road I chose was the right road  for me. Even if I could have succeeded in advertising, I would not look back on it now with the sheer joy I feel, looking back on my life as a mother.

     Meanwhile, Harriet moved to become a vice-president of the Huntington National Bank and a Columbus power-house. By then, she had married, had two children and was one of those women who "had it all". 

     In 1976, thirteen women came together to form an organization, the CMC, that would bring to the public the opportunity to discuss and debate in a diverse forum, local, national and international affairs. Our mission was to be the best place to have a community conversation. Harriet and I were two of the thirteen, all with the energy to make things happen.

     We combined our lists from all the organizations to which each of us belonged and mailed a letter of invitation. We expected that our next step would be to make hundreds of follow-up telephone calls.  I think we were all dumb-founded to get so many responses to our letters AND requests from others who
asked to be invited! Everyone was welcomed, of course. That was the point. We tried to keep the dues low, and we actively recruited men and members of the Black community. We were top-heavy with white women.

      We started with a volunteer administrator, who kept the files at her home. Eventually, we could pay an administrator and have a small office. Because women were not welcomed through the front door of the downtown clubs, we  rented a back room of a popular restaurant for lunch time, and had various events there. When they had some mafia-like problems with, I think, a chef, we moved to an office building and had our own rooms, a micro-wave the only heating unit allowed. Marg Haldi was a fabulous chef, and that small office/cum/restaurant was a lovely spot to go for lunch.

     Our program schedule and venue has changed  much since our first meeting. We had a Forum once a month at the Motorist Mutual Building, and then a mid-week conversation in a smaller room, wherever we could cadge a free room. For a while, it was in a room of the law offices of Bricker and Eckler.

     The Forum has been at the Sheraton Hotel, the University Club (now gone) and for the last years at the Athletic Club.  There are marvelous Forums, great special events, evening meetings...

     When we began, we hoped we could be like the Cleveland Club. I think we have left them in the dust. Our membership is somewhere in the neighborhood of 700, and I think we easily have as many, if not more, men than women. To my sorrow, I can no longer attend but can see a complete video of each Forum from the Home Page, thanks to a relationship with WOSU.

       We have become a true community institution, and this is my salute to all those who have shared in the history of the Club, and a sense of gratitude for having been allowed to be part of it all.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Physical Phitness for Phyllis

     Everywhere you look, everything you read, every time you really think about your health (which is as seldom as possible for me), the importance of being physically fit is in- your- face.

     I have never subscribed to gym classes, or health clubs, or personal trainers; that's for smart and careful people. My whole life I just assumed that I would keep walking, until I could walk no more. And that would be when I would be dead.

     The spring we came home from Florida, 1998, from what  we knew was be our last winter in our personal Eden, Bob figured out a way to bring the washer and dryer into a closet on the same floor as our living, dining sleeping, office rooms. It was ingenious what he did; I thanked him, but thought to myself, "that is really unnecessary; I will always be able to take the steps."

     I was brought up short by the medicine gods, in 2005, or maybe the real God, when I found myself on the operating table to repair a hernia on the left groin and, back a week later, for a hernia on the right side. That was the beginning of a long getting-really-sick back to a getting-real-better time. I had an epiphany about trainers and therapists when I had a young man teach me to walk again.

     I can walk, but not far, and if no one is with me, I use a walker.

     I am literally terrified of breaking my hip.

     I am back to my own self-prescribed therapy. With someone to walk beside me, I walk all around the house, which is not really big at all, but very horizontal. I have made it up to one walk-through twice a day. I'm aiming for two twice- a- day. 

     Is ninety too old to stay in shape? It better not be, because my goal is to run around the house in two more years.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Last Leaves, old friends

     Not too many years ago, I was having lunch with Lucile Kirk, who had recently lost an old friend, and she said to me, "I don't want to be the last leaf on the tree."

     I think about that, often.

      Because I am one of two close friends remaining from the CSG class of 1937.  I am also one of two close friends remaining of the Wellesley Class of 1941, and also one of two close friends still alive from our memorable Saturday Night Crowd of seven couples.

     This gives me a 50% chance of being the last leaf of three different groups of old, old friends.

     Not that there is anything wrong with that! It doesn't sadden me, or make me happy, and I have figured a way to stay in touch with all of those who have left us. I write a little something to them every now and then, and they reply, in my dreams. They speak to me, directly, and I don't need a dream-book interpretation. I get the message, I truly do.

     I can send an up-date message to my missing friends, here on my blog. That's a totally new concept for most of them but I am sure they will catch up quickly. Just remember wedeb90 blog spot, and we're back in communication. This is comforting to me, even if it sounds as if I am slightly nuts.

     I just need to believe that our memories are the way we never really lose anyone.

  Dear all,
Where ever you may be, my old friends-- you could actually be anywhere, I have no idea of the choices for the after-life-- but I just know that there has to be a way for me to reach you, sophisticated as communication is today. I always like to think that people in heaven are making phone calls to me when a face or a name or a dream comes to me, unaware. But how do I know if you are getting the messages from me to you?

I see you, each in your own outdoor, garden-y rooms, amid soft, pinkish, purpley clouds, in hidden grottos, and in clover-filled pastures, beside the still waters of a diamond-clear stream, in the gardens I always wish for but have never achieved.  Bob’s special cloud, I know, must have a small road banked with day lilies , under overarching trees, just like the short, quarter-mile stretch of country road on the way to Hide-A-Way Hills.

     Watch for my next blog.  Bit by bit, I will fill you in on what's been happening to me since last we met.

                                                                                              With love to all of you




Monday, March 1, 2010

Common courtesy

     We are all aware that the culture in this country is in a deplorable condition. We have become accustomed to men wearing backward baseball caps in restaurants, to high school students with either their bosoms overflowing their tops (girls) or their bare butts on display, pants falling down (boys). Some of us, from another generation may not like it, but we are used to it.

     We live with the fact that old-fashioned manners have disappeared with the years, that even the columnist, Miss Manners herself .has become something of a dinosaur, and opening a door for a lady is macho and anti-feminist. We hardly notice the boorish and the vulgar.

     In the last few weeks, I have had three experiences that brought me up short. It was none of the above that made me sit up and take notice.  It was that my use of common courtesy astounded-- well, not astounded-- but so surprised the recipients.

     I mailed a check to pay my Wellesley Club dues, and the treasurer called to thank me. Now, it was I who was really astounded. I have paid those same small dues since 1941, the year I graduated. Thank me for paying my dues? She explained that some of the older members who no longer attend meetings do not pay. I understand; there are some organizations to which I have always belonged that I now do not pay, either. Those organizations hound me year after year to re-join. This is much ado about due(s); nevertheless. It was so nice to be thanked.

     Next, Temple Israel called to say they had a gift for me, and a volunteer would bring it to my door. I told her that I couldn't get to the door at that moment, but I would in a very short while. She asked if she could leave it by my door, which she did. Because I didn't get a chance to thank her in person, I sent an e mail to the Temple administrator, asking where I should direct my thanks, and did I receive the box of Purim goodies because I was 90? She said my e mail was more thanks than was expected and it wasn't really because I was 90.  I could read between the lines that my acknowledgement was a surprise. Why?

     And finally, I ordered a magazine for a friend on-line and the order went through but there was no place for me to pay for it. So, I called the subscription department, and they were surprised that I had
made the effort to pay them.

     There is a moral to these stories, somewhere in this blog.

     To be nicer. more polite people,  instead of going with the flow, we could try to divert the flow from spiraling down ward and begin, like salmon, to run against the tide.

     Using common sense, we might find a consensus on the rules of common decency.

     It's not Jane Austen I yearn for.  It's just Emily Post.