I've Landed!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Live Without Fear

                                  I will sustain you....

Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am He, I am He who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you.
                                         -Isaiah 46:4

I am doing this blog about aging because I am so tired of excellent books (on managing life stages) that devote 5 pages or so at the end of the book to the subject of the “final” chapter of our lives! I want a whole book on what it is like on the twilight landscape where I have landed instead of dying young.

"Old age" lasts a long time for many people!  Five little pages on it is NOT ENOUGH.

The “final stage” in said books is often lit up with posters on retirement, and cruises and reflections.

I do not find these posters helpful.

I want the facts, Ma'm, the real facts.

What the heck is going on here?

And I don't want 3 or 5 little pages to leave me worrying about why there isn't more volume!
“This is it? This is THE END?”

If I were writing a play of said circumstances, I would have a mean nurse character walk up to the aging patient in his hospital bed at the “final stage” and say “Oh shut up! You've lived a long time. Suffer through this last little bit and be done with it! Quit bothering us with your whining!” At which point said nurse would drop dead prematurely and unexpectedly, and anonymous patient would grab hold of the siderails of his bed, pull himself up far enough to peer down at her prostrate form and mutter (in a whiny loud voice) “Life is so hard.”

My gospel, He said, is the good news.
 It is a message of peace.
 It is not a message of fear.

Living without fear.
That's what Kit said she is doing , and she is older and in worse shape than I!
“You should not fear!” Kit said.
“You are being fearful!" Kit said.
Frankly I don't value Kit's opinion on most things, so I guess I could dismiss her words on this.  But I have to admit, Kit seems to be living without fear.

 I do want to live my life without fear.  
That can happen for me only spiritually...............
because I worry better than just about any thing I do!
Need to have somebody worry on your behalf? Just fax the facts over to me and …..hey, don't even bother with the facts, just send a brief outline of possible future events, and I can manufacture an Electromagnetic Field of worry that will blow you socks off.

Worry and fear go hand in hand, like lovers.

Even though I have many wonderful hours of peace, it seems worry (and fear) are ever lurking outside my castle walls.
I must turn to God over and over to sustain me like He has promised.

One of the things that is helping me these days is remembering that no matter how brief the chapter is at the end of the book addressing our life challenges, the book's “last page” is by no means the last page. The last page has not been written.

Mortality ends at death. I will give you that, with only a bit of an argument.

But life goes on after we are “done” here. Believe me. I know for certain. (read my November 2014 post on “Identity After Death” about Mary).

Let's pause to think a moment what it means to be “done” with mortality, as in  d-e-a-d .
Sure, it means our actions are over.
No more handy work.
No more hanky panky.
 We are done with our actions.
 The birth process is over and we have been delivered wherever we are going.

But are we totally gone?

Is our influence over?

Has Cicero totally died? When you read his letters does he not “live” in some way as his words alter how you think and how you understand?

Just how dead are we if our passed-on-DNA is alive and well in somebody else after we depart?

Just how dead are our ancestors while yet we live, carrying their strands of living DNA within us?

"Dead", like "Old Age", is defined in more ways than one.

If my brain waves are flat but I am on a ventilator and have a good pulse, am I dead?  I certainly are done with  handy work and  hanky panky!
If you donate your heart at death and it beats on in somebody else, are you totally dead?  Are you in any way somewhat responsible for the handy work and hanky panky going on?
When a person is "clinically dead" is that person necessarily "biologically dead"?
After every cell in my body is replicated...and replicated...and replicated and I am more or less built on a pattern of the original, have I already died (several times) in some way?
Is death really about the spirit leaving the body, rather than about the body dying?
Is life just renewal, renewal, renewal?
Is replication some form of resurrection?  We know...errr, think... mortal replication has an end, but isn't it getting easier and easier to believe in resurrection, even without faith?  When I was in elementary school, it took pure faith to believe in a Virgin Birth!  And I believed.  Does it take any faith at all today to believe in a virgin birth?  Even a grade-schooler today can understand the process!  Easy.  Just plain easy.
Will that happen with understanding Resurrection in the future?

Trailing clouds of glory we come from afar.

And trailing clouds of our humanity we sail on.

I think those trailing clouds of humanity, left behind, are very real and very important  and extremely interesting.

Grateful for the peace of God,

Friday, December 7, 2012

Caring,but not all that much...(sigh)

This really is an aspect of aging:  decreased caring.  

Have you noticed that?  We don't always say, "Frankly, I don't give a damn, Scarlett" because we sometimes don't even care enough to verbalize our less intense feelings. 

 Don't beat yourself up if you find yourself not caring as much, or if other old folks don't seem to care as much.  It could be normal.   
Or not, if mental health or abuse has brought about that state.  In which case you or others should get some help because help is available......and I am not talking pharmaceuticals!  I'm talking therapy.

But the reasonably healthy aging person has some "decreased caring" since we are less intense as a rule.  We give up on a lot of things and even wonder why we once cared so much.  

 Decreased caring is not always a bad thing!  As a child, I found old people to be less threatening, less reactive, more emotionally supportive, more accepting, and only weakly judgmental.  

Old folks often taught us when we were young that we sometimes cared too much about things that didn't really matter....or cared WAY too much about things that really did matter.  

Remember those little insights from the slow old people who helped you be less embarrassed and less shattered by life experiences?  

Every young person needs an old person.  
Not only are we oldies-but-goodies helpful, but we are easier to dismiss than the strongly opinionated-strongly caring adults!  
That's a plus to the young, I would say.

As children, we needed the old folks to "balance" the playing field.....to MAKE IT ALL MORE NORMAL!!

Good grief!  Write long enough and you finally find normal right under your nose!
"I'm normal!  I'm normal."

Caring, in a wafty sort of way,
PS  I do thank you sincerely for dropping in today

Friday, November 30, 2012

Aging is not a Disease.

Aging Produces a Heterogeneous Population

Aging is not a disease.

Aging is actually a series of processes that begin with life and continue throughout the life cycle.

As we move through the processes, we become more and more different from everyone else.
Thus, it is noted that the aging population is a very heterogeneous population.

What makes individuals, as they age, different from one another is a combination of many factors (for example, place of birth, place of residence, marital status, the foods eaten and not eaten, education, heredity, physical and mental health, family size and composition). There is also a time period effect on an individual. A person's age when he or she experiences a particular time period (for example, the Great Depression; the assassinations of JFK, MLK, Jr. and RFK; the events of 9/11) also influences how they age.  
In sum, the factors that influence the manner in which people age are too numerous to mention here.

Because of the burgeoning size and heterogeneous nature of our nations aging population, there is a rapidly increasing need to understand both the normal aging processes and the consequences of aging on the population.

Where once it was unusual for families to have three living generations, now it is not unusual for families to have four living generations.

Many persons experience full lives for two to four decades past 60 years of age. In fact, they are quite capable of enjoying life fully until the end of their lives.

For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away,
The sky is filled with stars invisible by day.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Couldn't have said it better myself.
Thanks for your visit,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Am I Old?

When Does Someone Attain Old Age?

Old Age is really a social category that is defined differently by various cultures.

In the United States, we define old in a number of ways socially.
  • Age 40 is the age at and beyond which a person may not be discriminated against in employment. (Age Discrimination in Employment Act ADEA)
  • Age 55 is the age at which low income individuals might qualify for subsidized employment and learn new work skills. (Title V of the Older Americans Act)
  • Age 60 is the age of eligibility for Older Americans Act services. Due to limited funding, however, services tend to be targeted to those aged who are most needy. (Older Americans Act of 1965)
  • Age 62 is the age at which persons can take early retirement. (The Social Security Act)
  • Age 65 has been the traditional age for full retirement. However, because of longer life expectancies, the full retirement age is increasing for people born after 1938. Full retirement now goes from 65 to 67 depending upon the year of your birth. (The Social Security Act)
  • Age 70 has been used as a mandatory retirement for the members of some professions.
Rather than lumping everyone past a certain age as old, some social gerontologists make a distinction between the young-old (ages 55 to 74) and the old-old (ages 75 and older). Still other gerontologists add a middle-old category between the young-old and the old-old categories.

No matter how the aged are categorized, aging is a highly individual experience.

Chronological age may differ considerably from a person's functional age,
 and age-related changes occur at different rates for different persons.

Age-related changes don't begin at the same time nor do they all occur simultaneously.

Changes as we age are normal.

Generally speaking, age 85 and beyond is considered the "frail elderly".
But remember, even the experts do not agree.  There are many people past 85 who are NOT frail.
The definition of old age is not stable or even universally agreed upon!

 So you get to choose!

Are you old?

Aging gracefully or clumsily depending on the day, nay, depending on the hour,
Glad you visited,

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Are You a Wanna Be?

Did you see where that 96 year old man fathered a new son this year?
The man's name if Raghan and his wife is Shakuntah.  They met ten years ago when he was 86 and she was 42.  Over in India.

Well, that's what the news said.   Some folks who commented on the news article were totally disbelieving of the ages.  As a nurse, I am not disbelieving at all.

Old age does not mean No Can Do.

Disease may mean No Can Do at any age.

Are you a "wanna be dad" on the Twilight Zone of Life......where you have landed instead of dying young?

  Well Ragnan lived a life of celibacy, so when he began making babies on our strange twilight landscape he had no teenagers.   And chances are he never will.  So......personally I don't think he has accomplished any great feat.

The people I cheer in wonder are those who reproduce when there are teenagers in the house.

I was working with Connie when she announced her pregnancy at age 44.  I was only 35 and, frankly, I judged her harshly for her complete immature come-a-part at having her 6th child.

But I did like Connie, so one day as I sat on a chair beside her at her reception desk & she was being all gloomy and ticked off, I asked her if I could ask her a very personal question and she said yes.
     "Why are you so ANGRY about this baby?  Your husband has money, you are still pretty and healthy.  What is wrong?"
She gave me a withering look.  "You don't have teenagers yet, do you?"
     "No, I don't."
     "Well when you do, come and tell me your thoughts on reproducing!  I am not producing a baby!!!  I am producing another teenager!!!!!!!!!    waaawaaawaaa."  Her anguish was sincere.

Well, another great thing about aging is the increase in understanding that often accompanies it.  I do not judge Connie at all.   Not since I was about 40.

Grateful God designed menopause into the genetic makeup of female humans.......unlike many female mammals who keep on reproducing until they die!

Wondering why teenage grandchildren are so much more fun and so much less stressful than teenage children,
Grandma Riverwatch

Saturday, November 3, 2012

"What's wrong? Is it your general incompetence?"

I don't understand frog invasions & anime creating anime, but I sure could  relate to the above line in the kids' cartoon, Sgt. Frog!

"What's wrong?  Is it your general incompetence?"

That's a line I can use over and over in real life.  
How about you?  Is that a line you can use, or are you nice?

Well, it is not that I am un-nice.  (Don't you love the way I make up words?  I am worried I am going to start making up sentences and paragraphs!  If I do, pull me off-line!  and be quick about it.)

It is not that I am un-nice, it is just I have lost a lot of verve for Competence, now that I am skating on the edge of the Incompetence Rink.
 I feel that I am now initiated enough to sling arrows at the other incompetents!  "What's wrong?  Is it your general incompetence?"

I mean, give me a break!!!!   Just how long do those competent people think that Competence is gonna last?  Forever?  I think not.  It may reappear in Forever, but there seems to be a lot of humiliation on the way there.

Ok.  Ok.  I will go ahead and admit I am not hanging onto the railing of the incompetence Rink, but have actually drifted into the outer most lane!  Listing and drifting a bit.  Trying to keep my skates from moving inward to the big hole.

So since I am a pragmatist, I must, these days, re-evaluate Competence as a virtue!

To begin with, Competence is a heady thing, giving rise to pride.  Tsk, tsk.

Another  thing, Competence could possibly (or not) make you rich and if you are rich, well, now, there's a slippery slope for you!!  Oops.

Another thing, Competence feels good and brings false joy.  Cornering the market, we have little idea that the market is built on sand and our Competence is a gift we can lose.
False joy! False joy! False joy!

Competence feels so personal and so good we put on blinders, ignoring the incompetents of the world and the signs on our own pathway.  Like, we think Competence is a choice!  hahaha

Competence means others are gonna lean on you!  Chances are that will be a burden and you will struggle in ways that makes Christians turn to God  for forgiveness.

On the other hand, Incompetence is not without its virtue.  I am learning to be patient (tiredness helps), to give credit to God for any shred of competency I once had or still have, to have compassion for my fellow incompetents....to look into the eyes of  struggling maimed humans of whom there are many to find common ground on which to exchange the strength of understanding, caring and love.

Now don't go thinking I am seeking incompetence.  I am not.


But as incompetence has descended in bits and pieces and affected my life, it has brought a strange kind of growth and development with it.
When I am struggling, I remember my hero, Christopher Reeve.  What he would have given to have my physical challenges.   I miss him.

Having "less", I am more grateful.  Go figure.

Reserving the right to scream if I fall and break a hip,
I remain a work in progress,
Nice seeing your visit.

Friday, November 2, 2012

"It's Old Age, Honey!"

Well, she is in her late 80's so I guess she should know about what is and what isn't old age.   But......it is possible she cannot see the forest for the trees.  
Of course, it was a class on "age related deafness", not on seeing.  And the crowd discussion was on old men who cannot hear what their old wives are saying!

"Get used to it", she said.  "It's old age, honey!"

Hummmm, are you positive that is "old age related?"  My "deaf " husband was young.

The underpinnings of the lecture was to encourage us to buy hearing aids "when the time is right."

As young people we needed ear plugs to tune out loud noises....... 
( our elders  at important  times!  & our kids at times) and if we didn't get those ear plugs at the right times, like at Rock Concerts, then  we may have "age related deafness"......no known cause, no known cure so it must be a result of aging, yes?

Bah humbug, I say!   Do more research!  
Not all old people are deaf and not all young people hear like charms.  
Hearing loss has a cause and if there is a cause, there can be a cure .  Please find it, researchers.  

Naturally it is easier to sell a $2500.oo hearing aid...a bandaid if you will....than do all the research.

  I do believe in hearing aids. 

But many of us wait, not only because of the financial investment but because if the hearing aid turns out to be a bummer to deal with and is not worn, we have made a poor financial investment.  We have all heard such tales of wasted money.  
We might be missing a word or two, but we aren't stupid.

I have another reason to worry about the aids: they are all computerized these days and I have developed a healthy fear (fear related to health, I mean) of the EMF (electric magnetic field) generated by anything that gets close to my aging brain.  
I am sure the reason UFO aliens are "the greys" is because actual people from another planet could never withstand the EMFs of the UFO Craft and therefore must send robots, ie, "the greys", to man the craft.

Actually I saw something the other day that has made me wonder if "the greys" are actually evolved humans, not robots!  

What I saw the other day was plainly earthly.....but .....so......alien.  I was trying to communicate with my grown son and he was glued to his smart phone, doing email or facebook or surfing the web or something. 
He was intent on his electronic job....his eyes were large, "fixed" and glassy....his lips were  drawn in to a thin almost nonexistent line....and his response to me was (are  you ready for this?)

His almost nonexistent lips never moved.  No emotion crossed his face which reflected electronic light from his smart phone, giving his face  a certain grey sheen.

     I am looking at a grey in evolution, I thought in apprehension.

Since it is taking me months, even years, to decide about using the simple technology of hearing aids, I guess  I myself could never fly a UFO!
But perhaps a great, great, great grandchild will. 

Of course my legacy of written words will never be "read".  
But maybe my great-great-great-grand "it" will zip my written words through a small machine, come up with a telepathic-"speaking" hologram of me, shave a pound or two off my love handles and brag that this is the family it came from!  

Or not.

Probably my telepathic-"speaking" hologram will end up in a museum labeled "anonymous"  or "unnamed, circa 2100" put there by my future family who wouldn't even be alive if it weren't for me.  

(I'm sorry for this rambling.  But don't the old old bones unearthed here on our planet "speak" to you in some mysterious way?  There's something going on there!)

Well, I shouldn't complain about great-great-great-grand "it" being ashamed of me.  When was the last time you heard me bragging about Aunt Neanderthal?

I wonder if Aunt Neanderthal knew that all our senses are integrated in our brain, so that if we need eye glasses and we wear our glasses, we can hear better?  That is a fact.  Integrated senses.

And if we wear our hearing aids, we can see better. And if we hold our spouse, or cuddle a pet, we both see and hear better.  Seeing, Hearing, Touching, Smelling, Tasting.....our 5 senses are integrated in our brain and support each other  to keep us in touch with our world. 

I think I've been leaning too much on Taste to make up for Hearing!  

Maybe I should buy a dog. 

Or rob a bank and buy a hearing aid.  

Just having a peck of fun, 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Turning Away

Taking two years of classes on aging was a great thing for me.  It added so much to my knowledge as a nurse.

Well into the program, I hit a glitch.
One whole semester was on Death and Dying and I almost turned away and bagged the program.
I'm sorry.
I like you, maybe even love you, but I certainly don't want to spend 3 months learning how to help you die!  Ahhhhhh!!

But.....I did show up for the first day of class, resigned to a bad bad bad 3 months of focusing on your eventual death.

I cannot tell you how shocked I was!

"Oh, this class is not about other people's death!  This class is about your OWN death.  That is all we are going to focus on....YOUR  death."

Excuse me?

And the professor was not kidding.

I became physically ill, but I didn't want anybody to suspect me of also being mentally ill so I did not bolt, but stayed.  It was a "pride" thing...fool the masses...pretend to be "ok".  But aim for low profile.
D- is a grade that would work for me.

I barely heard the words, "Looking at our own death is like looking at the sun.  We cannot look at it straight on, because death, like the sun, burns too bright.  We look at it obliquely."

Or even turn away.

First assignment:   Draw Yourself Dead

Next class we had to bring in our art work.

On a white sheet of typing paper ...in gray pencil...I had drawn me in a casket.  My casket only needed buggy wheels to resemble a pram completely.  I had the half-hood up.  My blankie covered me right up to my tiny face and  my cap covered my hair.  I did draw me with long eyelashes and I have no idea why I would think I had long eyelashes in death since I have not been blessed in life with lash-babe eyes!  But there they were!  Long lashes softened & beautified my closed eyes.

Our professor had a field day, a fun time, making fun of us.
Hey, I wasn't the only one with a sickly dead picture of myself!

After most of us were sufficiently humiliated, he allowed Kassie to show-case her picture, since she had brought an Easel with her and a Huge Flip Chart!  I kid you not.

Kassie walked up front, established herself as leagues ahead of the rest of us and displayed her art work.    We sat there silent and stunned seeing a huge picture in full color, a casket prepared for a queen, a dead woman, Kassie, with flowing tresses (she was as generous drawing her hair as I was generous drawing my eyelashes!), a dress that revealed arms, hands, legs, feet (no shoes).  If that wasn't enough, she had bagged the flower idea and used balloons.  Lots of balloons.  A party surrounded her dead body!
Turns out Kassie was a hospice nurse at one time in her early career and she had already "gone, where no man dares to go".

Learning not to turn away was a very very very hard thing to learn for some of us.
Nay, for all of us.

Slowly I began to glance at my own death.  Out of the corner of my eye.

Slowly I began to understand why we turn away from looking at people who are limping toward death....or why we look away from reminders of mortality...why we may avoid funerals, or why we fill our days with anything that will keep us from seeing and thinking.

Drawing myself dead was just the beginning of sinking into the abyss on a scaffold to have a peek out of the corner of my eye.....a peek that became more and more and more........ less terrifying.

I am better now at not dismissing and distancing the elderly of whom I am one! 

Stay with me for the brief ride and you will be blessed.

Enough for today,

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Just How Badly Do You Want That Pill?

I am not a fan of pharmaceuticals.

I'm a nurse, I thought about becoming a pharmacist, and I really wanted to be a teacher.  These three interests have come together to make me a very informed consumer when it comes to medications, and an outspoken critic of bad and missing information given to consumers of meds......many of whom are seniors.

When I was 21, already an RN with a career, I suddenly developed thrombophlebitis in both legs.  I was sent off duty to bedrest & my excellent physician ordered the medication Butazolidin Alka for me. Within two days I was having wierd attacks of chills.  Being a nurse I screamed for help immediately.  My excellent doctor came to my home and immediately stopped the new brand-name medication, drew a vial of blood from my arm and left.  It turned out I had a life-threatening side-effect of Butazoldin Alka: hemolytic anemia.  My red blood cells were rupturing.

I was one of the lucky ones.  Withdrawing the medication saved my life (though I required treatment for the anemia).  Some other consumers across the nation were not so lucky.  For some people the hemolysis of red blood cells did not stop even when the medication was withdrawn, and death ensued.

Eventually, Butazolidin Alka was taken off the market.  Remember, when I took it, it was on the market.  Thank you, Drug Company, for all those "comprehensive" test studies before you sold it to me!!!  Can't tell you how great it was being one of your unsuspecting uninformed human guinea pigs.....and paying you money for the "privilege".

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, complications from prescription medication use is the 4th Leading Cause of Death in the USA.

In  2006 a report by Dr. Gary Lull revealed nearly 800,000 Americans die every year as the result of medicine made by pharmaceutical companies.
That same year, 2006, the pharmaceutical industry was listed as the #1 most profitable industry in Fortune 500 !!!!!!!!

We teach our kids to "Just Say No To Drugs".

That is excellent advice to us, too.

It is possible to say "No, thank you," to a physician.  Especially to things like statins.  Our grandparents never took a statin and probably ate hogs for breakfast.....and most of our grandparents did not drop  dead from high cholesterol.  Yes, eventually they died, but no pharmaceutical company got rich on their fears.

Take a walk.

Consider leaving the statins alone.

Remember Baycol ( a statin by Bayor)?  In the four years it was on the market (1997 -  2001) it caused 100,000 deaths.

My excellent physician and I have an agreement:  I only accept prescriptions for generic meds.   Brand name drugs lose their patent after 12 years and become relatively cheaper generics.  By that time, hundreds of thousands of guinea-pig-people have consumed the brand name medication.....and we get a better picture of which meds need withdrawn from the market due to causing deaths, liver failure, kidney failure, deafness, blindness, psychotic break-downs, suicides.....on and on and on.  And which are safe.  And which get BLACK BOX WARNINGS.
Fen-Phen was taken off the market after 24 years,
Vioxx was taken off after 6 years.....

....heck, even Heroin used to be approved by the FDA....opps all the patientsl got addicted!  Let's take back our approval!........oh, let's arrest those people who peddle the stuff now that we don't approve it!

"FDA Approved" means very little.

I am not saying never take meds prescribed by an excellent physician.
I am just saying, be informed and look out for yourself.
Don't be afraid to ask for more education and explanation....or even ask for time to think about it while you bone up on it yourself before deciding yes or no.

Just how badly do I want that pill?

"What will happen to me if I do NOT take this pill?"
"Is there something I can do to help my health other than take this pill?"
"Is there a cheaper version or cheap relative of this pill if I must have this kind of medication?"
"If I must take it, would a lower dose be effective?"

Be captain of your ship.

New, "brand name" is great in clothes, risky in medications.  Sure, if I am already dying and an experiment is needed, go ahead with the experiment of a brand new "cadillac" medication on me.
Other than that, give me the cheaper safer version about which much is already known.

Riverwatch, RN

PS       I always take my blood pressure pill....always.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What To Do On a Rainy Day

One reason, I think, that we become more interested in the Hereafter as we age is because of the increase in rainy days on the landscape I call the twilight zone of life (where I have landed
....not having died young).

We assume there are NO rainy days in the Hereafter.....and so we may find ourselves a bit more interested in That Landscape.

Just like the last month of pregnancy is a long long long time, so is the sojourn onto the twilight zone of life.  So please stop dwelling on the Hereafter!  (I was speaking to myself, so don't get miffed.)

Heck, it is common to spend a fourth of our lives on this new landscape in the zone, so we cannot panic!  Good grief, this could be the best time of our whole life as we meet new people whom we seem to have known all our lives...as we learn new skills (having had to jettison our old skills).....as we travel.......as we greet, help, notice, and praise the rising generation.

But the increase in rainy days is no joke, so I thought I should share another gift from my classes on aging:

One of the most important things I can do in the twilight zone is continue to make goals.
But my goal setting needs to change.  No more 10 or 20 year plans to scare me to death!!!!
Now......... perhaps starting at 65 years of age or earlier........ I need to do 5 year goals......5 year plans.....and each year do a new 5 year plan as I push through this stretch ahead of me.  
Heck, even if I were to have a terminal disease, I could  reasonably look forward to 5 more years.

On the next rainy day, we could spend some time thinking about our goals for the next 5 years.
That will keep us busy!
We should write them down.
That will make us effective!

We do not want to waste the gift of time we have been given.

Thanks for being old.  I do not want to be the only human to age.
I frankly need you to eventually fall to pieces, too. I'm falling to pieces for you!

As my cousin said, "After 50 it is just patch, patch, patch."

Get those patches. Hang around.

Don't take off with goals unfinished!  

Enjoying the sunrise on the desert,

Monday, October 22, 2012

Our Favorite

Many people have a favorite uncle.......and ours just died.
All of us in my family agree that he was and is our favorite.

What made him so honored within the family?
He wasn't the most playful, or the funniest.
He wasn't the most handsome.
He didn't mince words and he always called a spade a spade.

What made him our favorite was he was the most HELPFUL.

My uncle had an uncanny way of seeing the needs of individuals within his own family, within his extended family, within his neighborhood and within the larger community.  Saying little, he went about serving others, even bringing needy people into his home, and since he did carpenter work as a hobby, people benefited from his eyes that saw your needs and his heart that cared.

He just died, on his 98th birthday.

A couple of years ago he went out to his tractor to "get busy".....and forgot how to start it, maybe even what it was for.  But he was cared for in his declining years by loving family....who cried when he died.

My aunt picked out this poem for his memorial:

   Miss Me- But Let Me Go 
When I come to the end of the road, 
and the sun has set for me;
I want no rites in a gloom filled room,
Why cry for a soul set free.

Miss me a little-but not too long,
And not with your head bowed low;
Remember the love that we once shared;
Miss me-but let me go

For this is a journey we all must take,
and each must go alone;
It's all a part of the Master's plan,
A step on the road to home.

When you are lonely and sick at heart, 
Go to the friends we know;
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss me-but let me go.

Since my uncle was so old, and since many friends and family members had already died, it was decided to just do graveside services. 
  Over two hundred and fifty people showed up to honor him.

Wishing I could have been there,
under the rain clouds,

Thursday, October 18, 2012

One of the Last Instincts

Thank you for the clamor to hear more about when I almost throttled a grandchild......and about my UFO experience.

I think I will do the "throttle expo" first, since I must try to clear my reputation....or at least let you know you are no better than I am, being human and all.   You aren't a hybrid, are you?

The event took place  in a parking lot.....and let's not call me old, though old I am....but let us call me diseased, chronically diseased.

I don't have ADHD (but I sure am related to a lot of folks who do!), and when I was young......strike that!.....when I was well I could run after those little streaks of willfulness and carry them back to where they belong.
Those days are gone.  If I must modify a child's behavior, I have to "reason"....or something , because my arms go skiwampus  on me and give out on me and I am not into the physical contests.  Just cannot do it.
So when my grandchild ran out into traffic and wouldn't listen to reason......throttling came to mind and almost happened!  I truly reacted!

Don't blame me and judge me harshly!  The instinct to throttle another person lurks within us all.
I know this because I was a Critical Care Nurse and I have experience with basic human instincts (which are more complex than simple reflexes).
One busy day in ICU I was leaning over a human wreck to suction her airway.  She seemed comatose, but SUDDENLY her long bony fingers grabbed my neck.
     "My god!"   I was so startled I swore as I jumped back, loosening her mighty grip.  I repented immediately of my language.
     But I cannot tell you how stunned I was.  She seemed a whisp of a being, almost corpse-like....skinny pale sticks for legs, almost no hair on her head, sunken stomach, old (is it ok if I say old?) and so very ill.  Hooked up to lines and whirligigs. None of which she wanted, I bet.  What we do to old people is sometimes beyond the pale.   (I mean, what happens to us is sometimes beyond the pale.)

  So because of all my ICU experience, I know that I can still throttle someone!!  Wreck that I am, I retain a certain ability to grab somebody by the throat!  Especially if it is not pre-planned,but instinctual.  It doesn't take brains, much of a neuro system, much of a muscular system, adequate nutrition, practice or much of anything. 
 Perhaps it may be a left-over vestigial instinct of our ancestor's jungle days?
     "Go for the throat!"
Judging from what I have seen as a nurse, it is one of the last instincts to go.
     You must admit, watching a child swing through traffic is enough to cause you to drop dead in your tracks!  Thus the survival instinct of going for the  throat.  You are in danger.  And guess who put you there?

My grandchild was in danger, not just from traffic but from me, but somehow survived.  It's not like a kid with ADHD is gonna stay put in the middle of traffic, but only dash through it weaving in and out, laughing.

The instinct to throttle arises suddenly......and wears off slowly.

Grateful my grandchild lives today,
Riverwatch, RN

Monday, October 15, 2012

Descents, Free Falls and Falling Flat

     Ahh, fearless Felix, Austrian daredevil, only 43, knows nothing about the twilight zone landscape he may land on someday!!!
     Our descent, his eventual descent, is nothing like his supersonic free fall.  You must admit that, no matter how much you may have tumbled this past year.
     I must refrain from calling Felix a fool, because God has told me not to call other people fools.  That commandment is a bit hard for me, so I always try to include myself in any slip of calling humans stupid.

     So, let's agree Felix is not stupid.  I dare not call him a fool.  So I will just have the grace to say I think Felix the Great has just given the green light to an upgraded First Class on commercial flights, most likely American Airlines flights.
     Just think of it.  You will be able to pay another little Extra Fee and get a pressurized suit that self deploys in the event your airplane suddenly blows apart.  Mother Earth's gravity will bring you home!  And since you are up-to-date on The News (being a First Classer and all) you will know to stick out one of your arms if you start to spin while free falling.  If that doesn't work, put that arm down and stick out the other arm and surely you will stop spinning and fall like a decent chap or chick.  Gravity will be your friend and bring you down to where you can deploy your  parachute to argue with Gravity a bit until you gently touchdown on land or belly flop onto the ocean.  I'm curious.  Do you think you would have paid the Extra Fee for a life boat?

     The one bad thing about the pressurized suit (made in China) is under some circumstances other than a crack-apart-plane (made in the USA), it can self deploy.  Like if your seat (made in the USA) on the plane suddenly loses it moorings and goes skidding down the aisle.
Boom!  You are ten times bigger and trapped.

Now tell me again how vastly different China is from the USA?
Oh, yes, VASTLY geographically vaster, VASTLY more  amounts of citizens (far more people in their standing army than inhabit the entire USA!!!! and we are trying desperately to keep people out of our great country and keep birthrates down), VASTLY more gigantic economy, the most musical language on earth, and more control over their VAST amounts of peoples than we would ever tolerate, our country having being settled by social rebels and social fringe,  & Freedom of Religion rebels.......right over top of stubborn Indians!!!  Don't get me wrong.  I am part Indian and I would never tolerate the fences of Asia, either.  I am not lauding China.  Only wondering why we aren't more impressed. ...and less stupid about China.

     Yeh,  heck, calling people stupid or foolish is politically incorrect or even pre-hellish.  My former daughter-in-law, who used to be funny when she was still in the family, had us all laughing one day when she said, "There's no fixing stupid."  How we all laughed thinking she meant you.
     Now in retrospect I cannot help wondering, Do you suppose she was talking about us?
     One time when their marriage was still intact and we were all still speaking to one another, I decided I needed to take a stance on my own behalf to keep this particular daughter-in-law in check.  I decided I could get away with it in a crowd ....never ever alone.....so I practiced up for the next big family dinner.
     At the right moment, I said to her, "Honeybunch," (that's what my mom always called me when she was maneuvering to win big) "Honeybunch, there is something I need you to do for me.  I don't handle being made fun of very well, so you have just got to quit making fun of me."
     The family crowd was respectful waiting for her response.  She looked me over from head to toe, slowly, coolly and gently, and then she said, "I would, River, but you just give me so much material to work with."
     The crowd erupted in applause and laughter.
     I've been dead in the water ever since.  I wouldn't exactly call it a supersonic free fall, but a belly flop is a belly flop no matter at what speed you hit the water.

Well, here's some bad news about old (hey, it can't all be good!).  We do, all of us, lose physical strength.  We are weaker and more vulnerable with every passing year.  If we fight, we lose.
Even in the battle of the wits, we can be bested by the young crowd.
Our only consolation is in knowing what's coming down the pike for them.

Secretly smiling, (just kiddin', just kiddin')

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The ER Staff......My favorite!

I have to tell you, the ER Staff have always been my favorite people in any hospital where I have worked.  They are the front-line health care providers, the life flight personnel risking their lives in helicopters, the transport team, the  PODP's ("possible organ-donation" Pointers).

Now that I am old and likely to need them sometime, I'm glad I know how skilled and caring they are.

I trust them completely.  

I would trust them with my life in any emergency.

I have never been an ER nurse (not enough nerve).  But I have hung-out in the ER as a nurse a lot, helping a little, basking in the red hot glow of drama, avoiding the ever present containers of one kind or another of their food treats.  (ER staff seem to never go to meals...in fact I am not sure they even pee!  That is how ON-DUTY they are!)

I love these people!

One day I was just sitting there at the long counter in the ER, unneeded, watching the river of rapidity flowing by me.  I decided to do a secret audit just to occupy my mind.

Secret audits are not allowed.  Any hospital audit, to be valid, has to be trumpeted ahead of time and performed in broad daylight.  Heck, when the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Facilities makes their visit to AUDIT a hospital, plenty of WARNING is given and they do NOT show up at 2am!
This WARNING allows the hospital to dust off the policy manuals or make sure every computer is actually working that provides access to on-line policies, etc, and it provides time for crash courses for nurses who look confused, indeed are confused.

The WARNING allows time for harried hospital Big Wigs to zip through the hospital personally looking for any outdated medication or infant formula........an exercise that increases the Big Wigs' stomach pain next day when the REAL auditors easily find outdated medication and formula!!  (Yes, we couldn't help but wonder if those auditors did show up at 2am to plant outdated medications and infant formulas!   However, in retrospect, having now been honed in terror threats, I no longer think the AUDIT people sneak in with their outdated vials to trip us up.  I now totally believe it is always an "insider" job! And since it is never targeted to innocent people but only to Administration "Make 'em sweat!", I do not believe it is terrorists....but rather insider stealth revolutionaries.   At any rate, an insider job.)

The WARNING allows the hospital to pull out their best staff for show&tell, and more importantly to hide the "Joe Biden" doctors with their motor mouths, expansive gestures and honest-malarkey-attitudes.
A Doc Martin would be ok, since his disdain is so strong he cannot even verbalize it.
It is that verbalization that brings 'em down.
Who cares what you think as long as you keep your mouth shut
and hopefully a smile on your lips.
Warm handshakes are allowed.  That's it.

My little secret audit was nothing like that, so right off you know this audit wasn't "valid".
But it was sure as heck revealing.
I had just read in an infection control journal about a VALID hand-washing audit done in a big NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) east of where I was.  The bottom line: a disaster in compliance.
Highly educated, clinically competent physicians, nurse, techs, therapists..received a TOTAL FAILURE on  their individual and collective hand washing scores.  However, the article pointed out that though they did wash and wash and wash,  to be "in compliance with policy and good practice" they would have had to wash their collective hands over 6000 (six thousand) times in 12 hours.   Case closed.  

So.......I am watching my favorite ER staff.  Three outstanding AND good looking physicians credentialed in Emergency Medicine, four RN's, all Trauma Certified, Advanced Life Support Certified, Pediatric Advanced Life Support Certified.  There was an ER Tech who was appropriately educated.  There was a Housekeeper who tripsied in and trapesied out, a Security Guard who appeared and disappeared magically from time to time.   There was a clerk but I did not count her.  And there was Riverwatch, sitting on my butt wasting time, using patient dollars, doing nothing.  What do you expect from administration?  Nothing less.

My little secret audit of my own creation was to count how many times our ER staff washed their hands.  I only had a half hour to "kill"....so it would be like a "little snapshot" of practice.
In the half hour I monitored, we had two bloody traumas come in, a one year old baby girl with RSV, a heart attack victim, a sprained ankle, maybe broken, and 3 or 4 "whiners".  (Gosh, but we hypochondriacs get a bad rap!).
I was seated where I could see every sink.  Well, I couldn't see the hopper but I assumed nobody would wash there!  Of course I couldn't see the sink in the bathroom, but I could see if any staff used that bathroom and none did.  You cannot work ER unless you are the MASTER  of your bowels and bladder!......& your stomach, your nerves, your emotions, your itches, ...in short you must be master of your universe to even enter such an arena as the ER!
You are NOT expected to control your dripping sweat.
     Thus, I was sitting at the desk....a "guest", if you will.  I am not real in control of my mind & body which is why I am a Control Freak and a Hypochondriac.   Control Freaks who try to work Emergency Care crash and burn in the ER.  Always having to pee or something.
Hypochondriacs crash and burn everywhere, never dying, always whining.  Clogging the medical system wherever we light down.
  Can I just say something about hypochondriacs?  We do get sick and we do die....so run those tests!  You never know when we are for real.  Heck, WE never know when we are for real!

But I digress.  Our little patient with RSV was contagious.  But she was just so cute that the nurse assigned to her picked her up and held her close.  No, no infection control gown.  Much to the mom's delight, her little darling was trotted all around the ER, being passed from RN to RN to MD to MD to Tech, etc......all got the joy of holding her!  Except me.  I said "No thank you" and I withheld my lecture on Infection Control  saving the tale for when I  retired. Besides, you "mess up" an audit if you lecture during it, changing behavior (or NOT!).
The loving staff held her for her breathing treatments....showed her off to the heart attack victim, and especially to the whiner patients.
Nope, no infection control gowns.  Nope, no hand washing.  The staff were suddenly super busy now with those two traumas.
Finally I saw a  hand washing sink being used!  By two ambulance personnel.  They were washing a bloody back-board, and then both scrubbed their arms up to their elbows.  I was so happy!
However, those ambulance people weren't our staff.
I erased the X's.

My half hour was almost over and there had been no hand washing.
Plenty of glove changing.  No hand washing.

Then I spied Corby.  Not his real name of course since all names are changed to protect the guilty.  Corby was in the Med Room washing the sticky off his hands, the remnants of the glazed donut still sticking to the corners of his mouth.  No, he did not wash before eating.
I decided right then and there that every patient heading to the ER should stop on the way and buy a box of sticky donuts for the staff.  It's an infection control thing.
In a half hour of drama, Corby got the one and only star.  Sort of a "Lance Armstrong" award.

Next day I meandered into the ER.  It wasn't busy.  I sat down beside the best-of-the-best doctor who was busy doing paperwork.
     "Can I ask you something?"  I ventured.
     "Sure", he said, never pausing or looking up.
     "All the staff down here make fun of the Center for Disease Control.  Do you  think the CDC just hypes HIV and it really isn't that important?"
     He lifted his head, gave me a tired but contemptuous look and said, "If I even THOUGHT about HIV  I wouldn't be working in an Emergency Department."
     He threw down his pen and walked away, obviously ticked off that I had caused him to think of HIV.

     See why I love those ER people?  Not only are they masters of their own universe, they are so interested in saving you and me that they do little to safeguard themselves.

     It doesn't get any better than that.

     Except on the cross.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012



 "There are people who pray for eternal life and don't know what to do on a rainy day."

 "There are people who pray for eternal life because they think the rainy days will be behind them in that life."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"I'm old, too, but I am not like THAT son-of-a-bitch!"

I have always known parking lots are the most hazardous places in the city.  Abductions, rapes, infidelity sex, car wrecks, murders,   marital fights, sleep-overs, thefts, child handovers between ex-spouses, skateboard races, little birds searching for crumbs, big birds screeching meanly for the same crumbs, girlfriends meeting for urgent secret gossip, drug deals, child abuse...all those things and more happen in parking lots.
There is parking lot after parking lot after parking lot scattered throughout the city.  You drive by: it looks calm.  Little do you realize what activities are taking place there!

The closest I ever came to throttling a child was in a parking lot!  No joke.  Eighteen years raising Milo taught me nothing.  When a "push comes to a shove", no skills. I was ready to throttle a grandchild!  Only the thought that there might be camera coverage around the parking lot stayed my hand.  I did not want to be on the evening news.

We are all being recorded constantly.  If you didn't pick that information up from the Bible, or the "all seeing eye" cleverly placed on buildings and dollar bills, or from noticing the cameras above the Green-Yellow-Red lights, surely you watch the news enough to know about all those smart-phones with their video capability to capture even your conversation!
Even my cheap little tracfone can photograph you without your permission or without your knowledge.

So last week I was in a parking lot in my car thinking about our recent class on WHEN TO GIVE UP YOUR DRIVER'S LICENSE. I hadn't exited from my car before I spied a man in trouble.  I thought, That old man needs help!....when I should have thought, That man is ill and needs help!

He was stumbling to his truck, having great difficulty.
I would have helped him but I was in the middle of a crisis myself.  I was rearranging my blouse.  I had spilled my diet coke float (now THERE'S an oxymoron!) on the front of my blouse.  I had taken off my little jacket and taken my arms out of my blouse and was trying to whisk it around backwards when I saw the ill man.

(I was on the lookout for cops and spies since I don't think you're allowed to change clothes in public and since my car does not have tinted windows (oh, the woes of the poor), I was more or less on display in public.)

By the time I got my back-wards but "clean" blouse adjusted, my jacket back on, my earrings and hair readjusted, the  ill old man had managed to climb into the cab of his very dented up brown truck and had backed into a car, busting out its lights, narrowly missed another car and was slowly maneuvering out of the lot.  He got away.
     I got out of my car since I was a witness (and now dressed decently).  I found there was a second witness, a man who was extremely upset.

     "He drove off!  That bastard!" shouted the male witness.

     Still not up to professional nursing speed, I said, "I don't think he even knew he hit that car.  He is old and sick."  (I can't believe I threw in "old", and I bet you are disappointed in me.  Walk the talk, Riverwatch!)

     "Old!!??  I'm old, too, but I am not like THAT son-of-a-bitch!  I'm 90 and I don't go around acting like a jackass!  I have 4 stents in my heart!  That bastard needs hit in the head with a two by four and if I had one, I would do it!"
     By then the store manager had come out to the parking lot.
 I said, "He's sick."
     And I wasn't just talking about the hit and "run" guy.

     I slunk away, unwilling to be a witness even though I was well dressed.

     So ......remember:  giving up a drivers license is mostly voluntary in a lot of states.  A cop cannot take it.  The DMV can take it, especially if a doc reports a person's diagnosis and behavior....but doctors do not like being cops. Not much reporting takes place.
     Here is my advice to us all:  be careful.
     We may get hit by a truck or a two by four.....by licensed diseased drivers!  In a parking lot!

     In the meantime, have yourself a yummy diet coke float........  while you are not driving...unless you do NOT wear bifocals and can still multi-task!....in which case, pick up that cell phone, too.  I bet you can steer with your elbows!

Remember to always carry a change of clothes.  (That is what a concerned friend said to me one messy day....and it is good advice.)  Remember 100 years ago when our moms told us to wear clean underwear in case we were in a car wreck?  Now that some of us are wrecks, living-breathing-wrecks, it is not the undies thing anymore.
Dang it, it is the whole ensemble thing we have to worry about!
For goodness sakes, get your car windows tinted!
If you are rich and already have tinted windows, donate funds to the Window Tinting for Seniors foundation.

Leave the two by four at home,

Monday, October 1, 2012

"I don't act like this on the freeway."

I tell you, as soon as you pick a subject to blog about, the living stories pop up all around you!

     The shopping cart was not only parked in the middle of the aisle, it was skiwampus, blocking my way completely.
I leaned against my own shopping cart.  The old man in charge of the wayward shopping cart was good looking enough that I thought how glad I was that I was driving my cart under my own steam, wearing matching earrings....and I was tired enough to be patient. 
     I had almost, almost, sunk to my lowest level of humiliation and climbed aboard a shopping scooter this shopping trip.  I just couldn't allow myself to do it, in spite of the fact that I have evolved from feeling sorry for scooter riders to feeling jealous.  I do suffer with the sin of a teeny bit of pride (hence the matching earrings), but I am beginning to even lust after wheel chairs!  What is happening to me? 
     I tell you, the research freakies should stop focusing on trying to make us artificially beautiful and start researching in earnest how to make personal cloaking devices.  I tell you true, they would make a fortune.  I would have been on a scooter if only I could have cloaked myself! !  Many other things I would do if I had a cloaking device.  You would also, I bet.  I bet whoever makes a personal cloaking device first will be a trillionaire  (and we all now have some warp-of-an-idea of what a trillion actually is).
     But I digress.  The old man had his shirt tucked in and I tell you that ranks a man in the same manner matching earrings rank a woman.  It is not as good as a cloaking device, but it does scream "I am not demented!"   
     I decided to wait patiently for as long as it took for the old man to figure out the labels.  There was only water and soda pop on the aisle, but he was laboring over the labels.  Finally he looked up startled to see me watching.   
     "Oh!  I am so sorry," he said. "I don't act like this on the freeway."

     I started to laugh.  I had a come-back swirling slowly in my head but I couldn't speak it.  "I will never know," I wanted to say, "because I just made a command decision to never travel the freeway again!"  
Stifling my laugh and come-back, I smiled and silently pushed on by the old man, barely clipping the end-display with my cart.  Dang it!  Have you noticed how they jet those displays out into the aisle?  Shame on them.

The cop who came to talk to our group recently about when is it time to give up the driver's license, talked a lot about preserving a driver's license and hanging onto it as long as we are not dangerous.
     By the time we turn in the old license and have to hoof it everywhere.....well, by that time the old hooves might not be working so well.  So hang on to the license as long as feasible.

Here are some things we can do to make our license, or privilege, last a longer time:

Avoid driving at night, dawn, or dusk
Drive only to familiar locations
Avoid driving long distances
Avoid freeways
Avoid rush hour traffic
Leave plenty of time to get where we are going
Don't drive alone
Certainly don't drink! We are probably already a bit impaired and have less tolerance to drugs and alcohol.
Be aware of the side effects of any medication we take that might affect judgement and alertness
Start asking for rides and using public transportation so we get used to that mode of mobility  (not a bad idea for young folks, also)

But if the only choice for a relief driver is a teenager,
feel free to chose to drive!
The statistics are on our side, even dusk to dawn.

       One more bit of evidence that we are better going down than they are rising.

I appreciate your visit,

Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Don't call me OLD! It's demeaning!"

Ahh, feedback.  Don't we all just love it?  You don't want me to call you old.  I sort of understand.  Got it.

But, well, here's the deal: I was young (38) when I took all those extra credit classes on the study of aging, so I guess that's why I am so comfortable with my status as "old", now that I am considered old by every human I meet.  Fooling no one these days.

Because of my education on aging, I learned about myself before I became myself....or something like that.

Our First Lesson on aging was that it is not "them and us".
It is US!  There is no "them" in this human process of aging.
Aging starts the moment we stop physically growing.  Through education I slowly became comfortable with the concept of my own aging.  So naturally I am comfortable with your aging and the word OLD is a term of great respect.

Our Second Lesson on aging was about  the false perception of disease as "old".
Old and disease are NOT synonymous, but we look at the white- haired or bald people who are suffering with a disease and we think "old".
In our classes on aging we worked on unhooking the disease/old image and learning what it actually means to be old and healthy.
          Disease........not good
Yeh, yeh, yeh, I know the frequency of certain diseases go up as we age.
     Just like the risk of slipping on a small rock and being thrown off balance to a fall and a broken ankle increases for the 100 mile hike compared to the one mile hike.
     But the relationship of age and disease is not solid, nor is the relationship of long hikes and broken ankles solid.

     Let's look at old in a better light.  Old and healthy is possible for some and is great to see.

Old is worth looking at! 

(Looking at disease can scare the liver out of you.)

So look around for the centenarians who are still smoking at 100 yrs of age,
          or sky diving,
               or driving the same car they've had for 85 years,
                    or still participating in "youthful" activities like sex (OMG), or other stuff .  
They are downright worth focusing on.  And since the USA has the highest number of centenarians (over 70,000 last count and still climbing) you should be able to find some, at least in the news.  (and I don't mean the ones wrecking their cars into crowds!)

Maybe you are one!  (and I don't mean wrecking your car into crowds!)

     Running, skydiving or lighting a cigarette from the candles on a Happy 100 Birthday cake (did you see those pictures on the internet?), centenarians are not as camera shy as you might expect.

Thank you for visiting,
Your old friend,

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"Why was I spared?"

"I kept asking myself, why was I spared?"

It has been 40 years since she coded (died) and had to be resuscitated.  It was a successful resuscitation and her eyes were opened in a new way to her life.  Now, after 40 years of searching for the meaning of continuing life against the odds, Marian has this year found the answer.  The answer is the life-saving service she is giving to a family member whom no one else could have helped.

To stand as an old person and feel your significance is not really rare.
To have to wait 40 years for the answer to the riddle to be revealed to you is not really rare either.

My own search for meaning is what makes me human, and frankly I think most of that searching is taking place on the twilight landscape of old age.  Aging often sends us back to the drawing board.
 I do not want to believe I am no more significant than a moth, eating, reproducing, dying, bits and pieces of useful fodder fluttering into the teeming life around me.

Ahhhh, the thoughts of the old people.  If you feel these thoughts are "made up", you ain't old!  Consider yourself young and enjoy it while it lasts.

As another friend,Yvonne, said in her late 70's, having buried 2 husbands and 2 children and a beloved granddaughter, "I was walking along the beach with nobody to talk to and I thought Is this it?  Is this, then, all there is?  Is this it?"
Why was Yvonne spared while younger or other family members were not? Of course she wonders! 
"The Thinker", sculpted by Rodin, looks middle aged, maybe even younger and in his prime.  I think he should have been sculpted as an old man.  Gnawing on his hand, he could be on the beach somewhere, engraved: "Is this, then, all there is?"
Actually, I think Rodin should have sculpted him chewing on his fingernails.  (See? I can improve on any great work!)

Surely we are not just higher smarter animals.  We are different, aren't we?  I mean, REAL different?

So, ok, we now know higher animals are way smarter than we used to think they were!
We've learned, they, like us, make tools.
We've learned, they, like us, have somber or noisey "get-togethers" over the dead bodies of deceased members of their group.
We've learned they, like us, have great abilities to communicate with members of their species...even with us (if we put forth the effort!).
We've learned they, like us, can expand their learning, and language and adapt to changing landscapes.  
We've learned, they, like us, develop personal relationships inside their group and outside their group.
We've learned, they, like us, sometimes wage war.

So are we "REAL different" from our animal friends just because we are top of the class while they are more focused on recess?

I am thinking we are different.  Because we search for meaning.
Human beings search for significance.  We look upward without even knowing sometimes why we look up.  I think that upward look is about trying to connect with the Larger Force (whatever we perceive that force to be).  It is a search for meaning, for significance and it is universal.

I have already figured out how insignificant I am....too much evidence to ignore!  For one thing, looking at the political leaders of this world, the "creme de la creme" is frightening .  This is the best we can do?  Scares me for what it means about humanity in general!  Really.  Is this the best we, the masses,  have to put forth to lead us?
Not just American creme de la creme.  Have a look-a-round at the entire world.  Creme de la creme?
 Sometimes we seem so close to the animal kingdom!

I assure my significance by attaching to the Great Significance out There....
Who whispers to me of a world I have never seen nor tasted......... 
Who whispers, "My ways are not your ways and your ways are not My ways."

Thank goodness my brain is not as handy dandy as it used to be.  Because now that the search for significance and attaching is on-going, I must garner instructions from afar, not from mankind, especially not from the creme de la creme.
I must garner instructions from way outside my brain.....beyond the pull of the animal kingdom .....beyond the earth.
(A brain could feasibly get in the way if it were sharper than heck...and you are beginning to wonder about my old brain, aren't you?  Be honest.)  Not to worry.  It was never creme de la creme.
I must be a Vessel....an empty Vessel and that is a lot easier to achieve these days.  Another good thing about aging!!!!!

Need to be an empty vessel?   I bet you can achieve it, you oldie but goodie!

Signing off as I try to decide if one more dark chocolate chip will make me feel more significant or less significant,

Thinking of you,
grateful for your visit to this blog,
Riverwatch, the researcher 

PS  I have just discovered that chocolate has a certain cool ability to make you less concerned about your significance.

Yum!  Is it recess time yet?

Sunday, September 16, 2012


                                        B R E E N E D

I thought I would write about another normal aspect of aging that we all experience in the twilight zone, a characteristic that is universal.  But I am too happy at the moment to develop it.  And I do not feel like walking over to the stereo, looking for a lonesome song like "Where Are You?" by Enya to create a sad mood so I can blog about the isolation of the aged.
       "the aged":  that's us  (ask any 20 yr.old)
I'll write about our isolation later.

But today it is Vocabulary Building time!
I told you I make up words .  For real.  Here is one I made up about 5 years ago because I couldn't find a word suitable to explain an important verb of life.
I had been out in the sunshine wrapped in a gentle breeze and something great happened to me.  I was breened.
I knew it!  And I knew the word for it.  Breen.  (vocabulary comes from afar, as in "up there", you know)

Breen:  to put back together

Not every human can experience being breened and that may be why there was no word for it until I made one up (or had Someone "up there" help me out).

You know your body is laced with sinews that keep you put together.  And some of you people have such genetically flawless sinews (long enough, flexible enough and with excellent eyelets) that no matter what, you never come undone.  You never need breened.
But some of us, especially in my family, come apart at the seams from time to time.  Suddenly our sinews are flapping in the breeze and we are frantically praying, "Father, help me.  I'm coming apart!"
To be "put back together" at a time like that is an incredibly gratifying experience.  It is to be breened!
Sunshine and intimate breezes can breen me.
What breens you if you are flapping in the breeze?

My little 10 year old granddaughter was having a come-apart, a meltdown, tears flowing, sinews flapping when she spied her 3 year old cousin.  The dimpled one.  The "I love Everybody and Everything" one.  My darling 10 year old sobbed harder.  "Look at her!" she sobbed broken hearted for her own circumstance.  "She will never have a melt- down!  She will never know what this is like!!  She is a Person of Joy!"

I knew how she felt.  We have three Persons of Joy in our family.  Good sinews, they wake up happy.  Even as babies, they all woke up full of joy, singing.  Their names are Lee Jonathan, Gretchen and Yumiko.  Oh, they have their bad moments as we all do, but their seams never come undone.  They are Persons of Joy.
     The rest of us love them.  But we don't even pretend to understand them.

Blest they are, but look at it this way:  they will never know what it feels like to be breened! 

 Say what you like, adversity has its place in expanding experience and building vocabulary.

Feeling good,


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fellowship of the Wise

                             FELLOWSHIP OF THE WISE     
Grateful for the fellowship of being in a group of women, drinking coffee and chatting, I had my ears wide open.
No, I wasn't listening to their aches, pains and gripes in order to help them!  Just because I am old does not make me a saint.  Just because I am an RN doesn't make me much of a saint.
I was carefully listening to their aches, pains and gripes because all of us at the table were in various degrees of decay and I was deeply interested in finding out if my aches, pains and gripes were below average, average, above average or off the charts.

It was universally agreed in our little corner of the world that getting old is very very very very very difficult.

Still, not all of us are negative.  Somebody said, "Is there anything about aging that is good?"

Gladys had a ready answer.  Having spent decades as a school teacher, Gladys was educated in more ways than one.  She said, "One thing I like is that I have lived long enough to see some situations from beginning to end and what did not make sense earlier makes sense now that I see how it played out.  I really do feel wiser than I did when I was young.  I am wiser."

So many of the other women agreed with her that I decided to keep my mouth shut.

But I can tell you, confidentially, that I've had the opposite reaction to aging!  Before the Curtain was completely up in Act II of many Life Situations, I had it all figured out.  When the Final Curtain would close in Act III, I would sit there wondering, even unbelieving.

So while Gladys relaxes and ties bright pink coherent bows on the Plays of Life post Act III, feeling wise,  I sit there in the audience untying my hasty bow and using the somewhat tarnished ribbon to re-thread through my now old brain, feeling stupid.

Some of us feel wiser as we age.
Some of us don't.

But I can tell you this for true:  there is no substitute for feeling brilliant when you are young!!  Even if that feeling is fueled mostly by mania, caffeine, stupidity, and lack of watching enough complete Plays! 
I raise my glass to youth and the euphoria that sometimes comes to visit when all is well , ie as in young.  
Feeling smart is an intense Trip.....and getting old and realizing I was stupid is only mildly gloomy.  
And I notice Gladys is not euphoric about her real wisdom.  
Sane and happy, yes.  Euphoric? No. 

I think I may have gotten the better deal. 

Feeling stupid in a sort of wise way,

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

R e t i r e? N e v e r !


  I don't know why I read the Wall Street Journal.  It doesn't speak to me.  But I have an  87 yr. old friend who is still wheeling and dealing and she assumes I want to exercise my mind.  So she saves her WSJ for me.
     Ahhh, rich people do age differently than poor people!  Maybe that's why she is so alert and "with it".......and I am having to hunt for my Xanex.
     One little article did catch my eye.  It had a picture of a handsome grey-haired man with the article.
     I noticed right off the bat he has great teeth!  (I'm looking at everybody's teeth these days trying to figure out:  crowns or dentures?  I'm getting too preoccupied but it costs lots of money to have gorgeous teeth when you are old....and teeth have become a health-financial-moral-physical-vanity decision challenge for me!)
     Mr. Goldsmith of New York is only 58 so maybe his teeth are real.  Nope.  They are too uniform and perfect.
     If nursing has taught me nothing else, it has taught me that the human body is not uniform and perfect.

     Mr. Goldsmith is obviously rich and "working busy", beautiful smile and all!
     But here is what caught my eye besides his teeth.  To quote him, "I'll retire when 6 of my closest friends carry me into the church."

     Ahhhh.  Hope.  Hope springs eternal.

     He probably has not read the statistics:  40% of all the 'work-force pieces' go out of the arena BEFORE retirement, mostly due to health issues.

     Don't most of us think we can work right up until the Chariot arrives for us?
     Think again.  It can be a rocky road descending into the twilight zone of aging.
     At 58, Goldman has already started his descent.
     But maybe he'll be like my 87 yr. old friend with her WSJ.
     However, there's a significant chance he may be like me.

     Naw, not like me......those teeth are gonna last 100 years at least!

     I feel a migraine coming on.

     Aging is a snap.
     It is all that disease stuff that gets you.

        Nevertheless, I am strengthened by your visit,

Monday, September 10, 2012

Angels Are Also Men

     I don't know about you, but my first big adventure into the greater world came in the form of a cross country train trip.  I was 18, on break from nursing school (yes, I graduated from high school at age 17), money in my purse, and no parental guidance.  Parental input, yes.  "Don't go."
     Gone!  "See ya!"     wouldn't want to be ya!

     I bet you agree with me, if you are old, that 18 is just about the nicest age of all.

     My sister and I had recently joined a "new religion" and I was traveling west to visit her at BYU  in Provo, Utah.
     Words cannot describe the happiness of this entire trip.  Even when the drunk young man began edging in on me about 4 hours into the trip.  I changed seats.  He followed and set up camp in the seat directly behind me.  Suddenly there was an old white haired man standing in the aisle by my seat.  "Young lady, would you like me to sit with you?"

                      "Oh, yes.  Thank you!"

I shared the rest of the journey, even when we changed trains in Chicago, with Mr. Dreher, (or Drehner......or some last name that was not pronounced like it was spelled.)
He was an Austrian Jew and was absolutely fascinating.  His entire family had been lost in the holocaust....parents, brothers, sister, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, wife.  A complete wipe-out of a family except for him.
Sole survivor, he came to America.
     While I rattled on, feeling it my duty to convert him "to the only true church on the face of the earth"(I was not only sincere, I was arrogant) , he taught me about Judaism. He belonged to that unorthodox faction of Judaism that teaches there is no resurrection.     I was fascinated because he seemed happy.

     "How can you be happy?" I asked.

     "Because I am good for good's sake.  Being good is sane."
And he explained about life as constant, but where form and structure give way to the big ever-changing picture....
where life is eternal, but form and structure are lost at death.

 "I am like a leaf on a tree," he said.  He was at peace with the world.

     Now that I am old, I think his peace came from living in the present.
The pain and horror of the past had catapulted him to where he would avoid the trap of "mentally revisiting" the past that calls us to re-live instead of live.

My angel friend lived completely in the today of the time.

Maybe that is what an earth-angel is....somebody who is completely in the present.  No past.  No future.  This day is The Day!

     A 94 year old woman asked me recently, "Why doesn't somebody teach me how to age?  What am I supposed to be doing?"

     Perhaps the answer for us all, not just the elderly, is:  Live in today.  This is the day which God has given us.  Rejoice and be glad in it.
By the way, that was exactly what my 94 year old acquaintance was doing, but she just wasn't sure of herself.

     And if you do not believe in life after death, remember what Socrates is supposed to have said at age 70 before his execution:
"All that is in me tells me there is life after death, but if I were to look back on my life to a night where I slept without dreams, I would rank that as one of my better times."

Shalom, my friends,