Saturday, February 25, 2017

Is This About Me?

The fiction part of The New Yorker magazine is usually a personal interest story.  There is usually no real beginning and rarely a resolution.  They are sometimes maddening.  Why do I read them?  Because they are a slice of life.

And the one in the current  (February 27th) issue could be about me in the not too distant future.  "Ladies' Lunch" written by Lore Segal, is about a woman living in an apartment in New York with a view of the Empire State building.  She's lived there forever and she loves it. She has a group of close friends who've been together for decades.  They are retired lawyers, writers and other strong smart women.

So what's the problem?  They're old.

Lotte, the apartment dweller, has no interest in the caregivers or the heart healthy diet that her children keep re-providing as fast as she rejects them.

Her friend, Bridget, presents the agenda at one of their get-togethers:  "How to Prevent the Inevitable.' I mean any of the scenarios we would rather die than live in."

Later in the story Lotte, after firing yet another caregiver and suffering a fall, is carted off by family members to an assisted living facility in the Hudson Valley.  She has no view.  Her smart friends plot to rescue her but none of them drives anymore.  The plan to have an eighteen year old grandson provide the get away car fails when he flunks his test for a license.

In the end they cease to hear from Lotte but not before she explains to them that they needn't worry about her because she is already dead.


I'm blessed to be a part of a community of folks who have continual conversations about issues like What's Important in the End.   It's different for all of us.


Friday, February 24, 2017

Kids Who Are Different

I love this comic strip from a couple of days ago.  I love the strip, Zits.  Jeremy is a typical bored but gifted fifteen year old who thinks his parents are clueless.  But his friends are all different.  Especially his friend, Pierce, who is apply named because he has many piercings and tattoos, not to mention different ways of seeing and doing things.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Loyal Soldier

For a long time I've been fascinated by the concept of life being a journey, with stops along the way.  Twenty years ago I loved reading Scott Peck's concept in his book "Further Along the Road Less Traveled."  He talked about four stages along the journey -

1. Chaotic - Wild, Lawless, Self Serving, Absence of Spirituality - This describes all babies and the entire lives of some human beings.

2. Institutional - Place we go to get rid of the chaos and learn the rules- Family, school, military, church, AA, cult, prison, etc.

3. Individual - Responsible person seeking truth

4. God Centered - Advanced spiritual truth seekers

Now I'm reading Richard Rohr's book, "Falling Upward."  He talks about "The Loyal Soldier."  So we know he's talking about #2.  Being part of the institution - Following the rules - Keeping things safe.  Rohr gives us the example of the older brother in the story of the prodigal son as "The Loyal Soldier."

We love and appreciate the Loyal Soldier because without him we would be aimless.  We need discipline to get off to a good start.  We need tradition.

But the time comes for us to move on up.

Rohr gives a good concrete example in telling us about Japanese communities that, after the war,  created a ritual that thanked and praised the soldier for his service to the people.  But "the war is need to be something beyond a soldier."

I know all this is pretty cerebral - but I moved a long time ago from the rules to the mysterious relationship where the rules are sometimes kind of murky but the stakes are even higher


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Harrison Ford and I Are Excellent Drivers

You've most likely read about 74 year old Harrison Ford mistakenly landing his small plane on an airport taxiway last week and asking the traffic controller:

Was that airliner meant to be underneath me?

This is a year or so after Mr. Ford was seriously injured in another plane he was piloting.  There is currently all sorts of speculation about whether or not he should continue flying.  From all reports Harrison Ford is, and has been, an excellent and careful pilot.

I am crazy about Harrison Ford, the actor.  While I'm not a Star Wars fan, I've seen about everything else he's done on the screen.  But I hope, besides the investigation, he's giving his situation some thought.

I, myself, recently had a fender-bender.  Prior to this I had a sterling driving record.  Full disclosure; I did have a ticket in the 1960s.

So what's the problem?  The problem is, like Harrison,  I don't know exactly what happened.

Was that beautiful black Volkswagen Luxury supposed to be in my lane?

Of course, the other driver told me it was my fault.  But, rather than being belligerent, he was kind.  And, by the way, turned out to be a Presbyterian minister.  So there is probably good reason to believe him.

I've been doing some soul-searching about my driving.  Am I not paying enough attention?   Am I doing all of the things I taught my four children to do?

By the way, I told them the same things in my driving lectures that I told them in my sex education lectures:  You now have the power of life and death.  Be careful.

Harrison Ford and I are at the age where we need to be careful.   I'm proud to say I've been accident free for four weeks.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Happy Belated Valentines Day

I've not been feeling up to par so V-Day sort of got away from me. Dave and I don't buy gifts but usually do something fun together.

That hasn't happened yet but we're thinking about it.  In the meantime, here are two (belated) Valentine stories.

In Forum on Sunday we were talking about how married couples show their love toward each other and a woman shared the following story about her husband.  I don't remember the details but the story really moved me - even though it doesn't represent how Dave and I do things.

- She saw a pair of earrings.  She loved the earrings and wanted her husband to buy them for her.  He didn't care for the earrings but he bought them anyway.

Sometime later she was going for an important job interview and needed her special earrings but couldn't find them anywhere.  She was frantic.   Later still, he appeared from the laundry room saying he'd found the earrings. So she got to wear them to the interview.

Sometime - much later - she found the original earrings!

- Yesterday, Wednesday morning,  I had to rent a car and while I was going through all of the crazy steps Dave got on my nerves a bit by trying to be nice and friendly to the Hertz guy while I was trying to do business.  

We later had a tiny bit of unhappiness over this which is unusual for us. Then we went our separate ways.

Sometimes in Dave's Wednesday art group they give away things like magazines with beautiful photographs.  Dave rarely takes them.  I like to say to him, If someone offers you something (especially a wine sample) - take it - and then give it to me.

Yesterday evening he came home and, in a gesture of total love,  handed me one of my very favorite magazines "Architectural Digest."

I didn't deserve it.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Book of Job

For many years a professor at the all male Wabash College in Indiana taught a class on the book of Job to all incoming freshmen.  I never understood the purpose.  It wasn't a religious course.  Finally one day I met the professor here in Florida and asked him why.

He said,"It's to help young men learn that life isn't fair and there's nothing they can do about it."

And that's essentially what I think this strange old "pre-history" book of the Bible is about.  Some scholars see it as God and Satan playing a game of chess with Job as the pawn.  This is not my favorite image of God.

This morning my minister, David Miller, quoted Virginia Woolf who said, "I read the book of Job last night and I don't think God comes out well in it."  I kind of agree.

But then David Miller went on to say that life is a steady progression of losses and we need to learn to accept them and deal with them.  And that God will be there with us as we do.  So he, like the Wabash professor, is reminding me that grief and loss may be "unfair" but they are reality.

Unfortunately, I already knew this, but it was helpful to get this reminder.  I need to face up to what's happening all around me and get on with it.  For example, I just talked with my old friend whose husband died a few days ago.  He was 100 years and 3 months old.  She was 100 years old last Saturday.  While I was trying to find just the right words (?) to comfort her, she told me that her son (whom she adored) died on the very same day.

There's just no making sense of things sometimes.  That's what I think the book of Job is teaching me.

David Miller did have a funny illustration about aging.  He referenced the aging person's "Furniture Disease."  My chest keeps falling into my drawers."


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

My Long Term Care

My internist is retiring.  Bummer.  He's been the kind of doc who spends our time together asking questions and listening to the answers.  He wants me to take as little medicine as possible.

I read an article recently in The New Yorker written by my favorite doctor, Atul Gawande.  He's the author of the book (and the movement) "Being Mortal."  The main thrust of the article deals with the power of incremental, long term, care.  This is interesting because Dr. Gawande is a surgeon.  We know these are the heroic, glamour guys and gals who swoop in and save lives.

However, when Dr. Gawande was telling his internist friend that he became a surgeon because he  "would have more opportunities to make a clear difference to people's lives," the internist would have none of it.

Primary care is the medical profession that has the greatest overall impact, including lower mortality and better health, not to mention lower health costs. 

How?  It involves my doctor getting to know me including how I live and how I behave.  It involves the patience to treat long term illnesses, with the frustration of possibly never curing them.  In other words, it involves a caring, long term,  relationship.  One where, when the honeymoon's over the doc sticks around for the boring real life stuff.

Last week I had a bad bout of vertigo.  After 24 hours of spinning and throwing up Dave drove me to the doctor's office.  A nurse saw me struggle into the waiting room.  She ran over with a wheelchair and stuck with me until the doctor could see me.  Her care was almost as meaningful as the shot he gave me that knocked me out for a few hours.

My internist has earned his retirement.  I just hope we find another one who is into long term relationships.