I Am My Age…I Think

And now, back to your regularly scheduled lightheartededness…..

 

Not old enough to know better

Old enough to know better

Not old enough to know

Old enough to know

Not old enough

Old enough

Not old

Old

Not

And so goes the poem, “The Nine Ages of Man” by F.Emerson Andrews. I was delighted to stumble on the Diane Henders’ “I Spy” series of books about a year ago, for several reasons. The first is they’re just darn good, and keep me entertained. But the second, is that her protagonist Aydan, isn’t 20 something, or even 30 something…she’s – gasp – in her 40’s!!  Someone who is at least closer in age to where I am (and w here I mentally think I will be someday, because let’s face it, I’m still only 35 in my brain.)

Then in the last month or so, I found author Donna McDonald, who writes romantic fiction with a couple of her series focusing on – but not exclusively – adults in their 40’s and/or 50’s (See “The Art of Love””Next Time Around” and “Never Too Late” Series).  The characters may be widowed, divorced or never married, are flawed and imperfect, just like we are, know what they want and don’t want because they are of an age where they’ve lived and experienced life. They aren’t going to shortchange themselves for anyone. I LOVE that! Her characters are strong, funny, and her various series of books are engaging. I really would encourage you to check them out.

But it really got me to thinking about how much I appreciate these authors. The reason? Well, quite frankly it’s all about the old expression “Just because there’s a little snow on the roof doesn’t mean there isn’t a fire in the fireplace”.  Too much women’s fiction out there today is written about the 20 and 30 something crowd and honestly, at 55, I can’t relate. I’m never again (I hope!) going to fret about my apartment roommate, or go clubbing until the wee hours looking for a man (ugh). At this age, we’re over that nonsense. Let’s just cut to the chase because we know what we want, the type of man we want, what we are (and are not) willing to tolerate and we’ll end a relationship a whole lot sooner if it’s not working out. We have jobs, careers, families, hobbies and many of us are intellectually, socially, emotionally and spiritually satisfied already with our friends. A significant other doesn’t fill a gap, it’s an addition to an already full life.

When I finally understood those last two sentences, and truly believed them, I was 38. I had finally come to terms with not being married, and was pretty sure I was never going to be, nor was I ever having children. My sister had two of them and that was going to be enough for me. (I figured I could “borrow” hers on the weekends if I was feeling very maternal, and give her a parenting break, then give ’em back at the end. It was a win-win for everyone.) 1917020_1178599432945_4986073_n

 

Here are a couple of pictures of my niece Rachel on a weekend with Auntie Beth back in the day, clearly having a blast!

401485_3375010141840_1509729840_nI mean what kid wouldn’t have fun when she can wear her ball cap backward, cool sunglasses, and her aunt’s dive mask and snorkel (which she found all on her own and surprised me with!) Wouldn’t you have waited to go to your Auntie’s house too if you could have had as much fun as we did?  Of course you would have!

 

 

 

I remember when I started feeling really peaceful about all of this too.  I was on a sailing cruise in the Carribbean and stood on the deck of the ship with the wind blowing through my hair, just feeling the boat bob up and down, watching the horizon ahead of me as the sun slowly set on the water. The dolphins were swimming just ahead of the boat, giving us a great show as we sailed along, the wind catching our sails. Take a moment to go to Islandwindjammers.com. 149The line that I sailed with is no longer in business, but the photos here will give you and idea of what the boats were like. It was an incredible experience, and I was lucky enough to sail with Windjammer Barefoot Cruises four times before they went out of business. There are thousands of us still in mourning. Here is a shot from the deck of  the boat my husband and I sailed on for our honeymoon, which was the last time I sailed with them. As Jimmy Buffet says “salt air it ain’t thin, it can stick right to your skin and make you feel fine, it makes you feel fine”. And oh boy, does it ever.
Ah, the stories I could tell…but that’s another day.My life was my own and I had no one to answer to. The sense of accomplishment and freedom was amazing, no kids to worry about, no one that needed my time or anyone to split my income with. It was all about me. Then I came home and started seriously dating the man who became my husband. Yep, he was the addition to my full life. As it should be.

So what age am I now? I don’t know. I look at the poem and I laugh, because it depends on the day. I guess I’m at least at the “Old enough to know” mark, but then feel like I do move back and forth a bit, sort of how one moves through Kübler-Ross’ stages of grieving. I’m “Not Old”, then “Old” then back to “Old Enough” again. I’m certainly “old enough to know better” when it comes to going out clubbing, and “old enough to know” that a man will never make me happy, only I can do that. I’m “not old enough” for retirement and AARP (although AARP thinks I am!) and I’m “old enough” now that parts need fixing and replacing. I can only hope it’s a very long while before I feel and act like I’m truly “old”, and even longer before I’m “not”.

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Anesthesia Brain

“Scientists have found that the drugs used most often in the administration of general anesthesia, produce memory alteration and loss side effects that can last anywhere from one to twelve months following surgery. These effects closely resemble that of…..squirrel!!!!!”

Sounded like a plausible headline at first, didn’t it? And much of it actually is an amalgam from several stories that I did read this morning on the web (because you know if you found it on the internet, it’s true). Well it was mostly true, right up to the part about the squirrel…although that part is true enough for me. I am finding that I’ll be thinking  about somthing I need to get at the store (and in fact as I write this, I just remembered something I didn’t get when I was there a short time ago, in spite of the fact it was on my list, dammit), then suddenly before I can write that thing down, I will be onto something else totally unrelated and I have zero memory of what I was just thinking about. None. Zippity-do-dah it’s gone. Before you know it the front door is left unlocked overnight, the shower is still running, the oven is on but there is nothing in it…and I’m taking a nap, because why not? It’s a short nap, because my brain freaks out after about 7.2 minutes and says “hey, remember the THING you were going to put on your list for the store and you forgot” and by the time I wake up enough to write it on the list, I’ve forgotten it again, but at least I turned off the stove. Just not before I stopped to pet the cat, water the plants, get the mail and take out the trash.

And words are gone too…I HATE that. It’s like living in a game of perpetual Charades. “Sounds like…, two words” argh. It’s not like they are complex or unusual things either. Every day items just don’t have a name for a moment. “Honey, have you seen my…” as my voice trails off. Poor husband. He just has to wait it out patiently as I pound my head on whatever flat surface is nearest to me, in frustration. “oh crap, you know, that….thing….it’s almost there…ah, shit, it’s gone. It’ll come to me someday”.  And it does, at 2 am, when I want to desperately be sleeping rather than having this random verbal vomit of words in my head. It slowly is resolving, and I can now go a couple of days without an issue, then suddenly it will creep up on me and WHOOMP. Here we go again.

It can be embarassing too, depending on when it happens. I was talking to a colleague at work the other day, and needed to ask her a question when the topic of the question was just gone. POOF!!  Into thin air. For about 10 min we had to just chat about stuff. Eventually it came back to me, but honestly, the idea was just airborne on the wind until then. Even writing this, I start out thinking “hey, I’ll add….squirrel!!” and off I go again. I’d try writing things down, but that damn squirrel would bury the paper someplace, like an acorn, and then next spring when I’m cleaning I’ll dig up the list and wonder why the hell I wrote down these weird, seemingly random statements.

In the meantime, if you’re talking to me and I just go off on a tangent, bear with me. I’m sure it will improve in time, and remember my husband really needs your understanding and….squirrel!!!

 

 

Fancy Pillows

While I’m a child of the city, I was fortunate to have grandparents that lived out in the country. One set lived on a farm, and the other lived 3 miles away in a very small town, where they were related to almost everyone there and had a town motto of “if you’re not Dutch, you’re not much”. (Don’t worry, I’ll get mileage out of that someday!) My mom’s dad was a real corker, even taught me a curse word in Dutch when I was little (“tsk, tsk Grandpa Cornie, you should have been ashamed of yourself.”)

Beth and Grandpa Cornie

Me and “the corker”, about 1963

My dad’s parents were a bit more on the stoic, German side. Kind of the no-nonsense, hard working farmers you expect to find in the midwest. Growing up we called them by their last names to differentiate which grandparents we were talking about, but as we became adults and the grandchildren started having children, somehow they picked up on Grandpa’s nickname as a child. His first name was Albert, but his nickname was Abby and somehow, he and my grandmother became Grandpa and Grandma Abby, probably because our last name was a long, difficult German name to pronounce.

I remember some of the stories from Grandma Abby, although not as many as I’d like and now that I’m older, probably not nearly as well as I’d like either. I’m a little hazy on the one about how and why she caught her bloomers on a fence, and I seem to recall something about a finding a rattlesnake in a bale of hay when she took lunch out to the men one day during hay baling season. I remember too, Grandpa Abby saying how proud he was that he paid cash — cash (can you just imagine?) — for everything, except for the time he bought a cream separator on credit, for which I think he paid a nickel a month, and it bothered him so much he never bought anything on credit ever again.

Beth w Grandpa and Grandma Abby

Me with Grandpa and Grandma Abby, about 1962

I do remember, very well, grandma telling me about the fancy pillows they used. She said that they had every day pillows on the bed, with regular pillow cases, but that when company would come to stay they would take the everyday pillows off the bed, and put them aside, take out the nice pillows and put on the really nice, embroidered pillow cases with the hand crocheted lace edges on them. They called them “fancy pillows“, and those were the ones that would be out for guests. I always kept that phrase in my head, and knew I’d write about it someday in a book or blog.

I thought about all this tonight when I was talking with my mom, after I had asked her what she remembered about some places in downtown Minneapolis that were tickling in the back of my memory. The area is called “The Theater District”, and I believe I’ve also seen it called “The Lower Loop”. My dad worked downtown near 13th Street and Hennepin Ave for a number of years, and the two places I remembered were the Gnostica Bookstore and the Pink Pussycat. I asked mom what she remembered, and she thought the Gnostica might have been an occult bookstore but she wasn’t sure, but she laughed when I brought up the Pink Pussycat. With a name like that you can take a wild guess what kind of business this place was, and you’d probably be right! Apparently his employer had purchased the land that the building sat on, and was going to use the building for something else. Some of the ahem – dancers – lived upstairs, and my  dad was given what he saw as the less than desirable job of telling these lovely young ladies they had to move out. Imagine in the late 1960’s, a 28-30 year old, ultra conservative young man going to tell strippers to move out of their apartments. He wasn’t terribly keen on this assignment and ended up taking a co-worker with him to get it done.

Speaking of downtown Minneapolis, my mother also told me a funny story about coming into downtown with her dad and mom, and younger sister. Her father owned a general store in that small town I mentioned, and came into Minneapolis from time to time to buy dry goods. Apparently they arrived late and when they got to the Hotel Andrews, it was full. Well Grandpa Cornie, the aforementioned corker, has them get ahold of his friend who was perhaps the manager, they find a room for them and get settled in with a second floor room facing Hennepin Avenue in about 1945. (If you ‘re unfamiliar with Minneapolis , Hennepin is the main drag through downtown, and has always been the central street for the bars, theaters, bums, pandhandlers, etc. It’s much better now, but always has been the focal point of downtown, and a great place to people watch.) After dark, on a rainy night. Across from the Gay 90s.

 

gay90smhs

1958 Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While today it’s most well known for being a gay bar, back in the 40’s  the location was first a restaurant called The Casablanca, then Shanghai House before becoming the Gay 90’s in 1948, and turning into a “striptease and jazz music” bar (info courtesy of Jeanne Andersen).  So my mom would have been 8, her sister 6, and she said she and her sister just sat and watched, and watched and watched for hours, all the drunks coming and going from the bar, their eyes so wide they about fell out of their heads!

 

 

I’m so glad I found the time to have that conversation with my mom, and to remember the stories from my grandparents. It’s sad when we don’t capture those moments and they’re gone.  I stumbled on some incredible resources tonight, with old photos of Minneapolis. Historyapolis is an amazing trove of old memories, as is Thomas Lowry’s Ghost on tumblr and this Minneapolis history site on Flickr. If you haven’t sat down and talked to your parents and grandparents about what life was like when they were kids, take the time to do it. It’s amazing what you’ll learn. Go through old website archives, take a stroll down memory lane. Start a journal or blog and write it down, before memories are gone, and along with them, the stories. Shortly after my dad died, I started a journal that was for memories of him. I wanted to capture those unique things that I knew I’d forget over time. I pulled that out today and added the story my mom just told me, and was looking back at some of what I’d put in there. What a gold mine! (And rich treasure for future blogs too.)  I am so glad I wrote those things down because I had forgotten some of them, and reading them made me smile and made me feel very, very lucky. It reminded me my life was full of moments of fancy pillows, even when I forget they’re there.

Miss Betty and Miss Manners

Romper, stomper, bomper boo.

Tell me, tell me, tell me, do.

Magic Mirror, tell me today,

Did all my friends have fun at play?

How many of you remember that  rhyme, and Miss Betty (in the Minneapolis area) holding up that magic mirror, so we could ‘see’ our
friends? It was a special time, when we learned manners, table prayers, the Pledge of Allegiance and general courtesies. She had her viewers do exercises too.

Beth 64 1j03 (1)

Me doing calisthenics with Miss Betty on Romper Room, age 3

 

I miss that time. Not that there aren’t polite people in the world today, there certainly are, (holding up my own magic mirror, I see Rachel and Ryan and lots of their friends!) but it feels like manners and courtesy are exceptions rather than rules now, and that makes me sad. I wish it wasn’t so uncommon for people to hold doors open for a stranger, or to smile and say hello, just because you can. Did that go away when we got scared to say “Merry Christmas”?

How about etiquette? What’s the proper way to set a table? Does the knife blade face the plate or away from it? Fork on the left or right? I can still hear my Grandma Abby saying “This is the proper way to eat soup. ‘Whenever I go out to sea, I dip my spoon away from me'” so that you would remember you’re supposed to dip your spoon in your soup away from you at the far side of your soup bowl. Of course, no one does that any more. Are things like how to set a table  even taught anymore outside of the restaurant industry?

How about this one – “elbows off the table Mable” (with all due apologies to the Mables in the world). I said this to my hubby a few months ago, he just looked at me like I’d lost my mind. “What?” I asked him. “Where did that come from?” he wanted to know, as  he’d never heard that expression before, thought I’d made it up on the spot. Not a chance, that was another Grandma Abby-ism. So was “make sure you have on clean bloomers every day” but no one knows today what bloomers are. (They’d be your britches! And if you don’t know what those are, for heaven’s sake, look it up.)

People used to write to Miss Manners, asking how to behave in a given situation. “Dear Miss Manners, my boyfriend’s sister is a being a brat. When I go there for dinner, blah, blah, blah. What should I do?”  and Miss Manners always had great advice on these angst filled life dilemmas. Or you’d consult Emily Post, for the guidelines of good behavior in any given situation.  She once said “The attributes of a great lady may still be found in the rule of the four S’s: Sincerity, Simplicity, Sympathy and Serenity.” Serenity is a little hard to achieve now, as is simplicity, but sincerity and sympathy are attributes all of us should posses, and goodness knows they don’t cost a thing. What’s really amazing, I just googled Emily Post, and found out there is a website emilypost.com (of course!). Guess what’s on the landing page? References to the importance of a handwritten thank you note and a good handshake. (See my prior post, Word of Advice). I didn’t even plan that, I am just that darn good.

Emily Post also had some valuable advice for men. “A gentleman does not boast about his junk.” Of course, given the time in which she lived I’m fairly certain it didn’t mean then what it means now, however it’s apparent to me that it’s still relevant, particularly if you’re running for public office. 

And on that note…