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The passage into elderhood

Our lives are a series of passages: from boyhood to manhood; son to father; daughter to mother.  Of them all, perhaps no transition is more difficult than the traverse from middle age to senior citizen; reluctant to leave the glory days of our life’s chronology we struggle mightily to resist moving on. Having enjoyed the luxuries and leniencies of living in the liberating decades of the seventies and eighties it’s understandable that we find it decidedly uncomfortable to go from being in control to being overwhelmed by the information age.  We can handle Facebook but aside from Donald Trump we are not natural tweeters. Grasping technology is problematic.  But the real discontent and unhappiness we suffer is the result of having lost a precious pathway to the full ...
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Ten years ago, I was not the man I used to be. Now I’m not the man I was ten years ago!

My body is getting older.  Not so the brain.  Which often finishes the New York Times Crossword puzzle and is still sharp and alert. Which can be a problem, lest I’m at a rousing party and get an impulse to try that jitterbug move I’m famous for and land up in the drummer’s lap. Case in point.  I’m watching my ten year old granddaughter play softball when the batter hits a slow roller down the third base foul line.  Mind you, in my lifetime I have fielded thousands of ground balls as a kid playing baseball on up through Sundays at the park with the old guys playing slow pitch softball.  So I think nothing about scooping down, gracefully fielding the ball and snapping off a throw to the pitcher. Only problem, I can’t bend down, the ball skips through my legs, an...
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“Even the best of us are at least part time bastards”

When I learned recently that the long time saint in my life was not always thus, it took me a moment to process the reality that my exemplar had feet of clay. My love for her was such that I never allowed for human weaknesses or vulnerabilities to filter her shining light. But it was clear she had a past, and a relative from that time who lived it by her side was an artful narrator of the flaws that spoke to the truth. I had been blind to many events that did not support the picture I wanted painted. I had been wearing blinders, able only to see things one way, unable to consider other possibilities. The realization led to a revelation. Flaws and all, I did not love her less. She still was wonderful. A wonderful human being. A human being, not a goddess. It was a relief in a way,...
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Do not dismiss the power of symbols

People have always saved scraps of their experience to help remind them of a magical time in their lives.  We save a shell from our vacation at the beach where we fell in love.  Perhaps a ticket stub from the championship game when the Cubs won the world series. It doesn’t make ‘intellectual’ sense.  It’s more of the lucky charm concept.  A feeling that there is some mysterious mojo, buzz, aura, ‘divine intervention’… something with a spirit beyond explanation that we believe exists outside our normal perception of space and time.  We just “feel it.”  It’s an awareness that there is something, a force that operates unseen.  How else would the dice answer our plea to toss seven at the craps table! In that rabbit foot is something we’re sure will...
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City mouse moves to suburbs, survives freshly mowed lawns and morning songs of wrens and sparrows.

Ten months ago we moved out of the city into a small and utterly charming house in a nearby suburb.   We were safe from the pandemic, digitally Nest alarmed, healthfully air-conditioned, feeling near hermetically sealed from the world, never mind the virus. Warm weather brought out the Hammacher Schlemmer​ deck furniture, a hammock, a birdbath in the flower beds and a hummingbird feeder shared on a pole with birdseed and suet. I take walks on a well maintained hike and bike trail built on the track bed left behind by the North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad. Recently, a first, I ate a bratwurst grilled on my own weapons grade propane powered Char-Broil Performance 4B 4 burners Stainless Steel grill. I’m becoming gentrified.  I can feel my city skin peeling off.  How will I e...
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Ten years ago, I was not the man I used to be. Now I’m not the man I was ten years ago!

My body is getting older.  Not so the brain.  Which often finishes the New York Times Crossword puzzle and is still sharp and alert. Which can be a problem, lest I’m at a rousing party and get an impulse to try that jitterbug move I’m famous for and land up in the drummer’s lap. Case in point.  I’m watching my ten year old granddaughter play softball when the batter hits a slow roller down the third base foul line.  Mind you, in my lifetime I have fielded thousands of ground balls as a kid playing baseball on up through Sundays at the park with the old guys playing slow pitch softball.  So I think nothing about scooping down, gracefully fielding the ball and snapping off a throw to the pitcher. Only problem, I can’t bend down, the ball skips through my legs...
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I can listen to you. I can guide you. I can nurture you. I cannot heal you.

Perhaps you have heard me tell this story before.  It is one of my favorites, in that it taught me a valuable lesson that continues to serve me well. Years ago, when my husband and I were closer to the start of our spiritual journeys, we traveled to an ashram for a workshop led by a well known guru. We were thrilled to be sitting at the feet of ‘an enlightened soul,’ eager to absorb her wisdom.  And secretly, to hope beyond hope, that she would reach out and touch us with the peacock feather that would instantly deliver shatipat, a lightning bolt of divine wisdom, transforming us from human to transcendent.  Peacock feather?  Lightning bold of wisdom?  Transcendent!  Arlene, c’mon! Seems silly now.  And of course it didn’t happen.  Truth be...
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The bargain we make with death

Five years ago I had a conversation with death.  It had been in the offing for a long time but I just couldn’t bring myself to meet the apparition in the spooky black robe; he scared me.  It took the sudden demise of a dear friend to broker the meeting. I was never a stranger to death.  A tragic car accident took my brother when I was fourteen; I was orphaned well before mid-life and my sister – entwined forever in my heart and soul – passed from finite to infinite long before the actuary’s prescribed time.  But for all the grieving and sadness accompanying these difficult losses, I was the third party to the event. This time it was undeniably, excruciatingly personal. My friend’s death was a precursor of what was to come.  I had buried my head in the san...
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The inestimable value of friends

Friends have always played a hugely important role in my life.  Never more so than during the pre-teens years when I was in the middle of a growth spurt with pants two inches above the ankle and a voice box vibrating between alto and baritone.  I ran with street kids and trust fund heirs alike.  Together we shared acne and raging hormones and the faux courage we gave each as we took the first, tentative steps on the path to the frightening concept called adulthood. We went to high school together and conspired and confided without a trace of snobbery. For more than half my friends, college was not an option. I hung out with future stenographers, carpenters and mechanics without condescension.  Tuning the motor on my 1935 Ford was no less important than my score on the Coll...
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I decide not to have an argument with my wife

Ah yes, the occasional squabble between husband and wife over some issue so unimportant it’s too embarrassing to admit, as in “You left the light on in the kitchen” or “Why didn’t you pick up the mail when I asked you to?”  In reply, I have two options. Option one: “So I forgot… “followed by a pugnacious “What’s the big deal?”   (Dumb! Don’t even think it! Pandora’s Box will open wide!). Option two: “Sorry, hon, I wasn’t thinking…” followed by “My bad, I’ll do it now.”  (Smart!  Realize wife worked all day.  Quickly conclude a smidgeon of humble pie is zillion times preferable to pie thrown in face). Life is short, my friend!  And I have learned time and time again that taking a stand over a petty issue is like swallowing poison and expecting the oth...