Counting the Dead

How many will show at the 60th nursing reunion of St. Peter’s School of Nursing at Cape May, NJ?

Ruth and I are counting the dead. Ruth counts 13. I have 11. “We should count anyone who didn’t respond to the invitation as ‘dead’,” she jokes over the phone. I can’t help but laugh. Maybe I’m laughing off the somberness of such a task. 

We are putting together a directory of Saint Peter’s School of Nursing, in New Brunswick, NJ, class of ’62 to pass out to the attendees at our reunion next week in Cape May. It’s bizarre that Ruth and I don’t share an accurate list of our fellow classmates who have passed away in the last 60 years!

I have three lists of information in front of me. Ruth, Joan, and Alice had split up the directory from the last reunion in 2017. They attempted to contact everyone who wasn’t on the dead list. I volunteered to collate the results. Ruth and I are trying to sort out those who responded versus those who didn’t versus those whose addresses are unknown versus those that we are sure are dead. I had phoned a few of my classmates to verify the information I was given, and to be honest, to reminisce. Many had moved in the last five years to be nearer to family. Many stopped driving. I heard of their illnesses and of the illnesses of husbands, if husbands were still alive, death of grandchildren and grown children. With each phone call, I heard the warm voice of an old friend. 

I don’t remember how many women were originally accepted to Saint Peter’s School of Nursing. No men, married, or God-forbid, pregnant women were welcome. Forty-four young, mostly Catholic women completed the program. We spent three years living together in the “nurses’ residence” under the eagle-eyes of around-the-clock housemothers. We graduated in our early twenties having bathed the dead, birthed the babies, assisted in surgeries, cared for toddlers, and the mentally ill. We were left in charge of a whole ward during the night shift until a nursing oversight organization told the three-year hospital programs (not just Saint Peter’s) that student nurses shouldn’t have that level of responsibility until after graduation, and then, of course, with pay.

The class of ‘62 has met every five years since the school closed in 1987 and the yearly reunions organized by Saint Peter’s Nursing School stopped. I had attended each reunion except for the time I was getting worked up for breast cancer in ’97 and the time when one of the then organizers rescheduled the reunion forgetting I would be in Ireland. I had volunteered to write our one and only newsletter which included the “save the date” that didn’t count after all. To be fair, that organizer moved the date so that I could travel to NJ from North Carolina the day after I got back from Ireland. As luck would have it, I caught a bug from my fellow travelers. I missed the 50th reunion.

The directory is done and ready to be printed. Besides the dead, (the death count turned out to be 13), there are two who dropped off the face of the earth after graduation, some who have never bothered to attend a reunion but are still alive, and others who would attend except for their, or their husbands’, ill health. There are six who Ruth, Joan and Alice couldn’t contact, and we’ll keep them on the list until we hear otherwise. All in all, out of 29 who we believe to be alive and kicking, or limping, only eight will travel to Cape May this Sunday.

Bittersweet Reunion

Have you ever called a friend because you had a feeling that something awful happened to them? I have and usually it’s a false alarm. I hadn’t heard from our old friends, Jim and Sue (not their real names), in a few months. I had an uncomfortable feeling that things were not right with them. When Jim answered the phone, he told me that the day before he had visited the emergency room.

I have written about Jim and Sue before. The last time my husband and I saw them was in Charleston, South Carolina, three years ago. They visit the city each year in April. We have joined them sporadically, touring the stately homes, eating at the best restaurants, and reminiscing about the places we had traveled together.

Sue and I met when we worked together as fairly new nurses at a hospital in Jersey City. We double-dated with our soon-to-be husbands and were bridesmaids at each other’s wedding.

I documented in my post, Bedbugs and Friendships, about the last time we joined Jim and Sue in Charleston. To my dismay, Sue was showing signs of dementia. She had asked about a mutual friend three times during dinner. She didn’t remember that we had just stopped at Magnolias restaurant to make reservations for the next day.

We came home from Charleston: Ernie with bed bug bites (thankfully no actual bed bugs) and with a sadness that we were losing a dear friend. The pandemic prevented any get togethers since then.

Yesterday, over the phone, Jim told me that he had been working on his garden the day before. His feet got tangled in some vines. He fell, tumbling down a hillside. His left shoulder was fractured. No surgery needed, just wear a sling. I brought him up to date with my knee injury. I had overextended my leg while doing lunges. I ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament and tore the medial collateral ligament. I was on the mend now three months later but still used a cane outside my home.

When Jim handed the phone to Sue, I held my breath. Each time we talked on the phone, I feared that I would find her confusion to be worse. Despite a thorough work up and medication, her primary doctor has not reversed the dementia, but thankfully, halted progression. Sue seemed no different than the last time we spoke. 

Acknowledging that our aging bodies are not under our control, Jim and I, the designated trip planners, decided we’ll get together in October.

I anticipate a bittersweet reunion.

Color Apple Tree. Vector Illustration. Nature and Garden

When A Compliment Is Not A Compliment.

I’ve written many posts about ageism. What I’ve not addressed is how older persons could react to the “compliment” that we look or act so “young,” as if youth is the gold standard and “aging” is undesirable. (Notice I did not say SHOULD since I’m not giving advice but laying out my thoughts on ageism) 

Until aging is recognized as the normal trajectory of life and not as a state to be ignored or disparaged, an older person will continue to be thought of as persona non grata. Accepting the “compliment,” the older person might also accept that youth is desirable and internalize feelings of negative self-worth. 

Old is not a dirty word.

How can we oldsters redirect the “compliment” by acknowledging the fact that we are indeed old, and our old status is just part of life?

One of the best responses I have come across is Samantha White’s. Her comment is in response to Katherine Esty’s post: Ageism: The tragic spoiler of old age.


Samantha White

Jul 17

Katharine, I cling to my position that it is up to us, the elderly, to stand up and be proud of our age. I HATE it when people tell me I’m not old (I’m 84), and so I reply with, “I AM old, and proud of it! Don’t take my years away from me, I worked long and hard to GET old.” People are usually confused by my position because they thought that “not old” was a compliment.

When people tell us we’re not old, or don’t look old, we need to respond with a positive take on being old. It’s possible to do it nicely, and with pride. The real compliment is when I tell people that I have a host of age-related medical issues, and they say, “One would never suspect it!” THAT’S the compliment! I’m active and productive and upbeat. I use an upright walker that people tend to not notice, because I stand up straight and walk rapidly, rather than shuffle. I wear compression hosiery to keep the swelling in my legs and feet down, and I wear clothes that fit my body. I give life my best shot.

My productivity is no more than half what it used to be, because of my medical issues, and I feel myself to be on the decline physically. Even mentally, I’ve noticed that I’ve lost the ability to do math in my head (algebra, specifically). But I’ve learned to use a computer and a smartphone, which compensate for my declining mental agility, which I don’t deny. I can’t do a lot of things I used to do well (dance, ski, kayak, hike, memorize, travel, to name a few), but I do new things, such as art printmaking, and consulting. I went back to school in my 50’s and changed careers to one in which life experience is an advantage.

We need to support each other in admitting to our age and being proud of it. Thanks (to Katherine Esty) for raising our awareness and giving us this forum.


What do you think of Samantha White’s response?

Getting the Message the Second Time Around

Amazing insights to aging by Twyla Tharp.

I read the book before. My husband had been impressed with dancer, choreographer, and author Twyla Tharp’s interview on the car radio and bought her book for me: Keep It Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life. It was motivational and I breezed through it. Afterwards the book sat on our coffee table. I picked it up a few days ago and randomly opened to page 123 where Twyla talks of breaking a bone while she is teaching a group of children to dance. As she demonstrates a position, her foot collapses and she cracks the metatarsal bone in her toe.

Here’s what she says:

            “This was a fairly common, unremarkable incident really, except I was sixty-nine years old and this was the first major injury of my career. Until that moment, I’ve never done bodily harm to myself. Never twisted an ankle or torn a muscle or broken a bone. An impressive winning streak, only some of which I attribute to luck.

            Perhaps something like this has happened to you. Your moment probably looked different: your reached for a book on a high shelf and felt a sharp twinge in your back. You wrestled with a tightly screwed jar and, in defeat, asked stronger hands to open it. You hesitated before jumping down from a high stool at a restaurant, worried about the shock to your knees, then chose a safer route back to earth. If so, you appreciate the significance of that first moment when your body breaks its contract with you. You can no longer entertain the illusion that you are among the immortals, those who throw themselves delightedly after perfection with childlike intensity because they can. You begin to morph into a mere mortal.

            You may not have even realized you were under the illusion of being an immortal, but while mortality can appear at thirty, forty, or fifty, be assured it happens to us all sooner or later. It is the moment when you start to doubt whether you have control over your body after all. You resign yourself to aging.” (Emphasis mine)

Tharp, Twyla. Keep It Moving: Lessons for the Rest of Your Life. New York, Simon & Schuster, 2019.

            Now it may sound ridiculous, that at 80 I hadn’t resigned myself to aging. When I sustained a knee injury soon after my 80th birthday, I did what I am best at: denial. The first two weeks afterward, I somehow “forgot” the physician assistant at the urgent care told me to always wear the leg brace. I wasn’t going to let this injury limit me, so I walked around the house without it. Only when I went outside did I put it the brace on.

            When I finally saw the orthopedic surgeon, he pointed out the injury on the MRI: a torn anterior cruciate ligament and fully severed medial collateral ligament. Looking at my knee x-ray, he discussed the arthritic changes and osteopenic bones in my knee. He reminded me that I needed to wear the brace constantly except when sleeping. Leaving the office, my husband said, “That was good news, you’ll get better in six to eight weeks.” I didn’t hear that. I was too busy focusing on the degenerative changes in my leg. I had been so proud to race up a flight of stairs, avoid elevators when possible and walk all day while sightseeing in New York City. I was in denial that my body was aging.

I asked at the end of one of my recent posts: what will I learn from this injury? I didn’t realize what a profound question that was until I opened Twyla Tharp’s book for the second time. There on her pages were examples of other aging persons who use their years of experience to forge new paths toward quality of life. I, on the other hand, was hoping to keep the status quo.

 Twyla’s book is so different from the usual books and articles I read on “successful” aging that focus on scientific studies. Twyla mixes common sense, creative motivation, and lots of interesting anecdotal stories about famous folks, mostly in the arts, such as writers, dancers, painters, music composers, singers, musicians; some still alive, some long dead but all demonstrating a lesson that moves us to be better as we age. (I must confess my eyes glazed over the description of how the professional boxer and heavy weight champion, George Foreman, affected a comeback at 45 years old.)

What Twyla does best is to show how to circumvent the limitations of aging by abandoning old stereotypes. She says that “. . . chasing youth is a losing proposition.”  Forget the past, reinvent yourself. Keep reaching. Keep moving.

What did I learn? I learned that successful aging is not trying to keep constant the same level of ability. In using the wisdom we older folks have accrued, we can refine the path we take as we go forward on our aging journey. This journey is ours to define and enjoy.  

Culinary Medicine

Medicine looks at food as treatment for health problems.

I have long thought of food as medicine. I stumbled on a certified medical specialty called Culinary Medicine from an online health newsletter. There is a formal educational track that leads to certification as a Culinary Medicine Specialist. Registration is open to Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, Physician Assistants, Dietitians, Pharmacists and Diabetes Educators. Sites for study include 60 academic centers across the country. The curriculum not only addresses foods that help to treat specific health problems across the life span but also deals with socioeconomic barriers such as food insecurity.

Culinary Medicine

Definitions and goals

“Culinary medicine is not nutrition, dietetics, or preventive, integrative, or internal medicine, nor is it the culinary arts or food science. It does not have a single dietary philosophy; it does not reject prescription medication; it is not simply about good cooking, flavors or aromas; nor is it solely about the food matrices in which micronutrients, phytonutrients, and macronutrients are found.

Instead, culinary medicine is a new evidence-based field in medicine that blends the art of food and cooking with the science of medicine. Culinary medicine is aimed at helping people reach good personal medical decisions about accessing and eating high-quality meals that help prevent and treat disease and restore well-being.

A practical discipline, culinary medicine is unconcerned with the hypothetical case, and instead concerned with the patient in immediate need, who asks, “What do I eat for my condition?” As food is condition-specific, the same diet does not work for everyone. Different clinical conditions require different meals, foods, and beverages.

Culinary medicine attempts to improve the patient’s condition with what she or he regularly eats and drinks. Special attention is given to how food works in the body as well as to the sociocultural and pleasurable aspects of eating and cooking. The objective of culinary medicine is to attempt to empower the patient to care for herself or himself safely, effectively, and happily with food and beverage as a primary care technique.”

La Puma, John. “What is Culinary Medicine and What Does It Do?” Population Health Management, February 1, 2016.

Here are some recipes from the Culinary Medicine site.

I thought you might enjoy a physician’s blog that includes Culinary Medicine information: Dining with a Doc-The Celebration of Food as Medicine.

Will Nurses Take the Lead in National Health Care Improvement?

The pandemic has educated the public about the nursing profession and the state of our health care system by:

  1. Showing the dedicated, skilled, and committed men and women as front-line professional nurses working to make a difference in the life and death of their patients—at times with great personal risk.
  • Exposing the discrepancy in access to health care services between the haves and the have nots.

In response the findings above, The Future of Nursing 2020-2023: Charting the Path to Achieve Health Equity believes that because nurses “work in a wide array of settings and practice at a range of professional levels . . . (t)hey are often the first and most frequent line of contact with people of all backgrounds and experiences seeking care, and they represent the largest of the health care professions . . . that (N)urses can reduce health disparities and promote equity, while keeping costs at bay utilizing technology, and maintaining patient and family-focused care into 2030.” Nurses can achieve this by not only taking a prominent leadership role in the national health care system but at all levels of health services.

            The National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice (NACNEP) with the endorsement of The Future of Nursing Committee developed nine recommendations for accomplishing this goal. You can read about them here.

Listen to this 5-minute audio, The Future of Nursing, which gives an excellent overview of the project.

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The public is often unaware that nurses work in such a wide variety of settings. Nurses’ knowledge and competence in the broad area of health care services and the fact they are the largest group of health care workers, validates their ability to take on leadership roles from the state and federal to community levels. 

Here is a list that Nurse.Org has compiled of some settings outside of hospitals where nurses work:

Top 20 Non-Bedside Nursing Jobs from Nurse.Org

1. Nursing Informaticshttps://nurse.org

The need to analyze and control health care costs has driven a surge in informatics as a nursing specialty. Effective nursing informatics can help to rein in health care costs at hospitals and other medical facilities. Plus, informaticists can also help bedside nurses care for patients more efficiently by improving systems. 

2. Nurse Case Manager

“More and more reimbursement for healthcare delivery is linked to readmission rates,”  said Cheryl Bergman, professor at the school of nursing at Jacksonville (Fla.) University.“ A nurse case manager helps manage the holistic care of patients to decrease readmission thus, keeping patients out of hospitals.”

3. Cruise Ship Nurse

A beyond-the-bedside job search could land you in a position that resembles an ongoing vacation. In normal, non-pandemic times, cruise ships come and go from the nation’s Southern port cities every day. These ships have to bring healthcare providers like cruise ship nurses on board to care for their passengers.

4. Legal Nurse Consultant

“Some law firms hire expert nurses for particular cases (such as surgical nurses if the case involved a surgical claim),” Bergman, of Jacksonville University, says. “The pay per hour is often set by the nurse and could be very lucrative ($300 an hour) for reviewing the legal documents with additional fees if called for deposition.”

5. Nurse Educator

Nurse educators can shape the future of patient care, both at the bedside and throughout the nursing profession.

6. Healthcare Risk Manager

Risk managers work to ensure patient and staff safety, respond to claims of clinical malpractice, focus on patient complaints, and comply with federal and state regulations.

7. Certified Diabetes Educator

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 21 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes while another 8 million have this condition but don’t know it yet. That’s a lot of people who will need help controlling their blood sugar in the next few years.

8. Flight Nurse

Bedside nurses who enjoy critical/emergency care may enjoy the challenges of flight nursing. Flight nurses help transport critical patients via helicopter or airplane. 

9. Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses help solve crimes and collect evidence. They can also help a coroner determine a cause of death. 

10. Nurse Health Coach

Are you the kind of bedside nurse who enjoys developing one-on-one relationships? Have you ever found yourself, weeks after a discharge, wondering how a patient is getting along? 

11. Nurse Administrator

If you want to get away from direct patient care at the bedside but think you would love the business side of healthcare, nursing administration may be the perfect new career for you.

12. Telehealth Nurse

Telehealth nursing uses mobile phones, tablets, and computers to provide remote healthcare and medical education. 

13. Nurse Writer

Nursing school requires excellent communication and writing dozens, if not hundreds, of papers about healthcare. This is why some nurses may want to turn their skills into a new writing career.

14. Correctional Nurse

Just because some patients are incarcerated doesn’t mean they don’t need medical care, mental health care, or emergency care.

15. School Nurse

If children have always been your favorite patient population or you just need a change of pace from working with adults, then becoming a school nurse may be an excellent fit for you!

16. Public Health Nurse

As opposed to bedside nurses who work one-on-one with patients, public health nurses promote the health of an entire population.

17. Infection Control Nurse

If you like working in the hospital setting and enjoy conducting research, you may want to consider becoming an infection control nurse

18. Nurse Recruiter

Nurse recruiters help healthcare, and medical companies fill staffing gaps. This allows hospitals and health facilities to provide safe and effective patient care and ensure that the business’s operations continue to run smoothly.

19. Medical Device or Pharmaceutical Sales 

If you want to use your clinical expertise to help patients live healthier lives working in the corporate world, medical or pharmaceutical sales might be an excellent opportunity for you!

20. Utilization Review Nurse

Utilization review nurses ensure that patients receive the care they need while also preventing unnecessary or duplicate services. They work with patients, families, and healthcare staff to make sure that everyone is on the same page regarding the care plan. They also work with insurance companies to ensure coverage for the services provided. 

Two Nurses Tell Their Stories in Literary Journals

Two nurses write about hospice services in literary journals. Great reads!

The Sun is one of two literary journals that I have unsuccessfully submitted to over the years. The other is the Bellevue Literary Review.

Close to 20 years ago, I drove to The Sun’s offices, parked in front of a single-family house on Roberson Street in Chapel Hill, and placed my submission, an essay doubled-spaced on hard copy, folded, and slipped into a legal-size envelope along with a cover letter and self-addressed-stamped-envelope, in the mailbox by the front door. I drove back to my home some five miles away and waited.

Imagine my pleasant surprise to find that each journal has recently published an essay by a nurse. And the topic is similar: hospice.

I can’t display sour grapes because I have long promoted nurses telling their stories. And since I have worked as a hospice nurse, I know that hospice care is poorly understood and underutilized.

Every Baby Needs to be Rocked by Barbara Woodmansee, The Sun, May 2022

Barbara Woodmansee is a hospice nurse who is stationed at a local hospital awaiting referrals from the staff. She has been told to keep a low profile. Her essay tells of seven hospice admissions. They give an overview of the types of patients hospice manages and the variety of services that the hospice program provides. Woodmansee shows how hospice intervention makes a difference in a patient’s last days along with the roadblocks she faces in providing care. She also tells us of a personal experience that inspired her to be a hospice nurse.

One of Woodmansee’s patients, Carrie, is a woman in her early 20s who developed COVID after delivering a heathy son. Her immune system has failed, and she has “multisystem organ failure; sepsis has debilitated her heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs to the degree that she has no reserve left to fight her infection.”

Woodmansee is present in the hospital room where the patient’s family gathers while life support is withdrawn. “Once the ventilator is removed, Carrie’s entire family stands at the bedside, each with a hand on her body—all except for her mother. Ann has taken Carrie’s infant son to the car. When her daughter dies, she is holding the baby.”

Woodmansee notes that “COVID has made me even more aware of my inability to support everyone affected by a patient’s death: the dying person, the family, and the staff who are trying so hard. One of the important gifts we (hospice nurses) give to families in hospice is our presence, but we have to move so much faster now, with so many new barriers between us, both physical and psychological. Worst of all, we’re getting used to it.”

With that, Woodmansee shows what nurses feel and the relentless circumstances they have had to deal with the COVID pandemic. Her essay also shows the personal investment a nurse makes to each of her/his patients.

On The Brink by Barbara West, Bellevue Literary Review, Issue 42, 2011 BLR Prize Winners.

Barbara West, an on-call hospice nurse, deals with an unclear after-hours emergency. She visits the double-wide trailer occupied by an elderly sister and brother. What she finds is the brother, slumped over in a wheelchair close to death while the caregiver/sister seems bent on ignoring reality.

After West attempts to lift the brother from the wheelchair to the bed, a loud sound emits from his body, and his breathing stops. She says, “If you work in hospice long enough, you’re bound to be accused of murder at some point. It could be over the phone, in a moment of passion from a guilt-ridden, out-of-state, family member. Or in person, simply because you’re the one at the door at that pivotal moment. Or maybe because you’re the white nurse with a Northern accent, the face of the American health care system that denied Daddy access to dialysis back in Oklahoma. For the first time in my career, I wondered if I might now have actually done what I’d previously only been accused of.”

West misses the interdisciplinary team that is available during usual working hours. Now on a Friday night, she alone must address all the issues other team members would. And it is when she notes their skills, the reader is made aware of the rich services a hospice program can deliver. But we also realize that, in the absence of other team members, nurses can assure that appropriate care is given.

The humor threaded through this story softens the sharp edges that West overcomes in steering the brother’s death to an acceptable closure. But the reader sees what discomfort West carries within her. She seeks reassurance from a coworker that she handled this case correctly. We learn that memories, both pleasant and uncomfortable, long remain with nurses when making judgements they must make on their own.

May we see more nurses writing their stories outside of nursing journals for the public to enjoy and be enlightened and to realize that nurses do make a difference.  

Torn ACL or How things can change in a New York Minute. Take 2

Over two weeks ago I slipped while doing a lunge—part of my exercise program to stay strong and flexible now that I have reached my ninth decade. The following day at an Ortho Urgent Care, I found out that I had injured both my Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and my Medial Cruciate Ligament (MCL). Definitive diagnosis pending.

What follows is one of the many examples of having a mobility problem as an older woman.

One morning, a week ago, I fell out of bed. Well, I just slid out of bed as I attempted to wipe up water from the floor with a bath towel. I had spilled the water out of a bottle with a spout that could be closed just in case I tipped it over from the bedside table it wouldn’t spill. (that only works if I close the spout in the first place.)

I didn’t want to slip on a wet floor and harm my already injured left knee, so I called my husband to bring me a bath towel. Of course, my husband could’ve wiped up the spill, but I am always in a rush to get a job done. While I leaned over trying to soak up all the drops under the bed, I stretched out too far. I couldn’t pull myself back onto the bed. I had no choice but to slither to the floor taking care to keep my injured knee straight. There I was on my stomach. On the floor. Parallel to the bed. Face down. After I managed to roll over, my husband bent to pull me up. No way would I allow him to do so. He might damage his back, or worse. I lay for a few moments trying to figure out how to get up from the floor. Scenarios danced in my head: 911, fire department, neighbors, grandchildren, embarrassment. Finally, I bent my good knee, crawled over to the bed, and pulled myself up. Gazing at the ceiling, I felt lucky as an 80-year-old that I had the strength to wiggle out of a tight situation without injury to me or my husband.

Thank goodness feet first

Yesterday, I had an MRI and today I will see an orthopedic physician to find out the extent of the damage and, most important, what I will need to do to heal the injury. Will the exercises I have done (thanks to Dr. Google and YouTube) show an improvement to my knee? Now I only wear the leg brace and use a cane when I am outside. More recently, I have managed to climb up and down the stairs of our 2-story townhouse.

This injury is teaching me to listen to my body, find ways to keep up my strength and flexibility as I age, and to slow down to smell the flowers.  There are probably more lessons for me to learn as I move forward.

I can hardly wait.

Torn ACL or How things can change in a New York Minute.

So here I am, a new octogenarian who thinks she is still twenty (my birthday was May 3rd).

When I turned 80, I decided that I wanted to stay strong and flexible. Last Thursday, I was doing lunges while watching Grace and Frankie on TV. Grace and Frankie are my role models. Love ‘em and will miss them since this is their last session. I only allow myself one episode at a time.

I had great intentions that evening but didn’t do too well on the execution. While attempting a lunge, my left leg slid sideways which overextended my knee. I toppled backward on the carpet. The pain alerted me that I had caused a big problem. I immediately followed the RICE treatment: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. The next day, after an x-ray and physical manipulation of my knee, the Physician’s Assistant at an Ortho Urgent Care declared that I had a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a common injury of athletes and more common in women. I lumbered out of the Urgent Care wearing a hinged T scope knee brace and with future MRI and orthopedic physician appointments, and an acute awareness of my advancing age.

My husband and I had spent the middle two weeks in May at the North Carolina beach in celebration of my birthday. I walked twice a day: once with walking shoes on the streets behind our rental home and once on the beach, dipping my bare feet in the cool Atlantic waves as the tide flowed onto shore. I felt wonderful. Walking is my main exercise. It not only keeps me in shape, but clears my brain, letting the creative juices bubble up. This is why I prefer to walk alone—or with a non-communicative husband.

As I write this, it’s been almost 72 hours since my injury. I’ve discarded the ice and am now using a heating pad. My leg is elevated when I’m sitting. I walk with a walker and the knee brace. I borrowed a shower chair and cancelled my social engagements with friends for the next two weeks. My life has narrowed. However, I’m not deterred even if it takes a while to get back to my previous level of activity. Damn that New York minute.

We don’t give a rip what anybody thinks.

At the beach this week.

Rebologged from May 22, 2019.

I talked to my friend Lois the other day. She was telling me how she is orchestrating a skit for Talent Night at her church. “It’s silly,” she said. “It’s a skit that I have done years ago with my family.” 

What caught my attention was the fact that Lois is selling this idea to a group of similar older folks by asking, “Who can get down on their knees?” Only two out of 10 said they could get down on their knees (and, I suppose could get up again). Well, that was all Lois needed because the skit calls for two folks to be animals. She also told her church group that she is not telling them what the skit is about because they have to be “spontaneous.” On top of that, Lois is working on what the “Choir” will sing. I have the inside scoop that Lois is writing alternative rhymes to common ditties, such as Old MacDonald had a Farm.  

Now think about this, here is a group of elder church members who are willing to participate in a skit when they have no idea what it is about, agree to be spontaneous, get down on their knees in order to be animals, and sing farcical words to familiar melodies in front of the church congregation! 

Lois made the point that at a certain age it no longer bothers us old timers to join in comical entertainment. Why should we care how we are perceived at this late stage of our lives? 

So, when I read Tim Hoyt’s, latest story, Playing with Young Minds, under his weekday missive, Story with Morning Coffee, I thought of Lois and her giddy church group. Tim’s story is silly, too, but underneath the seemingly simplistic premise is a profound lesson about growing older.  

 

Stories for Morning Coffee and No Eggs

 

by Tim Hoyt

~Playing with Young Minds~

“Age is just a number.”  I hear that all the time, mostly from men and women who are doing pretty well in spite of knees that don’t think about running a mile any longer and chests that keep on pumping in and out figuring, with proper attitude, they’ve got plenty more good days.  

“Yeah, and it’s a big number,” I say back to anyone who implies that being eighty-six is anything like being forty-six.  Sometimes, I devise devilish mind experiments with them in giant glass test tubes.   

I understand attitude. Attitude is everything when you’re eighty-six.

I’m Samuel if you want to call me something.  Samuel Perkins.  There are a number of things I like about being old.  I like the respect I get from most young people.  They call me “sir.”  That’s kinda sweet.  In my twisted mind, which is short on synapses and long on memories, “sir” translates to “Yikes-a-geezer.”  But they mean well.  They offer to carry my groceries.  I let them sometimes. Occasionally, when one of their tribe is particularly obsequious, like they’re trying to earn a merit badge or something, I’ll hand them five dollars and say, “Here’s five dollars.  Go turn it into ten dollars.”  Everyone my age got that story beat into them in Sunday School. Youngsters under forty haven’t a clue.  But they leave me alone.  “Yikes-a-geezer” is in a foul mood today, they think, and they walk quickly away, probably rethinking the merit inherent in Social Security and Medicare programs.  

So, what do I want to happen today?  Today, being typical of most days.  I want most days to be atypical.  I want life to jump up and smack my behind and surprise the daylights out of me.  

This past Easter, Patrick, my buddy for so long, we forget how we met (not really – that’s just something we tell the Yikes-a-Geezer crowd) and I walked down Central Street holding hands.  Patrick wore his bunny suit.  He skipped and carried a basket of candy which he passed out to gawking little kids.  I was his handler. Patrick-the-Easter-Bunny, obviously, didn’t talk.   I would say, “Now, now, Easter Bunny, we must visit all the children before midnight.  Dad’s laughed.  Mothers just stared at us with pity.  Kids were delighted. 

Why on earth do we do things like this?  Because we don’t give a rip what anybody thinks.  That’s not entirely true, but it is pretty true.  Patrick and I made our marks.  Each of us got an education, made a good living, married, raised a family, paid the mortgage, volunteered for fund-raisers, and a lot more.  We contributed.

At eighty-four and eighty-six,  Patrick and I are secure in who we are.  The self-doubt boat docks in a younger neighborhood now.  

Now, we can be Easter Bunnies (I wore the suit last year). A few months ago, I was roaming through a re-sale store and spotted an old guitar missing some strings, and a damaged ukulele. Patrick and I put on a street concert.  Our sign said, “Lessons Available, Cheap.”  Such fun.  And no self-consciousness whatsoever.  That ship sailed long ago, too.

Patrick asked me if I would like join him and ride our bicycles in the Naked Pride Parade this year. He’s making that up and he knows I know he’s making it up, but I say, “Sure, what should I not wear?” 

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