Dining at The Oaks

Conversation over dinner at Willamette Oaks, my senior residence, can be predictable. We don’t always sit with the same people every evening but our discussions tend to follow a pattern.  After effusive greetings we get down to business, leading off with an organ recital, the heart and bladder being of primary interest.

Next we have a joint discussion, with the back and the knees of first importance, followed by hip replacements. At the mention of a new or recurrent symptom or complication, our ears prick up and we interrupt one another with detailed accounts of our own experiences with the exact same thing,  each of us privately certain that no one else has suffered as much as we have.

These comments segue nicely into details about meds, shots and other related subjects. From this the conversation turns to who the E.M.T.s picked up on their last visit, whether they were admitted to the hospital, and a complete update on everyone’s well-being.

It’s not that we’re being ghoulish, not us, we’re really very nice people, just  caring.  In our age group,  everyone’s health is important to us.

When we find ourselves seated with newcomers,  we never intend to  get  nosy,  we  just want to be friendly. We might  subject them to a barrage of questions, all meant to welcome them and put them at ease. However,  by the time we’re satisfied, they’re wondering if they’ve had to pass a test  to  be allowed to stay here, while all we want is to be able to remember their names and faces, at least for a day or two. There again, not nosy at all, just caring. We’d hate to be thought of as shallow.

We’re also never catty about one another. Oh, there may be a stray comment now and then, “Where on earth does that man buy his shirts?” or “Hasn’t she worn that blouse every day this week?”  Someone did remark once,  “Tights! With those hips? I don’t think so!”  but such remarks aren’t really catty. Or are they?  Maybe a tiny bit but we mean well.

One subject everyone agrees on is our young, energetic servers, We adore them, maybe there’s more than a touch of envy there, but they’re all neat kids.

There will probably be a brief discussion on current events, No one reaches our age without being a bit firm minded on most subjects, not opinionated, not us, just a bit firm.  As this part of our conversation continues, there may be a lone dissenter or two. We assure them that we love them anyway. These are usually the same people who wonder why we can’t have stewed prunes on the dessert menu every evening.

The idea of stewed prunes brings us to our ongoing discourse on the food, invariably our main topic. Was it hot food on cold plates or cold food on hot plates tonight?  Were the veggies over or undercooked.? Opinions are always evenly divided here. How about seasonings? Here again half of us want garlic in everything and the other half swear they were up all night popping Rolaids after finding a shred of onion in the stew.  We all agree that if the green bean crop in the Willamette Valley ever failed, we’d probably starve to death, but we usually have a nice variety.

It follows that every dish is compared to the way we used to prepare it, the way our mothers made it, and  the fact that they and our grandmothers were the best cooks ever. Never mind that those old dears used pure lard with abandon,  real butter, whole cream and lots and lots of eggs. Nutrition was unheard of and nobody cared,

And so we wind up our dinner conversations with  our favorite subject of all,  the wonderful way things were “back then.”   Wallowing in nostalgia, goodnights are warm. We’re all agreed that we aren’t really ghoulish, opinionated,  nosy or catty,  well,  maybe a tad catty once in a great while, but overall we’re pretty darn nice. And definitely envious when it comes to our young servers.

It may seem as if we waste a lot of time on chatter. Well, yes and no. Taking into account all the time spent trying to recall a word, a name,  or an entire train of thought, or the need to repeat ourselves, the evening passes  quickly.

Before we know it, another night and another dinner will roll around and we’ll be right back at it. And who knows , we may end up repeating the exact same discussion we’ve had the past few nights and have already forgotten.  To those of us with faulty memories, life is always fresh and interesting and dinner is the time for new memories.


How Old Is Too Old?

When do people stop making bucket lists? When are we too old to do any more long term planning? When do we stop telling ourselves  “Someday … ? and start saying  “I should have …”  or “Why didn’t I? …”   When do we officially get over the hill?

By the way, where did the term “bucket list” come from anyway? You know, that wish list you dream up referring to all the things you still hope to accomplish in life. It obviously has something to do with the old expression “kick the bucket,” a term that has always confused me. And just where did THAT expression come from?

When I think of kicking the bucket, being the klutz that I am, I wonder what would happen if I tried for a good hard kick and missed. I’d lose my balance, fall flat on my face, and then what? Does the bucket ricochet back, catching me on the swing or do I get a second chance? I’m all for second chances.

Anyway, I can only speak for myself about aging, of course. We all age at a different pace. All I know is, “TOO OLD” is getting closer all the time. I still have a bucket list, only now there are no more dreams of trips to exotic locales. I’ve traded plans for Bora Bora and Kathmandu for outings to the grocery store, the big boxes and keeping up with those everlasting appointments.

My revised bucket list now includes the names and emergency contacts for at least a dozen medical specialists, not to mention dates for back massages and toenail trims.  I’m looking at appointments stacked up for the next six months to come.

My new bucket list also contains the names, addresses and full info on all the relatives who’ve been written out of my will.  They would persist in making me mad; now I’ll persist in getting even.

A bucket list for those of us who are really elderly might include plans for a pre-paid funeral service. Some people go so far as to write their own obituaries. That way they can be sure their marvelous physical attributes, amazing mental agility and astounding array of accomplishments will not be overlooked.  Too many heirs get in too much of a hurry to head for the bank and we don’t always receive the attention we so richly deserve.

Other bucket lists reveal detailed plans for disposing of one’s worldly goods, taking no chances on our treasured valuables being left behind to fall into the clutches of a significant other or a dear friend waiting in the wings.

As for myself, most of my belongings will be donated  back to Goodwill and The Salvation Army where I got them, if they’re still usable.

Gone are the days of extravagant arrangements for an African safari or golf at St. Andrews.  Even a second honeymoon to Niagara Falls is scrapped in the face of reality. If you haven’t done it by now it probably won’t get done.

What’s on your Bucket List?

I’m Beside Myself

   That expression has always bugged me.  Just tell me how that can be possible.  Of all the ridiculous expressions we use  in casual conversation, that has to be the most meaningless.  We can be beside, below, before, behind,  ahead of, above, after or under almost any object or person we might mention, but beside ourselves?  Impossible!  Anatomically, acrobatically impossible!   Where do these goofy expressions originate?  How do they start?

   Think about some of the terms we  hear and use every day.  How about  For Goodness Sakes,  For Gracious Sakes or For Pete’s Sake?  Goodness and Gracious might be understandable if you stretch a point, but who the heck is Pete and how does he get in there?  Meaningless!

   And how about  Good Grief!  Another impossibility.   Grief is not good.  It can be heartbreaking, shattering, cathartic or any of a number of terms bt it is not good.  Here’s another one,   Keeping  Your Ears Peeled !  HUH?  I might understand Eyes Peeled, it  could be remotely plausible if not possible, but ears, never.   Also meaningless.

   Now here’s an old timer  I don’t hear much anymore;  my grandmother’s expression when she needed to relieve her feelings,  Land Sakes Alive!  What on earth does that mean?  In my opinion nothing.  Once again meaningless.  Sometimes under stress she’d shorten it to  Land Sakes, or, if deeply moved ,  just  Land or the most emotional,  just Sakes. Obviously she got some sort of satisfaction out of using it.

    Lately I’ve been hearing an oldie that seems to be making a comeback,  That’s The Bee’s Knees .  Again meaningless but kind of cute,  if you like silly.  And some new slang that does mean something if you give it a little thought, although once again, silly.  That Harshes My Mellow!  Or if you want the reverse,  That Mellows My Harsh.  So are our new expressions  an improvement or not?  

   Where do they come from? And why do I care?  The whole thing leaves me beside myself.


. . . I’d have no luck at all, as the old song goes. There I was, barely into the new year, having just posted a blog about the January Blahs and the boredom that sets in after the holidays.  So what happened?  Well, for starters, my credit card was hacked. Then one of my teeth fell out, And just to add a bit more drama, I sat on my glasses again. I didn’t even need to leave home to get into trouble.

For a person who hasn’t traveled farther than the Oregon coast for at least four years,  I was shocked to discover I’d just paid $347 for a one way ticket from London. England to Amman, Jordan. The charge seemed quite reasonable – if I had been in London and wanted to go to Jordan. However, I hadn’t been to any London, whether Ontario, Connecticut,  Oregon or England for some time and had never had a desire to go to Jordan, even back when Jordan was still Jordan and not another bullet-riddled pawn to rabid rebels.

Fearing I might be mistaken for a middle-eastern Mata Hari masterminding a cell of suicide bombers headed for Buckingham Palace or 10 Downing Street,  I was sure Interpol and the C.I.A. already had me in their sights.

I couldn’t call Visa fast enough.  Apparently hacking has become so commonplace they immediately canceled my number and assured me that it was highly unlikely that either Interpol or the C.I.A. was after me .  And NO, I did not have to pay the $347.  My fears set to rest, all I had to do was make a myriad  phone calls and spend hours canceling all my online deposits and payments.

After a few sleepless nights  I began to relax, thinking to myself, “Well, I managed to dodge that bullet, what’s next?” I was vigorously brushing my teeth the next  morning when I heard a distinct PLINK in the sink and looked down, horrified to see one of my molars rolling around. Talk about biting a bullet, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Cautiously exploring the gap it left, and assessing the situation, I realised there was no pain, I could still chew, and I didn’t resemble Alfred E. Neumann’s great-grandmother from the old MAD Magazine days. So I put the entire situation on hold. I can see the dentist after I’m certain my new Visa is secure. After all, if the C.I.A. nabs me, they’ll be responsible for my health and welfare anyway, they can spring for one tooth.

And then I sat on my glasses again. I have no excuse, no explanation. It just happens every now and then. The young woman smiles graciously as she straightens them, but her eyes are saying  “Have you ever considered safety goggles?”  I’m just happy lenses are plastic nowadays. Sitting on a Band-Aided bottom for a week or so can’t be much fun. Might make for some interesting scars, though.

So much for a boring January.  What will February bring? Will I be languishing in a Federal pen breaking my new tooth and wearing safety goggles? I can hardly wait to find out..

The January Blahs

(another re-run, Januaries don’t change much year to year)

Dismal, dreary, depressing and a real downer.  I think that just about covers the month of January.  What a letdown after the previous two months!  November kicks off the holiday season early every year, starting with the long Thanksgiving weekend –  family oriented and peaceful. Even so, the quiet Thursday holiday we used to enjoy so much just isn’t the same these days with the prospect of Black Friday and big time shopping right around the corner.

Nowadays Black Friday, that 18 to 24 hour gift shopping blowout, abruptly ushers in what used to be a pleasant runup to our most loved holiday, Christmas. Whether we celebrate Christmas as a religious or a social occasion, we find ourselves in a mad whirl of activity throughout December that doesn’t ease up until January 1st.

We shop, we clean, we shop, we decorate, we shop, we send out greetings, shop, bake and wrap.  Somehow we fit school programs, benefits, concerts and parties into our busy schedules, then shop some more.  Refrains from favorite carols fill the air and everyone smiles.  The days rush by.  Santa Claus comes, he goes,  and we have a brief opportunity to catch our breath and prepare for the last big party of the year.

New Year’s Eve means more merriment, music, noisemakers, champagne and promises to ourselves that we know we’ll never keep.

Then suddenly it’s all over.  Everything stops.  We pause for a day or so, remember how to relax, and look forward to some peace and quiet.  Surprise!  The minute we let our guard down that January feeling sets in.  How can things change so quickly?  We spent weeks rushing around, longing for a little relaxation; now in no time at all we’re bored.  The bright shopping ads that were so enticing a month ago are now begging us to buy healthy foods, vitamins, exercise equipment and all sorts of sensible, ordinary things. There is no end to the shopping but now the fun is gone.

The weather that was invigorating and exciting in December is now drab and grey. The days are short and dark, the sun seems to have gone permanently south, and the only beings who enjoy these gloomy days are skiers, snowboarders and hard core shoppers who can ignore the weather while on the hunt for next year’s Christmas decorations at 70% off.

We feel like overblown balloons just pierced by a pin. We’ve kicked the bathroom scales under the bed.   Last month’s roast meats and gravies are only a fond memory.  The Christmas cookies are down to the last few crumbs and there’s nothing left in the candy dish but a couple of striped canes, both broken.

Worse yet, we find ourselves turning down the few dinner invitations that come our way in January.  Where is the fun in a glass of sparkling water served with a bowl of greens and some poached tofu?

What to do?  Well, there are several choices, depending on who we are.  Some of us might call our favorite travel agent and book a flight to Papeete, Rio or The Bay of Islands.  As far as I’m concerned, a quick peek in my checkbook cancels that plan.  Even a jaunt south to Medford would be a strain on my bank balance at the present time and it wouldn’t be a bit warmer.

Some of us could  opt for the  “If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em” strategy.  That lets me out, too.  How many snow angels can one person make and still think they’re having fun?  And I hate soggy, half frozen mittens.

I suppose I could go shopping (there’s that word again). My pantry is bare and my list is long, filled with all sorts of boring stuff.

Instead, I opt for turning up the heat, donning those fleecy new jammies I found under my Christmas tree, sipping a steaming cup of hot chocolate and diving into the stack of books I’ve been wanting to get at.

With enough books, it’ll be February before we know it, the days will be getting longer and the sun will be back.  January will be a bad memory, best forgotten.  I can always grocery shop next  month.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everyone!

I decided to post the same blog I sent out on the last two years.  Two good reasons: It still seems relevant; in other words, nothing has changed very much.  Also, I’m suffering seasonal let-down, sugar O.D. and general laziness – so here goes-


So, did you or didn’t you?  Are you one of those super optimistic people who trot out the same old resolutions year after year, ever hopeful that this will finally be the year when you’re able to hold on to one long enough to say you kept it?  Do you have your list permanently engraved in your memory so you don’t have to write it down?  Or maybe you come up with a new list every year, thinking that sooner or later you’ll hit on something that works?

Well, let’s review a few of those resolutions.  How do they stack up?  After all, there are only so many ideas we humans can come up with for self-improvement.  We tend to think alike when we start kidding ourselves.

What’s Number 1 on almost all of our lists?  GET BACK IN SHAPE!  Exercise more, eat healthily, lose weight and quit smoking if it applies.  Number 2 would probably be our promise to spend more quality time with family and friends.  This would include cutting way back on the boob tube and social media.  Somewhere in there we’d vow to read at least one thought-provoking, inspirational book every month and, in general, clean up our act.  Sound familiar?

Give it up, guys.  We all know we’re doomed to fail. Our promises to ourselves may give us a lift as we sing “Auld Lang Syne” on the last night of the old year.  We’re excited, eager to unveil the new us, ready to become better people.  So, what happens?

Unfortunately, January 1st is what happens. That is decidedly the single worst day of the year on which to attempt any changes. Why?  Well, that’s easy.  It’s those darned New Year’s Eve parties on December 31st that we can’t turn down.  Take for instance, the most recent occasion.

We all partied that night, we know we did.  We even remember parts of the evening.  We put on goofy hats, blew gaudy noise-makers, tried to prove we could still Jitterbug, ate tons of greasy, gooey little things and glugged down who knows how much eggnog.  Then came a confusing count down when some kind of a ball dropped somewhere, accompanied by a Champagne toast.  And we called it fun!

So now we’ve arrived at January 1st.  New Year’s Day is dawning bright and full of promise.  And where are we?  Cringing under the comfortless comforter, peering out of glazed eyeballs, head throbbing and tummies very, very iffy.  We’re expected to bound out of bed and do push-ups?  Cook oatmeal?  Welcome a thundering herd of raucous offspring who’ve discovered  the discarded noisemakers?  All in the name of a few rash promises we made in the enthusiasm of the night before?  Fat Chance!

Worse yet, we’re faced with reading the first chapter of  “The Rise and Fall Of The Roman Empire” when we can’t even pick the darned thing up!  This is exactly why January 1st is the absolute worst day of the year for new beginnings.  Quality time with the family is a distant dream, something to be postponed indefinitely, along with any vague intentions of self improvement.  There have to be better times to begin.

So once again all those needed New Year’s resolutions have been sabotaged and we’re feeling more than a little guilty.  Surely there’ll be other opportunities to keep them – like maybe next year?  We already have our lists, just in case.

The Night Before Christmas…at The Oaks

T’was the night before Christmas and all through the Oaks every creature was stirring.  Hey, we’re all old folks!

Our stockings were flung across every chair.  If they fell to the floor they’d have to stay there.

We oldsters tried nestling all snug in our beds but too many sugarplums had gone to our heads.

My neighbors in nighties, long johns and caps were hopelessly trying to grab a quick nap

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,  I fell out of my bed trying to see what was the matter.

I crawled to the window, tried to open the sash,  pulled back the curtain and felt a great splash.

The rain as it fell  soaked the landscape below.  It gave a luster of dewdrops that spread a bright glow.

Through the rain I could see I wasn’t alone. There were eight elderly elves in a gyrating drone

With the real St. Nick, not some street corner clone,  perched on the top calling ”turn off your phones.”

Four elves were on walkers, four on their canes. All hard of hearing, yet they each knew their name.

“On Wimpy, On Clumsy, On Tipsy, On  Ted!”  “Up Oreo,  Cheerio,  Frito and  Fred!”

From the lawn to the roof, through the rain they did fly.  The drone landed safely,  toys stacked to the sky.

And then in a twinkling I heard for myself  the grunting and groaning of each tiny elf.

I hit my head on the window as I spun back around.  Saw St. Nick set to work; he made not a sound.

His rain coat was red, dripping wet from the ride, and he left a big puddle as he dropped down inside.

The toys weren’t too wet and the elves had stayed dry. They set out the gifts in the wink of an eye.

My neighbors and I were by now wide awake.  We  watched from afar as they took a short break with  glasses of milk and some solid fruit cake.

St. Nick’s cheeks were  rosy, his nose red and runny.  Allergy season is not very funny/

He had a fat little face and a fat little belly;  too many snacks of P.B. and jelly.

His twinkling eye spied us, no time for a smile. They still had to travel  many a mile.

No voices were heard as they bent to their task. They filled all the stockings,  then finished at last.

St. Nick and the elves sprang back into the drone, took off from the roof  and  turned on their phones.

With a quick smile and a wave and the G.P.S. set,  the wipers were wiping. It was still very wet.

And away they all flew, calling out as they fled,  “Merry Christmas to all, now go back to bed!!!”