Life in the Slow Lane

Be prepared for big changes in your life when Mother Nature and Father Time put their heads together and gang up on you.  If they decide it’s time for some new scenery, you might just as well give in gracefully and get ready to move. You’re going to Assisted Living.

Before you know it you find yourself unpacking in a completely different environment. Fortunately for me, when I realised I’d been had, my move became a family effort. Once I’d made my decision the gang enthusiastically jumped in  (perhaps a tad too enthusiastically?) and we got to work.

We checked out several likely possibilities, found a place we all agreed on, and went into action. Assisted Living residences go by such reassuring names as  ELDER HAVEN, GOOD SHEPHERD and SENIOR SERENITY, so right away the timid soul is presented with the idea of a warm, welcoming home.

Moving came with a few glitches and I wondered more than once if I’d have to go back to the thrift store I’d donated to so generously, in order to buy most of my things back, but that didn’t happen.  Eventually everything came together and here I am, settling into my new digs, adjusting to life in the slow lane.

Spacious homes and roomy apartments are a thing of the past. Your new living space will be about the size of a two-car garage, or even smaller, and the sight of your bed in the living area takes some getting used to.  If an unmade bed lays a guilt trip on you, you’d better be ready to tidy up the mess as soon as your eyes pop open every morning. Just pull the covers neatly up and pat them into place before you slide carefully out from under.  Works every time.

Management and employees all seem to be cheerful, caring,  kind and very capable. However, the first big adjustment comes when you realize privacy just went out the window.  No matter the level of your care, someone is keeping track of you. Whether you’re still independent, bedridden, or somewhere in between,  Big Brother, or more likely, Big Sister knows what you’re up to.

A firm tap on your door, followed by a smiling face popping around the corner, is no longer the surprise it was at first. Someone has come by to check you out. Blood pressure, weight, laundry, mealtime or a tray, trash removal, any of a myriad duties and services can bring them.  It might be as late as 1:00 a.m., they just want to be sure you’re still breathing. Not quite as invasive as a hospital where you swear you’re being wakened only to be sure you’re asleep. It’s all in your best interests and you soon learn to appreciate the attention.

No one ever raves about the food in assisted living facilities. It’s plentiful and adequate, what else can one say? Actually, we have few complaints here at my residence.  From soup to sweets, our chef is big on comfort food with a home-made taste. Who doesn’t like thick, creamy soups, casseroles and frosted brownies?

Family-friendly birthdays and holidays are given special attention, while activities and short sightseeing trips are planned for those who are interested and able.  Bingo and Bunco are big, and adult coloring is the new fad. Musical programs are very welcome.

And so it goes. Time passes, sometimes dragging and sometimes zipping by, depending on your mood and level of activity  Time has a way of doing that. New friends are made, visitors come and go, and outings become just a bit more difficult. Life in the slow lane settles around you, and you find it’s still enjoyable, just a whole lot quieter.

Quiet can be good, and that’s not all bad.


Treasures or Trash

Every so often we’re forced to come face to face with that never ending problem, cleaning out our closets, cupboards, garages and sheds. No matter who we are, sooner or later we have to acknowledge the reality of owning TOO MUCH STUFF.

Neatniks and slobs, we’re all the same, things begin to own us, rather than the reverse. Some few among us are able to maintain a little control, but if we were never  overly tidy to begin with, we can get in real trouble. I’ve long felt that any storage unit left unattended for as little as a day, will become a breeding ground for whatever might be inside.

I’ve never understood those unusual people who deliberately search out things to collect.  I never needed to collect anything, I just accumulated. Without half trying, I’m likely to find myself buried under mountains of things I’ve accumulated.

If I were clever enough I could arrange little displays of my more interesting pieces of trash and call them collections but I’ve long since filled up all available shelf space and table tops, and I’m afraid most everyone’s reaction would be, “Doesn’t she ever put anything away?” I’ll leave the collecting to the real collectors.

So, what can we do, those of us who are in real danger of suffocating under all the junk?  Well, a house fire would work, but there might be too many complications there, insurance companies getting nosy, police investigations, or the odds of ending up homeless, Fire can be recommended only in the most extreme cases.

There are always the time honored garage sales, yard sales, and such, but there again, not a good idea.  Too many of us have a tendency to buy more at other sales than we sell at our own. Definitely counter-productive.

Donations to thrift shops and charities have a two sided effect, too, They get rid of a lot of junque, and we feel good about ourselves afterwards, but this again is apt to be counter-productive.  The last time I gathered up a huge donation for my favorite thrift shop, I had to go down and buy back things I’d unintentionally given away in the spirit of charity.

Taking a minute to think seriously about the items and objects we own, we should ask ourselves just why they’re so hard to let go of.  Most of my clothes are almost as old as I am. If I could get them on I’d probably still be wearing them. Faded, holey, seams out, I don’t care. There’s an emotional connection there that keeps me hanging on to them, and I still treasure them all.

What is the oldest item or object you own?  Speaking for myself, I can’t think of a single thing I own that’s older than me.  I’m it, the oldest thing I own. I can’t remember at what age an object goes from being called “vintage” to becoming a genuine antique, but I’m pretty sure I’ve passed that milestone.

Rather than having increased in value over the years as a hand carved piece of furniture or a rare tapestry would, I’m afraid my personal value has decreased to the point where even the DMV no longer wants my remains. As for worldly goods, I never did own jewels, furs or old masters. I do have a pair of shoes that are so old I have no idea when or where they came from, but I don’t think they qualify as antiques yet.

So I ask myself,  “Why am I this way?” I can’t be the only one like this. Call me miserly, call me cheap, or call me a hoarder. I confess I’m all those things.

And what is your excuse?

Writing Your Will…and Rewriting…and…

Everyone needs a will.  No matter how little they own there will always be a few things someone will want.   Wills aren’t really that hard to write. Trust me on this, I’ve written and rewritten my will a dozen or more times.  I’m careful to date each and every copy. Being an avid reader of crime stories, I’m well aware that the most recent one is the only one that is legal.

A will doesn’t have to be fancy.  I usually throw in a few important sounding words and phrases, meaningless but semi-ostentatious, just to be sure I’ll be taken seriously.  “Bequeath” is good, “Herewith” is good, a few “thereuntos” are very good, and “The Undersigned” is impressive. I can only hope they’re legal.  Probably not; there are a few rules one should follow but I never have paid much attention to those.

I never bother with an attorney, either.  We’re not talking a Bill Gates or a Warren Buffet type fortune here.  I’ve never been wealthy and if I live much longer my puny Nest Egg will have shrunk to something the size of a jelly bean anyway.  Wouldn’t it be comforting to have some advance warning as to the exact time and date of one’s demise so our dwindling funds would come out even with our life expectancy,  matching dollars to days?

Since that isn’t possible, I’ll just keep on writing and rewriting the same old will.  With my large family, no sooner do I get all the latest bequeaths and hereafters figured out than there will be a major upheaval of some sort beyond my control,  and I’ll be back to the drawing board.

Marriages, divorces. new babies, or worst of all, a big old family feud ending in a temper tantrum, usually on my part, all take their toll.  If somebody makes me mad enough, it’s time for a revision. I’ll ruthlessly cut them out of the latest version, chortling gleefully to myself.

So far I’ve managed to dump all of my cousins  (I never liked most of them anyway), most of my siblings, three of my many children and some nieces and nephews.

So will I ever write a final revision?  Considering the ups and downs of my life to now, who knows?  I either will . . . or I won’t.

I want to share a copy of a handwritten will I happen to have among my belongings.  This was written by my husband’s grandmother in 1924 and is a perfect example of the type of will I’ve been talking about. This simple, sweet  old soul bequeathed all of her treasures, consisting of her hand-made and decorated linens, plus one very special wish for a special person. She wrote in pencil and her punctuation was a bit free-form, as is mine,  but her spelling was perfect and the will is clear and lucid.

We might be a little dubious about the legality of making arrangements for the future of another human being but she’s very clear about being sure “Pa,” her beloved husband of 50-some years, is well cared for.

“February 15, 1924    My wishes I write down making known to you as near as I can, what shall be done with what belongs to me.

I want a room left for Pa, the best we have, his choice if he has any and plenty of bedding to keep him comfortable, cold or hot weather and anything he needs to make him comfortable.

(Next she mentions a few items of furniture, then she continues:)

“Irene gets the crocheted spread and pillow cover, with linen strips between.

Hazel gets the other spread and Leta has the table cover and all dining room crocheted work.

Ruth has the Sheet Sham, Pillow slips and Dresser Scarf to match as a keepsake from Grandma.

All other bedding, divide among you, if Gus can use any of it, if not you girls, Leta and Hazel divide it, without any trouble, only to get it all out of the way here as I want no one else to use up my old stuff that I have worked for and paid for, with my own work.

The wishes of Gertrude Fox Scott”