Browsing Category Aging

Aging Like Fine Wine

I see it. There, on the horizon. Another birthday approaching in a couple of days.

God rest your soul, B.B.King, but this septuagenarian won’t need to play your upbeat Happy Birthday Blues song to lift my spirits. I’m good. My plan for B-Day is to express my gratitude to God for the blessing of seeing another birthday and then I’ll take a moment to reflect on my birthday’s past.

I’ve had some ho-hum birthdays when I did nothing to acknowledge the occasion except maybe draw a smiley face on my daily flip calendar and then turn the page. I also had some memorable birthdays like when my beau at the time treated me to a concert, dinner, or some other memorable event. (Eugene, I don’t know if you are reading this or if you are even aware that I have an online journal, but if you are, I want you to know that I still remember when you took me to a small supper club. Unbeknownst to me at the time, you slipped the waitress a note to give to the club host. The host then announced from the stage that it was my birthday and pointed to our table. The clubgoers turned toward us and sang Happy Birthday to me. It was a beautiful gesture, and I don’t know why I felt embarrassed, but I did. I just wanted to dissolve into a heap of chocolate in my chair faster than the ice melting in our drinks. But as you see, your thoughtfulness left a lasting impression because I still remember that unforgettable birthday evening.)

My earliest memorable birthday was my 16th. That was the only time I ever had a birthday party. It wasn’t a budget-busting gala like some contemporary parents provide for their 16-year-old daughters. Mine was a small event. I remember the round cake bought from Posin’s Bakery. It had “Happy Birthday Sweet 16” written on top in pink and yellow icing, encircled by 16 candles.

Along with the cake, we enjoyed Neapolitan ice cream, potato chips, and a few other party snacks.  The several friends who I invited, my siblings, and I celebrated the event in the basement of our family home, while my parents courteously remained upstairs.

We danced beneath pre-strung crepe decorations to the stack of 45 RPMs, which I had prearranged next to my dad’s record player. The lineup included many of my favorite tunes:  How Sweet It Is by Marvin Gaye; Bettye Everett & Jerry Butler ‘s Let It Be Me; My Guy by Mary Wells; Baby Love by the Supremes; and You’ve Lost that Lovin Feelin by the blue-eyed soul duo, The Righteous Brothers. That was when music was music and not just a compilation of noise, grunts, and offensive language.

I, like other Boomers, grew up in The Vietnam War era when gas cost 30 cents per gallon, a loaf of bread was 21 cents, and a US Postage Stamp, 5 cents. The Beatles were taking the world and America by storm. I owned at least two of their singles; A Hard Days Night and She Loves You (yeah, yeah, yeah).

A talented young boxer by the name of Cassius Clay (he later changed his name to Muhammed Ali) won the boxing world heavyweight championship from Sonny Liston. The Civil Rights Act was signed into law, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr received the Nobel Peace Prize, but that didn’t stop creative artists like The Last Poets and Gil Scott Heron from rapping politically charged lyrics about revolution.

Most pertinent to this lifelong Washingtonian was when the District of Columbia residents gained the right to vote in a presidential election for the first time. I remember that my dad was so proud to cast his first ballot. I don’t think he ever missed voting during a single election after that.

So many birthdays, so much history.

Although listening to music was one of my favorite pastimes then (and it still is), when I could scrape together enough money, I enjoyed attending shows at The Howard Theater, usually with my best friend, Cookie. She and I laughed ourselves silly while witnessing the antics of rising star comedians like Flip Wilson, Moms Mabley, and Richard Pryor. Back then, theater seats were available on a first-come basis. Cookie and I would rush to get to the Howard an hour before the box office opened so that we would be the first patrons standing in line to buy tickets. After purchasing them, we would race to the front of the auditorium and grab seats on the front row. When the screening of the movie previews and a serial film was over it was showtime. We would scream and act-a-fool (as the old folks would say it) during live performances by musical entertainers like Chuck Jackson, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Supremes, The Marvelettes and so many others.

Sometimes I spent Saturday afternoons at the Sylvan Theater. If I wasn’t with Cookie, I went along with my parents and siblings. We enjoyed films like Imitation of Life, Sounder, and A Fistful of Dollars. By the time Blaxploitation films emerged, I was a bonafide movieholic and going to other movie houses in the city. I squirmed through films like Melvin Van Peebles’s Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and cried at the end of Cooley High. (The latter remains one of my favorite films.)

So many birthdays. So many memories.

I’ve aged like fine wine. Over the years, the mature me has expanded my interests to include social activism and politics. Before writing these memories, I couldn’t resist digging up some birthday trivial and I found this. According to the MyBirthdayNinja site, in my previous life (for those who believe in such), I was a publisher and scribbler of ancient inscriptions. (Isn’t that interesting?)

No, you won’t hear me singing any birthday blues, because I see every birthday as a journey. Another landmark. I will treasure every year and enjoy every mile because on each B-Day that I am blessed to be above ground; I will be older than yesterday, but younger than tomorrow.

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Give Them Something to Talk About

Steve Goodier says, “A sense of humor helps us to get through the dull times, cope with the difficult times, enjoy the good times and manage the scary times.”

Humor is not an antidote for everything, but like Goodier, I believe that doses of it help ward off physical and mental woes. Since I’ve been blessed, thus far, to age healthfully, I feel obligated to share with my geriatric peers some lighthearted tips for surviving happily ever after you’ve climbed the hill of life, rounded the top, and are repelling down the other side. Observing these 12 dos and don’ts will help the mature person waylay worries about aging and live life to the fullest.

  1. Don’t make a side-by-side comparison of your high school yearbook photo with the headshot you’ve recently taken at your grandchild’s wedding unless you want to hurt your feelings. No matter how your mirror and mind fool you into thinking that you look decades younger than you are, reality checks can be shocking.
  2. Do write on a notepad what you are going after in another room. Then, tear off the sheet and carry the note with you. If you forget to bring the note and can’t remember what you came into the room for, go back and get the note, if you can remember where you left it. If you can’t find the note, backtracking will often refresh your memory of what you went to get in the other room.
  3. Don’t store something important in a particular place in your home, thinking that you’ll remember where you put it. You won’t. Hide it in plain sight.
  4. Don’t fume over your arthritic knee or bursitis hip and then angrily shout, “What next?” As sure as you ask the universe that question, your next doctor’s visit will reveal gout, hypertension, cataracts or some other age-related ailments.
  5. Don’t pluck your gray hairs. Stop fighting them. After a while, it becomes a losing battle anyway. Just resolve to make hair color your new best friend.
  6. Don’t tempt fate by getting down on the floor to exercise, thinking that after you’ve finished you’ll jump right up. You won’t. If there is no one nearby who you can call to come and help you up, roll over on your side, get on your hands and knees, crawl to a chair or sturdy table and pull yourself up. A similar principle applies if you have been sitting for a long time and feel stiff when you rise from the chair. Sometimes this is embarrassing if you are in a room with other people. After standing, pretend that you are doing the robot dance until your joints feel limber enough to allow you to walk naturally.
  7. Don’t be embarrassed about taking a nap in the middle of the day. After spending over half your lifetime in gainful or unprofitable employment, you’ve earned the right to rest whenever you feel like it.
  8. If you are home alone and your favorite party song from back in the day comes on the radio, go ahead and dance like nobody’s watching. Just make sure you’re wearing your medical alert bracelet.
  9. When your architecture has gone from a brick house to a falling hut, stabilize it with appropriate props. And banish the cropped tops and spandex leggings from your wardrobe. Chose comfortable clothes over stylish ones. If you are tempted to dress like a juvenile, remember the Bonnie Raitt song “Give them something to talk about.” Don’t.
  10. Don’t curtail your love for books because you hate wearing reading glasses. Order books in large print.
  11. Don’t’ worry if your children gifted you with a smartphone, a smart TV, or a smart Fitbit watch, and you feel like an idiot because you can’t properly operate it. You have plenty of company.
  12. Don’t despair. Even as we age, in our minds, most of us remain essentially our younger selves. Aging isn’t just a number, it’s another challenge. The secret to aging gracefully is to remain young-in-heart and youthful in spirit. For as long as you can, continue doing the things that you enjoy even if others think that you look ridiculous. Eventually, you may lose your hair, your teeth, and your looks; just hold on to your faith and your sense of humor and you’ll be all right.
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Pushing Up Daisies

I’m sitting here thinking about putting a light spin on what is a dark part of every one of our lives. It’s something that no one wants to discuss. That unwelcome visitor that everyone knows is coming who makes us want to snatch the welcome mat from in front of our door. That one-way trip that we will all take eventually whether we want to go or not. That journey to the valley of death.

Since I’ve got more years behind me than before me, I’ve been giving the subject a lot of thought. Certainly, after I fall into the big sleep, I won’t have a say over anything concerning my former self, so I am herein expressing my last wishes for funeral and burial.

Before I continue with details, let me reiterate what I have often said – that I hate attending funerals and avoid them when I can. But as we all know there is one funeral that we won’t miss. Our own.

About funeral-goers. I put them into three categories. First, there are the truly bereaved mourners who have lost a loved one, relative, or friend. Second are the curious, casual acquaintances of the deceased whose ulterior motive for attending the funeral is to get a copy of the program, with the hope of learning things that they didn’t already know about the deceased. The third group attends funerals because it is a social gathering. During the hour or two, while they are attending the service and the repast, it breaks-up the monotony of their otherwise mundane life. I’m not judging. I’m just calling it as I see it.

Skepticism aside, we all have limited time on earth. Before my time comes to be the grim reaper’s reluctant guest of honor, I want to make my last wishes known to my family. And family, don’t feel guilty if you do not comply with these requests because as I’ve learned over the years not everyone’s last wish is granted. It is the living, not the dead who have the final say over the dead body. I’ll give you an example.

After mother died, a few days before her funeral service, my sister and I carried the outfit for her to be buried in to the funeral home. On the day of the funeral, I arrived shortly before the wake was scheduled to start. When I looked in the casket, I was beyond upset. Mother’s chemo-thinned, silvery hair had been nicely pressed, curled, and styled, BUT that was not the issue. She had worn a wig for years before she died, and while on her deathbed, when she was suggesting to my sister and me which outfits we could bury her in, she said, “And don’t forget my wig.”

We had placed the wig neatly on top of the clothing in the bag before carrying it to the funeral home. The undertaker’s grave mistake was that he or she inadvertently forgot to put mother’s wig on her head. That’s what I mean when I say that the dead don’t always get their last wish fulfilled, but there was a twist to this.

Mother’s wig was ultimately retrieved by the undertaker after the first service and was placed on her head before her body was transported over 200 miles away for a graveside ceremony and burial in her hometown. My cousin, who had attended the first service and then followed the hearse to the burial site, later told me that when the casket was opened for the graveside service, she was surprised to see mother was wearing her wig.

I repeat. I do not want an open casket funeral. I don’t want people walking up to my casket gawking over me and then later telling others how I looked. I know that people mean well, but during my lifetime, I have heard (and overheard) too many obtuse comments made about dead people.

“Ms. Estelle sure looked nice. She had on a hat and gloves, dressed like she was going to church. They even had her usher pin on her lapel.”

Or here’s another one, “LaQuita looked good in that white casket. Her weave was tight, and that purple eye shadow matching her lavender shirt was nice. Her boyfriend should not have did that to her.”

It is the female corpses that get scrutinized most, but occasionally comments are made about the males. “Why did they bury Mr. Johnson in his glasses? It’s not like he’ll be able to see where he’s going.”

Undertakers deserve credit for doing their best to make corpses presentable. Still, the thoughtless remarks that some people make after the services bothers me. The sad fact is that no matter how well they are laid out, the bodies of dead people look just like what they are – lifeless and dead. Nothing more. Nothing less. And I say that with much respect.

Like every other corpse, I will have no control over what I am wearing, how my hair is combed or whether my lips have been fixed to look like I am smiling on the way to eternity or pissed off because I am in the land of the dead. Therefore, I repeat, I do not want an open casket funeral. Sadly, I make that request knowing full well that I won’t have the last word about that. You, my family, will.

I tell you what, let’s not have a funeral for me. Services and headstones are expensive. Use that life insurance money for something else. Cremate me. I don’t care. Cremation is cheaper, and think, in the future, you’ll be able to truthfully tell your friends that I had a smoking hot body.

And another thing. I’ve seen insensitive people take pictures of the deceased when they go to view the body. Not only do I think that is inappropriate, but it is downright disrespectful to the family and the deceased. The deceased deserve the dignity of going to their final resting place without a photo op.

If you have a service for me, please call it a funeral. Do not call it a homegoing. I know that term is popular and frequently used. But I never liked it. I understand the concept of homegoing to a heavenly home. But when I think of home going I envision myself taking out my key, unlocking the door, and walking into the place where I live, not transported in a hearse to a cemetery.

In the great scheme of things, we are all insignificant. When and how we are born into this world is the luck of the draw. We have no say in the matter. Who will be our birth parents? Was our birth planned and eagerly anticipated or a fluke? Will we be born a rich child, into a wealthy family, or a poor child in poverty? How we fare in life is a game of chance, and it is pretty much the same when we depart. We don’t know when or how we will leave here. Natural causes. Murder. Accident. Suicide. It’s paramount to live our best life and celebrate it now. When we come here, how long we stay, and when we leave is not a choice.

The Bible prophesizes, and people can speculate all they want, but who on earth can say for sure what happens to us after we die? Christians believe that depending on how we live; we will ultimately ascend to a heavenly home or spiral down into a hellish abyss. Who knows? The hereafter is as perplexing as the present day and time. The goal, oh yeah, and a song you can play at my service if you wish is Stayin’ Alive.

This composition began as a personal letter to my family, but while writing it, I decided to post an alternate version with the hope that it might make someone smile about a subject that is often taken deathly seriously.

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Seeking Senior Bloggers

Have you ever said to yourself, “I’d love to be a blogger, if only I knew where to begin? I don’t even know how to use a computer.”

According to The Pew Research Center out of 500 million bloggers, less than 1 percent are age 65 and over. Bloggers in the 21-to-35-year-old demographic group account for over 53 percent of the total blogging population, followed by 19 percent who are 36-to-50-years-old. But enough boring statistics and more about the sparse number of senior bloggers.

I am in the 1 percent. No, not that 1 percent, the “less than” group identified by Pew. Before the door of opportunity opened 12 years ago, I had no plans to include blogger on my resume. Then, one day a friend suggested, “Why not augment your love for writing and create your own blog?” Thus, post-retirement, I birthed my second career and added personal blogger to freelance writer and published author.

In addition to writing a blog, I study them. I’ve found that the gazillion younger than 50-year-old bloggers tend to write about fashion, politics, health & fitness, music & entertainment and technical devices. Although some senior bloggers tackle those same subjects, the majority of posts written by seniors concern elder lifestyles and the challenges of advancing years. Many of their posts have titles about subjects that very young readers would call old people stuff. Healthy Aging (translation:  avoiding the decrepit zone). Fighting Aging (Good luck with knocking that out). Defying the Aging Process (enter Botox and plastic surgery). And the topic that none of us old-schoolers want to discuss, the one that keeps most of us in denial – Funeral Planning (Think Dreamgirls, “And I am telling you, I’m not going.”).

Anyone who retired in let’s say the last 15-20 years who did not learn computer skills while they were in the workforce, I will bet you my best friend’s social security check that some of them are not inclined to do so now. Sadly, I know mature people who not only lack computer skills, but some think that a hard drive is being on the road for two hours or more without making a rest stop.

For seniors who want to learn to compute – it is not too late. There are basic computer classes available everywhere. It seems pointless to ask someone who may not own a computer and lacks computer skills to check on-line for computer classes, although a tablet or smartphone might suffice. But you could ask a computer-savvy friend to help you search online, or inquire about classes at a library near you. Some libraries offer free computer classes that provide hands-on training to adults. AARP offers tech training for people 50 years and older.

Seniors, you need to get that training and start blogging so that we can increase our numbers in the blogosphere. There are plenty of things to blog about:  sports, travel, food, name it and claim it. And of course, there is the personal blog.

I enjoy being a personal blogger. That’s my forte’. However, I offer some words of caution to potential personal bloggers. Share your thoughts at your discretion.

Before jumping in with both feet, think of personal blogging as swimming nude at a public pool. Your posts will be as exposed as a naked swimmer on a diving board. It is one thing to log your personal experiences and private thoughts in a diary, but another to publish something on-line that the whole world can see. Be forewarned. Accept that putting yourself out there, placing your thoughts on display will open you up to criticism and as well as complements. But don’t let the fear of criticism deter you. Life is too short to worry about what others will say about you. Do your thing – with style and humor – and give them something to talk about.

Here are some basic tips on getting started with your blog.

  • Choose a domain name. The domain is the address of your website that people type in the browser’s URL bar to visit your site. Imagine that your website is your home and think of the domain name as your address. I chose Potpourri101 because it suggests a variety or mixture of subjects, not just old folk stuff. In the American university course numbering systems 101 often designates a course for beginners in a particular subject. Thus, potpourri101. (A blog can be set up with or without a unique domain name depending on who is hosting your site.)
  • To make your website accessible to other people on the Internet, you need a “host.” The web host provides the technologies and services required for the webpage to be viewed on the Internet. It will store all of your website files:  code, text, images, video, etc, on servers.
  • Get a blog platform. A blogging platform is a software or service that you use to publish your content. There are many platforms, but I like WordPress because it offers numerous free blog themes. Imagine having an interior designer decorate your home. The theme is the appearance or decoration, so to speak, of your website. You may want to check out Godaddy.com or SiteGround.com as sources that host WordPress sites. A downloadable copy of an excellent book WordPress for Absolute Beginners can be found here.

After you get everything in order, write, write, write on your blog! It will expand your horizons.

In the process of exchanging comments and emails about some of my posts, I’ve made friends with other bloggers as well as readers who are not bloggers. And lest you think that the lot of them are old fogies, they are not. Many of them are as young as you – or as young as you think you are.

I hope this post will encourage other seniors who may have scratched “become a blogger” off of their list. We’re waiting for you to join us. Just do it!

 

 

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