I stopped growing at the age of fourteen. For the past fifty years, I have been exactly five feet three inches tall. I took pride in the fact that I was taller than my sisters. I wasn’t tall, but I was secure in my place in the family. Until last week. The Home Health Nurse measured me for the first time in years. I was, to my shock and disbelief, five feet, two and a half inches. I was so astounded, I could only gasp out, “What?” Then resorted to deep slow breaths to calm my nerves.
Not that I have anything against short folks. It is just that I already had enough trouble reaching things at 5’3”. Counters, cupboards, the top shelf in a grocery store were already out of reach. Now they are half an inch higher, so unless I have a step ladder, I will never reach the last bottle of Diet Doctor Pepper on the top shelf of the grocery. Not without asking for help.
Not that I won’t ask for help, but when I do the taller person acts like her or she wants to pat me on the head and pinch my cheeks because I am so cute. Cute is for bunny rabbits, not old women with an attitude and bad temper. But it happens all the time now. I can hear the carefully suppressed, “Aww, she is so cute,” every time I need someone to hand me something I can’t reach. It makes me clinch my teeth when I tell them thanks for helping. I may be old, and I may be short, but I am not cute.
I can’t change what is, even if I don’t understand how this happened. I am old, truth in that. Can’t change it either. There are so many frustrations that come with being short. Ever try to buy a pair of sweats? They come in one length, generally, and unless I get the trousers with elastic in the legs, they are always two inches too long or longer. So I have to hem them, or resort to wearing high heel tennis shoes. The shoes don’t work too well in a gym, or even for walking far. Vastly vexing. Even more so is the shirt sleeve issue. Just because I am short does not mean I have arms like an orangutan. Finding a long sleeve shirt that fits in the arms is very rare. I have to resort to rolling up the sleeve, or pushing it up on my arm to be able to use my hands. Short arms, short legs, short person. How hard is that for manufacturers to understand?
The hardest thing about being short is being in a crowd of people. Folks who are taller than me fall into two groups, those whose elbows hit me in the chest and those whose elbows hit me in the face. I am always dodging an elbow because people simply don’t see me, just like they don’t see a child in a crowd. No one remembers to look down when checking out a crowd. It is all about looking ahead at shoulder height. Not only am I over looked, I am totally dismissed by the tall as I fight my way through the chaos. No wonder I hate Christmas shopping so much. In fact, I hate crowds and will only face one for something like an Elton John concert. (Brilliant performance by the way.)
So here I am, unable to change being old and short (and cute apparently). I have few choices left in this mess. I can be hateful and mean to those around me, or I can use the situation to my advantage by being the helpless little old lady that inspires the young and tall to want to pat me on the head, pinch my cheeks, and think of me as (gag) cute. Meanwhile, I am going to go educate my cussing corner with a few choice words it has never heard before. Cute being one of them.
One of the downsides to being sick is that people are constantly poking at me, taking my blood pressure, and asking me personal questions about my body functions that I find embarrassing and none of their business. Quite frankly, I just want to tell them to leave me alone!
I have a home health nurse, who is really nice and funny. I like her, but I don’t like all the questions and the exam she is required to do every time I see her. I would rather sit down with her and have a cuppa tea and enjoy a good chat.
I also have a physical therapist who comes to torture me twice a week. I have discovered my lower body is very strong, but my upper body is weak enough that a five pound weight is agony if I have to lift it twenty times in a row. One – crap that hurts. Two – who ever came up with this is a sadist.
Three- Really? I have to keep going to twenty? . . . ect. I was not a happy camper. But I got it all done. Now my arms want to fall off. But I didn’t get really breathless either. I would have preferred we skip the exercise and have a nice cuppa and a chat too.
This is all supposed to help me heal and get back on my feet. But until I can breathe on my own, my life is limited to the length of my oxygen tube and that really sucks. I have to drag along one of those smaller tanks if I want to go out, that means I have to find a way to keep it out of the way of other people, and deal with either looks of disgust or pity from others. I can deal with it, but it bugs me to be an object of pity.
At least little kids are honest, they ask me flat out what is wrong with me and what my tank is all about. I even let one feel the air flowing from the breathing tube. He thought it was cool, but his embarrassed mother dragged the kid off before we could talk more. I am more than my tank, people.
At least I am out of the wheelchair. When in one of those, no one sees you. They look over, past, and around you because they are either uncomfortable with seeing some one in a wheelchair, or they are afraid they will have to deal with a sick person or disabled person and they aren’t prepared to do that. However, here in the South, men will hold the door open for the Mr. and I to get through. Even if I am just walking with my cane and he is pulling the tank, folks will hold the door for us. That’s nice. So I tell each one thank you for being a blessing today. It makes them smile, even if they feel a bit flustered.
Each day I try to improve. I follow the rules, take my medication, do my exercises, and obey all the regulations on food and drink. So, why am I still sick? I guess the doctor will tell me on Thursday. If I didn’t have doctor appointments, I would have no social life at all. We all need to sit down for a cuppa tea and a nice chat about anything but my body functions and how well I breathe. Really, we do.
In the first thirty-six years we were married, we moved, on average, every two years. We lived in Arkansas, Oklahoma (multiple times), California (also multiple times), Nottingham and Debden in the UK, Hong Kong, Karori and Pukekohe in New Zealand, Virginia, Missouri, and the last twelve years in Mississippi so it doesn’t count in the averages. Now we are retiring and moving one last time to our final home. We are moving to a small town (read that, blink and you miss it) in Oklahoma. Our home backs on to a golf course, which means a small yard to care for but a great view of rolling hills, grass, and trees. It is ironic we will live next to a golf course because neither the Mr. nor I care at all for the game. But the house is exactly what we want, so we are off on a new adventure.
After all the years of moving, I had it down to a science and lists of how to do it. Now, I have to start all over because it is shocking how much stuff, read that junk, a family can collect in twelve years living in one place. Over the past few weeks, I have said over and over, “What is this? Where did we get it? Who bought it? Why do we have it? Keep it, dump it, or sell it?” Honestly, we have stuff that we have no clue concerning any of that. On the other hand, I have things that mean the world to me, things that mean little in monetary value, but I simply can’t part with them. Baby blankets for kids who are now in their 40’s. Art, music, books, and trinkets that my children and grandchildren have given me, easily replaceable, but not if they gave it to me. And I collected things, from all over the world, not giving those up either. Decisions, decisions, a royal pain in the backside.
In all the years we have lived here, I have made very few friends. I could count them on one hand, but they are the kind of friends who will still be friends in twenty years from now. The new term for this kind of friendship is bonded. I just call it true friendship. I made many of those kinds of friends over the years and all over the world. I will miss my friends here, even though we will keep in touch. But, I will get to see my forever friends in Oklahoma, some of whom I have known since junior high school. (For you youngsters, that means middle school.) And that is a good thing. I will also be closer to grandchildren and my mother.
On the one hand, I am not upset about moving since it will bring us closer to family. On the other, I am still not excited about all the work involved. I have no idea how long we have left to live our lives, I have to wonder if we will get bored living in the same place for years like we did here in Mississippi. The only way to know is to suck it up and do what has to be done. Back to sorting and packing. Grumble.
Old people complain about how things have changed all the time. I used to let it go in one ear and out the other, never really registering what they were really complaining about. That is simply this, the loss of manners, traditions, and common sense values.
It used to be, when we got a chance to take a bathroom break, as soon as we sat down the darned phone would ring. Back in the day, the phone was on the wall in another room, so we figured whoever it was would call back if it was important. Then we got the phones we could carry around in the house and yard, and it would still ring on our bathroom break but it would have the phone number of the caller and we could call them back at our leisure.
Now we have cell phones. When they first came out, we didn’t take them into the bathroom, it was rude and tacky to talk on the phone while doing our business. We weren’t attached to the phone at the hip and many of us could actually not rush to answer it day and night as if our life depended on it. It was a tool, a convenient tool, but nothing more than that.
At this point, we have a second and third generation who grew up with cell phones in their hands. And God forbid they miss one second of phone activity. It is no longer unusual to hear a phone go off in a bathroom, even in a public place, and someone answer it. And the tacky part, they tell the caller they re in the bathroom. Instead of getting off the phone, they carry on a conversation as if they are sitting in the car or in their home. What the hell happened to manners and common sense values on phone etiquette? Since when is it imperative that the phone be answered or a text be sent immediately, no matter where we are or what we are doing?
Back in my day, (there is that awful phrase that makes the younger generations stop listening) no one wanted anyone to be aware they were in the bathroom, let alone what they were doing. It was rude, immodest, and well, gross. Those of us who were raised in that era of modesty and morals generally will not answer the phone while in the bathroom. Generally, because there are always exceptions to the rule. I won’t even answer my house phone while in the bathroom, nope, not happening.
Other than technology, what has changed to make even the most old fashioned manner driven people do something so low class? Is life so hectic and busy that the only time to talk on the phone is while you are in a compromising situation.? Is that the only time folks have time to simply talk on the phone? I don’t understand that sort of behavior.
It used to be that if we wanted privacy on the phone, we would stretch the cord as far as it would go and sit in a place with a door we could close. Generally it was a closet or a small room next to the phone, but it was never the bathroom while we were using it. I still spend more time searching for the house phone that I left in an obscure place when I need to answer it then I do talking on it. But you won’t see me running to answer any phone, I am not a good study for Pavlov’s theory. ( Go look it up kids, I imagine there is an App for that somewhere on your phone.)
A phone, to me, is a convenience, nothing more. I am not a slave to the darn thing, and most of the time they annoy me with all the ringing and such – especially phones with irritating songs as ring tones. To many of today’s younger people and to some old folks like me, they are a life line of some sort, like oxygen is to heart patients. Life cannot go on without their phones attached at the hand. And as such, folks are becoming slaves to the technology around them. I expect we will soon have tech built into our bodies from birth. But I still want to know why common sense is gone when it comes to private things like bathroom breaks. I don’t like how things have changed in this area. Not one bit. It makes me feel old and cranky about things.
We are getting ready to retire at the end of the year. Since we will be moving to a new home, we have started packing unnecessary things. We are constantly saying things like: What’s this? When did we get that? It’s not yours? I don’t know? Why would we need anything like that? I know, I didn’t buy it. Which kid did this belong to? Should we keep it, sell it, or toss it? Wow, this is cool! Does it still work? Who bought this stuff? Hey, that’s a keeper! I forgot all about this!
Downsizing is a new fangled word for getting rid of junk and clutter when preparing to moved. All of the above comments are the things we mutter while clearing out all the accumulated things every household seems to collect over the years of living in one place. None of it is planned, it simply happens as time rolls by and the family grows or shrinks, we redecorate rooms, or move things around and run out of space for items over time.
When we start going through everything we have collected, on purpose or through neglect, it is amazing the things we discover. So far, I have only started with my bookshelves and it is surprising the things I keep finding. It makes it really hard to get anything done when I keep stopping to read from books I forgot I had or haven’t read in years. If it is this hard to get through the bookshelves, I can only imagine what is going to happen when we get to the garage and attic.
Last weekend, I cleared out my closet like I do every year, twice a year, to get rid of things I haven not worn over the past season or two. I also cleared out the clothes I can no longer wear because they are too large. Some of the things were hard to let go because they have special meanings attached to them. For instance, the dress I wore when the Mr. and I went dancing at the Rainbow Room in New York City, and and the out fit I wore when we went sailing on The Flying Cloud in the Caribbean the first time. Both are many sizes too big, and I will never wear them again, but it was hard to let them go.
I noticed, today, I have many keepsakes in my craft room from our travels, from my children and grandchildren, and from my own penchant for collecting things that I am unsure we will have room for in the house we are retiring to in the new year. I don’t think I can get rid of them, especially the things from my boys and my grandchildren. I mean, how can I toss out the handmade paperweight my son made for me when he was a teenager, or the painting my budding artist granddaughter made for me when she was eight? I have no idea how people do things like that. I would sooner toss out my dishes. And that is just the stuff in my craft room. I have as much in my office, more in my bedroom, and even more in the living room – and that is not counting the art on the walls.
The Mr. and I are veteran collectors of everything from music, art, and books to gizmos, curiosities, and did I say books? All of that has found homes in various rooms in the house. We are also preppers, so that means our spare spaces are filled with all sorts of items in preparation for any disaster. The garage is filled with gear, including a generator and a multitude of tools and boxes of “just in case” items. Because we love to decorate for various holidays, our attic is stuffed with boxes and boxes of those decorations. I know I have sixteen boxes filled with Christmas decorations for inside and outside the house alone. Those are not going to be left behind or sold, because we will still want to decorate our house when we are retired and some of that stuff is impossible to replace since it came from abroad.
We are obviously stuck between a rock and a hard place. We have lived here for eleven years, longer than we have ever lived anywhere since we got married. I used to be an expert at moving, we did it on the average of every three years. I never collected anything bigger than a thimble. Now I have too much of everything, and a house big enough for all of it. The new place is almost as large, but configured far differently – with fewer, if larger, rooms. I guess I will have to bite the bullet and just learn to let go of things that don’t have an emotional connection. But I want to go on record stating that I hate downsizing. It, quite frankly, sucks.
I saw a meme on social media that basically encouraged the reader to remember back to the days when they had no worries and simply played barefoot in the sunshine. I suddenly realized that I never had days like that as a child. In fact, I can’t remember when I didn’t worry about things in my life. It was, I think, a built in reflex, like breathing. I even worried in my sleep, come people call them nightmares. Now I wonder, is that normal, or is it something specific to me?
I can remember always worrying about being late for school, even though I don’t remember it ever happening. I was always afraid I would have to walk into a classroom late and draw attention to myself, making me open to ridicule and teasing from the other students – and heaven help me from the teacher. I worried about failing subjects, I worried about making a mistake, and I dreaded, above all, making myself a laughing stock. Nothing upset me more than for other kids and adults to laugh at me.
I worried about forgetting to do things, or doing things and messing it up. I worried about homework, chores, and taking care of things that were my responsibility. In fact, I still worry about those things. I worried about doing something or saying something that would upset other people. Even worse was trying to express myself and messing it up. So I just didn’t say anything to anyone most of the time, even if I did know the answer to a question, or had a different opinion than others. That has completely changed now, I say what I want, when I want no matter what others may think. But, back when, I was always self conscious and fearful of consequences, so I simply didn’t speak up.
I worried a lot as a young wife and mother. I worried that the Mr. would fall out of love with me and in love with someone smarter, prettier, sexier, and more interesting then that plain old boring girl from nowhere Oklahoma. I wanted to be everything he needed in a wife, but always felt insecure in my value as his wife. I was always aware that his parents never thought I was good enough for their son, and it made me both angry and frustrated. I always worried he would believe the gossip and idiotic nonsense spread around by those who didn’t want me in his life. But somehow, we found our way back to each other time after time.
I worried that I wasn’t a good mom to my boys, fearful that they would be bratty little monsters around others and fingers would be pointed at me for being a bad mom. I worried about their health, eating habits, and all the other things mothers worry about when trying to be a positive influence on their children. I worried when my oldest started driving and hanging out all night with his friends, I worried that my youngest would follow in his footsteps, but he never did. I always worried that I would lose one of my boys, and when we did, it nearly tore us apart.
So, no, I don’t remember playing in the sunshine without worries, because I have always been a worrier, and that hasn’t changed much over the years. Only now I worry about my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I worry about the Mr.’s health, I worry abut being becoming decrepit, I worry about my mother living on her own at her age. I worry about the state of the country and the America haters who wont’ live elsewhere, but still hate what we stand for as a country. I worry about money, health care, and getting old. And I still worry that the Mr. will find someone prettier, smarter, more interesting, and younger that he will fall for. Silly of me, but it is a bad habit left over from years of worry. Folks say, “Don’t borrow trouble.” I always look at worry as a way to be prepared for what ever might happen. Then I am prepared for the worse, but joyful for the positive things that happen, no matter how much worry I put into it.
I wonder, am I too old to play barefoot in the sunshine and learn to leave the worry behind for a few blessed moments in time? Now I will probably worry about that too.
Every Saturday morning from spring through late fall, there is a Farmer’s Market on the court house square in Hernando, Mississippi. We try to attend as often as possible. It isn’t a huge market, most of the sellers are local men and women who grow fruit and vegetables on their land. After awhile, they recognize buyers who turn up regularly.
It is a rather eclectic group of people. There is one man who sells fresh milk and eggs, but you had best be there early since he always sells out in the first two hours. The lemonade and fried pie guy has delicious products. We always buy lemonade, pies not so much since the Mr. isn’t all that fond of fried pies. I love them, especially the peach, but they are a no go on my diet. Darn it. The man who does sharpening for knives and anything else that needs a sharp edge is both affordable and super friendly. He does a great job, my kitchen knives have never been sharper.
There a several ladies who sell their home canned goods. I have never had better piccalilli, and the jams and jellies are delicious. I especially like the blueberry jelly the elderly couple who are always on the north side of the court house sells. They also make pickled okra that runs from mild to super hot. I get the medium because it is hot enough to be spicy but not so hot as to take the hide off my tongue.
Last week, we bought Addie a butterfly plant complete with caterpillar that had hatched that day. The vendor wrapped the plant in one of those wraps that will keep the caterpillar from getting away and still let in sunlight and made it easy to water. Once the caterpillar hatches into a butterfly we can let it go and re-pot the plant so it will attract other butterflies next spring. Addie is avidly watching the caterpillar for growth every day. There are several vendors who sell plants for gardens, flowers, and herbs at the market. Each one seems to specialize in different areas. We enjoy talking to them as we wander by.
There are a few hippy dippy types who specialize in things like soap and honey and lemon based products for the home. There are always a few folks who only sell holistic products, and they seem to do a booming business with the young mothers who are all about that sort of thing. And the vendors who appeal to the older folks are mostly down to earth farmers who simply sell good vegetables at a good price.
One of the charming things about the market is that most of the stalls are family operated. Kids from about nine and older help out. The Mr. always engages the kids, asking them questions about how the food is grown, if they helped harvest the product they are selling, all sorts of questions that sometimes stump them. He will buy from the kids who are the most informed and willing to talk to him. They can’t be a good salesman, or woman, if they aren’t willing to talk to the customers.
Among the vendors are artisans of all sorts, from bread makers, to candle makers, to pottery makers. It is always interesting to see what they have for sale. My favorite is the knife maker. For several years, I had looked for a knife that wouldn’t fall out of my hand when I used it. I have arthritis issues that makes it hard for my fingers to bend properly. Not only did he have what I needed, he was willing to make it so it fit my hand perfectly. Best of all, it was affordable, came with a sheath, and was as sharp as the knife sharpening guy could make it. A true artisan was at work that day.
The one stall we always stop at is the one operated by the local animal shelter. Every week they have kittens, puppies, dogs, or cats for adoption. I have to force myself not to take a new pet home every week. It is especially hard when they have kittens and puppies. We stop and love on the animals, then keep on going. One day, though, I know I will weaken and end up with a new pet. The Mr. won’t like it, but he will get used to it. He always does. I love the Farmer’s Market, it is a family destination.
Addie wandered into my office holding her favorite baby doll. She needed help with the tiny buttons on the dress it was wearing. As I helped her we fell into conversation, as we always do.
Addie said, “Nana, when I grow up I want to have two girl babies.”
I said, “What about having a boy baby? It could happen you know.”
A: “Nope, I don’t want a boy baby, they are messy and loud. Besides, I don’t like boys.” (She is six.)
Me: “Well I had two boy babies, and I loved them very much. You might feel the same way.”
A: “No I won’t. I only want girl babies.”
M: “Keep in mind that you need a husband to have any babies. To do that, you will need to love him too. Just like I love your Papa.”
A: “Oh, yeah. I know that.” Long pause. “Well maybe just one boy baby, because my husband will probably want one since we will have two girls. But the Dad can take care of the boy, since I have no idea how to do that after they are little babies.”
M: “That would be a good compromise. But I bet you will love your boy baby as much as you will love your girls. Any baby is hard work, but it is worth every minute of your time and effort.”
A: “Oh I know that, Nana. You worked hard to raise my Grandpa Arron and Uncle Riley. and my Mommy, and now you work hard to raise me. I want to be just like you when I am a mommy.”
Me: Blinking back tears. “Oh Addie, I love you very much. I simply want you to be who you are and do what you want with your life.”
A: “I know, Nana. You will always love me all my life. So will Papa.”
With that, she wandered off to change her baby doll’s diaper. I heard her singing a song to rock it to sleep. In so many ways, I see her copy behavior she has seen from me and her Papa. It warms my heart and fills me with hope for the future, and she will eventually soften her attitude on boys. At six, all little girls find boys hard to understand. They are loud, dirty, and messy, but that is all part of being a boy learning to be a man. Just as she is a girl learning how to be a woman. Today she wants to be a mommy, tomorrow, she may want to be a unicorn or a fairy. Either way, we encourage her to discover her imagination, grow as she wants to grow, and love her no matter what. She is our angel baby, and one day, she will be a mommy who knows how to care for and love her children. She makes us proud every day.
The newest adventure in my crazy life is Kidney dialysis. I am supposed to be in Italy, but a case of bronchitis led me to kidney failure bad enough to need emergency dialysis. That mean the insertion of a catheter into my heart and a week in the hospital as they pulled over seen liters of water from my body. That was two weeks ago.
Now I am booked at a dialysis center three days a week for four hours or more a day. It is an out patient center, and we all have turn up for therapy. The center has a few offices up front, but the room for dialysis patents is one huge room. There are around sixty recliners, each with its own dialysis machine next to it. I usually get either number 48, 49, or 50. I call my machine of the day Kevin. They do the hard work, so I figure they need to be acknowledged and greeted every day. The nurses think it is funny. I take it seriously.
Once in the room, we are weighed for water gain. Then the nurse takes you to the chair. While they are getting set up with our Kevin, we are allowed to take out our gear. I take a blanket, because they keep it COLD in there. I take my Kindle, my coloring book and pens, Mp3 player and headphones-and a small snack since I get out after 8:30 in the evening. They have a TV screen above each station with limited stations, so I can watch that if I get bored. I generally don’t bother to turn it on.
Later appointments mean there aren’t a lot of people in the room. Most people nap, so it is very quiet. Most people don’t talk to each other, just with their nurse and aide. The later it gets, the more the medical people talk to each other. I find it interesting to listen to their stories, gossip, and frustrations with difficult patients. It is easy to see who likes whom, whose personalities clash, and those who simply avoid each other. It is even easier to see who is there because they love their work and who is there just marking time until they can move on. Fortunately, my team – always the same people, love their work and it shows.
What makes me sad are the patients. Some are so fragile, and it is clear they are getting near the end of their lives, versus people like me who are just starting out on this journey. I have a good chance for reversal of issues, and if not, a transplant. While they don’t talk in the dialysis room, they too greet each other and talk in the waiting room. They all come on the same day and see each other every time, so they share information, hints, tips, and ideas. They even make sure to greet me and welcome me every time I get there. They haven’t become super friendly yet, but this is the south and it is only a matter of time.
Most of the patients are elderly, the youngest is probably in h is forties. Some are very fragile, and most are brought in by family. But what you won’t see is a pity party or whinging. You will hear them laughing, talking about family, and sharing about their religious beliefs. Being forced to use dialysis as a way of survival brings our lives into a new normal that causes a whole new way of balancing everything, No matter if we go through outpatient dialysis or do the at home program, that means being positive, accepting that it is what it is, and that the machine keeps us alive one more day.
It is exhausting and leaves me tired. I can hardly walk at the end of a session, but it will get better as I adjust to the new normal for my body. Meanwhile, I am sure to greet Keven, 48, 49, or 50 each time, follow the rules, and learn to live this new normal of my crazy life, and keep moving forward. Italy will still be there in a few years, and so will I.