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Notes from The Upside of Aging manuscript

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Phone Conversations

Note: When I call home, Mom and Dad each get on an extension. That's how you're able to "hear" a three-way conversation.

Dad: "I had a good thought, but it went away."

Mom and I waited and waited. (Personally, I was silently hoping he wouldn't use the cliché "If it was important, it'll come back.")

Original thinker that he is, he came up with: "I'm looking under the table. Maybe it's there."

Memory for Details ("Or was it ...")

Me: "I sent an article on forgetfulness to you.:
Mom: "We got it."
Dad: (without skipping a beat) "I forgot to read it."

Sometimes you'll remember everything but ONE little detail - but what a difference that little detail can make!

Dad: (Instructing me on how to unlock their house.)

"Here's the key. It's the gold one. It goes in with the teeth down. Then turn it to the right ... or left."

I had to laugh because he was so precise about every step up till the end. I'm sure his hand would have known what to do. We often have subconscious memory. It just goes to show that some things we remember by feel, not by description.

Another example of how missing one little detail makes a big difference:

Dad said he and Mom are learning interesting things in their history class. For example, he informed me that, "In early America, 90% of the people considered themselves religious - or not religious. I forget which"

As Mom said, "There's a big difference between being religious and NOT being religious!

Send those Little Gray Brain Cells to a Memory Gym

Losing your memory is no fun. Mine has never been very good, even when I was young, I had to write everything down to remember it. Therefore, to exercise my little gray brain cells, I do Jumble (TM) puzzles, crossword puzzles, and other word puzzles.

You could play Trivial Pursuit. If you have the board game, just pull out the cards. You can play by yourself (or get brave and invite a friend to join you.)

If you like Jeopardy, you can buy the electronic version at toy stores.

Other places to play trivia.

  • Games at restaurant bars (questions appear on the TVs. Just request the electronic game player)
  • Books of trivia questions
  • Internet sites

You're HOW old?!

I thought it was rude of my good buddy Rona (who's my age) to become a grandmother when I was still so young.

From Grandmama: "I'm older than dirt. I tell my kids, 'In the beginning, there was Öme!'"

On a post card with a picture of a spunky 90ish woman:
"Honey, I'm so old - all my friends in heaven are thinking I didn't make it!"

Grandmama took a health evaluation. It's a measure of your lifestyle and predicts how long you'll live. "A friend of mine took a test like that and said, unless I die, I should live till I'm 92."

Do dodo birds use computers?

I was get information on training courses at a computer store and overhead this interchange between the clerk and a much-older customer. When she saw what kind of computer he'd bought, she said, "Oh, you've bought yourself an excellent system. That's top of the line." He said, "It's one thing to buy an expensive computer system, but it's another thing to teach a dodo like me to use it." The salesclerk and I both laughed with him on his choice of words. But later, I thought, well, he may have categorized himself as a dodo - but I wonder if dodo birds actually took the initiative to learn new things - such as he was - otherwise, would they be extinct?

Little old Evelyn came into the coffee and bagel shop where I hang out. When the counter person asked what she wanted to drink, she said, "I don't know. I feel about these fancy coffee drinks about the way I feel about computers: What'll I do with it?"

Overheard in a restaurant: "I think my computer's got Alzheimer's."

Play with Words

You've dealt with language all your life. Now, use it as a toy. Making plays on words is good for humor and memory - although it may put a strain on some of your relationships. Use the groan-o-meter to determine which friends you can try out your word gymnastics.

  • If they groan and look sincerely miserable - No pun zone
  • If they groan, but are obviously hiding a smile - Pun with caution
  • If they groan, but laugh - Pun away!
  • If they skip the groan and go straight to laugh - Your new best friend.

One great advantage of playing on words: It's a lot cheaper than playing the stock market, on ski slopes, or in casinos.

Me: "Those are pretty chrysanthemums you got for Mom, Dad."
Dad: "Yes, they struck my eye as soon as I walked in the store [pause] I got a black eye from it."

It's time for Jeo-Party (Jeopardy). (in an e-mail from dad)

Jan was telling how they had to walk two miles uphill to get to a tourist spot. Dad asked, "Uphill both ways? There and back?"

Told grandmama she must be feeling Feeling "sperky" I meant to say spunky and then thought about perky, so it came out "sperky". It's a great word for someone like her. Who wants to tell Mr. Webster to add it to the list?

Think strange thoughts - It's more fun

Me: I can't find my glasses.
Dad: Maybe they're in the dishwasher.

Dad: It makes me nervous when your Mom reads all those mystery novels. I think she's doing research.
Me: If she were going to do you in, you would've done it long before now. She had the motive and the opportunity. She's not going to do it now that you've become such a good househusband.

Me: If you like cutting out the puzzles for me, why haven't you done it? Why are the newspapers all stacked up?
Mom: Because he likes to pile things up until they fall on him.

On Free Cell (like a cross between chess and solitaire)
Dad: I'll sit for minutes at a time, just studying my next move. [Pause] I think I might hurt myself.

At 82, Dad plans to play 4 1/2 games of FreeCell per day so that he'll get all 32,000 of them done by the time he's 100. He says, "It's all figured out. I've got everything under control."

Dad: "We always have the radio on." (Leans over and turns it on) "Except right then."

Now is your last chance to learn to really love yourself!

Me: Good breakfast, Dad.
Dad: I know it [pause] I mean, thank you.

Dad: "I like myself. I'm a fine fellow. I'm a good guy."

Dad: (looking in the mirror) What a handsome fellow!

Dress for Happiness

One of the advantages of aging is that you can pretty much wear whatever you want. You've heard of the book When I'm an old woman, I'll wear purple?
But I contend that life's too short not to wear purple NOW.

Rose lives in downtown Denver, in a retirement home. She still gets around well, though. Her outfits are always an odd, mismatched, but intriguing mixture of costume accessories, wild shoes, and panache. I call it thrift store couture.

I went to England to visit friends after more than 20 years. One of them didn't recognize me at first, because he said I looked so much better than I had when I'd been there as a young woman. I got the same comment from a former dance partner I hadn't seen in 15 years. I attribute it to the fact that I know myself so much better - what I like and dislike. And that has improved my sense of style. I wear what I have found (by much trial and error - more error than trial) what styles work best for me. I don't care about fashion any more.

Slogans on sweatshirt and T-shirts. s spotted on folks 50 or better.

  • "I'm retired. This is as dressed up as I get."
  • "Too blessed to be stressed."
  • "Live Slow"

On cold nights, I'll even wear my soft, fuzzy hooded sweatshirt to bed so I can put the hood up over my chilly ears.

I saw a three-generation family out at dinner. Grandpa was wearing a photographer's vest - the kind with all the pockets and cubby holes. I said, "Are you really a photographer or do you just like the vest?" He said, "I like pockets." His wife said, "I told him I'm going to bury him in that vest. He never takes it off."

Quotes to make you feel better about aging!

Acts of kindness are not forgottenÖKindness goes on forever.

It is not the years in your life but the life in your years that counts. - Adlai Stevenson

A father is someone you can look up to, even when you get to be taller than he is.

"Remember - Like good wine, we grow more mellow with age ...or is it as we age, we grow more mellow with good wine?"

Young. Old. Just words. - George Burns (at age 84)

Life is short, and it's up to you to make it sweet. - Sadie Delaney

(If there's no attribution, that's how I heard or read the quote.)

Creating the void - Filling the void

When you have to give something up, try to find a positive to replace it. Dad had to give up mowing the lawn because of his hip problem. The positive he found to replace it was that he'd have more time to de-clutter, which he'd been wanting to do for a long time.

They don't want to move from their house with it's floor-to-ceiling picture windows and lovely view. If they do move to a retirement home, though, they can focus on these positives:

There may be a nice view from the common areas, even if not from their own rooms.

They'll have people to socialize with.

They won't have to go grocery shopping.

They may be able to add one of those lenses that magnifies the view (a fisheye lens) to put on their window. That way they can get a more panoramic view.

Mom and Dad had to miss their granddaughter's wedding so he could have his hip operated on. We talked about the fact that she would enjoy their company so much more after she and her new husband are settled, know that Dad isn't in pain any more.

On the phone to M and D, and dad said they were auditing a history class at the local college for $5 each - they got the special rates as senior citizens. Dad said he'd heard the teacher was strict. I said - well you don't have to take the tests, do you? To which he happily replied, "That's right! Let him be strict."

Dad was telling me all the sports he was going to be watching on TV the day before his hip operation. "So," I said,. "it doesn't sound as if you'll have time to worry about the operation." Mom - No! He's looking forward to it. He wants to do it without general anesthesia. Me - Are you nuts? Dad - I wanted to help out. I don't think they wanted my help.

Copyright ©2001, Jean Zartner, for all manuscript notes for Upside of Aging
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