It may seem like a long way off, but have you thought about the day when you won’t be able to drive your own car anymore? A lot of boomers are already avoiding night driving because of the discomfort they feel about fading vision and headlight glare. Most of us have read about children taking away granddad’s car keys after he’s gotten into 4 or 5 minor accidents, and we think, that poor bastard hates not being able to drive anywhere whenever he wants to -- bummer!
Now put yourself in the poor bastard’s place. Someone (a relative, the motor vehicle department, etc.) tells you that it’s no longer safe for you to be behind the wheel. You’ve been driving since you were 16 or 17 years old.…maybe 50 plus years. The sense that you’ve lost all mobility (the 4-wheeled kind) must be a royal freak out. Sure, you can get friends, family, neighbors and car services to take you where you need/want to go. But it’s not the same as sliding behind the wheel and flooring it down the highway.
Here’s a comforting thought. Fatal crash rates are higher for older drivers. Mostly because they don’t heal as well as younger drivers. The older drivers that do give up the keys voluntarily are afraid to get in a car with a driver who’s over 75 or 80, and who can blame them. You might as well get in a car with a teenager who’s texting the whole time. For those who do give up their keys voluntarily, they are twice as likely to suffer from depression as a result. Can’t we catch a break!
It’s ironic that many boomers are looking forward to retirement as a time to travel and enjoy life, but if that includes driving a massive RV off the side of a mountain on a moonless night, maybe staying on the job and taking the bus is a better option.
Perhaps driverless cars will advance to the point where older drivers can depend on them to go where they want, when they want. We can hobble out to the garage, get a teenaged neighbor to figure out how to program the GPS controller (or tell Siri) and boogie down to Walmart at midnight. Then we get in one of those motorized shopping carts and cruise the aisles all night long. Even if we buy nothing and go home, it will be a great evening of independent living.
I may be ready now.
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.
Once upon a time, an old man lived in the forest. He was all alone and had been for many years. He did not mind being alone. He loved the tall trees, their branches swaying with the breeze, the birds nestled in those branches and the bright sky behind them. He would sit outside his little house and stare at them for hours.
One day he was sitting there when one of the trees said to another, “do you think the old man can read our thoughts?”
“Perhaps,” was the reply.
Then only silence. The old man glanced around, he was troubled by something he had sensed but could not clearly understand. He went on watching the trees and they went on watching him.
Years went by and the old man grew tired. He no longer had the strength to fix the leaks in his house or even to gather sufficient amounts of food to feed himself. Every day he set looking at the treetops as if the sight of them provided his nourishment. The trees grew anxious. They knew that they could stand close to the old man for many years, drawing up the food they needed through their roots. He could not.
They discussed the situation. “What can we do?” they asked. If they had been fruit trees, they could swing their branches and drop apples, pears and peaches at his feet. But they were fir trees and the old man could not eat their seeds.
Months went by the old man grew weaker and would often lay on the ground rather than sit on his chair. His eyes would slide shut and although he still saw the sky in his mind, he would fall sound asleep. The trees leaned toward each other and sheltered him with their thick branches.
One day he did not get up to go to sleep in his little house but stayed on the bare ground under the stars. His eyes opened in the middle of the night and he was delighted to see the bright twinkling stars hung in the branches of his beloved trees. He closed his eyes again and slept.
The trees knew that he was close to dying. They murmured among themselves and some of them wept. The old man stirred in his sleep. The ground was hard and his old bones were brittle. The trees crept closer, lowering their branches to keep him warm. The old man slept on.
His sleep was deep and he had extraordinary dreams — scenes of wonder passed before his eyes. He visited faraway places where the vegetation grew thick and lush, he flew through the air and fell in love. He slept peacefully for 3 days and 3 nights while the trees watched over him.
When he opened his eyes, the trees were surprised.
“This is a strange place to be,” he said. “I wonder why I didn't sleep in my bed.”
When he started to lift his feet to walk toward the house, he could not move. His feet somehow were attached to the ground. He struggled for a moment but there was nothing he could do. The trees were amazed.
The old man was perplexed but somehow not surprised. As he had woken up, he wondered why it was that he felt so refreshed. He knew that he had nothing to eat or drink for days, but he felt neither hungry or thirsty.
But what did surprise him with a small leaves growing out his feet. They were such a beautiful shade of pale green with scalloped edges. He bent down and ran his hand over them. It tickled. He laughed out loud. The trees laughed too. He had become one of them.
Pat Young is a former educator who now builds houses, makes puppets (the ones with gigantic heads), and can tell you all about where water comes from and where it goes. And she bakes the world's best biscotti.
Waiting for Change
A while back I belonged to a writer’s group that started each session with a writing prompt. We wrote for twenty minutes and then read our work out loud to the group. I do not consider myself a humorist, so when my “audience” was laughing out loud, I was puzzled.
So, the prompt was “Waiting for Change.”
Waiting for change always seems to take longer than you would expect. You stand there in the checkout line concentrating on looking casual while your jaw clenches tighter and tighter. You take a few deep breaths without making any noise lest your impatience becomes noticeable making the cashier nervous causing her to miscount due to the anxiety you have instilled in her, and she has to start over.
I’ve taken to carrying small bills and two change purses in addition to my wallet. One holds only pennies while the other keeps the quarters. The change compartment in the actual wallet has the nickels and dimes. Whenever I can whip out exact change, I do so; down to the irritating little penny.
Once in a blue moon there is a standoff. I have deftly slipped out exact change never taking my eyes off the three designated purses which are lined up on the counter. With fingers flying, I race through the main players; the quarters and the pennies. I love the penny holder – it’s made of red satin Chinese printed fabric and was designed to be a lipstick holder with a built-in mirror on the inside of the cover. If I hold it up to shoulder level, I can sneak a peek at the person behind me in line to check the annoyance level. If it’s mild, I continue. If I see blood boiling, I whip out those paper bills. When I have exact change ready and the cashier has already counted out the change anticipating my payment by the reserve $20 bill I have tucked between my fingers, I lower my head and look through my eyebrows. That look says, “Don’t make me return these coins to their individual purses. Return your counted out coins to the black compartments in the register, smile and say ‘Have a nice day’ and everybody will be happy.”
Everybody else in the group wrote about “Life Changes.” Tells you something about how I think.
Carole Connolly is former expat who makes an adventure out of anything and find humor in everything. Her blog, Carole Jean's Capers covers expat life as well as stories from her former lives as an international flight attendant, real estate agent, and dancer.
Well, I made it through another birthday. This year I was running a secret race with myself, thinking (somewhat subconsciously), “Can I still party like used to do?” Turns out I can. Sort of. Certainly not every weekend and probably not even every month, but once or twice a year? Sure. Cookies and milk. It has taken me all weekend to get over it, but you have to allow yourself a little bachanalia every now and then, you know? The ironic thing is, I just don’t enjoy the altered state of consciousness anymore. A lot of people stop partying because they dread the aftermath, but that’s not what’s slowed me down. I just don’t like the feeling anymore. Sure, a giddy little wine buzz is really nice when with friends, but not a full-on party head.
What you have to understand is that I’ve always been a rock and roller. There must be a gene we share that makes us want to push the envelope just as far as we can, because I’ve partied with some of the best and kept up with ease. But those days are over and I just don’t do it anymore. Except for a birthday once a year, and even that’s tame by comparison. I hardly consider a bottle of champagne and a few vapes of medicinal grade weed to be high-caliber partying. Once upon a time I could double or even treble that. And imbibe lots of other stuff, too.
Enough of that, though. I got this turning 64 thing out of my system and that’s what I set out to do. Numbers are just that and how many times one has traveled around the sun doesn’t really mean much, it’s what one learns on the journey. During my most recent orbit I learned that getting older can be exciting and full of self-discovery, and that complaining about it—fighting it—only makes the experience harder. I learned that middle age, menopause and all that is merely a transition, not a permanent state, like puberty, only in reverse. Personally, I feel on the precipice of something wonderful. With my album under way, I’m feeling the itch to get back to my writing, which means Book Three of my rock and roll series will soon be under the pen. I’d started writing it some time ago, but everything got lost somehow and, after writing the first two books, I was tired and just couldn’t start over again. But it’s returning and today I begin reading Books One and Two to get my bearings a little and get reacquainted with my characters.
This isn’t a typical autumn. It hasn’t been a typical year, come to that, and I’m really enjoying it. My morning glories bloomed about three weeks later than usual this year and, due to all the rain we’ve gotten, there is no sign of autumn anywhere in the neighborhood. And it’s still in the high-80s—perfect weather. This means I’m finally able to spend significant time in my garage/studio. Hopefully, this album will be finished and ready to sell by year’s end. We’ll see. If I’ve learned anything really important this year, it’s that all things happen in their own time and that I’ve no need to rush anything. And that’s quite a departure for me, a Type-A personality in my younger days.
Yeah. That’s what I’ve learned this year: Don’t push the river. Even when you host the occasional party.
Steph Waller is an author and composer. Books One and Two (With A Dream and With A Bullet) of her rock and roll series, Beyond The Bridge, takes places in late 70s London. Read more at Bucksnort Chronicles and SKWaller.com.
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