Sandy

  • My friend Sandy died on December 29, 2018.
  • My grandson turned three on the 27th.
  • Sandy and I had in common a grandson and a granddaughter.
  • The grandson’s birthday party was yesterday on the 30th.
  • Sandy’s funeral will be on January 12th.
  • We are all of us, living and dead on the third planet from the sun in a galaxy on the outer edge of the Milky Way; Though we hardly ever think about it.

Our grandson’s birthday party was at one of those community spaces you can rent. It was wild and crazy, kids running around shrieking. It put me in mind of how human beings at a certain age can be dropped into a group and create culture and language and despite differing vocabularies and maybe appearances “fit in” by just joining the fray. As they went screeching about I thought of them rushing through the tall grass to flush out foul or careening to an undiscovered country while chasing something, or fleeing something.

So, I find myself, in all my sadness and in all my joy, thinking:

What blame is there in this life when we are all tumbling through space and time only trying to find a hand to hold?

But also:

What praise is there when all our consequences are rendered into nothingness except for this:

We have loved and been loved.

nick's 32 b'day 022

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Being Past Middle-Age (Old)

lastpeonies

 

I don’t think I agree with Mr. Sedaris when he says:

Though there’s an industry built on telling you otherwise, there are few real joys to middle age. The only perk I can see is that, with luck, you’ll acquire a guest room.

and as per usual I read the line incorrectly at first as “There ARE A FEW real joys”. Ooops. There are many draw-backs to aging but I have found there are a few, very real joys. Acquiring a guest room speaks of many things, financial things, years of acquiring security, home and also friends. These things are indeed things to be pleased about. But the greatest joys I am finding, and I am past middle-age, are in being less observed and more observing, needing less and appreciating more, and feeling less expectation (and maybe more love).

These days I am having very wonderful conversations sometimes on public transit with people who I would probably never have had an opportunity to talk to previously in my life. I am not sure why this is happening more often but it might be that I am not always looking at the floor and listening to a podcast or reading a book or sleeping or avoiding eye contact, but I also think it is because I am over sixty, completely non-threatening and usually, if I am going somewhere, pretty happy.

I am at a point in my life where I can contribute a bit to those in my life but no one is entirely dependent on me. While I am hardly noticed unless it looks like I might need to sit down, I can notice all sorts of things.

A week ago I ended up talking with a woman at length, a bus and two subways worth, after an unleased dog ran at the fence to the school yard his owner had let him run in, barking rather ferociously at her. (I tend to be really scared of running dogs since having been bitten). I wanted to calm her (and myself) so I said something like, “Scary huh?” She said she had a lot of experience with dogs growing up in Jamaica and she had a heavy purse. 😉

We talked about dogs, she likes them, I don’t much, and cats, she doesn’t like them, I do, and children and being grandmothers and what each of us thinks is the most important thing to learn (my favourite question). Along the way I mentioned that I had an auntie who had always made me feel special. We were discussing the importance for children to have a safe person who will always accept them and give them space to just be children, “like grandparents do” we said in unison.

I got to my stop on the subway after a long and wonderful conversation, learning her age and history and family and her beliefs while sharing mine. We were holding hands by this time. She said, “What is your name?” I told her and asked her for her name. “Opal” she said.

That was the name of my favourite auntie!

I find a lot of joy at my age.

Nobody loves your compost as much as you do…or do they?

I have spent a fair amount of time during my life being told that nobody wants to hear any of my crazy ideas. Maybe some click counting software figures out my interests and then throws out thinly veiled advertisments for those products that are sort of in-line with said interests making me believe that those crazy ideas are mainstream, but I resist falling for it. I really do. If I have learned anything in sixty years it is that I am not popular, I am not mainstream. I don’t mean that I am counter-culture either, or fringe or edgy. I am annoying. So I stopped going on and on about composting when I was at a parties years ago.

But it seems compost is a good subject for casual conversation. Sheesh. When will I ever NOT be a social pariah?

Can Poverty be Re-branded?

“Sometimes when it feels like things are falling apart it’s just things falling into place”.

This inspirational saying brought to mind the Monty Python skit of “Catch that prize!” where if a contestant could catch, say a refrigerator, dropped from a fourth story window he could keep it. It is annoying how many pithy sayings there are for things falling apart.

I went to a lecture titled, “Is poverty a disease? Could treating poverty work like medicine?” Dr. Gary Bloch, a nice young  doctor who works out of a hospital in T.O. in an area with a lot of homeless people using the ER. *

I am biased, three times around the big C has introduced me to lots of doctors, I have found many doctors, young white males in particular but not exclusively, to possess large egos if not pugnacious attitudes of entitlement. I have read a bit about what internships are like, so I add exhaustion as an excuse for some of them, and then there are the ones who really want to do good… and this guy is one of them. But he is still coming from a culture (medical professionals) that looks at everyone as a set of symptoms.  It is also a culture that is very difficult to enter because of the costs of medical school. Why money should be allowed to be a deciding factor in who might want to be, or might be able to be, a doctor is another question. Most doctors tell me that I can discuss only two things per visit. However, if one of them is about O.H.I.P. the clock seems to fly out the window. Sorry I am griping. 😛

At the very end of the lecture I got to say my two cents worth. My heart was pounding so hard once I decided to try to speak that I might have not heard all of his lecture.  I brought up the Harris government, 25 years ago in Ontario targeting single mothers, reducing their family benefits by 1/3 OVER NIGHT and then standing back to watch the fallout. All the tax payers who could accept the cost of constant road repairs before they accepted the cost of social repairs? Well, if driving over the bodies of welfare mom’s had caused a bumpy ride to work they still might have supported this bludeoning of Family Benefits. I’m not sure but the effects were not as immediate as a bitter cold winter on ashphalt so they weren’t too bothersome. But a large number of women and children fell through the cracks. “Falling through the cracks” meant they went missing in the minds and hearts of the society that they belonged to. And many ended up in peril.

Harris’ cuts weren’t even cost effective, they shifted the expenses to totally ineffective services and removed large numbers from the data for political purposes only.  Add mismanagement of support payments, often those coming after a forced combative situation, a stipulation of receiving benefits was legal action against the absent partner, and voila, many families found themselves unable to pay rent. Their next step was into homelessness. There were piles of cheques for support that were months late and yet they sat unprocessed. Miscommunication, hostility and ineptitude turned up the heat on fathers who were labeled and threatened for being “dead-beat dads” which did not help moms and kids either. Many of my peers who didn’t have any other support network to help them were lost as the stress of jumping through hoops and sorting through requirements turned them back either to abusive situations or bad choices or emotional collapse and mental breakdown. The resulting years have led to the cost to taxpayers in law enforcement, incarceration, emergency services and health costs all skyrocketing and all caused by the repercussions of what were applauded as reforms twenty-five years ago.

I ended my diatribe with “Poverty is not a disease, it is a crime.” and I got applause.  (That was a bit frightening actually).

However quietly, fearfully we do it, we need to speak up about the things that maintain poverty so we can talk about the things that can alleviate it. Poverty is a crime being committed against the most vulnerable, and it is global. It is endorsed by the most wealthy and most priviledged. Poverty makes possible all sorts of abuses of human rights and so often leads to violence and even war. But I worry about calling it a disease. People living with poverty are already in isolation.

*I wrote this draft perhaps five years ago never publishing it.  If you go to the link for Dr. Gary Bloch you will see he is doing many positive and constructive things and lecturing other doctors. Maybe he is changing the culture from within? As I said, he is one of the good ones.

I am not going to say I laughed my head off…

I have an overdue library book.  Unfortunately I can’t find it.  I couldn’t even remember what the name of it was.  I usually just scoop up three or four paper backs at a time at random; it is the only way for me to overcome a bias that ends with me reading the same type of books (and even the same book) over and over and never EXPANDING MY MIND.

I asked the librarian what the name of the book I seem to have lost is, get this, it’s title is:

LOST AND FOUND IN PRAGUE.

Is that  funny?  Should I move to Prague?  Besides now having literally fallen on my face, this new phase of my life is seeming all too literal!

Metaphorically speaking…NOT!