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Rumilluminations October 2011
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Sat, October 01 2011 - 6:29 pm

October 31, 2011                                Valparaiso, IN

I was talking a few months ago in passing with a woman of our neighborhood and made some probably snide remark about my mom.  I don't think it was cruel or slanderous, probably just ironic, and I can't remember what it was.

I remember this elderly woman's response, though.  She said, "You'll be lost without her."

I said, "No, I won't."  How could someone who lived 1500 miles away from a parent for 35 years be lost without her.

It did occur to me today, though, going up flights of stairs from the basement to the second floor, that once my partner and I move into an affordable place for us, that I might get lazy without my mom to care for.

And of course, if you get too lazy, you are lost, because then you get out of shape.  Use it or lose it.

I have the solution, though.  When we move elsewhere to a probably teeny abode, I'll volunteer more.

Earn my social security.

October 29, 2011                                Valparaiso, IN

The Greatest Generation?  Huh.  The Gratist Generation, I think!

Does going through hardship automatically make you great?

Does going through a Great Depression and a Great War (or two) make you great?

Or does it make you penurious and angry?

Just listen to the stories of those taking care of their parents.

How about the daughter who let her mother move into her house and moved everything from her own kitchen into her garage?  (A mistake, it turned out.)  Did her mother stop her from such self-abnegation?

How about the son who has to go to his father's house and do housework and laundry after a full day of work because it is something his dad has just decided he doesn't want to do any more?

How about the mother who acts as if her attained age is a virtue even though it was accomplished through the efforts of many besides herself?  (Without insurance, Western medicine, and Medicaid she would have died decades if not half her lifetime ago.)

How about woman my age who took care of her elderly mother and prematurely senile husband at the same time she was working from home?

How about the younger people who, living separately from their parents and grandparents, hear an uncle telling about the mother who failed to inform anyone of her failing vision (one eye at a time, over the course of ten plus years) until she finally called him up and said, "I can't see!"

I have heard stories from folks of my generation who have taken care of a parent singlehandedly even though there were seven or eight grown children, and others, who when they took necessary steps to care for their parents, underwent a storm of criticism for it.

Did you, Oh Great Ones, embrace the hardships of the Depression and the War with stoicism and courage?

Well, good!  Now it is time to change.  Stop playing the martyr or being rebelliously lazy or lackadaisical about you own health and surroundings.

Loosen up that famous stiff upper lip and start communicating.  Otherwise the Great Depression might become your mood for your last decade.  We, your younger generation, the students of transactional analysis, are tired of rescuing you.

We already had to rescue ourselves from you.

October 26, 2011                               Valparaiso, IN

I rarely write on a book sale room day.  Somehow, even though the shift is only three hours long and I hardly experience my volunteer time there as work, the anticipation of it seems to squelch writing.

Maybe it is because, on these days, I talk a lot.

Today, as usual, I was engaging in a lively conversation with a talkative customer about home schooling when another customer, ready to buy some books, approached the desk and made a comment that I seemed to have a low opinion of home schooling.

Not at all!  I said, and proceeded to try to tell her why I chose not to home school my children my means of a humorous anecdote about my own family.

She wouldn't listen - not even to two sentences, and proceeded to ask my original partner in the conversation what made her an expert in home schooling.

A brief verbal fray ensued, after which she turned back to me and informed me that I should be more careful about expressing my opinions in the public place.

I replied that I was a volunteer, that I could say what I wanted, and that if they didn't like it they could discontinue my services.

Ha, ha!  I wonder if I'll be fired.  Will she, then, volunteer to work in my place?

I'll still give them lots of used books to sell.  I love that place.  You can get into the best conversations!

Rarely, however, does it - like today - give me something to write about. 

October 25, 2011                               Valparaiso, IN

A couple of weeks ago an alumnus representing my alma mater, Shimer College, called me and struck up a conversation.

"Did you hear about the attempted take-over of the college?"

"You mean," I said with kind of a squelched ironic chuckle, "the takeover of the administration building in 1969?"

Long silence.

"No, this was recent.  An ultraconservative group tried to buy the college."

Huh?  I'd heard of hostile takeovers of corporations, but how could you pull that off with a college?

"Evidently an accredited college is worth about 23 million, and extreme right-wing groups are trying to buy them up, and it almost happened to Shimer."

Well, if you knew the Shimer I knew, nobody who went there would want that to happen!  (Well, except maybe one or two.)

I asked him to call me again in a couple of weeks, but he hasn't yet.  I figure he thinks I'm too old and clueless.

Clueless, for sure.

Is the kind of group he is talking about the kind that would try to repress the teaching of, say, evolution?  Would it become a fundamentalist Christian school?

I've wondered about those schools, anyway.  Can a school that doesn't teach evolution get accredited?  I wouldn't think so.

How long would it take a school purchased for the sole purpose of political, economic, or unscientific propaganda to lose its accreditation?  What kind of process would have to be put into motion for a school to lose its accreditation?

And finally, I wonder:  only 23 million?  How could any accredited school, even a small one, be worth only 23 million?

And how could you buy it like a one of those huge plate-sized lollipops?

Well, I don't know why that should surprise me so.  The Ku Klux Klan tried to buy Valparaiso University in 1920 before the Lutherans bought it.

Not a rumor.  I saw it in a 1920 edition of the Vidette Messenger at the University Library before it mysteriously disappeared.

October 24, 2011                                Valparaiso, IN

For now, I've quit quilts.  I have no guilt.  In fact, my step has a lilt.

How many crafts are crafty compensations?  How many hobbies are hobbled ambitions?

The landscape of a comforter is small comfort for a would-be rambler.

A game is a lame sort of gamble, to a gambler.

Is a book worth a look?

Is a trivial pursuit worth a cheap thrill?

If I can go OUT, I won't pout.

October 23, 2011                                 Valparaiso, IN

Bitch, bitch, whine whine.

Wine, wine!

Itch itch.

Human existence is definitely beachy.

Walking along in the beautiful Dunes woods this morning we happened upon a platform for watching wildlife (especially birds, I imagine) in the marshland.

A little stroll along the Lake was peachy - except for the smokestacks of the steel mills of Gary and the nuclear plant in Michigan City.

Returning to the parking lot for the ride home, my partner remarked, "We don't have a culture, we have a carture."

"All the better to passture."

Passturing was the posturing of the carture during our homeward-bound passage.

Fall is the season, not for wine, but for hard cider.

October 22, 2011                                 Valparaiso, IN

I'm writing an addendum to my Elderquette article, in the form of phrases that comprise what should be a subtractum from the vocabulary of seniors.

"Now what?"

Let's see.  I spend fifteen minutes preparing a lunch comprised of sliced kiwi, tossed salad (romaine, cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper and avocado), and reheated (better the second time round!) turkey sausage and vegetable stew.  After sitting down at the table, I say a soft "Oh!" and get up to get a salad addition I forgot.

The resident elder, who has caused the need for extra cleanup early that very morning, says, "Now what?"  This has become an irritating comment - one which she perhaps has done more to earn from me.

Definitely a phrase to drop.

The very comfortable resident elder, who for whatever reason is now incapable of writing out a complete check (although very capable of understanding what the check is for and of signing it), upon being asked for money for whatever - medical bills, Depends, respite care - querulously says, "Don't spend all my money."

There's a whole sentence she would be wise to discard from the scintillating dialogue with which she blesses us all day long in the form of long sulky silences.

October 21, 2011                                  Valparaiso, IN

Wondever happened to my happinanity?  Turnupped into insanity?  Or butter yak, infantasy?

Loopie doodle poodles the puddling fuddyduddy.  Shrinking violence violates the cuddly.

Whatunder my conscienciousness concensored by superbego?

Yakkity, yakkity natter natter natter nutter.

October 19, 2011                                  Valparaiso, IN

In past centuries, people searched high and low for the fountain of youth.

Now scientists seem to have discovered what it is:  water.


And the tree of life?  The elixir that is supposed to help you live forever?

A woody discipline of diet and exercise.

Oh, goody.

October 18, 2011                                  Valparaiso, IN

On our walk today, we saw a rope spider web that spanned the whole front of a house.  It puts to shame that cotton-candy gauzy stuff that so many people put out (although the folks across the street who have purple morning glories blooming through the spooky stuff have a pretty effective combo!)

The spider webs reminded me of something I forgot to write about our trip to Madison, Indiana.  I have not seen such perfectly bejeweled-with-dew spider webs in many a year - if ever - as the ones we saw on the wrought iron fences and rose bushes of Madison in September.  Just another of Madison's gentle charms.  The Ohio River sparkled, too, when the rare sunlight of the week hit it just right.

The river displayed nothing of the flooding hundreds of miles upstream.  I wonder why?

October 17, 2011                                 Valparaiso, IN

How the mystery tales have evolved!  From the beginnings of Conan Doyle with the brilliant detective Holmes (admittedly with the secondary talents of Watson and the Baker Street boys) and Agatha Christie's solitary talents, Marple and Poirot, and the original hardboiled detectives of Hammett and Chandler, all of whom obsessed on one case at a time, pursuing their solutions to mysterious crime with little regard for meals or sleep (kind of the way I am pursuing this sentence, (yawn (pardon!)) it has changed into a new multitasking world.

Now, even if there is only the lonely PI, he has to juggle three murders (at least) at once, and often a whole investigative team (the new solution to all tasking, it seems) is at work on half-a-dozen cases at the same time.  No wonder the crimes so often have to be the play (alas) of a serial killer! (who is now, it seems, the one who is obsessed.)

Not only that, but there is more moral ambivalence than ever in our sleuths.  We saw a new (to us) PBS cold case in which two of the murderers get off scott free!  Why?  Because one is (oops) and the other is (oops, again!)  No secrets revealed, here!  (Except my own, ha.)

Why would you let off a murderer?  Got any excuses handy?

October 15, 2011                                 Valparaiso, IN

Even with regards to the young, it is often said that love is blind.

When it comes to middle age and beyond, love must be deaf, and losing your sense of smell doesn't hurt, either!

When couples are young, they engage in pillow talk.

When they're older, they have pill talks.

October 13, 2011                                  Valparaiso, IN

Why do the conservative and the very young seem to think that social security and Medicare only confer benefits on the old?

You only have to read Victorian novels and watch movies like Becoming Jane (Austen) to realize how many young lives were, before state programs for the elderly and poor, blighted by the need to support old and ailing parents and needy siblings.

This still happens to a certain extent, of course.  Social security benefits may not be enough to fill all the needs of a person's parents.  Ill health may keep parents dependent on their children for some care and support.

But at least women in our contemporary cultures don't feel obliged to marry solely for money enough to support their relatives, in spite of their own feelings.  Young men don't have to forgo marriage and families their own because of ill health in their parents.

Medicare, although not completely comprehensive, keeps a good amount of healthcare expense off the shoulders not only of the people who cannot pay, but off the shoulders of the younger generation, who almost certainly would end up having to pay.

(A house sold for nursing home or other medical expenses, for example, cannot be inherited by the children, no matter how worthy they are.)

Is our society really so short-sighted that we can't see this?

Even with social security my children worry about my financial future.

How much more would they have to worry if social security did not exist at all?

October 11, 2011                                  Valparaiso, IN

One relative calls another, leaves a message on her cell phone, and never gets an answer.  The recipient has 83 messages on her cell phone!  She isn't going to listen to them all!

So call a land line.  If the phone is picked up by a teenager, is your message going to be delivered?  (Okay, okay, I'm being age-ist.)

Send an email?  Another relative never reads her email; it's too slow.  I can relate to that!  My Inbox is full of junk and I rarely log on more than once a week.

And I'll answer my cellphone - if I haven't left it in the car - if I can hear it - if I can find it in time - if I feel like it - if I'm not watching a movie or PBS mystery!

Let's face it - the best communications are only as good as the willingness of the individual to accept them.

How ironic is it that in the age of  interactive radio, TV, email and snail mail, land lines and cellphones - we can rarely manage to talk to anybody?

If the response to the message is the meaning, I guess a great many messages have no meaning at all.


October 10, 2011                                  Valparaiso, IN

We saw the DVD Ten Questions for the Dalai Lama the other day and in it he talks about the fact that the happiest people are the poor.

It certainly seems that way.  I noticed the same thing when I was in Mexico decades ago.  Except that it didn't seem true of all the poor.  I just saw some luminous smiles there like nothing I had ever seen in the U.S.

Does having more stuff really mean that we are less happy?  Maybe it just seems that way because we have to think about a lot more.  We have to organize more elements in our minds - not just possessions, but responsibilities, values, choices.

My partner thinks maybe the poor aren't really happier, their lives are just simpler.

A simpler life means more ability to be in the moment and respond to a stranger's genuine smile.

And - well, hello!  Big smile!

That very moment might just be the high point in the day of everyone smiling.

October 8, 2011                                     Valparaiso, IN

I just had to amend yesterday's rhapsody (did anyone read it yet anyway?) to say, in the last line, "outside."

Outside, life was sweet and good.

Inside, maybe not so much for all of us.

I told my mom on Thursday that we are moving next year.  I've told her this before, but she has a blessed (I almost wrote "blasted") ability to forget the unpleasant.

I reiterated what I had said to her before:  that I had never in my life promised "until death do we part" to anyone - even when I married - and I wasn't going to promise it now.

I'm trying to prepare her for the fact that life may not go on swimmingly exactly as it has for the last year and a half.  Maybe, given her forgetfulness, it is just cruel.

At any rate, when I spoke to her of some of the various possibilities (she has two other daughters, after all) including a nursing home, she said, "And then there is always the possibility of suicide."

Of course there is that possibility.  My partner and I expect to take that step if our lives become too painful or restricted (what one of my acquaintances thinks is generally our generational plan.)

My mother, however, has never suggested that to me before.  It pissed me off.  Talk about a guilt trip!  Virtually, "You are abandoning me so I'll have to kill myself."

"So what are you saying," I responded, "that you can't live without me?"

"Well, no."

"Your generation might have gotten by with that kind of talk," I informed her, "but my generation can't.  That is emotional blackmail, and it is not allowed!"

Maybe I kept talking after her negative response because I didn't want to hear that it was living in her house that she can't live without.

That may be true, in which case I hope she gets to stay here.

But when I came I was contemplating six to eight years, and next September it will be eight years.

Staying on here with my partner (he will have been here for three years in February (which was kind of his expectation) for more than another year has become unthinkable.

Something has got to give.

And maybe it is time for Mom to grow up and realize that she has been very lucky to be able to live in her own home for as long as she has.

Am I being heartless?

October 7, 2011                                     Valparaiso, IN

Today was ramblunctious.  We sunnified and smilated, rejogged and gyrated.

The clock swept back to July, making up for chilly wet September.

But, wha...?  What is this crunchy stuff underfoot?  This isn't like July!

The leaves crumbled and snapped.  We like it, even if it is 83 degrees.

Man, it has been a strange year!

We saw a young chipmunk, looking like a little resin statue begging along a driveway, but it disappeared down a hole.

Long-walking on the west side of town, we went through woods strangely absent of poison ivy and through gardens with bright fall flowers and brighter burning bush and Japanese maples.

Life outside, today, is smooth and good.

October 6, 2011                                 Valparaiso, IN

At night I was twisting myself into a wistful pretzel, trying to be eaten by sleep.

Day by gloomy day I gathered fistfuls of mist thick as schist trying to open the curtains of clouds.

I snapped my wrists and made a tryst with the sun!

Summer is back, a brief reprieve is won, before it snows a ton!

(I want to run.)

October 4, 2011                                  Valparaiso, IN

I saw a movie years ago that exposed to me the novel idea, "Don't get mad - get even!" and proceeded to have supposedly good people spending time and energy on a minor act of spite.

I liked the theory at first - but with a big difference:  I would not spend my time being angry,  but I would put my energy into placing myself in a better position than I was when the wrong was committed against me.

Besides, a negative act that comes out of the blue against your offender (especially if it seems totally unrelated to the original offense)  doesn't "teach" anybody anything.

Agreed.  Being angry is unhealthy and a waste of time.  But making yourself happy by wasting your own time creating hardship and suffering (no matter how minor) for others is just as big a waste of time.

It is like eating to compensate for bad treatment by another.  Sure, it makes you feel better, but now you are abusing yourself!  Does that make any sense?

Keep me waiting unnecessarily?  Okay, I will put my time to good use.

Hit me?  Great!  I will put as much distance between you and me as possible - in a direction I always wanted to go, anyway.

The situation endured by the Hatfields and McCoys in their generational vendetta is as close to a hell on earth as I can imagine.

October 3, 2011                                   Valparaiso, IN

Anyone else playing our caregiving role?

Is your every suggestion met with resistance, obstruction and defiance?

Are you tempted to first express what you don't want in order, considering the predictable obstinancy of your ward, to get the behavior you do want?

Are you foiled in every attempt to help?

Are you treated like "The Enemy?"

You are thinking, "Sure!  My child is two!"

Think again.  Ninety-two.

October 2, 2011                                    Valparaiso, IN

I've been reading about alchemy as part of the book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.

McKay goes into much greater depth as to the practitioners of alchemy than my interest does, but after reading about them I have decided anyone can be an alchemist.

Turning base metals into silver and gold?  Easy.

All you have to do is pinch every single penny that comes your way, then store it in the bank.

Voila!  Copper to gold!

October 1, 2011                                          Valparaiso, IN

Who was it that was complaining about all the bloggers, writing what he called "The Daily Me"?

He should count his lucky stars.

Maybe I should call my blahg The Infinitely Illimitably Expanding Daily Me!

There are so many things to write about.  Everything outside, for a million!

Books, paintings, psychological workings of others (and of ME!)  dancing, food - why, every hour I could write about SOMETHING!

And yet I usually restrain myself to one or two entries a day in my whole website!

Write!  Write!  The more the merrier.  Why not?

The Silent Majority, I have decided, wasn't really silent at all.  Most of them were talking.

There were just so few people listening.

So write a daily journal - good for you!  Or scribble opinions or bird notes or vacation recommendations.

One thing is sure.  There are more people out there reading than there are writing.

What you say might be helpful or entertaining to someone - except just not the guy whose daily me doesn't want to share the space with the rest of us.

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