Tag: aging (Page 1 of 2)

Growing a Bumper Crop of Wrinkles

Clarkandlewis10feb15

It was this kind of day.
For some of us, anyway

~~~~~~~~~

I worry a lot more about a lot more these days . . .

I worry when I’m tired
I worry when I’m behind
I worry when I can’t get things –
when I can’t get enough things –
done.

I worry that I won’t ever finish
I worry that I will.

I worry when my muscles twinge
when my foot hurts
when I don’t hear from my son.

I worry when the rental checks are late hitting the post office box
when the orange light comes on in the car’s dashboard
when Mother stands up and gets dizzy.

I worry when I have to ask folks to repeat what they just said
I worry when others ask me to repeat what I just said
I worry when there’s a tickle in my throat.

I worry when the words won’t come
when there’s no time to stitch
when the clock strikes hourly.

I worry when the floor’s slippery
when riding in the rain
when my head hurts.

I worry when I worry.
I never used to.
Worry, I mean.

~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~~

I’m delighted to be teaching a class
at Woo School
called I AM Story
in which we spend 3 months writing our life stories.
It’s fun and satisfying,
and you’ll surprise and delight yourself,
I promise.
Join us, why don’t you?

The Engineer and The Artist: Protection

DahliaFlirts

“Where do you get gas masks?” I ask Him this morning as we eat breakfast, him reading stories on his iPad and me with my pencil and paper. “Haven’t quite finished my list yet, but looks like I need about forty-four or so. Do you think they offer quantity discounts?”

“What in the sam hill do you want with gas masks?” he asks.

And here I thought this was a relatively easy question. “I think the reason for gas masks is pretty obvious,” I tell him. “I just need to know: where do I go to get some?”

“I don’t know,” he shrugs. “Maybe an Army/Navy store.”

“I don’t want leftovers from World War II, and I don’t want any that have little pinholes in ’em. Don’t want any seconds or military rejects. I just want some good, tight, operational gas masks that I can give out to the people I love. I tell you what: this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, making this list. I mean, what about That Hussy in-law. Now that she and her mama are both out of jail, they’ve made up on account of how they have something in common, so I figure I have to get her a gas mask cause she’s an in-law (maybe I could get her one with a few pinholes, though, now that I think about it), but does that mean I have to get one for her mother, too, so she (the Daughter) won’t worry the stew out of us? Mean and Stupid are a bad mix, and I frankly don’t want to be known as The Woman Who Preserved That Tramp And Her Daughter The Hussy for all posterity. Anyway, I’d like ’em to fold up real small so they’re easy to carry around – the gas masks, I mean, not the Hussy and Her Mother – and it sure would be nice if they came in cute little bags. Oh, and they need to come with a warranty, too, of course.”

Right about then is when he remembers he has some hammering to do outside.

[ :: ]

Jeanne Hewell-Chambers can remember when he stopped for breakfast on his way into work, and she didn’t eat breakfast at all.

The Engineer and The Artist: Trees

“We need to take some trees down before they fall on the house,” he says.
As he points to this:

Trees4

and this:

Trees5

and this:

Trees6

I see this:

Trees2

and this:

Trees1c

and this:

Trees1d

And yet again, we look at the same thing
differently.

[ :: ]

Jeanne Hewell-Chambers (who some declare got thunked up side the head one too many times as a child)
is still getting used to her husband (the retired engineer)
being home 24/7.

Sands Through the OURglass

Out1

Forty years ago, I publicly promised to spend the rest of my life with this one man named Andy – a man I’d known a scant six months at the time. I’m still married to him though we don’t look the same and neither does our marriage . . .

Then we vowed to stay with each other in sickness and in health with only some romanticized notion of what that meant based on movies we’d seen and books we’d read. Now after his stent a few years ago and my recent bout with staph infection, we have a clearer idea of what that means, the patience it requires, the commitment is demands.

Then we spent a lot of energy finding ways to be together. Now that we’re together 24/7, we find ways to build some space in our togetherness – even if it’s only agreeing to work on our separate projects for three hours then meet in the kitchen at noon for lunch.

Then we looked forward to the weekends for the romps and recess they offered. Now that the structure provided by careers and children is gone, we create our own weekends by doing something outside the normal routine, even if it’s simply dropping the dog off at the spa then taking ourselves on a walk through the local village green to look at the new art sculptures on display or taking a leisurely trip to the local museum.

Then we were high on the thrill of discovering everything we could about each other. Now we deliberately find ways to lay out the welcome mat for surprise in general, even if it’s something as simple attending an art lecture on the Spiritual Language of Paintings and practicing our new vocabulary and pondering our new perspectives over pizza afterwards.

Then we held hands everywhere we went.
We still do.

Then we laughed as often as possible.
We still do.

Then we made it a point to argue and disagree in ways that don’t require follow-up apologies.
We still do.

Then we knew we’d spend the rest of our life together.
We still do, though we now know that forever isn’t infinite, and that makes all the difference in the world.

JeanneAndy07319173framed

Just Talk Amongst Yourselves

Phone

I know we’re supposed to live in the present, period. Not supposed to look back, not supposed to look ahead. Well, pfffft to that. I love anticipation, love to look forward to something. And I have a nostalgic streak in me about a mile wide. I love to remember when . . .

Today I got to thinking about telephones. Mother worked for the local board of education, Daddy designed and built golf courses and was quite active in politics. I am the oldest of three siblings, and yet despite all that community and civic involvement and popularity, we had one phone. That’s right: one single solitary phone. In the house, I’m telling you. One telephone to be shared by five people. It was a white wall-mounted phone with a curly cord long enough for me to take the receiver into the living room where I could talk in what amounted to the only privacy anybody could find in the confines of that house.

We didn’t have options for phone service – for the set monthly price, you got to make and receive local calls. Long distance calls had to be placed collect (as when letting my parents know that I, their college coed, had arrived safety back on campus, for example. Funny how they never – not once – accepted charges.) or it was charged to your monthly bill. We didn’t have caller id or call waiting or voicemail. Not even answering machines. If somebody called while one of us was on the phone, they just got a busy signal and had to call back.

Busy signals is what I was really thinking about today, if you want to know the truth. That dreaded beep-beep-beep sound that lets you know the person you desperately want or need to talk to is unavailable. And of course all phones were landlines – we didn’t have mobile phones or even phones that were wired into our cars. When we were out traveling and something happened – like, well for the sake of story, let’s say we ran off the road and into a ditch – somebody would happen by and help. In this particular instance – I mean story – somebody happened by on a tractor, pulled out my green Mustang, and promised faithfully to never, ever mention this to my parents.

My first car only had am radio – which was fine by me. I was just tickled to get a car, period. I think it cost $1260, this 1970 green metallic Mustang, but Daddy was friends with the car dealer, so I trust he got at least a bit of a discount.

But back to phones . . . as a sophomore in college, I attended what is now called North Georgia College and State University. Yup, it’s a mouthful. We had a bank of phones on the hall – 3 campus phones and 2 long distance phones on each floor. Folks would call into the central reception desk in the lobby, and whoever was on duty would direct the calls to the floor on which we resided then page us over the loud speaker and direct us to go take the call.

When I met my husband, I didn’t know his last name. (It’s a long story.) (I’ll tell you later.) It was definitely a case of smitten at first sight, but when folks asked his name, call I could say was “Andy” then talk fast so they would hopefully not think it odd that, well, you know. We met on a Saturday night, and apparently I made a good impression because he called me the following Tuesday to ask me to go to a hockey game with him. “Jeanne Hewell – long distance. Jeanne Hewell – long distance.” came the page, which I like to think I would’ve somehow magically heard even were I not sitting – I mean studying – in room 319 Lewis. Because he was calling long distance, the conversation went something like this:

Him: “This is Andy. You wanna’ go to the hockey game Thursday night?”

Me: “Yeah.”

Him: “Okay, good.”

Click.

Must have cost him the better part of a dime.

I did eventually learn his last name (when he introduced himself to my brother that same weekend), and I’d be happy to tell you the point of this post if only I knew what it is.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Planes

Saturday was World War 2 Heritage Days, an event in Peachtree City, GA honoring those who served in WW2. Veterans wear their uniforms or at least a hat to indicate their field of service.

NationalAnthem

My daughter travels around to various events, portraying Betty Grable, and let me tell you: she has the legs and the voice and the hair to pull it off. Years ago I bought a 1940s era dress just because I liked it. It’s hung in the closet since then, but on Saturday morning, I pulled it out and put it on, along with my black gloves, a 1940ish pocketbook, and the cutest hat you’ve ever seen, all topped off with shoes to die for (and by the end of the day, my feet almost had) (died, I mean). My hair is now too long to hold pin curls, and I didn’t know how to do victory rolls, so I decided I’d just tell the stitch nazis (women who delight in pointing out inadequacies and unauthenticies) to (a) bug off or (b) that I’d been out picking cotton that morning and simply hadn’t had time to do my hair. Thank goodness I didn’t hear from the stitch nazis, but I’ll have you know that three men asked me where I bought my dress. Not cross-dressers, mind you, just men who say they find shirtwaist dresses (accessorized with black gloves and a purse that snapped shut with an attitude) like mine sexier than today’s dresses. Here she is, my daughter, singing the national anthem.

NavyStanding

Later when she sings The Armed Forces Medley, veterans stand when she gets to the theme song for their branch of service. These fellas were able to name the song Anchors Away in three notes.

WalterCheers
This is my mother’s boyfriend, Walter, cheering as his song – Army Air Corps – ends. Loyalty runs deep.

Helendenton
Speaking of loyalty, this is Helen Denton telling some young girls what it was like to be General Eisenhower’s secretary. Though she joined in hopes of meeting a man, she had some pretty important jobs during her tour of duty . . . some things she couldn’t talk about for 50 years – not even to her husband – because she’d promised she wouldn’t.

Reenactors
Re-enactors don period attire and engage in immersion imagination as the veterans watch and remember, telling stories and shedding tears all along the day. The re-enactors spend an awful lot of time and money doing their research and trekking to these events. They take history seriously, and do not tolerate revisionists well. Their equipment and uniforms are authentically correct but they are not government-issued like the originals.

Germansgiftamericansalift
When they’re not in character, you see things like a German giving a ride to US military folk . . . and they are all smiling. This vehicle, by the way, was a gift from the driver’s wife one Christmas. Yes, really.

JosephGetsPin
When they came home, the veterans were told they could wear their uniforms for 3 months until they found a job and got settled. They were given special pins to wear to indicate that they had served and were now discharged, reacclimatizing themselves into society. Though the pin had an official name, the veterans called it The Ruptured Duck. All veterans were given a Ruptured Duck pin Saturday morning. This is my 98 year old Uncle Joseph receiving his pin.

WalterGetsPin
And this is Walter receiving his pin.

The hangar is filled with rows of tables filled with ribbons, pins, uniforms, photos, and other memorabilia on Saturday. In one corner of the hangar, young women have set up a 1940s kitchen, complete with the cutest stove I’ve ever seen, a ringer washing machine I’m glad I don’t have to use, a wooden ironing board that looks like it positively salivates at the thought of pinching fingers, a Hoosier cabinet that reminds me of the one in my Aunt Rene’s kitchen, and a small kitchen table from that era. I like that there was some attention shone on the domestic arts of the time.

Bobhope

There’s a camp show that is performed word-for-word from the transcripts of camp shows of the era. This is Thomas Eastin (the best of the good guys, if you ask me), a college student who’s been portraying Bob Hope for several years.

When the whistle sounds at 4 o’clock, tired volunteers find a second wind and leap into action, clearing the hangar of military paraphernalia and transforming it into a ballroom for The Swing Dance. The tired young re-enactors change into their dress uniforms, and just as they must have back in the 1940’s, line up to ask pretty young women to dance. I look at the young men in those WW2 uniforms and think about how the 93 and 94 year old men sitting across the table from me were about that age when they trotted off to war. How did their mothers ever stop crying?

When I interviewed him for the book I wrote about him, my father-in-law told me that he received his marching orders the same day he was to graduate from Georgia Tech. Said the school moved the graduation ceremony up, making it earlier in the day so graduates would have time to gather their belongings and take their leave into the wild blue yonder and beyond. He said he and the other graduates walked up on stage, received their lambskin, then stepped off the stage and immediately received their orders. In the space of the few hours separating graduation from shipping out, many of them – including my father-in-law – got married.

Adadanceswithwalter

But it’s not just the young re-enactors who take to the dance floor. Here’s my mother dancing with Walter while Alison sings “Kiss me once and kiss me twice, and kiss me once again. It’s been a long, long time . . . ”

Catfight

At one point during the evening, this 94 year old veteran was dancing with Jenny (left) when Alison went up and in the spirit of fun, staged a cat fight for his attention. Is it just me, or does this fella seem to enjoy all the commotion?

Alisonwon

In the end, he chose Alison, I mean Betty Grable. His daughter cautioned Alison to hold on to him tightly, but there was magic in the air that night, magic that took his body back in time – maybe not to a foxhole, but he sure didn’t need any help finding his way around the dance floor.

Jfk

Freddie hails from Long Island, New York and travels around the country making appearances as JFK. This is my mother being totally won over by his charming personality. Look out, Marilyn. You may be able to sing Happy birthday, Mr. President, but you can’t cook like my mother.

We can argue that memory is construct and fallible, and we might agree that we’d rather war be the last avenue taken rather than the first, but surely we all agree that there’s nothing like learning about history from the lips of those who lived it. You can’t learn history like this from books. You just can’t.

Bushel Basket Burning

Bushelbasketsformybirthday

This is a photo of my beloved husband, Andy,
taken yesterday as he was buying me the bushel basket
that topped the list of
What I Want For My Big Milestone Birthday.
I have a plan, you see:
I will decorate this basket,
festoon it with ribbons
and words of wagging fingers,
most from long-forgotten,
unnamed voices,
words that nevertheless linger deep and long.
“Who do you think you are?”
“What gives you the right?”
“Well, you’re getting too big for your britches.”
I will write these words (and more) on the basket,
trim them with ribbons and glitter and sparkle,
then I will set fire to the basket,
while singing
“This Little Light of Mine”.
and dancing.
Oh good lord
how I will dance.

in the middle of unmuddling

Altar103b

I think of the letters shared by women who preceded me . . . “I put up 7 pints of bread-and-butter pickles today.” . . . “Jerry is down in his back again.” . . . “Katie sent me her upside-down pineapple cake recipe. It’s in the oven baking now, and it smells so good. I’ll let you know how it turns out.” . . . “My iris are blooming this year. I separated them last year, planted them not quite so deep.” Sometimes a copy of a new recipe was tucked inside the envelope along with the letter . . . sometimes an article snipped from the local paper . . . sometimes a picture of a grandchild.

I love these old letters. The handwriting is evocative and so is the dailiness of a (so-called) ordinary life. Women staying in touch. Sharing. Reporting in. Plucking jewels from their ordinary day.

Something Sarah said in her comment got me thinking about these letters . . . (she always opens a window for me, and i never know what the view will be but i always love it) . . . about how back in The Day we used blogs and the comments as exchanges of letters. We’d read a blog post and respond in the comment how it resonated with us, what it brought up in us, how it affected us. We’re share stories. Sometimes we’d take something from a comment and write a whole post around it, carrying on the conversation. We had the same 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week, and we used some of that time to read each other’s blogs.

I miss that.

So that’s what I’m gonna’ do here in this blog. That’s what feels right in my bones. It’s like it touches some deep longing and beckons it out to be tended to. Susan says in her comment: “Share when the urge hits and if you don’t feel like it, don’t bother.” Advice that feels real good to these bones. And that’s why I’m posting twice today. Maybe even another post before bedtime (cause I’m getting of an age when at bedtime I can’t remember what happened in the morning, so why not make it easier on myself).

(But hey, one thing you’ll never read here: “I put up 7 pints of pickles today.” You can take that one to the bank.)

p.s. The photo is altar #103. I’m revving that up again. It’s 365 or bust.

p.s. 2: The altar is treasures I picked up on Daytona Beach a couple of weeks ago when we went down for the opening of the museum exhibit my first hymn of cloth is in. Yes, really. Me. My cloth. In a museum exhibit. SQUEEEEE!!!!!

one fine day

Fallleaveshangingon1

Fallleavesthathangon6

i’ve often wondered why some leaves hold on, refusing to let go of their branch, their tree. they clack in the wind, like teeth chattering or cleaning chalkboard erasers or ridding the bottom of shoes of debris from a long walk in the woods.

my birthday comes in 3 days. it’s a big birthday, and i’m making a list. noting things that won’t let go of me, things i’ve long vowed i’d do One Day. i add them to the list because One Day is here.

14,600 Days or 350,400 Hours or The Blink of an Eye – It’s All the Same to Me

JeanneAndyFormal1974

Forty years ago today, I walked into a bar in Underground Atlanta with a girlfriend and walked out several hours later with the man who would, in a mere six months, become my husband. Our forty years of togetherness have been marked by much change. We’ve birthed two amazing people, and we’ve buried too many to count. We’ve laughed and cried . . . and eventually laughed again. We’ve pursued our own interests and always come back home to tell each other all about it. We’ve shared interests, cheered each other on in individual pursuits, and worked side-by-side on all sorts of things.

An engineer by training, he views, interprets, and goes through the world in a more linear way than this quirky Aquarian. He is patient, I lean towards impulsive. He is literal, I see and hear metaphors everywhere. He is formulaic, I live like like a pot of soup, pulling sparklies in from every whichaway. He is quite thorough, I want immediate results and have a tendency to get bored and move on. We are good for each other.

It’s not always been easy, but it’s always been the two of us together, and that sure helps. I am not the same woman I was forty years ago, and he is not the same man who mixed me that Tom Collins. But laughter, space in our togetherness, listening, and holding hands continue to define our way of loving each other.

As he says, I’m the best he could do with the car he was driving at the time. And as I say, he’s the best I could do with the boobs I had at the time. Here’s to at least another forty, Andy.

Clink.

Cheers.

JeanneAndy1980sRes

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