Tag Archives: aging

I Talked to My Mother This Week

It has been a while since our readers have heard anything from us!  Sorry!  We hope to do better in 2016. First -time grandmotherhood for Jane and a job change for Annice made things a little crazy!I  But, here we go again!  Welcome back to Oops50, which should really be called Oops60 at this point, but we are fond of the original name!  Here’s Jane’s first post for the new year.  And, please, send us your posts!

Jane
Jane

I talked to my mother the other day.  The only reason that is worth mentioning is that my mother is dead. Here is how it happened.  I was driving by myself on a fairly long road trip—the perfect circumstance for me to think too much about things that are worrying me—and I realized that I was feeling overwhelmingly sad.  I just had one of those awful, down-to-your-toes sadnesses, and the first thought that came in my head was “I wish I could talk to Mama right now.”  That thought made me even sadder because one thing I miss more than anything since her death is the ability to pick up the phone and talk to her about things—bad and good—that happen in my life.  But then, I had this thought:  ‘why not just talk to her now?’  And then I entered this very strange place where I imagined myself dialing her number (since most of my conversations with her happened over our land line and not by cell phone!), and then I had a conversation with her.

First, I apologized for not calling in so long, and then I launched right in to telling her about everything that was on my mind. And, the next thing you know, I was crying—just like the old days.  I talked and talked and cried and cried, about every last little thing that was bothering me, and as I talked and cried, I felt the muscles around my heart start to loosen up, and I could feel myself start to breathe a little easier, and I realized how much tension and worry I had been holding in.  And then—and this is the really remarkable thing about it—I felt that tremendous sense of release and relief that I used to feel when Mama would say something as basic as “I hate for you to be feeling this way, darling” or, her standard, “Get some rest, and I know you will feel better.”  It was as if Mama, from across the miles and years and clouds or whatever is between us had said, “Everything is going to be all right,” and, wonder of wonders, I believed her.  And, for the rest of the day—and even now, a few days later, I’m still feeling the effect. 

My family of origin!  Mama's in the middle, with me to her left.
My family of origin! Mama’s in the middle, with me to the left, back row.

I have to say:  I’m glad I was on a road trip when this happened and not driving down a street of my town.  No one could see me or overhear me, so they couldn’t accuse me of losing my mind and hanging out with ghosts.  But I had this urge to share this experience on the blog because I highly recommend it to those of you have a mother who has moved on to her reward:  give her a call sometime!

On Becoming a Grandmother

lizzie and baby
Lizzie and Aven in the hospital 
Jane
Jane

A week ago, on December 9th, my world changed.  My own first baby, Lizzie, now 27 years old, delivered her first baby into the world, and I became a grandmother, just like that. I guess it’s not really fair to describe it that way. After all, Lizzie had to go through nearly 27 hours of increasing misery to get to that point!  But in retrospect, the change certainly feels that sudden and that startling.  Aven Marie Bowman, weighing in at seven pounds, one ounce, was born at 10:02 p.m. last Tuesday, and nothing has been the same since.

I’m learning that it’s really true that when you are a grandmother, you don’t have to take on all the day-to-day worry about that baby the way you do when you become a parent.  You get to hold a baby and love the baby and even change a diaper when you feel like it, but, to quote an old joke, then you can “give the baby back” is true!  It’s harder than you think to make your mind relax into that truth.  I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have  to figure out what that baby is wearing each day, how many times she’s eating, if she’s having as many wet diapers as she should, or if her umbilical cord is falling off correctly. Old habits die hard!   But Lizzie is happy as a clam to do those jobs,  so I can relax. All I have to do is hold Aven when Lizzie hands her off to me and rub her little soft head and kiss her little neck and breath in her incredible milky smell and make little silly clucking noises.  It’s sort of like having the best baby doll I could ever imagine, one that not only opens its eyes but also sneezes and yawns in the cutest way anyone could ever imagine.

I”m also learning that I don’t need any other entertainment when Aven is around. Our daughter and her husband, Janson, are temporarily living with us while they look for their next residence, so we get to see this little creature every day and watch her changes, such as her going from being mostly a sleeping/nursing wonder to someone starting to open her eyes more and look around at the world.  And I’m grateful and privileged to be able to witness our daughter becoming a new mother.  I am awed at how patient and calm she is.  I was never that patient with my first newborn.  I was scared to death, and my anxiety came out in frustration and tears and all kinds of great behaviors. Sure, Lizzie has an advantage over most new mothers from her years of experience and knowledge gained  working in child care,  but there is something else, something bigger, going on here.  Lizzie has taken on the mantle of motherhood as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.  When she has to make a decision about something to do with the baby, she just naturally chooses what’s right for the baby, instead of what might seem better for anyone else, including herself.  And she’s putting up with the discomfort (a nice word for it) and fatigue involved in learning to breastfeed without any serious complaints.  She’s getting very little sleep because she’s waking with the baby at night, but she doesn’t whine (as her mama did).  She’s just moving along, taking care of that baby, walking the walk.

She is my hero.

And it’s also great to see Janson becoming a father.  He was great in the delivery room, exhibiting all the right support and compassion and protectiveness to his wife, just as any mother-in-law could hope.  And he’s been working right along Lizzie since then. He has a very natural-looking football hold for Aven!

I don’t mean that I’m surprised by any of this.  I just feel honored to be able to see it up close and personal!

I hope I can make just as smooth a transition into grandmotherhood! One hard part is turning off my advice-giver!  It’s hard not to feel like I have a duty to step in and guide my daughter and son-in-law  each step of the way.  It’s hard to stop being a mother and become a grandmother.  Grandfather Tom, who is by nature extremely protective of newborns, is also having difficulty with that one!  We both want to give Lizzie and Janson several “helpful” hints on an hourly basis!  It’s good to remind ourselves that Aven is not our baby.  She’s our grandbaby!  Hallelujah! We can relax!

And here’s the other, unexpected hard part about becoming a grandmother:  now I have another generation to worry about getting grown safely, without bad things happening to them.  Aven has made it even more painful to think about things like global warming or the  terrorism or wars or plagues.  And when the global stuff is not in my head, I’m obsessing about things like her breathing or her future happiness or, worst of all, how old I will be when Aven is 20, 30, etc.  It’s that etcetera part that does me in.  It’s weird:  in some ways, the thought of my own, inevitable death has become a lot easier to bear with Aven in the world, but in other ways, it is now ten times harder.

Enough gloom and down!  Right now I’m celebrating Aven and her wonderful little head and precious feet and long, beautiful fingers and lovely eyelashes.  And she has already taught me something:  boy, am I ready to make the shift from mother into grandmother! I’m so glad someone else is having to nurse that baby, change that diaper, put that car seat in the car for the millionth time.  There’s a reason people have babies when they’re young.  I’m glad to pass the torch.  And, at least in this first iteration, some things have already made this life-changing transition seem natural and easy: 1) It’s clear that  Lizzie and Janson will be–are!–great parents and  2)  I already love Aven.  In fact, I fell madly in love with her at first sight, the moment she came into the world.  So now, Tom and I need to sit back, be incredibly thankful and grateful,  and enjoy the ride.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is another picture of the world’s cutest baby, this one napping with her over-the-moon grandmama!  Merry, merry Christmas to all of you!!!

grandma and baby

A Retiring Mind: Part IV: Amoke’s at it Again

Amoke Kubat
Amoke Kubat

My retiring mind is on the mends.  It’s a fighter!  I’m on the other side of a health crisis. Physical conditions finally identified, and I have clear directives for maintaining my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

My days begin in deep gratitude.  I wake up.  Others don’t.  I’m not in pain.  I herd bottles of pills around, vitamins and minerals and one for blood pressure, until I get them all down, generally needing 2-3 cups of tea to do so.

tea time

I make it my job to laugh at least 3 times daily.  The shaking, hurting belly laughter, you know, that breaks out from between your legs, whereas you just might pee yourself, if not sling snot, piggy snort or cry.  Sometimes I laugh at myself.

I’m at that age where you have to have TESTS and PROCEDURES that nobody really wants to talk about: example, the colonoscopy.  At my appointment, I arrived feeling confident about the necessity for this procedure and what to expect.  I balked upon entering a very crowded waiting room.  My ticket was number 26.  I took a seat and summoned my big girl attitude.

My name was called.  I was ushered to a room, guided through changing into a gown and positioning myself on a table.  I would watch the exploration of my guts on a big screen.  I thought the whole thing to be cool, like my own Magic Science Bus adventure.

I greeted and asked the doctor, “Have you really seen 25 assholes today”?  She blanched but continued her preparations.  Her nurse struggled to keep a straight face.  My excitement and curiosity blinded social decorum, “What kind of doctor are you?  What did you have to study”?  I continued my own bedside banter.  The doctor muttered something about gastrointestinal something or other.  She was quick, thorough and seemed surprised that she didn’t discover nothing from rooter to tooter.

Fast forward.  Last week, I began a more aggressive response to the arthritis along my spine’s lumbar region.  A young physician and two assistants injected epidurals into my lower back to shrink bulging herniated disks and relieve pain, spasms and numbness in both legs and feet.  I was positioned face down on a table.  My pants were rolled and tucked to reveal the small of my back and a behind that gives “mooning” a whole new concept.  Think, “A Total Eclipse of the Heart” (as in cardiac arrest) or “Bad Moon Rising”. They informed me about possible discomfort as the series of injections begin.

As the team worked, they chatted about a ten dollar taxable bonus check gained for their personal healthy health practices.  What could you buy with less than ten dollars, they lamented.  The physician, young and slim said, “SUBWAY”!  She loved SUBWAY!  They discussed in details the variety of breads and endless combinations of meats, cheeses and veggies.  Mind you, I was being stabbed in my behind. They asked if I liked SUBWAY.  I told them about how I loved a very carefully constructed BLT Footlong on wheat, with spinach instead of lettuce.

We were all done in about 20 minutes.  I was sat up, stood on my feet and given after-care instructions.  Did I need a wheelchair?  I bristled.  I was independent and capable.  I stepped, and my right hip swung like a wagon turning a treacherous corner.  Tried again, and my step produced a swagger and a slow dragging foot.  I walked like a pimp! They assured me this would pass.  I told them that I really hoped they wouldn’t think of my butt every time they went to SUBWAY.  We laughed. I t wasn’t the socially polite and awkward giggling but deep women’s laughter.  I accepted the wheelchair.

Despite trekking along a path I never imagined to take, I remain really optimistic.  I take my vitamin L (for laughter) as often as I like, it’s addictive!  It’s real medicine.

She knows it, too.

Amoke Kubat

I’m a writer, artist and community elder living and working in North Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

I Hate How America Looks at Aging

Jane I think I may have mentioned how much I hate it when young people in stores or restaurants  call me things like “sweetie” or “honey.”  And it isn’t even the term they use.  It’s more the way they say it.  Am I being paranoid to think that they say it more to me than to my husband?

It seems to me that, in this country at least, people have a warped view about people aging, in general, but  a doubly warped view about women in that phase of their lives.  I have trouble not making this kind of thought chain in my head:   we have a general fear about aging, therefore we are obsessed with looking young; and, since women tend to be the focus of any obsession around the subject of looks, we get especially scared about women losing their looks because that might mean that any one of the rest of us could also get old and eventually do the “d” word!

I’m sure it’s all tied up to our fear of death.  I’m wondering if it’s also tied to our fear of losing our mothers!  Who knows!  I’m probably getting too far afield here, but I know the following:  we don’t like death, and we don’t like aging.  We prefer for people to just go on looking young forever,  getting face lifts or competing in old-people sports events that make us all feel invincible.  old women in sports

And one manifestation of all this fear is that we apparently don’t like for women to have any dignity in old age, at least if our movies and tv shows are any indication!

Here’s my evidence:

1) Have you noticed the number of videos on YouTube that are of dancing grandmothers?    They are very popular and very embarrassing.

2) Have you noticed the way we portray aging women on television or in the movies?  I admit I liked the characters in The Golden Girls when that show was on tv, but the writers at least managed to keep things real even when portraying or creating some stereotypes.  But ever since then, it’s been downhill.

3) Please, save me from one more old female character in a movie or on a show who does any of the following:  a) flirts with a man a quarter of her age in a very sexy way b) does outrageous, physical things  that defy reality or c) has potty humor that isn’t funny.  It seems to me it’s mostly female characters that end up with this kind of script, but correct me if I’m wrong.  I’m just thinking of the painful moments on screen I’ve witnessed. Probably the one that sticks in my head the most is the horrible, terrible scene in The Wedding Singer with the rapping grandmother.  HELP!!!

4) When was the last time you went to a movie that portrays a grandmother (or grandfather, for that matter) who isn’t, what is that word everyone loves, oh, yeah, feisty? What happened to the stereotype that used to be in the movies, the Aunt Bee grandmother-type who bakes cookies and rocks babies to sleep?  We’ve replaced her with tough-talking, sarcastic old birds who live by themselves and chop their own wood or foul-mouthed, pot-smoking, “cool” grandmothers who love to make sexual innuendoes.

What I would give for one thoughtful, intelligent old woman, maybe even one with normal aches and pains.  She doesn’t have to be bedridden or dying or out of her mind.  She can just be a normal person, living life and showing the effects.

If Robert Redford can go off in a boat and be the only person on screen for an entire movie, let’s at least give Betty White ten minutes of dignity on the screen!  And let’s please please please come up with some better female role models for aging gracefully!

 

 

I’m Getting Sentimental Over You!

Jane On a recent visit with my three sisters (our annual get-together), we got to talking about all sorts of things, including, of course, our children and how quickly they have all grown up.  One sister said the hardest thing for her about having her children grow up is that, in the process, she lost the little people they were at age 2, 4, 6, etc., as if someone came and spirited them away.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I got back from the trip and realizing that there is always a part of me that is half expecting those little ones to show back up, as if they are hiding somewhere in the house.  And thinking about them makes time compress and expand at the same time.

Lizzie and Parker in Roxbury, NY
Lizzie and Parker in Roxbury, NY

If I close my eyes, I can remember Lizzie, our first daughter, tromping into our kitchen in upstate New York in her favorite rubber boots and saying, “I ahna Goo-Koo,” (I want a cookie) or singing her way downstairs in the morning.  Same with Parker, next in line.  I can see him playing Power Rangers with his buddy Max or sitting at the kitchen table with his pirate ship and pirates and doing all the different voices for the various pirates and their enemies.  Becky is often sitting in her high chair (I think I must have left her in there a lot!), smiling at the thought of all the mischief she is cooking up to get her brother or sister to pay attention to her or standing at the bathroom mirror, cutting herself trying to shave her chin with her father’s razor.

Becky
Becky

Josie, the youngest, is always living in some story of her own making, like the millions of worlds she created for her dolls, or like the Madison Avenue world she inhabited one night in the bathroom, washing a hand towel over and over while singing out her version of the ad for OxyClean: “it gets your whites whiter and your bwights bwighter!”

Josie in Asheville
Josie in Asheville

 

So, the memories are vivid, but, if I think about it hard enough, they are not as fresh as I would like them to be.  And sometimes it’s hard to sort out what I really remember from what I have recorded in pictures and videos.  The hard part, I guess, about trying to hold onto memories of your children as little people is that, when they are actually little and getting bigger every day,  every memory is constantly getting replaced with a new one, each time the child does something new and different. (This is why I should have written things down in baby books!)  Before you even have a chance to catch your breath, the two-year-old version of your child is replaced with the three-year-old version, and you’re off and running on a whole new child!  Or, to state it more accurately in terms of how it feels, the two-year-old is replaced with the twenty-six year old version!

The "Men in Black" Christmas Card
The “Men in Black” Christmas Card

One great thing is that I still get glimpses of those earlier children in their new, larger bodies.  Every now and then, one of them will smile or laugh a certain way or turn their head at a certain angle, and there is the three-year-old version of themselves peeking out from behind their eyes or the six-year-old version looking worried and serious.  Same look, new source of worry!

Here’s to all the different versions of my children, in all their glory, including those little people who are hiding somewhere (maybe they will come back as grandchildren?) but especially these wonderful and strange grown-ups now inhabiting my world and saying they came from me and Tom!

Lizzie's Wedding!
Lizzie’s Wedding!