THE ODD OLD COUPLE NEXT DOOR TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER DURING COVID

Have you gotten an appointment for our COVID shots?” asked the Odd Old Man Next Door of his wife.

The OOMND was in no hurry for the vaccinations, but he figured if he didn’t remind his wife, she’d forget entirely.

            The Odd Old Woman Next Door has spaced on the date, but fortunately she’d signed them both up weeks before with their health care provider. “Right as usual,” she answers. “I forget, but I can track it online. We were about number seven thousand, but I can look it up.”

            Shot day arrives, and they set off for the appointment. She’s not looking forward to this, for she remembers a car trip months ago when they wandered around in circles for hours near the city amphitheater, looking for the entry currently hidden by construction zones.

            “Now what in the hell, which way are we allowed to go here?” he’d said as they passed sign after warning sign. Of detours apparently directing traffic in perpetual circles, spirals, dead ends. “God damnit,” he said as he slapped the steering wheel with both hands. ”I’ll try it anyway.”

            Several blocks later, “Which way do we want to go here?” he asked. She had no answer because she lacks even the most primitive sense of direction.

            After another eon, she finally pulled out her smart phone that she’s still learning to use and was able to direct him.

            Today on the way to the clinic, she hopes they’re not ready for a repeat performance. They drive the 30 minutes needed to get to the health facility, not the nearest because that one was too busy, and they couldn’t get in. After reasonable progress, they glide into the parking lot, don their masks, and get their shots. The nurse gives them the record of their procedures on small cards and warns them to take great care of the record. “Bring it back for your second shot.”

            A month later, the OOMND asks his wife, “Do you have your vaccination record handy?” They’re scheduled to get their second today. He has been reminding her about the record daily for a week but today kicked it up to hourly. Fortunately, she’s able to pull it from her wallet immediately.

            He drives carefully. She recalls he seems to drive more carefully by the day. At times, like today when the weather is snowy and icy, she’s glad because she’s terrified of an accident in these conditions. Other times, if they’re late and he’s hyper-careful, the minutes creep by. She’s impatient. She wants to say, turn here, just swing to the left, feeling that foundation of frustration common to wives who have always catered to their husbands, without either of the partners being aware of it.

            No, he can’t, she reminds herself, he hates left-hand turns like the plague, always has avoided them since half-century ago when he caused a massive pileup doing the same. The damage included knocking all his bottom teeth out and breaking his jaw. He’s never admitted this to her, but she guesses that’s the reason for his avoidance of left-hand turns.

            As they exit the highway for the clinic, he mutters, “I hope they’re not working on Grant Street. Well, I guess if they are, they are.” He sighs.

            She’s gotten much more patient on trips like this since she asked her granddaughter to load Kindle and solitaire on the OOWND’s smart phone. She’s tolerant nowadays because she can distract herself with those without worrying about wasting time. Change is difficult at his age, she realizes. One advantage of growing old is you just don’t care about these minor irritations the way you used to.

            As he turns into the parking lot, he says, “This should do the job for me, I think.” She agrees.

There’s A Lot Wrong Now. Can We Make Something Right?

Photo by Benjamin Disinger on Unsplash


If you’re like me, these days you’re feeling depressed, frustrated, even angry. Add helpless to the list. COVID, which is nothing more or less than an “act of God”,we can do nothing about. And despite our automatic reaction to feel entitled to better luck or different circumstances, Americans finally, faintly realize there are some things we can do nothing about, even if we don’t deserve the outcome.

Plague I can deal with. The sight of my fellows making violent war against one another in the streets and public buildings, I can’t. It casts the most dismal black cloud over my being. Those who disagree, those who can’t think rationally and kindly about themselves, our nation, and circumstances, should send themselves to time-out immediately.

Unfortunately, I know this won’t occur. The only idea I’ve been able to come up with has occurred spontaneously to some of my friends. Stimulus checks flooded the country in the spring. My husband and I decided to donate ours to organizations and groups who had been the most impacted by dismal economics. Strange to say, we both came up with the idea separately, then suggested the action to one another. Since then, I’ve learned a number of my connections have leaked that they did the same thing.

Now we’re to get more money we haven’t earned and don’t need, at least don’t need nearly as much as folks like food service workers, independent contractors, housecleaners, child care providers, and many others. So, yes, again we’ll donate these funds. It makes me feel the tiniest bit better, an infinitesimal iota hopeful.

Charities are changing their focus and the way they determine priorities. These days people need more direct services, and if a philanthropy is sensitive at all, it’s concentrating more on these. My private wish is for individuals to open their fingers, even to panhandlers on the street, many of whom didn’t ask to be there. They’re humans and don’t deserve the abuse handed them by some.

Don’t even think you don’t know how to participate. Every community has churches providing services to people in financial straits, food banks, philanthropic groups. Perhaps you have friends, relatives, or connections who are worried sick about the future. Yes, you can give to individuals and families. Wouldn’t you rather come down on the side of helping people rather than live in constant fear that you’re being cheated?

LIVES WELL LIVED, HOW DO WE MEASURE IT?

At California Polytechnic State University, students can take a class in the Psychology of Aging. Since I’m qualified if only by my increasing age to know something on the topic, I recently joined a set of older adults from Colorado affiliated with a nonprofit called Senior Planet, matched with a group of students in the class. We met online via Zoom, as so many activities are conducted now, and got to know one another over a series of three meetings, asking each other questions about lives, beliefs, and lessons we’ve learned.

My contact, Alexandra, a senior, is primarily interested in animal science, an area I know nothing about, with the exception of admiring researcher-writer-professor Temple Grandin. Her minor is psychology, which was my major in college. So we were thrown together and asked to determine what we could gain from one another. The details are probably less important than the overall findings although we discovered we have two things in common. We both are INTJ on the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator, a psychological approach to categorizing human personalities. And we both periodically suffer from what we call “rocks in our heads,” or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), which makes us extremely dizzy.

The other participants were as different as we two. So how do you measure if a life has been well-lived? As Einstein said, “Just because a thing can be counted doesn’t mean it should be counted.” You have to rely on personal opinions.

Interesting to me were the final reports. Nearly all of the older participants advised that success in life does not lie in status, money, titles, or material possessions, but in self-satisfaction, being with loved ones, and feeling a passion about something, whether that’s a cause, a hobby, an activity. Remaining curious was mentioned frequently as a good quality.

As for the students, most surprising were their previous attitudes toward older adults. I think we were running into many stereotypes and ageism: older people are boring and bored, older people are ”fragile,” a term I particularly despise, both physically and mentally; older adults have nothing to share with students. But by the end, and due to the continuing interactions, the students had reversed their opinions. Both younger and older groups felt the project had personally benefitted them.

The basis for the project was Lives Well Lived, a feature documentary film by Sky Bergman, that celebrates the incredible wit and wisdom of adults 75 to 100 years old who are living their lives to the fullest. Encompassing over 3000 years of experience, forty people shared their secrets and insights to living a meaningful life. I found the subjects of the film to be inspiring myself. During these times of mass quarantines, I’ll take as many positive outlets as I can get.

COLORADO ELECTIONS 2020 (GUIDES, ADVICE)

“I fretted myself about the mistakes of government, like other people; but finding myself every day grow more angry, and the government growing no better, I left it to mend itself.” Oliver Goldsmith

This frequently is my emotional reaction to politicians, politics, and elections. Yet can we sit idly by and not make our opinions known when we fail to vote? I know the ballots are long, the claims contradictory, and the issues confusing. But a number of resources help us to make sense of them.

One of the best known is the League of Women Voters’ bi-partisan, well-reasoned, even-handed approach. Visit https://www.vote411.org/personalized-voting-info, and you access Colorado and Denver info.

In his wisdom, Oliver Goldsmith also waxed eloquent on laws in general:
“The laws govern the poor, and the rich govern the law.”

Don’t get too depressed. From local news source the Denverite, another look at the Denver ballot issues, no candidates:
https://denverite.com/2020/10/12/how-to-put-your-part-of-this-election-behind-you-immediately-a-denverite-ballot-guide/

On the other hand, you may want some guidance about the people actually running. Here’s the Denver Post’s suggestions: https://www.denverpost.com/opinion/endorsements/

Finally, a positive note about humanity and the election process: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Oscar Wilde

Colorado Public Radio has a handy guide to nearly everything, candidates, issues, amendments. It also includes the “Blue Book” from the State Legislative Council, that attempts to evaluate the fiscal impact of measures. https://www.cpr.org/2020/10/12/vg-2020-colorado-voter-guide-november-election/

THE NEW AGE OF MOB RULE

Compare contemporary times to the French Revolution. No similarities? Think again. Mob rule held sway. It’s been estimated that over 40,000 aristos were murdered in the name of justice. We shake our heads in wonder that people were so susceptible to a reign of terror. But are we really so different in this time of pandemic?

Nowadays the gauntlet initially is thrown down by calling someone racist or accusing them of violating pandemic orders or hinting at misconduct. The mob attacks online, cheered on by the media which spreads rumors, creates straw polls to encourage people to vote on misleading, even malevolent suggestions. How many viewers are in favor of this-or-that? Who thinks such-and-such is wrong? This is known as “mob mentality.”

Consequences are mind-boggling. People have lost jobs, felt they had to resign, been driven to drop off social media, even commit suicide when they’ve done nothing wrong. Men have been dogged with sexual misconduct accusations. People get labeled “racist” when all they’ve done is make a statement or ask a question. Dueling rallies clash—pro police, anti police, whatever.

If you’re like me, you pride yourself on being an individual. You may not want to admit the influence of mass culture on you, but individualistic people are just as susceptible to mob rule as different personalities. Also strangely enough, what people claim they value or believe may be completely opposite from how they act.

We assert nowadays that everyone’s opinion is valued. In truth, we can state almost any opinion, but to gain visibility or support, we have to agree with the pronouncement of the primary advocate. Otherwise you’re threatened with exclusion or even violence. Look at the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The “pro” people pulled in lots of advocates. Then the “anti” folks stormed in on the opposite side, leading to lots of angry demonstrators, exciting visuals with battling crowds, fires, shouts and screams; along with hour after hour of newscasters just as hysterical as they shrieked blow-by-blow accounts. And, unfortunately, deaths.

Long ago, anthropologist Gustave le Bon said a crowd of demonstrators was greater than the sum of the individuals in it. It seems to have an existence, a group “consciousness.” He believed that the individuals become submerged in the crowd and lose their sense of individual responsibility under cover of the anonymity.
I find myself in the strange position of opposing these frantic, frenetic furies despite my passionate defense of individualism. They seem not infrequently to tip from mere expression to belligerent demands and attempts to control everyone else’s beliefs and behavior. I wonder if we get a secondhand high from the roiling emotions and expressions that make our blood boil and put our brain on alert. But I wish we’d give it up. Let’s step back and demonstrate our true commitment to differing opinions by welcoming everyone’s without an instant rush to judgment.