Jan 182019
 

Ninety-seven-year-old Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, flipped his Land Rover on one of the family estates earlier this week. Reports say he was uninjured, but two women in a Kia sustained minor injuries. While no fault was cited in reports, MSN notes “Witnesses told the BBC Philip appeared’very shocked’ and shaken after the collision, which caused the Land Rover he was driving to overturn.”

While certainly not the top story on any media outlet in these days of Rasputin, several pundits weighed in on the question that challenges Baby Boomers. Should my aging parent continue to drive? I guarantee you my 88-year-old father and I will have a discussion about this in the next few days, and he will cite Prince Philip’s driving and his age. Never mind the Prince was likely driving with an aide in the wide-open spaces of Sandringham Estate. Never mind he was in a Land Rover. Never mind he was likely at low speed.

My father is a very active man. He lives in the town where he went to college and still participates in college activities. He is very busy in his fraternity which is about three miles from the senior center where he lives in an apartment. Last weekend his area received about seven inches of snow. His 8 a.m. Saturday morning alumni fraternity meeting was not canceled. Dad insisted on going and finangled a younger fraternity brother to pick him up.

While you may think I’m being overly critical, the whole driving thing is something I can fully understand. I have not driven at night for probably 15 years (unless there is a dire emergency, which hasn’t happened yet.) Winter is challenging because where we live on the eastern side of the Central Standard Time Zone, its pretty dark after 4 p.m. This is one of the reasons I retired early.


Dad had a stroke in his eye about two months ago. He recovered, and his eye doctor was amazed at how well he did. My brother and I didn’t want him driving as he recovered. And it wasn’t only his vision — it was his car, a 2000 Park Avenue Buick. If you are unfamiliar with the model, visit any senior center in your area and go to where the residents park their cars. I’ll buy you a cherry Coke if you don’t find at least six of the Park Avenue sedans, in beige, the color of the year. The good thing about this vehicle is that is it the size of the semi-trailers Ringling Bros formerly used to haul elephants to the circus. You can see him coming, as well as keep six sides of beef in the trunk for transport if that tickles your fancy.


Dad’s girlfriend who has a much newer Nissan small SUV (which sits up higher and make it easier to see from the wheel) was the primary driver during his incarceration from driving. He was not a happy camper.

It will be interesting to see if Prince Philip stops driving. While he has people who can drive him around, so does my father. My brother lives a mile away and takes him many places. His senior center has a bus that will take him to and from his doctor’s appointments. (Dad is not a fan because of the six dollar fee and the inconvenience of waiting.) And of course Dad’s girlfriend is happy and willing to be the driver.

Of course, I worry about Dad. But I also worry about the other guy. I don’t drive at night anymore because my night vision is terrible and I’m afraid. Fear is not the right mind-set for driving, but neither is unfounded confidence.

hen I was a child and grew up in snowy NE Indiana, we rarely missed church or a high school basketball game because of weather. My dad always drove a big Chevy sedan. No 4-wheel drive. No SUV. No special traction control. If you went into the ditch, someone pulled you out. It was a small county, and everyone knew everyone. It’s a different world now, and Dad lives in a small city where he doesn’t know everyone.

One must respect the independence driving gives my father and countless other seniors like him. AARP has outlined excellent talking points for the difficult conversation. I guess I’ll forward this along to Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

Jan 172019
 

For the past year more than half of our calls have been spam — telemarketing calls, health insurance, the service desk for a computer I don’t own, and the like. Most of the time I don’t answer the ringing phone, something as a child I could not fathom.

We are contemplating getting rid of our house phone. It’s not accurate to call it a landline; we’ve been hooked to our digital lines for at least a decade. But since I was a child, I’ve always had access to a phone, either on the wall, a countertop, and eventually, something I could stick in my pocket and carry around the house.

The first phone I remember was in my parent’s home, where we lived from 1959 to 1966. It was a black, dial telephone that hung on the wall in the kitchen. Our number was 4790. The exchange where we lived was so small that everyone had four digit numbers. My grandparents were on a party line out in the country (we lived in town, about 1,200 people). Their number was 4200. My grandfather sold farms, and I cannot imagine that his neighbors on the party line rejoiced over his constant business calls. My grandparents also had an outside ringer which you could hear from the barns, chicken house, garden, and fields nearest the house.

A study in the British Telegraph this month noted that Brits spend only half as much time using landlines as they did six years ago. The article reported that, “The demand for landline calls has dropped from 103 billion minutes in 2012 to 54 billion in 2017, while mobile call minutes increased from 132.1 billion to 148.6 billion.”

People demand instant messaging, instant answers, instant communication in the Internet age. Apparently, old style dialing of a telephone takes too long. Earlier this week, I watched a very funny video on Facebook. Two teenage boys were given a black desktop style telephone (typical to what you would see on any office desk in my early career). They were asked to demonstrate how to use it. They looked for push buttons and didn’t consider dialing the wheel. A failure of imagination, one might say. But I imagine ii someone handed me an iPhone in 1980, I would use it as a back scratcher.

Not having a landline means I will have to keep my cell phone with me wherever I go in our home. Until the batteries started dying in our home phones, we had them all over the house. Rather than replace the batteries or phone, we’ve just gotten rid of them, one by one.

When I was a child, talking on the phone (hiding in my parent’s bedroom, gabbing with high school friends on a one-piece plastic phone that looked like a Space Age hairdryer, was fabulous. Despite my mom’s constant interruptions to “get off the phone,” I enjoyed talking with my friends. A cell phone is not the same level of enjoyment because the coverage varies, depending on your location and the weather. This morning a friend called while driving from the west into Louisville. Having driven that route many times, I knew I would lose her as she made the big wide curve into the New Albany area. Sustaining a conversation is difficult on a cell phone. Maybe that’s why we text? I’m not sure. I’m not a fan of texting, mostly because I can’t really see the type very well.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Talking to high school friends had limitations; in my consolidated high school there were five long distance exchanges. While a close friend lived only five miles away, calling her was long distance. We may no long distance calls in our home, except for emergency or before 7 a.m. when the rates were lower. My mom often called her sister in Massachusetts for a chat at the early hour, and my dad’s sisters called him with family updates that early. Making a long distance call during the day was something reserved for holidays, when one called far-off relatives and the phone was passed around. My mom was the queen of that practice — my brother and I absolutely hated talking to people we didn’t know once a year. We felt like we were being held at gunpoint.

I am newly retired, a little more than a year now. Because my mobile phone was attached nearly 24/7 as a job requirement, I am reticent to keep it with me at all times. I figure people can catch up with me later, via phone, text, Facebook, smoke signals, and worst case scenario, they hunt me down like a dog. Our communications have become so ubiquitous that some of the joy and wonder are gone, no call is special anymore. Most are not even wanted.

So, we will dump our landline in our continued quest to streamline a retiree budget, and I’m not sure that what we’ve lost we didn’t lose a long time ago.

Sep 102018
 

The hummingbird feeder hangs empty next to feeders full of safflower seeds. In summer, the tiny birds fed for their long trek south. Now, the hummingbirds are gone.

Wiry finches bounce back and forth between three feeders. Birds coast from the outstretched arms of the trees, gliding smoothly for their respite. Bluebirds attend to mealtime as a pack, multiple plain females, and males resplendent in blue wings and orange breast-coats.

The September air holds a tiny hint of what is to come, a reminder that the seasons change whether we want them to or not.

How I will miss the hummingbirds, delicate yet ambitious, fluttering around the bright red feeder.

A male bluebird stands on the deck rail between feeders, enjoying the bounty of seeds I purposely put out. A cardinal joins him, also focused on repast, unaware the hummingbirds are gone.

The world spins, days grow shorter and colder, light disappears. The hummingbirds will return, as sure as I know my lilac bushes will bloom in April.

Walt Whitman mourned in spring,
“When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.”

In autumn, we celebrate harvest, and release nature in a blaze of glorious color. Does letting go ever feel just, in a world full of injustice? It does not, and the September chill will forever remind me of what we lost, just as Whitman mourned in spring.

The Treasures Within

The Treasures Within

July 22, 2018 — Several years ago my father paid to have all of his color slides put on disk for us.  He had taken more than 500 slides between 1955 and 1969.  I’m not sure why he stopped, except that my brother and I both had Brownie cameras by then and I suspect he […]

Father's Day Tribute 2018

Father’s Day Tribute 2018

Published in the Sunday Evansville Courier & Press – Father’s Day 2010 — On the day I was born my father bought a new ’57 pink Chevy. I want to believe the color was in honor of his first girl-baby; frankly, it probably wasn’t. My father—now almost 80—is a pragmatist and most likely bought what […]

I Have This Bridge for Sale, and It’s in Brooklyn

May 5, 2018  An original piece published on Humor Outcasts by Amy Abbott People often ask me how I spend my time now that I no longer fly on the corporate trapeze. As a dinosaur with a landline, I gab with Rachel from Card Services and “Brian” who wants to help me with my Microsoft […]

Opening Day

Opening Day

March 28, 2018 — With the annual ritual of baseball’s opening day, hope does indeed spring eternal in the human breast, to quote the poet. New fields of dreams form during spring training in Florida and Arizona where Snowbirds pray an errant ball doesn’t break the windshield of their rented van. I appreciate the anticipation […]

Filthy Pillows

Filthy Pillows

February 16, 2018 — I do stupid things.  I’ve contemplated the reasons and developed a list: Russians disguised as people from Ohio or West Virginia made me Senior Moment Hyperspeed Alien Abduction and Return Genetics Candy Crush Dependency Several days ago I realized I needed new pillows.  I like my pillows arranged just so. When […]

Descaling the Coffemaker and Other Duties as Assigned

Descaling the Coffemaker and Other Duties as Assigned

This piece was published on the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Website on February 11, 2018 The retired life is resplendent with richness and meaning. It does not, however, free one from the tasks of ordinary life. I often must rise from my red velour chaise lounge, set the peppermint bonbons and glass of sherry aside, and […]

Battle at Squirrel Vista

Battle at Squirrel Vista

January 21, 2018 The battle continues. Each side remains vigilant, fighting with weapons, creative and traditional. My objective in this daily skirmish is feeding the birds. I lack proper tactics because I don’t fully understand the enemy. I am not sure of his motives or his strategy. He frequently changes his patterns of attack.  The birds […]

The Glint in His Eye

The Glint in His Eye

January 17, 2018 When I was in my twenties, I visited my great aunt Zoe Trucia Evans at her Denver home. Aunt Zoe, my grandmother’s sister, and lifelong nemesis moved to Colorado from Indiana in the 1930s. Zoe’s husband Everett had a respiratory condition and needed the Colorado climate. Throughout their lives, the sisters quibbled […]

Bitter Cold

Bitter Cold

January 15, 2018 Do you remember the metal ice trays your parent kept in their freezer?  Do you remember the sticky touch of the metal against your skin when you pulled the lever to open the tray?That feeling of metal against skin describes precisely how our last week of cold weather feels to me. Any […]

Winter Nights in the Recliners

Winter Nights in the Recliners

January 3, 2018 — My retirement vision hasn’t quite met reality yet. In my apparition, I’m reading a leather-bound volume of “War and Peace.” I’m writing handwritten epistles to friends with a crystal nib and brown ink from Siena, Italy.  I’m taking long baths, getting frequent facials, and walking briskly in the mall at 8:30 a.m. […]

My Constipated Cat

My Constipated Cat

Written January 2016, published January 2, 2018 — I am buying Metamucil for our cat as instructed by our veterinarian. Fala, our aging Tom, has gastrointestinal distress. I’m hiding behind the magazines in the drugstore line, like the pimply-faced teenage hero of “Summer of 42.” I’m stacking random items, a greeting card, razors, gum, and toothpaste, […]

The Struggle to Assemble a New Vacuum

The Struggle to Assemble a New Vacuum

December 23, 2017 Our housekeeper, who is 82 and has been with our family for 25 years, is here today (Friday). We’re both pretty afraid of her (and you would be, too). We love her to pieces, but she has strong opinions that we consider, or she will not be happy. We want her to […]

Rejected Holiday Television Specials

December 13, 2017,  — Twice ousted Judge Roy Moore’s Sweet Home Alabama Christmas Special, featuring the Young Girl’s Chorale of Opp, Alabama sings “Carol of the Children.” Also starring the grown-up Cosby Kids, dancing with life-sized, animated Jello pudding pops. The Ancestry.com Holiday Program showcases a family uncovering why cousin Eddie doesn’t look like Grandpa […]

Memories of W and Ds

Memories of W and Ds

There was only one real Santa Claus.  He used the pseudonym Phil Steigerwald, but we all knew he was the only Kris Kringle.  He had the roundest, kindest face you’ve ever seen, and welcomed you to his red-covered chair in the middle of Wolf and Dessauer’s Department Store in Fort Wayne, Indiana. His beard was […]

Fear Itself

Fear Itself

November 18, 2017 — As a child, I feared a tornado could pick up our tiny  house and send us into the ether, like in “The Wizard of Oz.” The house had neither a basement or a crawlspace. My fears grew after the 1965  Palm Sunday tornado. Our town wasn’t in the path of the multi-funnel […]

Tit for Tat

Tit for Tat

November 17, 2017,  Three points on the national discussion about sexually inappropriate behavior. OUR PARTY AT ALL COSTS.  Roy Moore could make love to a sheep on the roof of the Truman Balcony and some Republicans would defend him.  POTUS once said he could shoot people on Fifth Avenue and he would still be loved. […]

Nana and Her Smart Phone Are Digging the Scene

Nana and Her Smart Phone Are Digging the Scene

REFLECTIONS November 2017 The Raven Lunatic  Senior Wire News Service — I rarely, rarely comment on our son’s posts. Okay, I break that rule all the time. Last night our son went to see Apocalyptica in Washington, D.C., so I commented on the picture he posted. Do I know Apocalyptica from a hole in the ground? […]