On Dunkin Donuts and aging…

“You look better now than you will ever look again,” says a female author in an NPR interview with Terry Gross.  I’m in the car, listening to an audio book on writing.  Leaning into the rear-view mirror, I consider the lines on either side of my mouth, the dark circles under my eyes, the way my hair has its own say and think, “This does not bode well.”

I get it though.  Most of us look at last year’s photos and unless they were taken while we were falling out of bed, hung-over…we can appreciate how ‘good’ we used to look.

This reflection began earlier in the evening while at the local Dunkin Donut drive-thru.  The barista is getting my change.  He’s barely sixteen and is cute in a way he will never be cute again.  I say, “May I have my receipt please?”  He lifts his head out of the register and turns toward me.  His face is a deep shade of red and his eyes bulge like balloons about to pop.

“Did you just ask me if I was single?” he stutters as I reach for my change.  Our fingers brush and we both jump back as if splashed with cooties.  The coins fall to the pavement.  “Receipt, receipt,” I say.  Then, “Just keep it!”

All the way to my appointment, between spits of laughter, I try to imagine what he was thinking … what he is probably telling his friends.  My face colors, but it is as much from attacks of the giggles as from any embarrassment.

At sixteen, I too worked at Dunkin Donuts.  Back then, the uniforms were not comfortable t-shirts and jeans.  Girls wore hairnets and uniforms – short, pink dresses.  Many an older man would order donuts from the top tray of the window case, enjoying the necessary stretch of the waitress, as much as any jelly stick or glazed.  We girls scoffed at their behavior, these men gross and ancient, though they were probably younger than I am now.

Like most sixteen year olds, I yearned for the future, couldn’t wait to grow up.  I tried to imagine being forty-three years old when the world spun into the 2000’s.  My friends and I figured it would be like the Jetson’s – life in outer space, phones with viewing windows, robots to pour our wine.  We couldn’t envision it except through cartoons or Stanley Kubrick.

Now, the year 2000 has come and gone.  I will be fifty-six in a few months.  I eat well, exercise and most days, feel pretty good.  I suppose I am “grown up”.  Forty-three sounds young to me now.

And most days, I do not mind my aging.  Yet when I think of that young barista, how he thought I was hoping he was single … I start to laugh all over again, and I laugh so hard, I cry.

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Sleepover at Nonie’s

I am dreaming of salty air and sand, a playful surf, purple sunsets.  A hesitant poke in the eye and my six year old granddaughter stands beside me.  She looks nothing like the daring doll who built and destroyed rock piles out back all day or the little girl who made up nonsense rules in game after game of Upwords.

Now, tears smudge her cheeks.  Her hive of hair buzzes in all directions.  She looks as frayed as Jake, the teddy bear she clings to with one hand.  Jake was once her father’s go-to boy (and for a short time, his go-to girl, Jessica) and wears the love – one button eye, most of his mouth missing, threadbare where my son used to rub his thumb.

In her other hand is the book she brought to read to me.  All day she had reasons why we couldn’t quietly sit and share the story.  Now, at 2 am her breath hitches as she gestures the book toward sleepy me.

These are the moments grandmothers live for.  Tomorrow does not matter – work or meetings or schedules mean nothing next to this little girl who looks as if her life depends upon me lifting the covers and inviting her in.

She climbs up beside me and for the first time all day, wants me (really wants me) to hold her, to reassure her how much she is loved.  Her head finds the giving place on my chest.  This same spot where a little boy once laid his head and like that, my granddaughter melts into the embrace of my body.  Her back warms my belly and I inhale her sweet sleep-scent.

Closing my eyes, I desperately want to burn this perfect image in – knowing when I am old, unsure of so many things … this is one of the moments I will want to conjure, to help me remember who I am.

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Saturday morning and nothing to do…

It’s Saturday morning and this day has been X’d-out on my calendar for weeks – no place to go, nothing that must be done!  I’ve been guarding this day like my own radiant rainbow.  No alarm clock wakes me and I pour my first cup of coffee to a sunny spring day, then walk outside with the dog to enjoy it.

She heads around to the front gardens and I follow her, my thoughts as random as the ‘rows’ of columbine I stop to admire.  And beside these exotic blooms, the garlic chives look more robust than ever.

I pinch a bulb from the end of one stem, then bring it close to savor the scent.  And though my Italian mother would wrinkle her nose when a recipe called for garlic, it is easy to conjure memories of her within the swirl of its pungent aroma.

Even as I walk by the fragile and fragrant lily of the valley, Mom stands there reminding me to add a pinch of sugar to the tomato sauce, telling me to fix my hair “it looks like hell”, protecting me from my childhood night demons … loving me the best way she knew how.

And now, I have brought the bulb inside with me and again, breathe deeply.  The scent is still there, though not as striking.

There are things I wish my mother and I had been able to talk about, disagreements we never resolved.  At the time, they seemed as overwhelming as the smell of garlic chives and now … are difficult to recall.

And here is a link to an excellent article about senior home care costs and options – http://money.cnn.com/2013/05/01/pf/home-care.moneymag/index.html

 Mom, Nonie (her mother), Aunt Laura (her sister) - Looks like they've just been caught doing something they shouldn't have been doing!
Mom, Nonie (her mother), Aunt Laura (her sister) –
Looks like they’ve just been caught doing something they shouldn’t have been doing!  Love this shot…hate the wallpaper!

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What you may need to know…

As I write this, 2 friends have elderly parents in the hospital.  As well, another friend just lost her mother-in-law and another lost her father (who was also a good friend) – both, after in and out hospital stays.  My friend, Judy (who has commented on this blog several times) has been visiting her mother who was in the hospital and is now in rehab after a fall and is preparing for her eventual return home.

Last week, I read an extremely disturbing article from CT Watchdog (www.ctwatchdog.com) regarding Medicare, hospital stays and step-down care (short-term nursing home rehab and homecare).  You can (and should) read the entire May 3rd article at: http://ctwatchdog.com/health/ct-seniors-sue-medicare-to-close-nursing-home-coverage-gap

Basically, it states that hospitals can apply an ‘observation’ status rather than an ‘inpatient’ status to a hospital stay.  It is unclear what determines this ranking, but it is a critical distinction with regard to aftercare and associated costs.

If your loved one’s condition is designated ‘observation’, Medicare still pays a portion of the hospital charges, but will not cover after-care (regardless if your stay was 3 nights or more…the previous criteria).  My understanding was Medicare would pay for after-care (up to a certain limit) as long as you were in the hospital at least 3 overnights.

Again, it is unclear how or why an ‘observation’ label may be applied, but it is a distinction you need to question and understand, as more seniors are falling into this observation hole.  As if it wasn’t already difficult…Be well!

<< Hospitals are not required to tell patients when they are in observation and that they may face extra costs, Medicare officials have said.  And all too often, observation services are hard to distinguish from inpatient care, said Toby Edelman, senior policy attorney at the advocacy center. >>

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A special occasion

At this time of year we start to sort through our heavy sweaters and wool socks to make way for tank tops and sandals.  This morning, while combing my closet I found two items with price tags still attached.  Both were quite nice, quite pricey and I wondered why they had not yet been worn.

At a library sale recently, I purchased a book entitled, ‘Simple Abundance – A Daybook of Comfort and Joy’ by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  Each day of the month speaks to creating a manageable lifestyle while living our lives with grace…something too many of us struggle with.

March 26 – The Unspoken Language of Authenticity
“To choose what clothes to wear each day is to define and describe who we are and how we are feeling,” says Alison Lurie.  It goes on to say how we announce ourselves daily through the clothing we wear.  Makes sense.

In my closet, I have ‘poet/teacher clothes’ (batik prints, flowing skirts, ‘hippie’ styles, lots of deep purple and black) and my everyday clothes (loose, comfortable t-shirts, hoodies, jeans, baggy fits, no heels, no cleavage).  To see me coming, you generally know where I am going.

Now, back to the two pricey-tagged items in my closet.  I do not recall purchasing them and given some thought, had probably been saving them for a ‘special occasion’.  A lot of money was spent on both tops and yet they were hanging in my closet so long, I don’t remember them.

My mother used to do this all the time.  She loved to go shopping (at Kohls…grrrr).  Not that she needed much or had a lot of money to spend, but she enjoyed the outing (usually complete with a stop at Dunkin Donuts) and would sometimes buy something for herself.

Over the years, I’d find clothing in her drawers or closet with tags still on and she’d say, “Oh, that’s too pretty to wear.”  Or, “I don’t want it.  You take it.”  Looking back, it makes me sad to think she didn’t believe herself special enough, didn’t recognize how beautiful she was, how much she meant to so many.  It is sad to know she would bypass the pretty, new sweater for a second-hand natty sweatshirt, complete with appliquéd cat (she hated cats).

And when she died, many of those new clothes were still unworn, still being saved for that special occasion.  Right?  What a revealing example of how she thought about herself.

I want to stand in front of my closet and breathe, “Yes!”  Close my eyes and choose without hesitation.  Not wait for the ‘right’ day to wear a shirt that makes me feel lovely or shoes that make me dance.  To live life as if each day was a special occasion…

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Vmail from hell

So, Kohl’s is after Mom again.  Recently, on our CT vmail, there were several disconnects and then finally a message, unlike any I’ve ever received.  It went something like this-

We are calling for Marigia Thomas.

If you are not Marigia Thomas, please hang up and call us back at 800… (sure thing)

If you are Marigia Thomas, please listen to the following message.  I will give you 3 seconds before continuing, so that you may hang up if you are not Marigia Thomas.

By continuing to listen, you are confirming you are Marigia Thomas.  You shouldn’t listen to this message if you are not Marigia Thomas, because it contains information of a personal nature.  (that should stop anyone who hasn’t already hung up)

Please hang up if you are not Marigia Thomas.  I will give you 3 seconds before continuing, so that you may hang up…

I kid you not!  What a dumb message, but … how could I not call back?  It was just begging for a call-back.

After waiting on hold for about 15 minutes, I identified myself to the representative (should have lied and said I was my mother) and asked what this was about.  Of course, she couldn’t give me any information, since this was a sensitive matter and she could only talk to Marigia Thomas.  At that point I told her my mother had passed away and if this was about her Kohl’s account, they were not getting anymore money from me/her or anymore phone calls returned!!

She hesitated long enough for me to know Kohls was a good guess.  She then wanted to update my mother’s account with a copy of the death certificate and my POA paperwork, along with a current address ( here we go again, read https://hereisakiss.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/paying-up/ ).  A current address????

Let me set the phone down and I’ll be right back…

On another note … Thanks to ‘A Place for Mom’ for this comprehensive list of essential documents we should have for those we care for (or in my family’s case, before we start to care for them).  And we should all consider putting this information together for our own children to have stored away about us):  http://www.aplaceformom.com/senior-care-resources/articles/essential-documents


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1 year ago…

It has been 1 year today that Mom’s been gone.  Accidentally (or not), this morning I was trying to find a saved vmail on my cell phone and there she was.  I was stunned to hear her gritty voice telling me about the weather, about her breakfast and how I didn’t need to call her every day.  I remember saving the message because she ended it with a long pause and then … “I love you” (something she seldom said unless it was said to her first).

For weeks after my mother died, I dreamed about her each night.  And finally, a dream where she was in bed with my father and it was early, early morning.  She wanted to get up and I wanted her to sleep “just a little longer, please”… the way you might want a young child to sleep in on a Saturday morning and give you a bit of time to yourself.  My dad leaned over and said to me, “Don’t worry, I’ll keep my eye on her.”

And all around her was broken glass.  I freaked out that she would cut herself and kept trying to brush it away.  Then I woke up.

The dream was upsetting, so I looked up ‘broken glass’ in a dream interpretation book.  It represents transition or transformation.  Hers?  Mine?  I believe it indicated transition for both of us, that she and my dad are together and I can stop worrying about her.  And at random moments like this morning, she will reach out to let me know she loves me.

I played the vmail several times, then resaved it.  She is missed…

Love it

Love you both!

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