When I'm 64

When I’m 64

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now.
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine.

If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door,
Will you still need me,
will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four.

I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone.
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride.

Send me a postcard, drop me a line,
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away

Give me your answer, fill in a form
Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four.

Many people spend years developing a financial plan for their retirement. They sweat and save, worry and read articles, move their stock portfolios around some, keep track of current market conditions, and meet with financial consultants who tell them if they are on “the right track” , or not. It’s a constant topic of conversation among my baby- boomer friends, as we all start to top the hill on that long, winding road. Will I have enough money ? Which investment choices will produce the longest lasting financial gain ? How can I take care of my aging parents and put my children through college without sapping my own resources ? How do I want to finance the last quarter of my life ?

How many people, however, ever stop to think about how they will live the last quarter of their century ? Money questions aside, who ever stops to think of the many lifestyle choices available to seniors these days ?

When our grandparents were planning for retirement, they just saved all they could, and were lucky if they had a pension that outlasted the Great Depression. Women typically lived longer than men, and hoped their money lasted as long as they did. Questions of style and the meaning of one’s life rarely entered into the equation. Growing up, I had friends whose families took care of aging grandparents, moving them into the family home, where they parked themselves at a seat at the kitchen table or a comfy chair with the tv remote, and that was it. Waited around for the next meal, maybe read the paper.

My own grandfathers both died young, and my grandmothers remained pluckily independent till the very end, insisting on living in their own homes till well in their 90’s. Neither had ever learned to drive, but somehow managed to rely on the kindness of strangers and an occasional cab to get them to the grocery store, the beauty parlor, or the veterinarian for their pets . Granny Ruby was a wonderful cook till the very end, grew her own vegetables (a ”Victory Garden“ kept going long after WWII was over), and she owned a series of Siamese cats, which she carted to and from the vet visits in pillowcases (just imagine the kicking, wiggling, hissing and meow-ing.) Grandma Berta, of German descent, played bingo at the local VFW, spoke with heavily accented English, and raised parakeets. (I also had several “maiden “ aunts, Lily and Lula, who lived to well in their late 90’s in a house with over 100 cats, and about as many china figurines. When you visited them, there would be cats milling around, all over , in and out, cats sleeping in the frying pan that sat on the stove, which Lily would later use to cook dinner. Can you say politely, ”No thanks “ ?) Stylistically speaking, both Ruby and Berta both “froze” somewhere in the 1940’s, and to the end of each of their lives, even through the psychedelic 1960’s, never modernized their homes or their manner of dress. Their homes never had air conditioners or dish washers. They wore lace-up, heeled shoes and shapeless cotton print dresses in a fashion statement reminiscent of Eleanor Roosevelt, along with strange corset-like undergarments, stockings with garters, and hats.

My own mother seems to be following in her mother’s path. She did adopt the habit of wearing pants, her only nod to modernity, but has adopted the crazy sort of old "cat lady” syndrome, with too many Siamese all giving her house that certain piquant air . Like her mother, she is a good cook; however, Ruby ate a well balanced diet full of vegetables and fiber. My mom will call and tell me she is baking both cookies and a cherry pie, and she plans to eat them for breakfast. I keep attempting to stock her pantry with healthy foods, to no avail. Whenever I go visit , all the healthy groceries are mouldering on the shelf, and mom is chowing down on carrot cake or chocolate chip cookies.

As I spend more time caring for my aging parents, I think increasingly about how I want to spend my own “golden years”. Of course, there are many more options these days for those of us boomers who refuse to grow old. Even in my little town in the Midwest, there is an “active retirement community” of pricey homes for those upscale seniors who like to play golf. I don’t think that will appeal to me, however. I kind of like my modest home and plan to "age in place". I think I will use advancing senility as an excuse to release my inner self. Always worried about fitting in, I strike a much more externally conservative note than I feel , internally. I see many aging hippies around me, still wearing large swinging earrings from Brazil and Birkenstocks. They look pretty cool. There are many self -described "sweet potato queens" and "red hat " ladies clubs nearby. Modelling myself on some famous old broads, I think I would like to be one of those old ladies who dies her hair lavender or apricot, drives a Cadillac, has a tiny little purse poodle, wears lots of gold lame , leopard prints, velour jumpsuits, and flashes a lot of bling. Why not do outrageous things ? I don't care for heights, so sky diving is probably "right out", and I've never really been taken much with card games, (once got thrown out of a bunco group b/c of my remarkable ability to roll just the pair of dice I need at any particular moment ) , but I can see myself shopping, travelling to exotic locales, doing yoga, riding motorcycles, taking on lovers if my current one kicks the bucket.....What are you worried about – that you’ll die ? After all – 64 is the new 30.


The Story of a Photo

This is the photo of me that appeared in my college yearbook, my sophomore year when I was 19 years old. Many people have commented to me, over the years, about this photo - some to the point of obsession. Yet it was a haphazard, almost random pick, on my part .
My college had an informal, student-created yearbook, called The Sallyport, ( after the gateway that you pass through to enter one of the main quads on campus), organized and laid out by student editors. Students could submit any photo they wished for the yearbook section that covered them. The book was typically filled with lots of "casual" shots of people laying around the dorm in 70's clothes and bad hair, or posing on the steps, making "peace" ( in reality, cuckold) signs over each other's heads, smoking dope, dancing, making out with boy or girl friends long since gone. It just so happened that I had a gf in a photography class at the time, who had to make a certain number of portraits in B&W for a class assignment. One lovely fall day, she dragged a gaggle of us girls out into the crisp sunshine, and we all walked a few blocks nearby, into a neighborhood of stately homes and large oak trees . We took turns posing in various ways. One girl sat on a stone lion. Another stood under a tree, looking up into the branches. Yet another sat in some flowers. As we were walking along, we came across this garden gate. I hopped on, and the photo was shot.
Later, the gf gave copies of each picture she made to the person who was the subject. Most of us ended up using these poses for our informal yearbook pix that year, maybe b/c they all turned out so much better than usual. (Better quality camera? Walking outdoors relaxed us all, gave us better lighting ?) I actually had several shots to chose from, and selected this one because I liked the dense textural quality of the leaves, the bricks, the framing effect of the gate. It's as simple as that.
So there I am, frozen for all time, in a photo. People look me up, now 30+ years later, and expect me to still look like this photo. I really don't want to contemplate what some of them might have done, in private, while looking at my poor ole' little photo. Neither Time nor the River of Life stand still, my friends. Enjoy the moment for what it was, but live in the present.


The Great Blizzard of '08

Children, gather 'round, and let me tell you all about the great Denton blizzard of '08. It happened in early March, a time of year when we Texans generally start thinking about going to the beach.

The weather had been warming up for weeks, and March 1 reached a high of 80 degrees. Folks in the DFW metroplex were eating in outdoor cafes, wearing t-shirts and shorts. On March 2, Texas Independence Day, we had a light dusting of snow and got all excited about it. This fell on a Sunday, and did not impact most folks' work or school commuting schedules. The ground had already started its spring time warm up, jonquils and tulips were blooming in flowerbeds, the soil had been tilled for planting backyard vegetable gardens. It quickly melted away.

March 6 dawned like any other day. The weatherman predicted a weather system approaching from the west, but said that snow mixed with rain would not likely reach our area until dinner time or later.

By 11 am in Denton, the snow started falling. It wasn't the usual little icy pellets we normally call " snow" in Texas, but big fluffy wet flakes, the size of quarters . Down and down it floated, and started accumulating. By noon there were several inches on all the cars in the parking lots . By 12:30, the school district I teach for decided that the weather was rapidly getting worse, and schools would be closed and folks sent home. An announcement came over the PA system at the high school where I teach, and as soon as the principal said , " school will be closed", 500 students sitting in the cafeteria at lunch got up and ran out of the building. They were probably worried he'd change his mind. All the kids with cars drove off. All the kids who rode the buses were told to stay in class, but by then it was too late. They were all outside , playing in the snow. ( The old saws among us nodded to one another and said, " a whole new generation of students will be created today....")

Teachers were told to stay and maintain order, but that was about as effective as Kevin Bacon screaming "Order ! I will have order ! " in the final scenes of the movie"Animal House", where the Deltas have wreaked their havoc on the Faber Homecoming Parade, and all chaos is breaking loose. A panic soon ensued among the teachers, who were told to stay till the end of the normal school day around 4 pm, but many of whom had little children , in other schools, which were now closing. Eventually a plan was developed to send all the high schoolers who could be rounded up, into an assembly hall, to be watched by a few stalwarts, while everyone else fled the scene.

I left campus around 2:15pm. My older son left earlier with friends. My younger son was dismissed at noon, and I could not get ahold of him or the hubster to see if he had picked him up. The snow was still falling, and at this moment, was near blizzard conditions. Visibility was about 20-30 ft. Roads were packed with cars crawling along , skidding out, bumping into each other. My normal 1.5 mile commute takes me about 5 min, door-to-door. This day it took me over 45 min to get home. At one point I skidded on a patch of ice, and rolled into an embankment with 3-4 foot drifts. Fortunately, I remembered how to get out of this predicament ( put car in lower gear, and reverse, alternately, and get control of the wheels, and keep steering until one can maneuver the car again). Many others were stuck all around me, but I had to press on my journey, not knowing where my youngest son was .

Eventually, I made it safely home. Hubby arrived at about the same time, with younger son. Both my kids bundled up ( no one had worn coats to school that day ! are you kidding ? this is Texas in March ! ) and ran out to the park to play with friends. I took a few photos, seen here, then started cooking.....made a big pot of coq au vin, a salad, some fresh bread. Around dinner time, my kids came home with 8 of their friends, all hungry from having played in the snow. Fortunately, I had plenty of Swiss Miss and cookies to feed the ravaging hordes.

School, naturally was cancelled the next day. We all slept in and enjoyed our day off.

And that was the great blizzard of 2008.


Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Pesepolis is a “graphic novel”, ie comic book style novel/memoir. It is actually more memoir than novel .While the basic story line, that of a young girl growing up in Iran during the revolution of the late 1970’s, is capable of being understood by a younger reader, there is much here that only an adult would comprehend. Ms Satrapi uses wit and irony to full advantage , often making wry comments with tongue-in-cheek humor that , unless you are fully grounded in a wide spectrum of literature, art, 20th century politics, and esp, the history of communism , you will never get her jokes. But don’t let that pre-requisite deter you from enjoying this book : it is a well –written, visually dramatic , easily accessible account of family, coming of age, and political history , all mixed together, that is entirely enjoyable to read.

What does the title mean ? This is a question I always taught my English students to ask themselves. After all, authors spend a fair amount of angst selecting just the one word or phrase that emphasizes whatever particular thread they want to stand out from their work. In this case, “Persepolis” comes from an ancient Greek word for what we now call Iran (previously known as Babylon, Mesopotamia ) , specifically coined during Alexander the Great’s visit to a city of similar name, which was the capital of the ancient kingdom of the same name. Darius I made this city the capitol of his empire . So , by calling her book “Persepolis”, rather than “Iran”, the author is evoking the rich cultural history of this nation, one that has been powerful and civilized, for thousands of years. As you read the story, you will see the contrast she is drawing, with modern day conditions in her homeland, and the irony she intends in this titular choice.