Just Before The Fall

Filed in Gather Family Essential by on November 7, 2008 0 Comments

There are certain indignities that accompany getting old. At eighty-two there are things that turn the whole damned process into an odd array of little miseries.

You've been doing just fine, maybe a little drifty, or odd on occasion. But, you're entitled. You're an old lady! Extended naps come at the oddest times of day. Dreams kinda mingle with the good book you've been rereading for the umpteenth time.

Glad you've annotated them all. Volumes worth over the years! Kinda adds to the entertainment. Although, you've got to admit, you keep surprising yourself. You no longer agree with some of your oldest views and it feels like they've changed over night. Wish now you'd been more objective? Who knows which kid will inherit this particular tryst?

It's January in southern San Joaquin, California.

Every year when the desert winds blow, it gets cold in this quaint 1930's bungalow, particularly this winter. Just stays kind of chilly.

You want to keep the heat turned down to an affordable level and they say it might help to reduce green house emissions. You haven't given up caring about everything.

Maybe the new gas wall furnace isn't so great. It was the cheaper installation but it's only had one, mild winter on it. In Kern county!

Oh, Hell's Bells! You grew up in U.P. Michigan in the 20's and 30's for crying out loud!

Pull on an extra layer! Including the red polar fleece hat you splurged on from Eddie Bauer last year. Hey, Whoopi wore one to bed. Besides, you never planned on a Caribbean cruise. This is a tired woman's retirement. Pamper yourself and stay tucked in.

Mornings still start pretty early. Reveille sounds around 5:30 or 6:00. Of course, when it's time to move the bones these days, the motivational force is usually the damned bedding requirements.

Some mornings you can avoid having to change all of it, so you get up quick, take care of business, and feel like you've been given the day off.  

Or, things are wet, so you strip it all, dump it into the rollator, totter it out to nuke a cup of Joe, read the morning paper and start the laundry.

Your little blue Cadillac with the basket, hand brakes, and seat (for when you gotta sit), is most often your choice. You still use the pretty cane as well. The one your New York son-in- law got your last trip back to see the eastern portion of your tribe. Mick, Mark, Melody, Pete and their kids. When was that? Two. Three years ago?

Oh. Mustn't forget to plug the cell phone in. Even just looking at the time throughout the night seems to wear down the batteries.

Let's see. Where's the plug. Ok.

What?! How'd it get to be 4:30 already? AM or PM? This time of year it's rather hard to tell.


It's a handy little device. Not so many teeny, weenie buttons. And it plays a forty's bit when you turn it on to check the time. I've got good kids. It's still brand new, a gift from Mickey.  Not entirely sure how to scroll for the numbers that Matthew programmed in. Better read the manual again.

This little rig may be a replacement for the alarm system that I neglect to carry the device for. You'd think I'd know better, but, if I wear the button for the alarm system around my neck, it swings back and forth in front of me while I'm using the walker. It makes it terribly hard to focus on walking carefully.  I still pay for the system monthly and it's been serviced recently. I've needed to use it only once, a few years ago, when I fell and couldn't get back up.

At least I know it works!  

This evening I don't think I need the rollator. I feel pretty good; grab the cane.

If I get moving there's still enough outside light to get a Healthy Choice into the microwave with out having to toddle about to turn on a bunch of lights.

Phone's plugged in right? Ok. Here we go.

Thank God for Healthy Choice. They're a well – balanced meal. Tasty, and just the right portion. Best of all, you don't have to cook! Or wash dishes! Standing at the counter, trying to cook is not only for the birds but also hard to do. This way I can slide the finished meal right out of the microwave along the counter to my roost near the "Oh My God" stack.  

My organized stackery usually consists of a few carefully selected, annual donation requests from various shameless beggars (tee hee, I'm bad!), lot's of New Yorkers, and equally large stack of National Geo's, Time, and mail order catalogs.
I've been known to indulge in those seasonally. Harry and David's is great for Christmas time, although I'm always afraid people might be offended. Expecting more. This is the first year I didn't send Christmas cards. I feel bad about that. I got so many nice ones.

Today, I got The Chilkat Valley News, my favorite, next to the New Yorker.

It reminds me of the little newspaper we owned in Sandy, Oregon back in the fifties.
Not bad writing. Fairly innocuous reporting which you have to produce in a town of 1,800 or so people.  

The CVN covers every thing in town from the police report and Duly Noted, to borough government meetings and all of the community events. Especially hot news are the school's and library events. Small town stuff oddly refreshing these days. Sometimes it's out right hysterical what makes the news.

I also get to read good things in the paper about my grandkids from Alaska. Not quite as often now that they're out of school. But its still good weekly entertainment. Adrian says I know more about the people in her community than she does.

So, what day is it?

Sylvia from A Careful Touch comes on Thursdays for the grocery order.

Is that tomorrow? Well, even if it isn't when I pull out tonight's menu selection I'd better take inventory. Try to stay a week ahead. God forbid! That's a lot of Country Herb Chicken.

Lean Cuisine's Salmon w/ Basil is not too bad either. Nor the Turkey Tettrazini, though that's really more lunch sized.

They're kinda spendy but this is what your savings are for. What the hell!

You're done traveling to all parts of the continent to see the kids and grandkids that aren't here in Bakersfield. Did those historical research treks cross continent.

Got the house in pretty good repair.

Gave up driving a couple of years ago. My sense of responsibility: global warming and the damned SUV's which scare the hell out of a little old lady, so no car expenditures to worry about.

It's not a bad retirement from the Kern County Welfare Dept. Good health insurance that you haven't had to use much yet but it's good that it will be there if you do.

A fairly adequate monthly income plus social security provided for all of the kiteing around you did after retirement and the hundreds spent on rounding out your library. But you've also nickel-ed away enough that if you outlive your plan, god forbid, an assisted living facility won't strap the kids.

Twenty-one years as a social worker. Thank God you loved people!

It got rough towards the end with Ronnie Baby in the White House, the so and so. As California's governor he made our jobs nearly impossible. I get mad all over again just thinking about it. He slashed and cut so severely that entire programs and thousands of people were left destitute, on the streets. I remember falling asleep nightly at the end of the kitchen counter while the kids finished their homework, trying not to mumble worries about clients in my sleep.

But, it was a good job and it allowed me to finish raiseing the five remaining kids and pay for this house, on my own. Their father said this would be an exercise in futility. Wrong thing to say!

We sure as hell weren't rich by any means. I remember the look on Adrian's face when I told her we'd probably be better off financially if I stayed home and collected welfare. I was angry.

Quite frankly, I would have gone crazy! I had a college education and I loved my job and the people I was helping. Mothers, with out educations or handicapped in other ways. So many reasons how at that point in their lives they needed lots of help to put things in order. Still to this day, I hear from some of them. Or, their kids.

I passed up the better paying supervisor positions several times so I could stay out in the field. Later, my job was helping to open the new Jamison Center for the kids who needed protective services.

Of course my own children were latch key kids, risky business. But we were resourceful. We survived.

Ooh! It's kinda dark.

I'll switch on the lamp when I get over there to zap dinner.

You should have brought the rollator from the bedroom. The left leg just doesn't respond the way it used too after that TIA a couple of years ago.

I was demonstrating how the Yokats wove their baskets at the Kern County museum when it happened. There were about eighty, fourth and fifth graders and I know I scarred them for life by becoming a puddle on the floor in front of them.

Scared every body. Damnedest thing. I couldn't get up! By the afternoon it had worn off but that was pretty much it for the top volunteer docent of the previous six years. Not only frightening. Embarrassing!

Oh Well.

Now this is the hard maneuver. Talk about scary.  Let's see.  

If I hold on to the counter with one hand… and reach way up to the freezer… and tug… really… hard.  Dammit!  

Ok.  Pull, Thursa!   Humpff.  

Well…   Ok then.   

Ooo… Two hands.  Reach. Now!  This- damn- – thing– will– not— bud…

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