My 70th Year – Boomsday 2014

Being in my 70th year I can tell you that my balance is not always tip-top and I find myself thinking more often about where I place my feet. The fear of falling is a very real fear for older people. Lose of mobility is a big deal. But a fall doesn’t always spell disaster. Thank goodness.

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Knoxville is home for the largest Labor Day fireworks display in the United States. A friend invited me this year to watch the excitement from her condo close to the Henley Street Bridge. It is a lovely place with a backyard ending at the edge of a hill that drops to the riverwalk.

It was still early, not yet twilight, and people sat in lawn chairs talking while the youngsters  played. Jodie brought out Boxie, their 15-year-old miniature Schnauzer, for a walk before the fireworks began. I thought I would help out by walking the dog so Jodie could visit with her guests.

Although Boxie is legally blind she realized that someone else had her and after about fourIMG_9859-001 steps she started to resist and pull back on the leash. I was afraid she would slip her collar and became very concerned because I know that Jodie loves God, her family, the UT Vols and Boxie, not necessarily in that order.

So I turned, bending down to grab Boxie and the next I knew we were rolling, over and over, down the hill.  A large post in the ground about half way down stopped our fall. Boxie was above my head and I still held the leash. Unhurt but trying to figure out exactly what had happened I lay there.  In seconds some of the guys from the party came down to check me out. I told them just to make sure that Boxie got to Jodie and that I thought I was fine. One was an EMT and he scrutinized me for broken bones before letting me sit and then stand up. Miraculously I was ok, with only a cut on an elbow.

Embarrassment set in when I realized people down on the riverwalk witnessed the fall. At the same time  two policemen and other rescue people came racing up the hill. I assured them there was no real damage to me and with the help of my heroes  from the photo 2party I got back up the hill. After receiving first aid on my cut I went to get a report on Boxie who hadn’t suffered any outward wounds.

Other guests couldn’t believe I hadn’t broken a bone and when you consider my age I was very fortunate. I mostly couldn’t believe that I  slid on my stomach and then rolled. My t-shirt make it look like I dove into third base. One of the young guests took a look at the mud streaked front and said, “You look like you have been doing art.”

The sun went down and the fireworks display went off with many oohs and ahhs. I sat there, replaying my spill in my mind, shaking my head, and giggling to myself.      IMG_2871

Giving Faces to the Forgotten

Last week the Homeless Persons’ Memorial was held in Knoxville. It is a national day of observance held around the time of the winter solstice. Those locally who died under a viaduct or in an abandoned building during the year are honored this night. There were twenty in 2014. Each time I attend the service, it touches my soul.

St. John’s Lutheran Church seems the perfect place to gather in meditation and remembrance. With its small sanctuary, the atmosphere is welcoming and comfortable. Dark wood pews and stain glass windows combine with the lighted Christmas trees and candles to create a feeling of  hominess.

The service is plain. Charles Mead speaks on Hope after a prayer and some hymns. Then comes the Reading of the Names and for each a bell chimes. A friend or relative or case worker then carries a lit candle to the front of the altar in honor of that person.

Some speak of the people being honored.  “I’ll miss her smile.”  “Sure loved her little dog.” “A great big hulk of a man.” “He was a sweetheart.”  These are heartfelt sentiments spoken by friends about their friends. They  help erase anonymity from these who died without an address to their names. They give personality to these people of the streets.

In 2013 Robin (Scrappy) Wyrick eulogized his friend Terel (T-Bone) Brogdon whom he met on the streets 36 months before “T-Bone told me. He said, ‘You can do it. You can fight this. You can get back to your family.’ “And, through the grace of God, I did beat my addictions and I am back,“ Brogdon said in a voice filled with emotion. Eyes lifted he ended simply, “Thank you T-Bone.”

Often those attending offer poems. or prayers. Below are excerpts from a poem by Samuel Branson in the 2014 program:

The Can Man, Can!
“I can’t cross the road here and I can go in there.
Yes, this is a city park, but there is not loitering here!
I have got my pen and a few scraps of paper
But it is my mind I fear is about to tapper!

Dear God, I pray, out loud so no one will hear
Don’t let me give up like some of the rest,
Asleep in an alley or under a bridge at best.
Just for today, just for today!!! Leave my pride in tact
And I thank you Dear Lord for each Kind Act!
Like the man at the shelter who washed that smell from my clothes
And for the church with opened doors that welcomed me in
so I could worship you Lord.
With each blessing that comes my way, like all those cans that were
thrown away.
I thank you God for yet another day.”

Since writing this Mr. Branson has secured housing.

At the end of the service I go to one of the women who carried a lit candle for a friend. I express my regrets for her loss and we hug, my sister and I.

My 70th Year – Post 1

On July 4, 2014, I began my 70th year of life. It is December now. What have I been doing with my time? That is a more difficult question than it seems.

I can’t tell you what I had for breakfast yesterday, where my car keys are, or what it is I am suppose to do this Wednesday. Some, mostly the very young, will find this forgetfulness an oddity, as I can remember the words to Pinky Lee’s theme song and what I named kittens born in 1956. I do notice people in their forties having the same problem. While their forgetfulness is caused by busy lives involving work, children and relationships, mine can definitely be traced to an old brain.

No serious deterioration yet and hopefully there never will be. I look at it in the same way my hearing was explained after an auditory test. The results showed that I was not getting hard of hearing, but rather that what was said to me was not getting processed by my brain as quickly as in younger years.

Great help. I still say “Huh?” which produces the same effect, people speak louder and pro-nounce as dis-tiNCt-ly as possible.

Next my eyes jump on the bandwagon by developing two conditions caused by aging. After 54 years of wearing contact lenses, these are replaced by progressive glasses. I loved my contact lens and I really would like to whine about having to wear glasses. I am constantly pushing them back on my nose, trying not to fixate on the bridge portion of the frame which is always in my sight. They seem to need a lot of cleaning, or is that just floaters I am seeing?

Joint aches and pains must be the most common, constant and controlling issue of an aging body. At least I am not alone. A gathering of friends entails grunts and groans as we sit or stand. Time is devoted to talking about ailments, but we still follow our rule: No discussion of bowel movements. That is to be saved for the nursing home.

Most phases of life–childhood, marriage, career, parenting, empty nest, retirement–had beginnings and ends.  Few of us can even pinpoint when our aging process started, although the need for reading glasses after the age of 40 is a tell.  After that it is a toss of the coin, God’s choice, or how much yoga you practice as to what hits you before that last breath.

Knowing that state of the mind is important, I accept aging as a matter of fact most days. Then someone’s innocent remark about it being 50 years since our high school graduation sends me flying to the mirror. As I study my face with its wrinkles and neck sags, I am in disbelief. I look old or older than I imagine myself to be. The way I look is not about vanity as much as what others see when they look at me. I want to cry out and say I am the same as always, don’t look at me differently.

My thoughts are on the future, sex, and fashion along with everything else that has been on my mind throughout the years. Would that surprise young people? I sure couldn’t imagine my grandmother thinking of anything beyond cooking and her television shows when I was a teen.

I use to think life would get easier with age; that it would be quieter and less complicated. Instead each day still has the ability to surprise, challenge and change me. If I am smart I will be open and feel and experience what every day brings. Watch out world! Carpe diem, indeed.

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