Advice for Future Corpses

”We walk around with a blinkered, partial denial of death. Yes, we will die, but not now, not here. This dissonance is strong and strange – to absolutely know this will happen, and against all evidence to the contrary, to absolutely not know.”

The woman who wrote those words, Sallie Tisdale, is well-known as an award-winning author of nine books. She is also an essayist, a nurse, a teacher and a Buddhist practitioner with a decade of working in palliative care.

AdviceForFutureCorpsesCover_Her most recent book, Advice for Future Corpses and Those Who Love Them is subtitled, “A Practical Perspection on Death and Dying.” I prefer to call it a user manual for dying, and it's about damned time we had one.

You would think that a subject so big, so taboo in certain circles, so frightening and fraught would need a doorstop-sized book. But not in Tisdale's hands.

These 240 pages cover a remarkable amount of territory from a discussion of what a good death may or may not be, what to expect in the last months, weeks, days and hours of life, advice on caregiving during end of life and a lot of smart, information for every step along the way.

When asked, most of us say we want to die quietly at home in our sleep. Few of us do and Tisdale gives us another perspective to consider:

The fantasy of a quiet leave-taking in complete control is, for the most part, just that: A fantasy. Our ideals about the so-called good death are constricting. Death is not something at which we succeed or fail, something to achieve. Life and death are not possessions...

“We die in breathtaking solitude. The value of a death doesn't depend on what anyone else thinks about it. My death belongs only to me; its value is known only by me.”

Tisdale, who has accompanied many people during their dying, advises us on how to think about our own deaths:

”I want to meet death with curiosity and willingness. What do you want to do? Do you want to meet death with devotion, love, a sense of adventure, or do you want to rage against the failing light? Cultivate those qualities now. Master them...

“When I find myself in a new situation, when I'm scared, I try to feel curiosity even in the middle of fear...If I experience curiosity in the midst of fear often enough, it will be there when I need it most.”

And then, she pulls no punches about what to be prepared for at the end:

”As peaceful as the dying body can seem, would we be surprised to discover this is a time of great chaos? We are undone. Consciousness is no longer grounded in the body; perception and sensation are unraveling.

“The entire braid of the self is coming unwound in a rush. One's point of view must change dramatically. Being comfortable with surprise allows us to meet the unexpected, both in events and with ourselves.

“This curiosity will serve us well when there is nothing else to be done.”

There is a terrific chapter for visitors and caregivers on communication – what not to say to a dying loved one, but also what to say and how to say it. If he or she is hungry, for example:

”Do they want to eat something? If so, be clear. Vanilla or chocolate ice cream? is easier to answer than Is there anything you want to eat?

As to that dying at home stuff that rarely happens, Tisdale explains that good hospitals these days can sometimes be better than home and she knows this because, she says, “I've been the nurse in rooms like this – and I always knock before I enter.”

”While you're getting ready to kick the bucket and head for room temperature, we'll tell jokes if you like. When you're about to check into the Motel Deep 6, the coffeepot will be fresh and the muffins full of butter.

“All of this is possible, but a lot of it happens because you insist. Because you and I and all the rest of us insist that there be enough chairs for everyone, that the curtains will close tightly when you want to sleep, and the room will smell fresh and sweet.

“And you will be comfortable, because in the good hospital your pain medication comes on time and the nurse who brings it knows how to read dying, knows what's to be expected and what can be fixed and what can't.

“In the good hospital, strong hands will clean you up when you can't make to the toilet any longer and no one will make a face or say things that are better not said as you shuffle off the mortal coil.

“What a wonderful turn of phrase that is. When you're ready for your dirt nap and you've bought your one-way ticket, the nurses will take their time. They won't rush.

“They will come in quietly and wash you carefully and brush your hair and clean up and slip away again.”

Tisdale also takes readers through the necessary particulars of death and dying from the biology of it, end-of-life document samples, assisted death which is legal in six states, several European countries, Canada and Australia.

She also covers organ and tissue donation and the growing number of new kinds of burial. She does all this with honesty, humor, compassion and understanding.

It's a tough subject but she even touches on something I came to know – if only for the flash of a moment or two - during my treatment last year for pancreatic cancer:

”At some point, most of us shift from realizing that sooner or later some future self will die to realizing that this very self, me, precious and irreplaceable me, will die.

“It's a terrible thing to grasp and though this insight may last a mere second, it changes your life...”

Yet this passage gives me hope that with diligent working toward growth, I can attain acceptance of a conscious death when the time comes:

”To accept death is to accept that this body belongs to the world. This body is subject to all the forces in the world. This body can be broken. This body will run down. 'Golden lads and girls all must, / As chimney sweepers, come to dust.' (except, maybe me.)”

This is an important book and there is nothing else quite like it to compare but has not gotten nearly enough coverage.

The New York Times review is here. There is an interview with Sallie Tisdale including a fairly lengthy excerpt from the book at Tricycle magazine.



ELDER MUSIC: Joseph Haydn

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

Haydn

One of the very first columns I wrote was on JOSEPH HAYDN. I was still a learner at that stage and it wasn’t very good so I thought it was time to revisit one of the most important composers in history.

Jo pretty much invented chamber music, particularly the piano trio and string quartet. He’s also called the father of the symphony, not because he invented it – it was around before him. it was a little bitty thing, not much thought of – but because he was the one who expanded it setting in train the raging monster that it is today.

Jo spent much of his career as a hired musician for the Esterházy family and in particular Prince Nikolaus Esterházy, who liked a bit of a tune. After Ester eventually died, Jo went out as a freelancer and made piles of money. During his lifetime he was the most famous composer in Europe.

Throughout, you’ll see mention of Hob numbers, they are references to a catalogue of Jo’s works by Anthony Van Hoboken.

As I mention towards the end of the column, Papa Jo (as Mozart, a good friend of his, liked to call him) wrote a hell of a lot of symphonies. When Beethoven wrote his Sixth, he was two-thirds of the way through his, but Jo was just getting started.

He thought it’d be fun to write some reflecting the time of day and three ensued: “Le matin” (morning), “Le midi” (midday) and “Le soir” (night). This is the first movement of Symphony No 6 in D major (“Le matin”), an appropriate way to start the day.

♫ Symphony No 6 D major Le Matin (1)


Haydn

Jo invented the string quartet so he’d have something to play in his spare time with a few friends. He wrote more than 80 of them and they were the model for every composer since who tackled them (which is just about all of them).

The one I’ve chosen is the Quartet No. 62 in C major, Op. 76, No. 3, often called “The Emperor”. That’s because the second movement, which I’m playing, is a set of variations on "Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser" ("God Save Emperor Francis"), an anthem he wrote for Emperor Francis II. The tune remains famous to this day.

♫ String Quartet in C Major Op.76 No.3 (2)


As far as I can tell, Parthia means a parting shot, but musically it also means air with variations. I guess air is appropriate as these are scored for a few woodwind instruments, plus occasionally a French horn (which sounds a bit woodwindy). It’s best just to listen.

The example is the first movement of Parthia in B flat major.

♫ Parthia in B flat major (1)


Haydn

Jo’s violin concertos are as good as any around except for the single one that Beethoven wrote. Theoretically, Jo wrote nine of these but five are considered to be possibly by someone else (including two by his brother Michael).

The one I’ve chosen is a genuine Jo, the Violin Concerto in A major, Hob.VIIa3, the third movement.

♫ Violin Concerto in A major Hob.VIIa3 (3)


Jo is mostly thought of these days as a writer of instrumental music, but he wrote a lot for the voice as well. Besides operas (which aren’t much performed these days), there were masses, cantatas and other religious music as well as a couple of oratorios.

The most famous of these is The Creation, Hob. XI 2. From that we have SARA MACLIVER performing “On Mighty Pens Uplifted Soars the Eagle Aloft”.

Sara Macliver

♫ The Creation Hob.XI 2 Part 2-Scene 1 - On Mighty Pens Uplifted Soars The Eagle Aloft


Cello players are always in debt to Papa Jo, as he wrote the two best cello concertos ever. There’s some evidence that he wrote more than these but alas, they have been lost. This is a real shame when you consider the two that have survived.

Here is a sampler, the first movement of the Cello Concerto in C major Hob VIIb-1.

♫ Cello Concerto in C major (1)


Haydn

Another vocal work is the Motet in A major “Parvulus filius”. There are two versions of this: one scored for a choir and the other for soloists. I prefer the one for soloists.

♫ Motet in A major 'Parvulus filius'


Although not as well known as Beethoven and Mozart for his piano compositions, naturally, he wrote for the instrument. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of them. I thought that the piano on its own would best illustrate his gift for writing for the instrument, and who better to show that than GLENN GOULD.

Anything that Glenn touches is worth a listen in my opinion.

Glenn Gould

He performs the second movement of the Piano Sonata No 42 in D, Hob XVI. Glenn makes it sound as if there are two pianists at work.

♫ Piano Sonata No 42 in D Hob XVI (2)


Ester was a demanding patron, he initially really liked the viola da gamba (a bit like a cello with more strings) and wanted compositions for that instrument.

Then he changed pretty much overnight to a love of the baryton.

Naturally, he demanded works for it but there were none around. Poor old Jo had to sit down and churn out music for it, and boy, did he ever: 126 trios, 25 duos, 3 concertos and 12 miscellaneous compositions all for this one obscure instrument.

I imagine that he has more compositions for the baryton than anyone else – probably everyone else. This is a baryton.

Baryton

This is what it sounds like, the second movement of the Baryton Trio No. 87 in A minor.

♫ Baryton Trio No. 87 in A minor (2)


Haydn

One of Jo’s sacred works is Cantilena pro adventu in G major, Hob XXIIId-2. This is an aria for Soprano, Alto, Organ and Strings. That’s about as much as I could find out, but it’s really gorgeous.

♫ Cantilena pro adventu in G major


Haydn

Jo wrote 104 symphonies officially and there are about half a dozen other works that probably should be called symphonies. Many of these have names, but Jo usually didn’t bestow them on the works, they were often called that later or without his knowledge at the time.

One he would have known about is number 96, “The Miracle”. It seems that at its premier, at the end of the piece the audience rushed towards the stage to show their appreciation. Just then a chandelier crashed to the floor where they had just been. Nobody was hurt, so it was deemed a miracle and the name stuck.

Another named symphony is number 45, “The Farewell”, and it will be an appropriate way to end the column. Ester liked a bit of a holiday and one time he packed his household, including all the musicians, and lit out to his country place.

However, wives and kids and whatnot weren’t invited. The stay was longer than expected and the musos got restless and asked Jo to say something. He decided instead on a different approach.

He wrote this symphony and when it was performed, during the final movement each musician stopped playing in turn, snuffed out the candle on his music stand, and left.

At the end there were just two violins left (played by Jo himself and the concertmaster). Ester got the message and they all returned the following day. Here is that final movement.

♫ Symphony No. 45 (4)



INTERESTING STUFF – 18 August 2018

THE FOREST MAN OF INDIA

Majuli, the largest river island in the world, may disappear in 20 years or so due to soil erosion. Nevertheless, since 1979, when Jadav Payeng, then 16, has made it his life’s mission to save Majuli by planting trees.

The forest is now larger than New York City's Central Park and home to Bengal tigers, rhinoceros and even a herd of more than 100 elephants that visits each year. The film won a passel of awards in 2014.

More information, photographs and maps at Bored Panda.

BIG PHARMA LOBBYING CONGRESS TO REVERSE PART D LEGISLATION

Remember on Wednesday when I mentioned that the Medicare Part D donut hole will close a year earlier than planned, in 2019? Now, wealthy pharmaceutical companies have been spending millions to lobby Congress to roll back that legislation.

As AARP explains:

”So far, no legislation has been introduced that would overturn the donut hole changes, but when lawmakers return to Washington next month, they will have to appropriate money to keep the government running, and big drug companies hope to get a reversal attached to that legislation.”

Here's a short video about what you and I can do.

Yes, I know many of you boycott AARP and the organization is partly responsible for the donut hole to begin with by supporting the Part D legislation with that provision - that only benefits pharmacutical companies - when it was working its way through Congress. But this time, they are on the right side of the issue.

NYPL LENDING ACCOUTREMENTS FOR JOB INTERVIEWS

Lending libraries are branching out. TGB reader doctafil who blogs at Jive Chalkin, sent this item about job seekers who don't own the right clothes for an interview:

”...in New York City, the public library is opening its closet to anyone who needs to borrow fancier accessories—like ties.

“The New York Public Library’s Grow Up work accessories collection, located at the Riverside Library on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, allows library card holders to borrow ties, briefcases, and handbags for three-week periods....

“There are already similar "tie-braries" in Queens, New York and in Philadelphia, but it appears that those don't also offer accessories like purses and briefcases.”

You can read more at Mental Floss.

JOHN OLIVER EXPLAINS ASTROTURFING

It seems that everywhere we turn these days, political, corporate and other advocates are using fake experts, fake crowds and more not-quite-honorable means to convince us of lies they want us to believe.

On the most recent episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight last Sunday, host John Oliver explained how astroturfing works. I found some of this truly shocking.

THINGS THAT ARE A LOT BIGGER THAN YOU THOUGHT

People who work at Bored Panda must have a wonderful time chasing down odd and interesting items for us. This one is a list of 20 things that are much bigger that you thought:

How Many Earths Could Fit in the Sun:

How many earths fit inside sun

Traffic light:

Trafficlight

Full-grown wombat:

Wombat

Geez - all this time I thought wombats were about the size of koalas. There are a lot more surprising big things at Bored Panda.

STARVING DOG RESCUED FROM DESERTED ISLAND

A man on a cruise spotted a dog stranded on a deserted island and knew he had to save her. Here is their story which has totted up more than two million views in under two weeks:

BROWN BEAR LIVE CAM

There are live cams all over the world that we can watch on the internet. One of the best sources with many choices is explore.org.

The Brooks Falls cameras in Alaska's Katmai National Park show us one of the best places on Earth to see bears fishing with their young:

”You'll see the most bear action on this cam in July and August, but keep an eye out for bald eagles and gulls flying overhead...and, if you're lucky, maybe even a wolf or moose!”

There are other bear cams and cams for a load of other animals at explore.org.

THE WEIRD NAMES FOR GROUPS OF ANIMALS

Most of us have heard that a bunch of crows are called a “murder of crows” and a “pride of lions” is common. But did you know any of these:

A prickle of porcupines
A scold of jaybirds
An army of frogs
A shiver of sharks
An audience of squid?

There is a big long list of 99 odd names for groups of animals at Mother Nature Network and you can find out the origin of the funny names at Quora.

SOME GIRLS ARE HARD TO IMPRESS

This has been around the internet for a long time but I haven't seen it in several years. It's a male cockatoo, apparently an Elvis Presley fan, doing a magnificent dance for the lady cockatoo beside him to the tune of Don't Be Cruel.

Darlene Costner sent along the video for us and this time I found myself thinking the lady cockatoo should be named Melania.

Watch closely at about :46 seconds in when she holds off the male with a foot, looking a whole lot like the first lady flicking off the president's hand when he tried to hold hers.

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog.



Millie Garfield is 93 Years Old

HBMSingleFlower

Actually, Millie's birthday is tomorrow, Saturday, but we are celebrating her 93 years here at Time Goes By today – and what a celebration it is this year.

In early July, Millie was due at Massachusetts General Hospital for surgery but the night before check-in, her wonderful son Steve and his equally terrific wife Carol took her to dinner at Scampo, a fine restaurant in the Liberty Hotel in Boston.

MillieSteveatDinner

After dinner, Steve caught Millie on camera in her hotel room looking much more like a woman having what might have been a mini-vacation with her family instead of facing surgery.

MillieLibertyHotel

As Steve explained to me, Millie had a minimally-invasive procedure called a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR in medical parlance) which is done through tiny openings that leave all chest bones in place.

Millie got through that admirably and I was glad to hear her patented Millie Garfield laugh when we spoke on the telephone only two days later.

Recovery went well and on 13 July, Steve and Carol took Millie to rehab. Throughout the entire “adventure”, hospital and rehab, Steve took a lot a institutional food photos that look pretty good to me. Here's one of them:

Food

And here is a shot of Carol with Millie in rehab:

MillieCarol

Millie didn't linger in rehab and she was home in what seemed to me to be just a few days and she has been doing fine since then.

Steve has posted many more photos at Millie's Facebook page and you might want to check out her blog today too.

As I have mentioned in the past, Millie is my oldest internet friend and we have been phoning and emailing for at least 12, maybe 14 years, even visiting in person once or twice when I still lived on the east coast.

We've shared a lot of laughs together all these years, often about the things that go wrong as we get older. She likes to remind me that compared to her, I'm not really there yet; she's got 16 years on me and says I ain't seen nothin' yet. Oy, I can't wait.

Whatever is to be in the coming years, Millie's taught me the best way to cope, always, is with laughter.

Meanwhile, what's a birthday party without games and for the past couple of years, we have been celebrating Millie's by adding up all our ages in the comments. Here's how I explained it last year, updated for 2018:

"Take the number of Millie's years, 93. Add my years, 77, and we've got 170. Now, the next one of you, in the comments, should add your age to that, then the next of you add to that total and then the next and so on.

"Of course, because more than one person will comment at a time, the total will get all screwed up – but that's part of the fun at birthday parties, just being silly.

Happy Big Deal 93 years, Millie. I so treasure our friendship and I am privileged to know you.

CakeSparklers



Living in the Medicare Part D Donut Hole

Now and again I am reminded of how many TGB readers live in countries other than the United States so let me first supply a short definition of the evil donut hole.

Part D is a supplement to standard Medicare health coverage which itself does not provide prescription drug coverage. Part D is a voluntary purchase for which consumers pay an extra premium but the cost doesn't stop there.

Without going into arcane details, in general, when the consumer's total out-of-pocket payments for drugs reach $3,750 in a calendar year, the “donut hole” kicks in during which the consumer pays a higher percentage for the drugs until his/her out-of-pocket cost hits $5,000.

After that milestone, the insurer pays all but five percent of the drug costs until the accounting starts over again from scratch in January of the following year.

Until I was diagnosed with cancer last year, the only prescription drugs I had taken were antibiotics now and then, the price of which was paid for by my health insurance so I had no idea how expensive many drugs can be.

I sure do now, having entered the donut hole about two months ago and from which I will emerge, if my calculations hold up, fairly soon.

Quick story: At the beginning of my chemotherapy treatment last fall, I was handed my first month's supply of the oral drug along with a piece of paper with a figure of $5,000.

At first I felt the blood drain from my head and then I laughed. “You're kidding?” I said to the pharmacist. “I'll have to skip this treatment and hope for the best.”

As often happened during my year-long cancer ordeal, I got lucky. “Oh, I'm sorry,” the pharmacist said. “I didn't mean to scare you. That's the actual price the computer spit out but you don't pay anything.” (Long story, not worth the effort here today.)

The chemotherapy finished in January but the price of the four prescription drugs I take now are, if nothing like that oral chemo treatment, scary enough while I've been in the donut hole - they've busted my small budget all to hell.

That's the thing about money, it's relative. If you've got enough, all good. If not, you could die.

Here's the story I really came here to tell you today.

Three or four weeks ago, I was next in line at the pharmacy to pick up a prescription and although I was behind the separator that gives customers privacy while talking with the pharmacist, I could clearly hear most of the conversation at the window.

The customer, older than I by a decade I guessed, did not have enough money to pay for her prescriptions. I overheard the phrase, “donut hole.”

There are some programs that can help certain low-income patients with payment but apparently none were available in this case and the two women – one a young-ish professional, the other knocking on frailty's door – were at an impasse, neither knowing what to do or say next.

Something came over me and without thinking it through, I marched up to the window, gave the pharmacist my credit card and said, “Use this.”

There were some “oh no, I couldn'ts” and “please don't mention its” between the older woman and me but we sorted it out and I was relieved to see – having realized by then what I might have gotten myself into - that at a couple of hundred dollars and change, it was nowhere near that oral chemo price.

This story is not to tell you how wonderful I am. There are plenty of people in the world who will tell you otherwise and they are not wrong. Not to mention the voice in my head that day yelling, “What are you doing, screwing up your budget that's already a mess from the price of your own drugs?”

But nowhere near as much a mess as that old woman's. Here's the real problem:

No one should go without health care of any kind – treatment or drugs – because they don't have enough money. No one.

Some small help for prescriptions drugs is due soon thanks to former President Obama's Affordable Care Act which included a provision, when it was enacted in 2010, to gradually close the donut hole by year 2020, now changed to 2019, although some healthcare experts suggest the insurance companies will increase premiums and/or deductibles when it happens.

That prediction is of a mindset with the many politicians who want to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security too. President Trump campaigned on a promise not to do that but if we didn't know before, we surely do now that you can't count on anything Trump says.

It would be a good thing for all Americans, as we make decisions about which candidates to vote for in the midterm election in November, to think about increasing moves toward universal healthcare or Medicare-for-all that are stirring in some enlightened political circles.

Would it be difficult to do? Yes. Would it take a long time to happen? Yes. Would it be expensive? Yes. Would our taxes go up? Yes. But the time has come, it is the right thing to do and we have a lot of examples to study and learn from: just about every western democracy already has such a system.

Excuse me now while I go worry about what will happen with that old woman next time she needs to fill her prescriptions and is still in the donut hole.



A TGB READER STORY: Ah, Look at All the Lonely People

By Ann Burack-Weiss

“Ah, Look at all the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?”


     - The Beatles, from “Eleanor Rigby”

I am seated on a bench overlooking the Hudson River on a clear autumn day. The air smells of salt. The clouds are a floating mass of foam.

I am savoring the scene when I am approached by a middle-aged man with a weird contraption strapped to his forehead; a large, white, rectangular cardboard box with a camera lens at the center. He asks if I would like to take a look.

The scene is the same but technically enhanced. The river and sky shimmer and keep changing color. The sounds are subsumed under a wave of strings playing New Age music. I hastily pass it back and say, “It looks like an LSD trip.”

He laughs more than my response warrants, adds that there are “no side effects” and goes on to show me the smartphone app from which it emanates.

Before walking away, he says that he used to be alone in the park. “Now people want to talk to me.”

* * *

My walk takes me past a vacant lot filled with trash, bounded on one side by a graffiti-covered building wall and three sides by chain link fencing. There is a small, wooden, weather-beaten sign tacked on the 2nd Avenue side – “there is no one like you.” And stuck at intervals into the rusted fence are decaying bunches of dried flowers.

* * *

I see many older women pushing small dogs in baby carriages (or perhaps there are carriages made for dogs?) The dogs and/or the carriages are often beribboned. On buses or park benches, the dogs are removed and cuddled, often spoken to. They are replaced gently with a smile.

* * *

I am reading my Kindle in a doctor’s waiting room and the old man seated next to me asks how it works. Before I can answer he volunteers that he has no time for it now. He is 84, a lawyer till working full time, a specialist in trusts and estates who has published four books. All in less than a minute!

* * *

Home alone, I replay the sights and sounds of my days. I wonder how many people the man with the box found to talk to.

What would inspire someone to plead his anonymous love in such a dismal space? Do the dogs sleep in their owners' beds? Sit at their tables? (Is it even correct to speak of “owners”?)

And could it be that what sounded like shameless bravado in the doctor’s office was a geriatric pickup line?

Scenes of such naked need used to scare me. It felt as if all the loneliness, all the fears of invisibility I held within burst out and found shape and voice in unknown others. As if all the stored up love in the world, all the longing for connection could not be contained.

Which is, I finally realized, as it should be. I am not a mere observer of these scenes, I am a participant. I am the strangers’ “other” as surely they are mine. I am there to accord attention to their lives and in so doing, extending the boundaries of my own.

* * *

"Eleanor Rigby picking up rice
in a church where a wedding has been
Father McKenzie writing a sermon
that no one will hear.
"

It was 1966. The Beatles wrote those lyrics when they were in their twenties, surrounded by adoring crowds. I was just a few years older, cocooned in a mesh of family and friends.

I played the album with that song on it many times. The opening words sounded to me – and continued to sound until I just saw them in print, “I look at all the lonely people.”

But no, it opens with a sigh, “Ah, all the lonely people.”

I love that Ah. And bless them – the two who have died, the two who remain and grow old along with me. So wise they were to recognize – in the midst of bountiful lives – the essential self within, the invisible links that bind us together, and the special reward of bearing witness.

* * * * * * * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.
]



A Rite of Elderpassage Again

This is not the northwest Oregon I grew up in. During the 10 days leading up to the weekend, temperatures have consistently been in the 90s Fahrenheit, even getting within a whisker's distance of 100 degrees once or twice.

It cooled way off on Saturday – god, it was lovely, and Sunday too. Then, the weather folks warned us, starting on Monday (today) temperatures will climb into the 90s again, the high 90s, maybe 100 for a couple of days while dipping into the high 80s for a day or so here and there.

It will go on this way, they say, until the last week of August. So unless the weather experts are bad at their jobs, which they rarely are, I am going to be miserable when I need to go outside until about next month.

I am telling you this so you understand why there is a sort-of TGB rerun today:

When I realized my neck of the woods is heading into a horrible heat wave of at least two weeks and knowing my personal temperature tolerance is between about 70F and 73F, I spent almost all of yesterday outdoors enjoying the glorious weather.

And not writing a Monday blog post.

Don't get me wrong. Even after 15 years, I still enjoy turning out TGB, but it was also fun yesterday to feel like I was playing hooky (for a very good reason) and getting away with it.

Later, while flailing around Sunday evening to find something to fill this space today that wouldn't tax my brain power much, I ran across a comment about an old post – a REALLY old post. From 2006.

Ten years later on yet a different old post in 2016, a reader named annie left in part this comment about it:

”I bookmarked that post, A Rite of Elderpassage, at TGB on 18 October 2006, and share it often. My experience was much like yours, it felt great, and I celebrated with a glass of wine too. I think it was the beginning of me loving my age and who I am each day.”

Isn't that a wonderful thing to read about TGB?

That link in the quotation goes to the original story annie is referencing. This link opens her full comment on the 2016 story page that is about what people have learned at this blog over the years.

Re-reading the two posts, all these 10 years later in one case, I realized I like them. A lot. I don't always feel that way about what I write. So I am giving you the links to go read, if you so desire, and maybe come back here to tell us – oh, I don't know - whatever you feel like about them. Or not.

And here's a reminder: Tomorrow will be the first posting in the new, weekly feature, TGB Readers' Stories, and I'll see you back here on Wednesday.



ELDER MUSIC: Last Dance

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

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Take your partners, here is the last dance. We all know that this is the one where you try to grab the gal that you want to walk home and maybe have a bit of a cuddle on the way. Well, that’s the way it was back at my school socials.

It wasn’t just from where I came from either, judging from our first song. When Ben E King was the lead singer for THE DRIFTERS, there was not a band on the planet that came close to matching them.

The Drifters

His stay with the group was brief, under a year, but while he was there they produced some of the finest records in history. One of those, and you all know this one as it relates to our category, was Save the Last Dance for Me.

♫ The Drifters - Save The Last Dance For Me


Georgia Gibbs made a career of covering songs originally recorded by ETTA JAMES.

Etta James

Naturally, I think that Etta did them better. One of those was Dance With Me Henry, a much grittier version than Georgia’s.

♫ Etta James - Dance With Me Henry


One of the many answers Bob Dylan gave over the years when asked how he saw himself was Song and Dance Man. He wasn’t alone; another who thought the same way was MIKE MCCLELLAN.

Mike McClellan

From the album from the seventies that established him as a force on the music scene, "Ask Any Dancer", very apt for the topic today, we have Song and Danceman.

♫ Mike McClellan - Song and Danceman


SONNY CLARK was a jazz pianist who was in demand for recording by just about everyone who played in the fifties and early sixties. He also made nearly a dozen of his own albums.

Sonny Clark

Unfortunately, he died far too young, at 31, of a heart attack, but drugs may have been involved. Today though, he is Dancing in the Dark.

♫ Sonny Clark - Dancing In The Dark


During the great folk music scare of the early sixties, before Bob, TOM PAXTON was the first to regularly write and perform his own songs.

Tom Paxton

These turned into instant classics that have stood the test of time and are still considered some of the finest songs around. The song today is from later in his career and it may last just as long, although maybe not. It’s called Dance in the Kitchen.

♫ Tom Paxton - Dance In The Kitchen


LARRY WILLIAMS was one of the first rock & rollers and he wrote and performed some of the classic songs from the period.

Larry Williams

However, you really wouldn’t have wanted to know him. He seriously dabbled in drugs (dealing and otherwise) and violence and he was shot dead in mysterious, and still unsolved, circumstances. One of his lesser known songs is High School Dance.

♫ Larry Williams - High School Dance


I’ve followed the career of ELIZA GILKYSON since I first heard her in Albuquerque back when she went by the name Lisa Gilkyson.

Eliza Gilkyson

Her albums have always been interesting and I was looking for a final song for these columns and when I heard this one it was an automatic choice. Even if I’d filled my quota, something else would have been bumped for it. She supplies the name of the column, Last Dance.

♫ Eliza Gilkyson - Last Dance


I’ve always preferred BENNY GOODMAN in his small group, but I guess this big band of his really got toes a’tapping.

Benny Goodman

The bands from that time were really all about getting people up dancing, and I imagine if you’re not up dancing, at least you’ll be jiggling around in your chair to this one. The tune is Let's Dance.

♫ Benny Goodman - Let's Dance


J.J. CALE was one of the most influential guitarists in the last 50 years. Everyone from Eric Clapton on down has acknowledged him.

J.J. Cale

He was also a songwriter of considerable facility and his laidback singing style was emulated by many. His song is Fancy Dancer.

♫ J.J. Cale - Fancy Dancer


I’ll end this series with the most appropriate song I could think of on the topic. It’s by HARRY CHAPIN.

Harry Chapin

Okay, we’ve danced the days and nights away and now we’re going down with the ship because we were too busy dancing to see the iceberg. Dance Band on the Titanic.

♫ Harry Chapin - Dance Band on the Titanic



INTERESTING STUFF – 11 August 2018

WHAT IS SNAPCHAT DYSMORPHIA?

The Washington Post headline explains it all:

”Patients are desperate to resemble their doctored selfies. Plastic surgeons alarmed by ‘Snapchat dysmorphia'”

In case you are as light on the meaning of “dysmorphia” as I was, here is Merrian-Webster's medical definition:

”...pathological preoccupation with an imagined or slight physical defect of one's body to the point of causing significant stress or behavioral impairment in several areas (as work and personal relationships).”

As The Independent reports:

”According to plastic surgeons and researchers, patients are no longer bringing in photos of celebrities, they are bringing in pictures of their selfies - edited to look like perfect versions of themselves.”

Here is WaPo's video about the phenomenon:

Further, from the Washington Post:

”According to the annual American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery survey, selfies continue to be a driving force behind why people wish to get plastic surgery done.

“In 2017, the survey found that 55 percent of surgeons reported seeing patients who requested surgery to look better in selfies — a 13 percent increase from the previous year’s results.”

It's mostly teens and young adults looking for this sort of change. Do you suppose they'll outgrow it?

ONE MAN – ENDING A FOOD DESERT

Food deserts – lack of affordable, healthy, fresh food within a reasonable distance of home – are increasing in number around the United States. In Conetoe, North Carolina, the Reverend Richard Joyner decided to change that in his community:

DAD SOLUTIONS TO KID PROBLEMS

There are a lot of websites that collect images from around the web on a given topic with, usually, funny results. Sometimes I can get lost in them for an hour, laughing my ass off.

Here are a couple of teaser images for you on this “dad solutions” topic. First: Biker Baby.

Biker baby

And this is Baby Butt Mousepad:

Babybuttmousepad

There are more dad solutions photos here.

NANNY THE CAT GOES ON VACATION

The YouTube page tells us:

”Everybody loves to travel and go on vacation. Cat Nanny is no exception. She traveled from the Rocky mountains in the North, all the way to the Pacific Ocean in the South.”

Take a look:

JOHN OLIVER ON PROSECUTORS

On last Sunday's episode of HDO's Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver took on prosecutors. It's a compelling report and a perfect one for a week when the Manafort trial has been going on.

ROLLING LEMON

This video has been sitting on my “potential” list for Interesting Stuff for several weeks. Even though nothing happens in the lemon's quarter-mile trip, it got a big enough response that the Washington Post wrote a whole story about it.

And I watched to very end. What about you?

THE DETECTIVE LIBRARIANS OF THE NYPL

Decades ago, long before the internet, I relied on the telephone librarians at the New York Public Library to answer questions for me.

Nowadays, even with the internet, they still do that and now there is a special group who track down the titles of books callers can't remember and for which, sometimes, they have only the vaguest description.

”To solve these little mysteries, Glazer recently assembled a team of sleuths from across the branches: Chatham Square, in Chinatown; the Jefferson Market, in Greenwich Village; the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, near the Flatiron Building; and the Mulberry Street branch, in Nolita.

“At lunchtime on a recent Wednesday, they were gathered in that computer lab in the library’s offices—across the street from the soaring, spectacular Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (the Main Branch)—to nibble on homemade lemon rosemary cookies and apple, carrot, zucchini bread while they clattered away on their keyboards.”

You can read more about them at Atlas Obscura.

Anyone can call phone the Library question line. (Back when I traveled a lot, I used it not only from various states, but countries from around the world.) They usually answer, often via email now, within 24 hours. The number is 917-ASK-NYPL (917-275-6975).

CHIPPING AWAY AT OBAMACARE WITH CHEAPO HEALTH COVERAGE

If you are not yet old enough (65) for Medicare, the Trump administration changes to Obamacare are going to make health coverage more difficult for you. Here's an explanation from PBS News Hour:

More details at Kaiser Health News.

RACOON DANCE

The more you watch the louder you laugh – that's what happened to me. This guy is having a terrific time and it's easy to enjoy with him. Thank Jim Stone for sending it.

At the YouTube page, it's titled, The Hillbilly Slide And One Mad Coon.

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Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog.



It's Time to Abandon the Phrase, Anti-Ageing

REMINDER After such enthusiasm for the idea of a new storytelling feature here at TGB, I was surprised that hardly anyone responded after Wednesday's announcement that it is set up and ready for story submissions.

Maybe I buried the lead? Or, maybe there are a whole lot more readers here than writers. In case you missed the invitation on Wednesday, this is a reminder that story submissions are being accepted.

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“Aging is not a disease any more than puberty or menopause are.”
       - S. Jay Olshansky, Professor of public health/gerontology, University of Illinois

It's hard to know that from the ubiquitous marketing and advertising messages for wrinkles and sags which, when not treating old age as a disease, strongly suggest it is a personal failing.

Ageist terms are common but the one that most drives me nuts, usually from purveyors of pseudo youth potions and procedures, is the ubiquitous “anti-ageing.” About a year ago, The New York Times addressed some of the cultural consequences of its wide use:

”...not displaying the signs of age on one’s face,” writes Amanda Hess, “is seen as a professional accomplishment, even a virtue.

“We elevate a select few celebrity ambassadors of 'good' aging — [Helen] Mirren, Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry, Andie MacDowell — and turn them into not just avatars of covetable good looks, but fierce, audacious heroines who are celebrated for pulling off the near-impossible.”

As insulting as the the phrase “anti-ageing” is, it's a big seller for cosmetics industry who tack it onto every product they can. A search of Google for “anti-ageing” (British and my spelling) returns 45,800,000 items; a search for “anti-aging” gets 191,000,000 results.

Anti-ageing is big business. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, $16 billion was spent on cosmetic surgery in 2016 and, if business projections are accurate, sales of anti-aging products are expected to surpass $11 billion this year. Just yesterday, the cosmetics website Sephora listed 262 products labeled “anti-aging.”

Having felt for a long time that I've been on a lonely mission in my objection to the term, I was heartened a year ago to learn that in August 2017, Allure magazine announced it was dropping the use of "anti-ageing" from the magazine:

”'Whether we know it or not, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that ageing is a condition we need to battle' explained Michelle Lee in her editor’s letter. 'Changing the way we think about ageing starts with changing the way we talk about ageing'”...

“I hope we can all get to a point where we recognize that beauty is not something just for the young. Look at our cover star Helen Mirren, who’s embodied sexiness for nearly four decades in Hollywood without desperately trying to deny her age.”

Allure Mirren

At the time of the Allure's initiative, The Guardian reported:

”The rise in inclusivity and increased visibility of older models and celebrities within an industry that once shunned anyone over the age of 40 is a welcome change. Women including Helen Mirren (72) Allure magazine’s September [2017] issue cover star, Lauren Hutton (73) and Sylviane Degunst (59) all feature in campaigns, this year.”

Although more few more women of age are turning up in fashion features these days, I haven't noticed any reduction in the use of that demeaning phrase in cosmetic adverts. And not on the product labels themselves either. In a check at my local Rite-Aid this week, dozens of creams and other beauty products are plastered with the phrase “anti-aging”.

But the thing is, there is evidence from a large number of sources that the creams don't work. This one from the Mayo Clinic:

”Do they work? That often depends on the specific ingredients and how long you use them. Because these over-the-counter (nonprescription) wrinkle creams aren't classified as drugs, they're not required to undergo scientific research to prove their effectiveness.

“If you're looking for a face-lift in a bottle, you probably won't find it in over-the-counter wrinkle creams. The benefits of these products are usually only modest at best.”

The Royal Society of Public Health (RSPM) agrees with me about the odious phrase, anti-ageing. A month or two ago, the RSPH released a report on a new survey of ageist beliefs in the U.K. - how ageism harms people and what could and should be done about it. Among the report's conclusions:

"...the explicit presumption that ageing is something undesirable and to be battled at every turn is as nonsensical as it is dangerous. To be 'anti-ageing' makes no more sense that being 'anti-life.">

Here is the RSPH's video with a summary of the survey and the final recommendations:

The report, titled That Age Old Question and subtitled, How Attitudes to Ageing Affect Our Health and Wellbeing is well thought out, well written and filled with easy-to-understand detail.

The four major policy suggestions are excellent and doable: Let's repeat them in print where we can pay closer attention than in a video:

”Services such as nurseries, youth clubs and care homes to be brought under one roof

“Positive ageing to be addressed within schools

“Age to be recognized as a protected characteristic alongside others such as gender, race and religion

“An end to the use of the term “anti-ageing”in the cosmetics and beauty industry”

The researchers have a lot to say about the media's role in promulgating ageist attitudes, referencing key points from other research about the harm ageism in all its forms does, which TGB has reported on in the past:

“Previous research has shown that those with more negative attitudes to ageing live on average 7.5 years less than those with more positive attitudes to ageing...

“There is now a growing body of research evidencing the real-life consequences that negative attitudes to ageing have on individual health outcomes such as memory loss, physical function, and ability to recover from illness.”

If you're interested, the report is well worth your time. You will find That Age Old Question study online here [pdf]. The website of the Royal Society for Public Health is here.