A TGB READER STORY: An Old Cat

By Kate Gilpin

Like a lot of people who live alone, I have always kept cats. I have one now and his name is Tribble. I've been living with him as long as I lived with my parents, and a lot more comfortably. He got his name because he fit furrily into the palm of one hand when we met.

Trib is a big, gentle, smoky Persian and in his prime he looked like a cross between a large muff and a Sumo wrestler. He kept me company through a divorce, watched me quit smoking, helped me landscape the yard and saw The Shining with me at home in a terrified embrace one Halloween night.

When he was much younger, he stole a piece of raw liver as long as his body off my kitchen counter and clenching it in his tiny teeth, he fled through the house, out the door, around the back and front yards and into the house again before I caught up with him.

He still had the liver in a death grip when I pried it loose. I had it for dinner, and so did he.

Tribbie shouldn't have lived past about three. He showed early signs of feline leukemia and was expected to die within a few years. He suffered from an intermittent series of fevers, tonsillitis, rashes, abscesses. In between weird ailments, he had a wonderful time but almost every month I hemorrhaged money at the pet hospital.

When he was seven he got cancer on his back. The veterinarian excised it and Trib mysteriously quit getting sick after that. It was as if he and the virus had been fighting up till then and he finally won. Last spring he turned eighteen.

He's lost a lot of weight and about half of his hair is gone. He fetches up those horrifying inexplicable yells that old cats all do and he sits for long periods in one spot, looking vague.

He has taken to using the back part of the living room as a litter box. His hind legs don't work properly any more and this summer, I found out his kidneys are beginning to fail. He's not likely to see nineteen.

When I hold Tribbie and stroke him now, I can feel every bone under the skin. His fur is dry and stiff, what there is of it. His abdomen is swollen and doesn't feel quite right. I pop two or three pills into his little gap-toothed mouth daily, and give him an injection every other week. He goes to the doctor twice a month.

There has been talk about having him put to sleep at some point but so far he's still happy to be here, and he still loves yogurt.

The thing is, I feel bad about it all the time. The other day I realized that I am angry with him because he's leaving me. It was the same feeling I had when my mother was in her late eighties and I noticed that she had quit being interested in things.

You know what I mean, they're not gone, they're just not really the same person any more.

Well, of course, we're not any of us the same person any more and in my mother's case, it was in some ways an improvement. But Tribble is my cat, which means my feelings about him are not very complicated: they are simple and sweet, like him, and seeing him gradually disappear is so painful that I'd rather not watch. It makes me cry whenever I think about it.

So I find myself avoiding it. I've gotten into planning ahead. I've decided to scatter his ashes in his favorite part of the garden. I might hold a wake for his friends.

I expect to find another cat in a year or two and I'd like to get a dog. I've wanted to have one for years but couldn't because Trib would never put up with it. I'm going to get a big dog, some kind that has the same tank-like, fuzzy charm as Persians.

Then it's time to feed Tribble and hold the back door open so he can walk into the yard. The cat door is getting hard for him to climb through. It's November now and we're having a warm spell. Sunday afternoon. I'm watching him hop slowly down the steps. He's going to patrol the territory.

He starts at the lobelia bordering the dead vegetable patch, pauses to yowl at the bench in the corner by the yellowing grapevine. He limps with dignity to the far path, stopping by the early camellia, sniffing a persimmon fallen among the bright leaves of its tree. He's sitting tall on the grass now.

* * *

[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.
]




Bumbling Along in My Predicament

Beginning two days after my chemo sessions every two weeks, I have a rough couple of days of after effects. It's mostly like a fairly bad flu – aches and pains and chills but no fever.

I crawl out of bed every now and then, check email for personal messages, have something to eat even when I'm not hungry because it's good for me and crawl back into bed.

In general, so far, given my predicament, I'm willing to make this trade-off – about three days of debility for 11 days of feeling good. Especially so after my blood tests at last week's treatment were normal.

The chemo treatments delay the growth of the cancer – for some unnamed period of time - giving me a few more months, they say, of healthy life, if it can be called that. Whether this is a rational choice on my part is a mystery to me.

Mostly, I'm just bumbling along, taking the advice of the doctors and nurses who, of course, have vastly more experience than I do at end-of-life cancer. Whether I'm right or wrong doesn't seem to matter much to me.

One of the things I'm grateful for is that my sense of humor remains. Let me tell you a little story that happened last week.

You who have been around through this entire adventure know that last spring I underwent two separate surgeries to place stents in my body to stop a dangerous internal bleed that was caused by the original, extensive surgery for pancreatic cancer.

The new surgeries were performed by a different kind of doctor than the one who did the cancer surgery.

A few days ago, a young woman called to book a six-month follow-up appointment with that surgeon telling me that before we met that day, he wanted me to have a certain kind of scan. Realizing she was unlikely to have read my medical record before making the call, I asked if I could skip the scan since my condition is now terminal.

There was a moment of silence at her end and before I could stop myself, I heard these words pop out of my mouth: “You know, a case of the surgery was a success but the patient died...”

Another stunned silence at her end and all I could do was laugh and apologize. But was there ever a more perfect moment for that old joke?

Like I said, I'm just bumbling along through this predicament of mine.




ELDER MUSIC: Anything

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.

* * *

With Nothing, Something and Everything out of the way, that means that now Anything goes. So it shall be.

It’s obvious that I should start with Anything Goes, the song written by COLE PORTER.

Cole Porter

Although many have recorded the song, to me, having the writer sing his own song is always my first preference. And so it is today. This is Cole’s version.

♫ Cole Porter - Anything Goes


Although far from the best singer in the world, KRIS KRISTOFFERSON sure can write a good song. He’s a pretty good actor too, but that’s going a bit off topic.

Kris Kristofferson

Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again) originally turned up on his “The Silver Tongued Devil and I” album. A while ago, he went back into the studio and rerecorded many of his famous songs, including this one.

That album is called “The Austin Sessions”, and it’s that version I’m using today.

♫ Kris Kristofferson - Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)


KEELY SMITH is most remembered for her partnership with Louis Prima.

Keely Smith

However, after that partnership sundered as well as their marriage, Keely went on to have quite a decent solo career. From that later career we have I Would Do Most Anything for You.

♫ Keely Smith - I Would Do Most Anything For You


ELVIS gets into act with a song fairly early in his career, if 1962 can be called fairly early for him.

Elvis Presley

It’s a song I was only vaguely aware of called Anything That's Part of You. This was the b-side (remember when records had two sides?) to Good Luck Charm, and is notable for the distinctive sound of Floyd Cramer playing the piano, and I think it’s a really nice song.

♫ Elvis - Anything That's Part of You


From the previous generation of performers, someone who was also quite influential in his own way is BOB WILLS.

Bob Wills

Bob’s music was also part of the various streams that lead to rock & roll, but this track is probably not one of those. It just goes by the name of Anything.

♫ Bob Wills - Anything


TIMI YURO had one really big hit, but she also had quite a few others that made the charts back in the sixties.

Timi Yuro

Her song today isn’t one of those, it turned up on one of her albums and is called Be Anything (But Be Mine).

♫ Timi Yuro - Be Anything (But Be Mine)


The SONS OF THE SAN JOAQUIN obviously modeled themselves on the Sons of the Pioneers.

Sons of the San Joaquin

They are a family band with two brothers and a son, and they harmonise and otherwise sing beautifully. Their repertoire is mainly cowboy songs and the like. One of those is That’s Why I'll Never Want To Be Anything But A Cowboy.

♫ Sons of the San Joaquin - That s Why I'll Never Want To Be Anything But A Cowboy


There were several contenders for the song I Can’t Give You Anything but Love. In the end I went for MEL TORMÉ.

Mel Torme

It was a tough call as it’s one of the most recorded songs in history. Even I don’t have all of those, but of the many I have I liked Mel’s the best. Sorry Billie, you missed out today. A rare occurrence.

♫ Mel Tormé - I Can't Give You Anything But Love


HOWARD TATE was a soul singer who wasn’t particularly well known by the general public.

Howard Tate

He was well known in the music industry though, and Janis Joplin recorded a couple of his songs. He had a number of charting songs in the sixties and retired from the music biz in the late seventies.

An enterprising DJ rediscovered him early this century which led to a second career until his death in 2011. Howard’s contribution is You Don't Know Anything About Love.

♫ Howard Tate - You Don't Know Anything About Love


BONNIE RAITT was destined to be a musician.

Bonnie Raitt

Her father was the Broadway actor and singer, John Raitt and her mother was the pianist, Marjorie Haydock. Bonnie received a guitar for Christmas when she was eight years old and hasn’t looked back.

Later, instead of studying in college, she’d hang around blues clubs and gig with various blues legends. That paid off as she’s one of the world’s great slide guitarists. Although she probably doesn’t believe this, she sings I Don't Want Anything to Change.

♫ Bonnie Raitt - I Don't Want Anything To Change




INTERESTING STUFF – 17 November 2018

AT LAST – A STAR TREK MEDICAL TREATMENT

I may have mentioned that I was a big Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) fan on its first run from 1988 to 1994 and I've watched the entire series two or three times since.

One of the many great things about the show was medical care. Broken arm? Just hold a mobile phone-sized device over and it healed in a couple of minutes. Something just as simple and quick for cancer and I expected these advance in medical science to be here by the time I might need them.

No such luck but get this:

”On Star Trek: The Next Generation, Commander Riker had an impressive ability to receive head wounds. Luckily for him, Dr. Crusher could whip out the 'dermal regenerator,' a handheld sci-fi tool that healed skin wounds with a colorful laser.

“Luckily for us, Kaushal Rege and colleagues at Arizona State University are developing essentially the same thing. Well, close enough. In a new paper out from the journal Advanced Functional Materials, the engineers successfully repaired animal wounds with a silk and gold nanomaterial activated by a laser.

But wait. There's more:

”Because near-infrared light can penetrate fairly deeply into tissue, Ghosh and colleagues hope to use the technology to eventually repair things like blood vessels and nerves—tissues that are often deep in the body and time-consuming to repair...

“Ghosh expects the cost of the silk-gold material will not be prohibitively expensive, and the lasers would be a one-time equipment cost for medical centers.”

If the current living rat tests go well, the researchers will move on to pigs and, eventually, humans.

You can read more at ieee Spectrum.

INTREPID NEW YORKERS CROSSING STREETS DURING MARATHON

Last week, New York City held its annual marathon that runs through all five boroughs. As you might imagine, non-fans who need to get around town are frustrated by the delays. Here's a terrific video of them try to cross streets as the long line of marathoners are passing by.

SWEDEN'S ICE HOTEL

I know I've posted about ice hotels before but I like them, winter is here (well, it feels like it where I am) and why not? Although there are many ice hotels around the world now, this is the original:

THE CASTLE THAT MELTS

I guess this second ice video means I'm fairly impressed with arrival of cold weather this year. This one – a student film – is about an ice castle in New Hampshire built each year by a team of engineers and artists. The story is as much about two young sisters who visit the castle.

YOUR STORIES OF NURSING HOMES AND ASSISTED LIVING ARE IMPORTANT

This item came from my friend John Gear who practices consumer law in Salem, Oregon, and when John says something is powerful, I listen. Here is what it is about – from nursinghome411:

"I am writing to let you know that we are launching a new 'Tell YOUR Story' tool that will enable residents, families, ombudsmen, and those who work with them tell their story about nursing home or assisted living care. The form is available here.

“One can fill out the form on the website, download it to fill out on a computer or phone, or print out a hard copy to mail in. All personal identifying information is kept confidential unless the individual provides specific permission otherwise.

“Stories about resident care can have an enormous impact on advocacy for better care and dignity. We would appreciate any help you can provide in getting the word out and passing this along!”

If you have such a story to tell, please do that at this website.

A MAN FILMED A TREE IN THE WOODS FOR A YEAR

I have a vague sense I've posted this video before but it is nice to watch and kind of soothing in it way seeing how the animals go about their daily lives.

SONG MAP OF UNITED STATES

Sunday TGB music columnist Peter Tibbles and his Assistant Musicologist sent this story. It is a map of the United States made up entirely from titles of over 1,000 songs about place names in the country.

Here's a piece of the west coast:

USA-song-map-art-print-dorothy-california-dreamin-straightouttacompton_850x

And here is a piece of the east coast.

USA-song-map-art-print-dorothy-no-sleep-till-brooklyn-streets-of-philadelphia_850x

You can see the whole thing at We Are Dorothy. It is a retail website in London where you can buy the map – I am not promoting that, just letting you know.

SQUIRRELS LEARNING A DIFFICULT OBSTACLE COURSE

Squirrel intelligence and agility gets put to the test in this obstacle course. They are such clever little critters.

ROLLING SAFARI – WHAT IF ANIMALS WERE ROUND?

TGB reader Celia sent this video of animators' idea of what they would be like if animals were round? It's funny. Enjoy.

There are more inflated animals here.

* * *

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.




“At Death's Door, Shedding Light On How To Live”

EDITORIAL NOTE FROM RONNI: Last Friday, I published a link to a news story by Judith Graham about my terminal cancer diagnosis. She interviewed me for a long time, interviewed some people who know me and wrote a terrific piece.

We covered a lot of territory in our conversation and I would like more people to read it than followed that link last week.

Unlike almost every other news organization I know of, Kaiser Health News (KHN), which publishes Graham's columns, not only allows others to republish their stories in their entirety, they even supply the html. So, here it is on TGB today.

The original can be found here and the archive of Judith's columns is here.

* * *

By Judith Graham, at Kaiser Health News

Nothing so alters a person as learning you have a terminal illness.

Ronni Bennett, who writes a popular blog about aging, discovered that recently when she heard that cancer had metastasized to her lungs and her peritoneum (a membrane that lines the cavity of the abdomen).

There is no cure for your condition, Bennett was told by doctors, who estimated she might have six to eight months of good health before symptoms began to appear.

Right then and there, this 77-year-old resolved to start doing things differently — something many people might be inclined to do in a similar situation.

No more extended exercise routines every morning, a try-to-stay-healthy activity that Bennett had forced herself to adopt but disliked intensely.

No more watching her diet, which had allowed her to shed 40 pounds several years ago and keep the weight off, with considerable effort.

No more worrying about whether memory lapses were normal or an early sign of dementia — an irrelevant issue now.

No more pretending that the cliché “we’re all terminal” (since death awaits all of us) is especially insightful. This abstraction has nothing to do with the reality of knowing, in your gut, that your own death is imminent, Bennett realized.

“It colors everything,” she told me in a long and wide-ranging conversation recently. “I’ve always lived tentatively, but I’m not anymore because the worst has happened — I’ve been told I’m going to die.”

No more listening to medical advice from friends and acquaintances, however well-intentioned. Bennett has complete trust in her medical team at Oregon Health & Science University, which has treated her since diagnosing pancreatic cancer last year. She’s done with responding politely to people who think they know better, she said.

And no more worrying, even for a minute, what anyone thinks of her. As Bennett wrote in a recent blog post, “All kinds of things … fall away at just about the exact moment the doctor says, ‘There is no treatment.’”

Four or five times a day, a wave of crushing fear washes through her, Bennett told me. She breathes deeply and lets it pass. And no, psychotherapy isn’t something she wants to consider.

Instead, she’ll feel whatever it is she needs to feel — and learn from it. This is how she wants to approach death, Bennett said: alert, aware, lucid. “Dying is the last great adventure we have — the last bit of life — and I want to experience it as it happens,” she said.

Writing is, for Bennett, a necessity, the thing she wants to do more than anything during this last stage of her life. For decades, it’s been her way of understanding the world — and herself.

In a notebook, Bennett has been jotting down thoughts and feelings as they come to her. Some she already has shared in a series of blog posts about her illness. Some she’s saving for the future.

There are questions she hasn’t figured out how to answer yet.

“Can I still watch trashy TV shows?”

“How do I choose what books to read, given that my time is finite?

“What do I think about rationale suicide?” (Physician-assisted death is an option in Oregon, where Bennett lives.)

Along with her “I’m done with that” list, Bennett has a list of what she wants to embrace.

Ice cream and cheese, her favorite foods.

Walks in the park near her home.

Get-togethers with her public affairs discussion group.

A romp with kittens or puppies licking her and making her laugh.

A sense of normalcy, for as long as possible. “What I want is my life, very close to what it is,” she explained.

Deep conversations with friends. “What has been most helpful and touched me most are the friends who are willing to let me talk about this,” she said.

On her blog, she has invited readers to “ask any questions at all” and made it clear she welcomes frank communication.

“I’m new to this — this dying thing — and there’s no instruction book. I’m kind of fascinated by what you do with yourself during this period, and questions help me figure out what I think,” she told me.

Recently, a reader asked Bennett if she was angry about her cancer. No, Bennett answered. “Early on, I read about some cancer patients who get hung up on ‘why me?’ My response was ‘why not me?’ Most of my family died of cancer and, 40 percent of all Americans will have some form of cancer during their lives.”

Dozens of readers have responded with shock, sadness and gratitude for Bennett’s honesty about subjects that usually aren’t discussed in public.

“Because she’s writing about her own experiences in detail and telling people how she feels, people are opening up and relaying their experiences — things that maybe they’ve never said to anyone before,” Millie Garfield, 93, a devoted reader and friend of Bennett’s, told me in a phone conversation.

Garfield’s parents never talked about illness and death the way Bennett is doing. “I didn’t have this close communication with them, and they never opened up to me about all the things Ronni is talking about,” she said.

For the last year, Bennett and her former husband, Alex Bennett, have broadcast video conversations every few weeks over YouTube. (He lives across the country in New York City.) “What you’ve written will be valuable as a document of somebody’s life and how to leave it,” he told her recently as they talked about her condition with poignancy and laughter.

Other people may have very different perspectives as they take stock of their lives upon learning they have a terminal illness. Some may not want to share their innermost thoughts and feelings; others may do so willingly or if they feel other people really want to listen.

During the past 15 years, Bennett chose to live her life out loud through her blog. For the moment, she’s as committed as ever to doing that.

“There’s very little about dying from the point of view of someone who’s living that experience,” she said. “This is one of the very big deals of aging and, absolutely, I’ll keep writing about this as long as I want to or can.”




Meeting My Son...Plus The Alex and Ronni Show

EDITORIAL NOTE: Today's edition of The Alex and Ronni Show, in which we discuss the subject of today's blog post, is at the bottom of this story.

* * *

It was a whim. I've never had much interest in my ethnicity; my face pretty well tells the story so if you don't want to build a family tree – I don't - why bother.

But those DNA websites were having a sale late last year and if my mildest curiosity had not been worth $99 to me, $59 seemed reasonable. I ordered the kit.

A month later, this message appeared in an email via the DNA site. It was a shocker:

”Dear Ms. Bennett,
“It appears you and I are related in a fairly intimate way.”

“Fairly intimate way?” Talk about a gift for understatement - it was a 50 percent match: my child.

Let me back up more than half a century.

I was barely 21, just a kid, when I became pregnant in 1962. Although “the pill” had been available for a year or so, I was not using it and abortion, whatever one's moral beliefs, was illegal. When I told the baby's father, he couldn't get away from me fast enough. I never saw or heard from him again.

In addition, I knew that on just about every level, I was not at all prepared to be a mother. All that left only one option.

We were called unwed mothers in those days and there was a profound stigma attached. Suddenly, girlfriends were too busy to hang out and I certainly could not stay at my job once my condition became evident. Except for my mother, I was alone.

What I did have, however, was a warm and down-to-earth obstetrician who took good care of me and with his staff, found an adoptive family I would have chosen myself. In fact, I did – I was told a lot about them and allowed refusal rights.

One amusing story I haven't thought about for years until now, as I write this: Well into the pregnancy I woke weeping one morning, wailing that I was supposed to give birth to a baby but had a cat instead. It was one of those dreams that was as real as real.

A dream cat notwithstanding, in February 1963, I gave birth to a healthy, (human) baby boy and he went home with his adoptive family at the same time he would have with his birth mother.

TomWark400x400 Which brings me back to late last year. Tom Wark is in his mid-fifties now. He is married for the third time with a four-year-old son and lives in the Napa Valley. He is a wine expert, owner of a public and media relations company targeting the wine industry. His wine blog, Fermentation, is here.

Early this year, we exchanged some email until May when I dropped away, or so it must have seemed to Tom. Part of it was the two surgeries I underwent to stop the internal bleed that threatened my life then but that wasn't entirely it.

I felt awkward. I didn't know what to say and I didn't know what is expected in such circumstance. I did not and don't feel motherly toward Tom but neither do I believe I should.

Motherhood – and fatherhood – have nothing to do with giving birth. They are about day-in and day-out care and loving of a child no matter what. I have no experience with that nor any of the rights attached.

So although I felt uncomfortable about dropping out of the email conversation, I wasn't sure how to pick it up again. Then, three weeks ago after reading my recent emails about the return of cancer, Tom reached out by email.

Since then, we have had two lengthy telephone conversations with more planned. Tom says that in certain photographs he can see a resemblance between us. I can't. But we have discovered other similarities.

We were both good students except for science and math mainly because neither of us were interested in those subjects. We are both more literary types. We love books and own a lot of them. In my case, they are my friends and I'm betting Tom would say that too.

Further, we share a love of time travel stories, and we've both read everything Gore Vidal ever wrote. Some personality traits seem near matches too.

Oh, and Tom noted that we each started our blogs way back in 2004, when they were a brand new media platform.

After these two long phone chats, I am most interested now in learning more about Tom and what I think I see as similar mindsets – how we tell stories, for example, and the kinds of connections we make getting from one subject to another.

Most of all, after our first conversation which lasted two hours, for several days I felt a warmth and closeness that, in my experience, doesn't show up until I've known someone for a long time. It happened again after our second conversation. I am comfortable with this man.

Plus, I really like Tom's understatement in his first email. I'm always so proud of myself when I can do that, but it's not easy to pull off – at least for me.

* * *

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests following our chat, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.




A TGB READER STORY: The Pier, the Birds and the Moment

By B. Henry

An airplane sneaks through the fog over Lac St. Louis.

Canada geese sing homecoming harmonies.

I'm in my car, staring at the lake where we swam as kids.

The lake ice has melted.

The water is high.

Another plane tiptoes in.

A man sits in his car, reading.

We're two cars, side by side, on the pier.

He looks at me, nods and smiles.

I smile and nod back.

I sip my coffee and think about a jumble of senior words overheard at the local coffee spot.

Words like this:

"My friend is in the hospital. She can't move from the neck down. She may never walk again. The doctors are doing tests. I call her every night. A nurse puts the phone by her ear."

"He's 94 years old, driving without a license. His doctor refused to sign the paper. I should notify the police. He's going to kill himself or someone else. If the cops pull him over, it's gonna be game over. Maybe it's just gossip. What should I do?"

"Her world has become smaller since she moved into that senior home."

"No car. No visits. No garden."

"Everything is in the past."

v"So listen to this: My three neighbours help each other, even though they are not related. One woman cuts lawns, the other one cooks and the boyfriend repairs stuff. They found a way to age in place."

"Ah, I know who you mean. She walks the ILR halls and knocks on doors. Sometimes she puts her thumb over the peephole so you can't see who is there. She's losing it."

A ship passes. It's going somewhere.

But where are we going?

More words:

"I'm not sitting there."

"I don't like that man."

"I want to bop him one."

"Now Sam, you know a bop too far becomes a boom."

"Yeah, I know that."

* * *

[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.
]




Making Dying Part of Living

Two or three or four weeks ago, a reader commented that I should not tell anyone about my terminal cancer diagnosis because I would then be identified only by that fact instead of all the other descriptions that could be said of me.

Two assumptions come with that reasoning: (1) that I care if people know I am dying (I do not) and (2) that dying or, at least, talking about it is taboo.

The second item is all too true. In the U.S., we hide dying from friends, neighbors, co-workers, even family sometimes so that death, when it arrives, is a shock to everyone left behind.

Certainly, everyone who finds him/herself in my position has the right to play it out any way they want. But I think keeping it secret does a disservice to the person, to the people who know and care about him or her and to the culture at large.

It makes the great final act of life too much a mystery and more frightening than it needs to be.

Did you know that only about 20 percent of deaths occur at home? That wasn't always so. Until 100 years ago, give or take, most people died in their own bed surrounded by family and loved ones. When the dying was extended, everyone, including the children, were involved in the caregiving.

When I was kid, about half my friends had one or two grandparents living with them. Some were healthy, some were not and it was not uncommon for a friend to tell me that she couldn't go bike-riding that morning because she was taking care of Gran while her mom was shopping.

An ailing grandparent was such a commonplace that we kids accepted it and, when it sometimes happened, the grandparent's death was – well, part of life which, I believe, is as it should be.

We are born, we live, we die. But we too often omit the third act from view.

It is the dying, rather than death itself, I am concerned with, and I become more convinced every day now, as I live with this death sentence, that it is a gift.

A gift of time that allows me to say the things I always ought to have done but too often have not. Of time to remember. Time to wonder at the great unknown. And time to talk. Oh god, yes. To talk and and talk and talk with those who will do so with me, about everything under the sun.

We are doing that here in these pages and your comments, thoughts and stories are enriching my final days.

Even though I have met only a few of you in person, we've been friends of a certain kind for a long time. Imagine how you would feel if, when the time comes, someone posted a note saying I died yesterday of cancer, and you had known nothing about it until then.

Would you feel betrayed? I think I would. Would you wonder why the disease had been kept a secret? I would. And I think I would feel cheated to be able to leave only a note of condolence rather than having had this wonderful conversation we are carrying on now.

No one wants to die but I cannot see the point in pretending my death is not visible on the horizon. In accepting that, I can surrender to life in full, keep moving forward and be as much in the here and now as humanly possible.

Dying is as much a part of living as birth. We should treat it with as much significance and honor it during every last day we have.




ELDER MUSIC: Everything

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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We’ve had Nothing and Something. I imagine it’s time for Everything, and here it all is, and I think we cover just about every genre of popular music today. Well, every one worth considering.

Well, everything I’ve ever said about BILLIE HOLIDAY still holds true today.

Billie Holiday

She was unique, and I use that word advisably. Often given second rate material to record, she made them into polished gems of songs. And when she tackled great songs Billie made them even greater.

Billie suggests that Everything Happens For The Best. I don’t know about that, but let’s hear what she sings.

♫ Billie Holiday - Everything Happens For The Best


KEITH JARRETT made a couple of albums with the late great jazz bassist CHARLIE HADEN which are really fine if you like elegant stripped back jazz.

Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden

Charlie’s swinging bass playing gives an added dimension to Keith’s lyrical piano playing. Everything Happens to Me.

♫ Keith Jarrett - Everything Happens to Me


With her contribution CATHERINE RUSSELL sounds like a throwback to the thirties.

Catherine Russell

She isn’t from that era, of course. Catherine is quite up to date. From her recent album “Strictly Romancin'” she sings in her inimitable style, Everything's Been Done Before. I can see her singing this in a Paris club, backed by Django and Stéphane.

♫ Catherine Russell - Everything's Been Done Before


PAUL KELLY is unusual in the ranks of male songwriters because he writes many songs from the female point of view.

Paul kelly

He took a short story by Raymond Carver and turned it into the song, Everything's Turning to White. The story was called “So Much Water, So Close to Home”, which is the name of Paul’s album from which the song is taken.

♫ Paul Kelly - Everything's Turning to White


JOHNNY ADAMS had a multi-octave singing voice that he used often to great effect.

Johnny Adams

He was yet another talent from New Orleans and was quite at home singing soul, jazz, blues, gospel and rock & roll. Today’s song, I Want To Do Everything For You, is mostly in the soul genre.

♫ Johnny Adams - I Want To Do Everything For You


The BELLAMY BROTHERS are a successful country duo whose music has crossed over into the mainstream pop arena.

Bellamy Brothers

This isn’t confined to the obvious places – America, Australia, the UK – they’ve had charting songs in Europe, Japan and several African countries. The song today is from a rather fine album called “Rebels Without a Clue” called When The Music Meant Everything.

♫ Bellamy Brothers - When The Music Meant Everything


You don’t hear whistling much in songs anymore, it used to be quite common. The whistler today, okay, it’s quite short, is CHRIS SMITHER.

Chris Smither

Chris is a blues/folk/singer-songwriter of renown. His life performances, usually just him and an acoustic guitar, are really worth catching. Here he sings (and whistles) Everything on Top.

♫ Chris Smither - Everything on Top


I could have done without those strings on the next song. After all, when you have NAT KING COLE and THE GEORGE SHEARING QUINTET, that should be enough. It certainly is for me.

Na King Cole t& George Shearing

Nat and George and friends (and those damn strings) give us Everything Happens To Me.

♫ Nat King Cole and George Shearing - Everything Happens To Me


SAM COOKE should need no introduction from me for the readers of this column.

Sam Cooke

It’s generally considered that he invented soul music, along with Ray Charles, but he didn’t live long enough to see its full blossoming. Such a pity. He sings I Lost Everything. I guess that’s a little prophetic.

♫ Sam Cooke - I Lost Everything


I like to throw a song from left field into columns now and then, and today’s contribution is from the LOUVIN BROTHERS.

Louvin Brothers

The Louvins were an influential duo whose songs were taken up by later country and rock performers, most notably The Byrds and Emmylou Harris. It seems they have Plenty of Everything but You.

♫ Louvin Brothers - Plenty of Everything but You




INTERESTING STUFF – 10 November 2018

EDITORIAL NOTE: Again this week, my selections are heavy on animals. I hope you enjoy them.

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YOU THINK THREE RIBS ARE GOING TO STOP JUSTICE?

That's what Bryant Johnston, long-time physical fitness trainer to 85-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told a reporter after RGB fell last week and broke three ribs:

"To all the stressed out people in America," Johnson told The Cut, "remember that the justice is TAN. Now, I always use that acronym: TAN. She’s tough as nails. You think three ribs are going to stop Justice?

"We probably won’t train at least for another week or so just to give the ribs a chance to heal because the ribs are just very sensitive areas that you just gotta give them a chance to heal. And then we’ll pick back up just like we usually do, and I’ll take in account for the ribs and we’ll just kinda ease and move in a little bit easier around ‘em."

Thank god she is TAN. We need that woman on the Court.

WHAT ANIMALS DO WHEN WE'RE NOT LOOKING

Julien Tabet is a young French artist who says he likes to surprise people.

”...imagining the improbable fascinates me...,” he says. “My works deal mainly with animals for a lot of reasons. Animals are different from humans because they are so much more humble and innocent.

“But what I like the most is that they can be mysterious due to their anonymity. I love to dream up the way animals act when we aren't watching them, kind of like Toy Story.

I think his work is magic:

ElkWithHarpHorns

LionWithWings

SwanWithPenguinsandPolarBear

There are more fantastical images at Bored Panda and at Tabet's Instagram page.

HOW CONGRESS STOPPED WORKING

We may have elected a Democratic-majority House of Representatives on Tuesday but that doesn't mean Congress will suddenly function.

The Washington Post and ProPublica got together to produce a short animated video, How Congress Stopped Working, that includes some predictions about whether it will soon get better.

Warning: This is not encouraging:

You can read more at the Washington Post and at ProPublica.

ONE TOUGH LITTLE RAT CHASES OFF A SCAREDY CAT

The YouTube page tells us:

”An inquisitive cat in the Luxembourg city of Esch-sur-Alzette, saw something move across the street and immediately trotted over to investigate. Upon discovering it was a rat, the cat began the chase.

“This tough little rat, however, turned right around and instead became the chaser...nipping at the poor kittie’s heels all around the streets.”

GERMAN SHEPHERD WATCHES OVER TEENY TINY BABY QUAIL

This is so cute:

”A noble German Shepherd named Thorin,” says the YouTube page, “very gently sniffed out a bevy of baby quails who were chirping away while crawling around on a comfy shag rug. After meeting these little birds, Thorin sat down and stood guard over them, remaining completely affable even when they climbed upon him.”

A SMALL AMOUNT OF GOOD CLIMATE NEWS

I may have mentioned that I can no longer read stories about climate change. Just the headlines make me weep for our beautiful big blue marble home in space.

Then there is this from the BBC. It won't change much, but it's good to read:

”The ozone layer, which protects us from ultraviolet light, looks to be successfully healing after gaping holes were discovered in the 1980s. The Northern Hemisphere could be fully fixed by the 2030s and Antarctica by the 2060s.

“A new United Nations report says it's an example of what global agreements can achieve.”

Read the entire story at the BBC.

MERCATOR MAP ANIMATED GIF

Undoubtedly you know that maps made for a flat surface distort the size and shape of land masses. Climate data scientist and interactive mapmaker, Neil Kaye, has made an animated gif to show the differences in the size of countries between flat and globe-shaped maps.

”Because the Mercator Map distorts land size in accordance with increased distance from the Equator, countries like Greenland, Russia, Canada and the United States look so much larger than much of the rest of the world.”

World-Projection-Actual-Size-Animation

Read more at Laughing Squid.

HISTORY OF CEMETERIES

A succinct little video about the way humans bury their dead has changed from the earliest days of humankind to the present.

HOW TO RID YOURSELF OF EARWORMS

Most of us get stuck with annoying earworms from time to time, a tune stuck in our brain that won't go away.

Susana Martinez-Conde, writing at Mental Floss, has five suggestions for banishing them. One of them is to listen to a “cure tune”:

”The same study also found that some subjects used competing songs, or 'cure tunes,' to control their earworms. The researchers identified 64 such tunes, with six of them named by more than one person.”

Another suggestion is to chew gum:

”Chewing might hinder the motor programming involved in speech articulation, and therefore could keep people from subvocalizing (saying the words to the songs in their heads). They found that vigorous gum-chewing did reduce the number of unwanted musical thoughts, but...”

Read the rest at Mental Floss. I have no idea of any of these work.

COMEDY WILDLIFE AWARDS

The Comedy Wildlife awards are back again this year with some of the funniest animal photography you've ever seen. A sampling of finalists:

Flyinghyena

SplitSquirrel

WildlifePhotogrbear

The 2018 winners will be announced next Thursday, 15 November, in a ceremony at Foyles in Charing Cross, London.

Meanwhile, you can see a lot of more of the finalists at Bored Panda (click through for the entire five pages of entries) or at Comedy Wildlife Photos.

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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.