What's Not to Laugh?

Almost everything about aging–except grave illness and death–can be funny as well as disturbing. I try to find the funny and help us all get through it!

Archive for the month “June, 2012”

My theory of reactivity

Right off the bat, I must tell you that this title is a lie. There’s no theory. Only reactivity. Generally, people are either proactive or reactive. As my friends and relatives who could die waiting for a phone call from me will tell you, I’m definitely reactive.

Do you want solid evidence? Here are the highlights of my reactive existence:

I have DVR on my cable system, and we have a DVD player/recorder. Still, I almost always wait until something is shown on regularly scheduled TV rather than record it and watch it at my convenience. The few times we have recorded something I had to miss because of a schedule conflict, I never got around to watching it…ever. I wait until it comes back as a rerun (or now, watch it on On Demand).

I love going out to lunch or dinner with friends, but I rarely (never?) initiate the outing. Call me or email me, and I’m in! But don’t expect a message from me asking “Would you like to meet for lunch next Thursday?”

I never spontaneously come up with an idea for travel. Instead, I react to a specific occasion: a wedding in another city; a conference my husband is attending in an attractive location, where I can amuse myself while he’s in session; a mini-reunion like we attended in Las Vegas last fall; our trip to Wyoming to help my brother-in-law put together his gallery show. I loved these trips, but they were already established events, with specific dates and places. All I had to do was say yay or nay on going.

I’ve never been a trendsetter. I develop a yearning to buy something trendy, but only after it’s been around for a while and mentioned by my coworkers or friends, featured on the Today show, pictured in O magazine, or recommended by my hair stylist.  A great example of such a yearning is on my feet as I write this. I started hearing about Tom’s shoes, mainly the canvas espadrille resembling a style that’s been around for years—and that I’ve never bought nor wanted. Then my daughter had them on and said they were soooo comfortable. I tried them on at Nordstrom, and a 9 fit just fine. But they didn’t have the color I wanted in my size. As I was trying on the shoes, another customer walked by and said, “Those are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. I walked all over Disney World in them!” Suddenly, I had to have a pair of Tom’s shoes.

I had heard (from my hair stylist) that Whole Foods carries them (I guess they’re organic), and off I went. Now I’m sporting a pair of ash gray (in some lights they look brown) shoes that really are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. And to assuage my guilt over doing what all the other kids are doing, I’m focusing on the fact that Tom’s donates a pair of shoes to a deserving child for every pair we buy.

As I said earlier, there’s no theory, just decades upon decades of reacting. I don’t think it’s worth seeking therapy to find one. So if I don’t contact you and ask you to go to lunch, please don’t think I’m making a statement about your table manners or your lunchtime chatter. I’d love to spend time with you. Just call me.


Reprise: No fathers, just memories

For Mother’s Day, I reposted a tribute to my mother originally published two years earlier. My new motto is “Why reinvent when you can republish?” I won’t take advantage of long-time readers by doing this often.

But for this special day set aside to honor our fathers and father-figures, I’d rather repost than write another emotionally wrenching piece. Only the photo of my father has changed. I came across the one shown here of him wearing his World War II army uniform. He doesn’t look happy—he had been drafted and sent to Japan for the Occupation—but it makes me proud. I hope you enjoy this ode to my father and fathers everywhere.

Originally published June 18, 2011:

Father’s Day is approaching, but—sadly—there are no more fathers around for us to shower with shirts that don’t fit, ties they don’t need, and, in one unpleasant instance, a fancy-schmancy showerhead that my father looked at and handed right back to me. This didn’t cause me psychological damage. I understood that my father knew what he liked and didn’t like, and this time I got it wrong. Almost every other time he told me I gave him the best presents, and with his penchant for honesty, I knew he meant it.

There’s the father of my kids, whom I’m no longer married to but wish well. He’ll be amply gifted by our daughters. My husband doesn’t have kids and he came into my daughters’ lives way too late for them to think of him as other than their mother’s husband—although they treat him with kindness.
So, this week there are no cards to buy, no masculine—frivolous—gadgets to look for. But I can reflect.
My father died in 1997 at the age of 80. By that time, we could no longer communicate because Parkinson’s had affected his mind. We couldn’t tell if he understood anything we were saying. One of the last memories I have, before the one-day hospice stay he endured—was a small birthday party at his nursing home. He attempted to eat the cake, although Parkinson’s had attacked his ability to swallow properly too, but I’m not sure he knew what we were celebrating.
After my mother died in 2005, we cleared out their condo and got rid of bagsful of stuff—Depression-era parents saved nearly everything—but I held onto the items that either brought back memories or I thought I might need. Today, I still have what I refer to as “the shrine.” In a small section of my closet are papers, trinkets, photos, death notices—you never know when you might need another one—and other things I swear I’m going to go through and purge one day.
Besides the shrine, there are Rubbermaid boxes of stuff that we finally are going through (probably to make space for our own junk). Among other papers in one of the boxes is a stack of my father’s poems. He wrote most of them in the late 40s and early 50s, and whenever I come across them I see different parts of this often quiet man’s inner being. Here’s a short one that made me smile and that I recognized as truly him:
I doff my hat to the clever wit
Who worked and worried, bit by bit,
Till he evolved, to our surprise
That wondrous gift to please our eyes:
Pictures that move.
And, on the subject, it’s only fair
To mention the others who did their share,
I bow low to the engineers
Who brought this boon to our happy ears:
Pictures that talk.
With all these gifts at their command,
You can readily understand
Why I’d like to dump in the lake
All the guys who continually make
Pictures that smell*.
I wish fathers everywhere a happy day and hope that you cherish your family and that they let you know they feel the same.
* My dad did not foresee “Smellovision” that came and went in the 60s or 70s. He was using the kinder of form of “stink.”

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