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Turkey, joy, and a small glass of beer

Quite honestly, I'm not sure when I wrote this, so if you've read it too recently to like reading it again, my apologies. The greatest gifts...the greatest reasons for Thanksgiving...are the people in our lives, and I'm so grateful for Aunt Nellie. She gave more richness to my life than I can ever explain.

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” ― Marcel Proust

Aunt Nellie was my great-aunt. She was born in 1892, loved and married two men, and never had any children. She was the other side of the coin from my grandmother, who’d undoubtedly been the Good Daughter, and even though I loved them both, I worshiped the ground Aunt Nellie walked on.

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I’m bewildered.

There are many things I liked about the “good old days.” Fifty-seven Chevys, 60s music, bell-bottoms—yes, really, I did; using complete sentences that didn’t include the f-bomb, not having to pump my own gas, milk in glass bottles, not knowing virtually everything good was bad for you. I could go on. And on. But then I remember other things, too.

My husband recalls black people having separate drinking fountains. The signs in Louisville used to say “colored,” and he always wanted to try it out to see if their water really was a different color.

He remembers coming home from Vietnam when people turned away from him in his uniform. When the personnel director where he had worked before he was drafted didn’t want to give his job back.

I remember not being able to get credit because of my gender and even when the bank finally gave me a loan in my own name, they sent the invoice for it to my husband.

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Heroes and heartache

I don't remember when this was. It was in the early days of the Window, after Tony Hare had taken my picture for the paper. What a nice guy he was. So, anyway, sometime in the early 90s, I think. The times have done some changing since then, know, not everything. I've updated this some, subtracted a few things that were too dated to make sense and added a few.

I had to add something here, too, a category of heroes that is new on my Top Ten list. There are a lot of heroes who clean up the devastation left by disasters--both natural and human-made. I can't imagine walking into one of those places where children were harmed by wanton violence. I can't imagine being a nurse or a doctor trying to save those young lives and not being able to. My thanks to them for doing what they do, and my everlasting admiration.

There are words that just go together, you know. Bacon and eggs, peanut butter and jelly, his and hers. I've noticed as I've aged that heroes and heartache are that way, too.

“That's why you can't give up. Heroes don't give up.” ― Kiera Cass

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It ain't easy...

We’ve been married a long time and I hope we’re married a lot longer, but contrary to the belief of everyone who hasn’t been married a long time, it never gets easy. On either participant. Although it’s harder on the one who’s right. In our case, that would be me—but there, as in virtually everything else, we don’t agree.

Take, for instance, spending winters in Florida. He—Duane, the roommate, the boyfriend, my husband, the person I do in all actuality love more than life itself, but for now we’ll call him “he”—loves Florida. Loves heat and says he never has to shovel it or blow it out of the driveway. Loves the beach. Loves palm trees and all the other tropical things that grow there—except roaches; I don’t think he loves them.

I like most of those things, too—other than unrelenting heat, but I like them, it must be said, for a week. Maybe two.

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I was thinking about coping. Or maybe I was coping while I was thinking. I don’t know. Sometimes things just pile up on you until have to find a way to…deal. I am not there now—thanks for asking—but hey, no one raises kids, stays married, works a job, or gets an education without some coping mechanisms.

There are obvious ways of coping. Counseling and medication. They are both effective and many, many of us do, will, or have used one or both. But I’m talking about less formal methods here. As I brewed my tea and pushed my feet into comforting fuzzy slippers, I asked writer friends how they did it. Predictably enough, their answers were unpredictable.

From Cheryl Reavis. “Conversation with a long-ago nursing school classmate":

She: I'm embarrassed by some of the things I did in school.
Me: Why?
She: Because they were so silly.
Me: Like what?
She: I rode around on a broom singing "Goodbye, Old Paint." I felt like people were looking down on me.
Me: Well, there is absolutely no way I could have been looking down on you.
She: Why not?
Me: Because I was riding the other broom.

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Unexpected routine

"I see the turning of a leaf dancing in an autumn sun, and brilliant shades of crimson glowing when a day is done." - Hazelmarie Mattie Elliott

From 2013--I think.

It’s funny the things that become routine without you realizing they’ve done it. My office is in the garage and its door is probably 50 feet from the back door of the house. I make this walk upwards of 10 times a day. More if I’m restless or if the words are hiding from me. Less if my fingers can’t keep up with them.

Coming from the house, I look toward the east and west horizons to see if anything has changed since the last time. Are the beans out of the field? Did they spread manure—I can tell when they do. Are the suet feeders empty?

Going back to the house, I look down. For season-predicting wooly worms. For the nasty little black worms that come out in fall. To see if the cats’ bowls are empty. Again. To make sure I see the step that hasn’t moved in 10 years or so but still manages to trip me from time to time.

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I keep saying, “The hardest thing about being old is…” There’s nothing wrong with saying that, except that I finish it differently almost every time. Here’s my list for this week.

• Your body betrays you. If you get down, you can’t get up. When you leave a doctor’s appointment, you may as well make another one, because by the end of the week, you’ll need to go back. Gravity, that wicked witch, has attacked you and taken away certain…assets you thought you had. Well, she didn’t take them away, but she certainly did put them in a different place.
• Losing your memory. Because you don’t have it anymore and oh, boy, do you miss it. You can, of course, remember what you wore to school on the first day of seventh grade (blue skirt, white blouse, red T-strap shoes), the boy you had a crush on when you were eight (Randy), and a mean thing you said to someone in Mrs. Kotterman’s class that still makes you squirm (sorry, Suzanne). However, you can’t remember what you went into the next room for, why you had to go to Kroger’s, and the name of your firstborn if he’s the one you’re talking to. You can’t remember that you told that same story just yesterday to the—cringe—same person you’re telling it to today.

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A Real Thing

Another visit to my past—and my parents’ past. I wrote this in 2012. I hope you don’t mind revisiting it.

“Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing.” - -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

On September 28, 1935, my parents went to a minister’s house and got married. My dad wore a double-breasted suit and my mom had on a hat. They stayed married through the rest of the Great Depression and three wars, through the births of six children and the death of one at the age of three, through failing health and the loss of all their parents and some of my father’s siblings. Dad died in 1981, Mom in 1982. They were still married.

From the viewpoint of their youngest child, who was born when they were in their early 40s and they thought they were finished with all that, it was the marriage from hell. I never saw them as a loving couple, never saw them laugh together or show affection or even hold hands. They didn’t buy each other gifts, sit on the couch together, or bring each other cups of coffee. The only thing I was sure they shared was that—unlike my husband and me—they didn’t cancel out each other’s vote on Election Day.