Posted in Aging process, Exercise, Introspection, Old Age

I Fall Down A lot by Ginger Keller Gannaway

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At 61, I am out-of-shape and off-balance (both physically and mentally).
It makes perfect sense that I’m prone to falls. In the last year or so, I’ve had 3 falls. Each time I felt like it was a slo-mo fall. In those 3 or 4 seconds I told myself, “Get a grip and straighten up! You don’t have to fall.” Of course, I fell faster than I could utter the previous words.

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Two of the falls happened as I was walking my 60 pound dog, Millie. Millie did not yank me down outright, but on both occasions she tugged at her leash enough to throw me off balance. Both times I was not properly monitoring Millie’s unpredictable behavior. For Millie, another dog seven blocks away seems like special canine crack.. Her ears wiggle, her head faces the distraction and her eyes look for what her nose smells. At such times, I wrap her leash tighter in my hand and I search for what has excited her senses. When I discover the approaching dog, I say, “Leave it, Millie” and I follow with “Good girl!” if she fights her urge to bark like a fire alarm and try to run toward the other animal. However, before Fall #1 I was chatting with my brother as we walked and I fell in the damp grass when Millie made an extra-quick turn around. And for Fall #2 I thought Millie and I had safely walked past a strange dog with no barking, and then she split up my “Good” and “Girl” with a sudden halt to smell a branch near a gutter. And both of my knees slapped the pavement in a flash. For both falls I inwardly cursed Millie even though I knew my crappy balance and old lady reflexes were to blame.
Lately, I feel like my skin, my bones, and my internal organs are conspiring to murder me. They are sick and tired of my clumsy stumbles and my spastic trips & falls. “Just die already” they mutter to each other. “All you do is bumble, fumble, and tumble your way thru a day.”
Although my two aforementioned falls were superficial and handled with a few 4X4 band-aids and some Neosporin, my 3rd fall was a bit messier. It happened in the summer when I was in my hometown with my siblings and a very loyal friend cleaning out my grandma’s attic.
Our first mistake was deciding to clean out an attic in a 152 year old house in south Louisiana in August! We would get up early to face the attic’s heat and dirt and chaos, and then get the hell out of Dante’s Inferno before noon. Then we’d walk to Ruby’s for our plate lunch reward. cracked sidewalkThat Monday as we were walking back to our attic work, I tripped on an uneven piece of sidewalk and made an ungraceful dive into the concrete. The fall included an elbow scrape and a quick head-bounce as a finale. I did not pop up after this fall. I thought I heard muffled snickers, so I pitifully said, “I’m really hurt here.” Loyal Mark immediately tried to help me up, but I told him to hold up as I needed to carefully figure out how I was gonna pull my overweight, off-center self up from the ground.
I managed an unladylike, slow, painful rise from the broken sidewalk as I brushed twigs, grass, and leaves from my palms, forearm, and knees. I straightened my cockeyed glasses and discovered the plastic frame was cracked to the left of the nose bridge. Now I was humiliated, scraped-up, and potentially blind.
“Falling” sounds so much like “failing” and I feel like a falling failure a lot lately.

My mirror states the obvious- “You old…Bitch!” Yet my mind and my heart argue with the obvious truth of my aging. I still understand a novel’s subtle themes or a movie’s complex visual metaphors. My insides still flutter when I hear a powerful song, and I still yearn to enjoy cool going-ons around town. However, when I do go out, the risk of embarrassment has gone way up. My physically crooked, lazy, off-balance, inflexible, unsightly self will most likely show itself to be the 61-year-old specimen it is.
I will continue to fall down a lot. And that’s just a chance I gotta take.

 

Posted in Aging process, Cajuns, Caring for others, Changes, Children, Friendship, Grandchildren, Grandmother, I love you, Mothers, Outdoors, Parents

Mama Joe’s Mimosa Tree by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Mama Joe’s Mimosa Treemimosa tree

A momma’s love shines through her children, and Mama Joe’s eleven children wonderfully displayed their love for her.  Lizo Vidrine married when she was 15 and she and Joe Latour raised their 11 kids in Ville Platte, Louisiana.  As a kid, I remember going to Mama and PapaJoe’s every week, mostly on Sunday afternoons.  When Dad drove the family from Eunice to Ville Platte my siblings and I played a very lame car game called “Counting Horses” ( that’s a “whole ‘nother Oprah” as one of my good friends would say). We traveled a distance of 17 miles, but to 4 restless kids, it seemed like 77 at least! 

Back then we mostly kissed Mama & Papa hello and then headed to the backyard to mama's familychase Papa’s chickens and eat his scuppernong grapes until he came out yelling at us to leave his chickens alone.  Then we fidgeted inside for 8 or so minutes until Dad gave us each a dime to walk to Mr. Theophile’s tiny store on the corner where we each bought 10 penny candies that were placed in small paper bags.  To get to the store we had to pass Mama’s next door neighbor’s house that would later remind me of Boo Radley’s place.  My sisters and I usually ran when we passed neighbor Gazelle’s because she and her “not-quite-right” daughters lived there with at least 100 cats, and Gazelle yelled at us if she was sitting on the front porch with a gun beneath her chair.  (another Oprah-type tale).

However, many years later, Papa Joe has died and Mama Joe is bedridden and somewhat senile.  Now her seven children who live closest to her have each claimed a day of the week to come take care of her (or pay for a sitter if they cannot come that week).   Usually my momma drives my two sisters and me to visit Mama Joe.  Now the house is quiet and after Gayle, Kelly and I kiss Mama Joe hello in her bed full of pillows, we move to the small living room to read or watch a little t.v.  Momma stays in Mama’s bedroom and time ticks slowly be with the soft sounds of Momma talking to Mama. Later, the sitter arrives and talks with Momma in Cajun French.  Sometimes my sisters and I go outside and pick these hard pears or sour plums from Mama’s trees. Papa Joe had been a gifted gardener, and years earlier he had grown vegetables and fruits galore in his extensive garden.  Gayle remembers when he pulled a carrot from the ground once and handed her the best carrot she has ever tasted!

Mama Joe’s yard also had this mimosa tree I really loved.  Its beautiful softness, the feathery green leaves, with the flowers that looked like pink dandelions remind me now of my grandmother’s soft, strong beauty. Mimosa trees produce fragile, sweet blossoms in the late spring that attract butterflies and birds and that also contrast with the tree’s tough nature.   According to some gardening websites, mimosas do well in droughts and heat, which explains their abundance along southern highways.  Also, they produce these elongated seedpods that drop and spread their “offspring” far and wide.  The Japanese call mimosas the “sleeping tree” because their leaves gently fold for the night.  Like the mimosa tree, Mama Joe had a strong, calm beauty that mixed the Cajun Vidrine in her with the Native American blood my momma always claimed she had. (“Your mama’s great-great grandmother was an Indian princess, for real!”)  Also, her eleven seedpods heeded the Catholic directive  to “go forth and multiply” well. Mama and Papa Joe had 48 grandchildren and over 60 great-grandchildren and I don’t know how many great-grandchildren since the Latours are still healthily multiplying. 

Overall, Mama Joe was a sweet, smiling & laughing Cajun who married at age 15 and raised a family of 11, who only spoke Cajun French until her son P.J. married Polly (an amazing woman from California),  and so she learned to speak English to welcome a new member of her family, who cooked rice and gravy like a top chef, who loved life and good times almost as much as she loved all of her many children and their children, and their children’s children, and so on.  All Mama Joe gave forth was love and joy which she taught my own mother, Geraldine, to do for her 4 children, who then did her best to teach me to do for my 3 boys.  Like the mimosa tree, may all mothers continue to spread strong, soft feathery blossoms of love for their own seedpods.

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PaPa and Mama Joe

Thank you to Uncle Jack (Mama’s baby) and Aunt Faye for helping me with some Mama Joe details!

Posted in Aging process, Exercise, Introspection, Old Age, Pets

Walking my Butt by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Walking my Buttmillies butt

Let me be clear.  I do not enjoy exercise!  I fear weights, treadmills, and machines with names like elliptical.  I avoid any sort of exercise class because the idea of staying in step or keeping time with a roomful of moving bodies makes me sweat more than actually exercising ever could.

However, I will go for a walk.  Mostly I walk my dog. Mostly to give her a sense of freedom and the chance to smell the roses, my neighbors’ lawns, a random piece of trash, another’s dog’s butt, or a dried-up pile of poop.  My walks are mostly for Millie, but they are also a bit for me…specifically for my oversized booty!

Walking my Butt

I’m walking my butt,
Walking my butt,
Walking my big fat butt.

Birds gossip and squeak;owl
Squirrels scamper and peek.
Is nature judging me?
Do they even see
My big fat butt?

No, no, no, no way.
‘Cause my dog just sniffs and squats.
Another short squirt on another lil sprout.
She stops, she pulls, she pauses
To give my butt a kind of rest.

millie and me
So nature really doesn’t care
about my feet, my butt, my hair.
It’s my own so critical eye
that makes me wanna cry, so…

I’m walking my butt,
Walking my butt,
Walking my big fat butt.

Posted in Aging process, Retirement

How I Put The ‘Me’ in RetireMEnt!

 

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After 36 years in education, I decided to retire.  That was six years ago and I have not looked back!  Not once.  Nada.  Zilch.  Never.  Really.

 

I remember how I labored over the decision to retire.  Will we be able to live on retirement funds?  What will I do to entertain myself?  How will I fill my days?  I remember thinking that I was too young to retire…too young to embrace my golden years…too young to be a ‘Golden Girl’.

 

As a high school administrator, I sometimes dealt with some pretty challenging students.  But, one day a student I was sending home for fighting yelled at me, calling me “a skinny white ass bitch.”  This wouldn’t be so bad except it was the 2nd time that week a student had referred to me in an unflattering light.  All of a sudden… I snapped!  I mean ‘it clicked’.  I’m ready to retire!  I’m outta here!

 

It’s amazing how free I felt once I made the decision and scheduled my appointment at TRS.  I was taking my skinny white ass to retirement!  

 

At first, I tried to make a plan for what to do in my golden years.  I signed up for training to be a substitute principal.  I took training to be a volunteer.  I said ‘yes’ to friends’ invitations for book clubs, at home parties, babysitting grandkids…I had my day scheduled from 8-5.  A few months into my ‘golden years’, I broke down in tears.  “I’m overwhelmed”,  I whined.  “I’m tired!!  This isn’t at all like I thought it would be!”  My husband, (comfy in his recliner) nonchalantly said, “Your problem is, you just don’t know how to relax.”  And he was right!

 

Well, I did some changing.  I started saying no to things that I really didn’t want to do and yes to my new and improved life.  Yes to cruises, ski trips, vacations to the Florida Keys, yes to volunteering, yes to writing workshops, yes to exercising every day!  I’ve made a vow to never go to HEB on weekends or in the evening.  I’ve decided that playing with my grandchildren will keep me young forever.  I’ve concluded that it’s OK to drink wine and eat chocolate on a school night.

 
Yes, I’ve taken to retirement like a duck to water or should I say, a cruise ship to the ocean?  I’ve decided “me” time is anytime.  I’ve made a commitment to enjoy every day I have left on this earth and so far… I think I’m doing a bang up job!

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Posted in Aging process, Old Age

5 Reasons Why “Getting Old is Not For Sissies”

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It seems like every year something happens…something unexpected, unalluring and unwanted.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m very aware of the alternative to getting older and I am grateful for the opportunity to be alive, but, can I just say…..WOW!  This getting older is not for the faint-hearted (literally) and here are 5 reasons why.

 

#5.  Huh?  What did you say?  Say again?  These ears that once could hear a baby sigh in another room or hear a bag of chips open in the other end of the house, now evidently cannot hear my husband and vise versa.  We carry on a conversation and 89% of it involves saying, “What did you say?”

How can this be?  Soon our children and grandchildren will be raising their voices and mouthing their words while standing right in front of us.  H i  M o t h e r, h o w a r e y o u?

 

#4.  The “eyes” have it!  Cataracts, floaters, flashes, glasses and the always popular, “I’m not comfortable driving at night anymore.”  These brown eyes once could spot a misbehaving student while my back was to the class.  I could ask, “Are your hands clean?” and know the answer instantly from 30 feet.  I even remember so long ago, when I could actually read without adjusting the length of my arm or the lighting.  Sigh…..

 

#3.  Snap! Crackle! Pop! Creak!….you guessed it, the knees.  Oh, I know, some of you still have good knees, even cute knees, but for the rest of us, it’s just not pretty.  You know it’s REAL when you train your 3 year old grandchild to help you up off the floor.  Goodbye mini skirts….farewell long jogs on the beach!  Hello Aspercreme, knees braces and Motrin.

 

#2.  I hate to even get started on teeth, but I must.  Perhaps you are one of the few who still have all of your own pearly whites.  Maybe you are the lucky one who doesn’t know what a crown is or a root canal.  But, for some, our dental bills look like a monthly mortgage payment.  For many, the reason our teeth look so good is because we paid for them!  The good news is, no one really has to know if they’re the originals or not, as long you keep smiling and don’t tell!  (Be careful with the popcorn!)

 

#1.  Last but not least is food.  I remember when Nacho Doritos were not synonymous with heartburn….when Mexican food or Italian dishes could be eaten any time of day with favorable results.  Now, it seems that almost anything we eat demands a Tums, Gas-X, Pepto Bismol or Prilosec.  It seems that some of the things we used to eat and enjoy, now, are not our friends and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s something we think about and plan for.  Goodbye, eating late at night!  Farewell, spicy foods!  Hello, low-carb, high-fiber and probiotics!

 

Yes, it does seem that every year something happens; there is something that changes, disappears or pops up.  I truly believe getting older is not for sissies. In fact, as we get older we get smarter, wiser and enjoy life more fully; it just takes a little planning.  Motrin?  Glasses?  Gas-X?  Dental floss?

All ready!  Let’s go!

Posted in Aging process, Auntie Sue

Happy Birthday Auntie Sue!

 

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My Auntie Sue was the original Sittin Ugly Sistah!  In fact, she not only coined the phrase, she lived it and oh, how I miss her every day.

Auntie Sue was the heart and soul of our family.  She understood the importance of being together to love and laugh.  She inspired us all to be better people and at the same time, not take ourselves too seriously.

She could be tough as nails when she had to be.  At 4’11” and 100 pounds soaking wet, she was a force to be reckoned with and a heart full of compassion all at the same time.

She faced aging with grace and humor.  She lived modestly yet gave generously.  She had a kind word for everyone and lived each day with integrity and faith.

I hope you know how much I miss you, Auntie Sue.  I’m pretty sure you’ve got things all organized in Heaven with weekly Skip Bo tournaments and shopping trips.  I like to think you’re sittin ugly with me every morning,  enjoying your quiet time and encouraging us all to seize the day!

Happy Birthday Auntie Sue!

 

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Posted in Aging process, Christmas, Grandmother, Holidays, Introspection

Letting Go by Ginger Keller Gannaway

 

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Geraldine Latour Keller

As Dad shuffled out of his 122-year-old home, he went back to his bedroom to take down the large wooden-framed portrait of his daughter, Kelly Ann. Kelly died on September 25, 2004, and he sobbed while he unsteadily carried the picture towards the front door. I met him there and took the picture, wrapped it in a Christmas angel blanket and stacked it atop the miscellaneous mess crammed into Dad’s Pontiac Vibe. After he painfully plopped himself in the passenger seat he remembered Momma. “I forgot Gerry,” he said as he started to struggle to get up out of the car. I stopped him with, “I got it. I got it. The big photo on the hall table, right?” He nodded sadly as I hurried back into the lonely house to retrieve the black and white photo we had blown-up to display at Momma’s memorial in 2014. These were Dad’s farewell actions before I pulled shut the heavy front door of Grandma’s house. (Even though my parents had lived there since 1972, 420 S. 2nd St. would always be “Grandma’s house.”)
In Annie Hall Woody Allen says, “A relationship is like a shark. It has to keep moving or it dies.” Does the simile work for life in general? We keep moving on or we die, either literally or figuratively. And a big part of moving on is learning to let go: of places, of things, of people. The week before Christmas my sister Gayle, our close friend Mark, and I started cleaning up and clearing our Grandma’s house. We organized items in piles: Trash; Goodwill; KEEP; Leave for the house. (My cousin Chiquita had bought the house and she let us leave all the stuff we did not want to take! Merci beaucoup, Chickie!) Gayle kept quoting the book about decluttering: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up , “Does it give you joy? No? So throw it.” Mark would sometimes argue over the value of an item. “This old kitchen clock is wonderful! It would remind your dad of his home. Take it.”
Since we had limited space in Dad’s car, I had to make tough decisions. I wanted Momma’s china and Mama Joe’s pie safe. Period. But then a portable hair dryer from the 1960’s and a stack of old 45’s would remind me of the freedom and freshness of being 12 years old. I caught myself putting a tube of lipstick from my momma’s winter coat in my own pocket and setting aside the dented aluminum bun warmer Momma used a lot. I opened stiff books and touched the handwritten dedication from a dead relative to a dead friend.img_3494
Later my brother Emile arrived and he made piles of old things for his three children and five grandchildren. Then someone thought of gift-wrapping unique or sentimental items to put under the Christmas tree: a tarnished tennis trophy, a pair of iron wolf book ends, a biography of Carl Sandburg. The gift tags read “from Grandma’s house” or “from Eunice” or “from Mr. Snowball.”
From December 17 to the last day of 2016, we were slowly saying good-bye to Grandma’s house, to Momma and Kelly’s memories, and to our own childhoods. We let go of stacks and even rooms of furniture, clothes, knick-knacks, and even some treasures. However, each of us took the items we needed to hold on tightly to ( two audio cassettes of an interview with Grandma, a Latour coffee cup Uncle P.J. gave Momma, Kelly’s copy of Walden.)
I let go of almost 60 years of objects from that home even as I squirreled away an LP here or a cast iron skillet there. I know that the things I took are just things, but they hold powerful memories of parties and suppers and stories and games and bad times and good times. Dad and I did not finally drive off in the Vibe until I ran back in for my final treasure from Grandma’s house: the extra-large Bulova kitchen clock from the 1940’s. Time to let go and move on down the road.img_3492

Posted in Aging process, Bicycles, Exercise, Old Age, Uncategorized

Ride Like The Wind

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“The bicycle, the bicycle surely, should always be the vehicle of novelists and poets…”  Christopher Morley

 

I’ve always loved to ride my bike.  I’m a professional amateur.  I have all the bells and whistles, yet I just cruise the neighborhood.

My husband bought me my first adult bike fifteen years ago.  I love that old, green bike!  We’ve taken it to the beach and almost everyone in our family has ridden it at least once.  However,  time, stress and a few mishaps have taken its toll, not to mention that it needs new brakes.

Last year I purchased a fancy, light-weight, thin-tired, sleek-seated, lightening-fast, silver bike.  Then, my husband said I must have the padded biker shorts and loud printed shirt to go with.  Next, gloves were added  because these arthritic hands need the extra padding!

Truthfully, the padded shorts and gloves feel great, but when I get all decked out, I feel a little foolish, especially riding the one mile to our mailboxes.  Oh sure, we’ve taken longer rides and occasionally I ride to the HEB for a few lightweight items (sans the outfit), but still I am an amateur in professional clothing.

I do feel conspicuous in my gear, but what I really feel is exhilarated!  As I pedal through the neighborhood, I may look like a senior citizen in biker gear, pumping the brakes and weaving a bit; but inside, I’m riding like the wind!  I’m blazing new trails and I’m a good twenty-five years younger!
As you pass me by on the streets, don’t honk, just give me the “nod”.  That’s what we bikers do…we’re cool like that.

Life is like riding a bicycle..in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.  Albert Einstein

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Posted in Aging process, Caring for others, Old Age, Uncategorized

Home

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It will happen to all of us, this aging process.  If we are ‘lucky’ enough, we will grow old and eventually need more care, possibly more care than our families can provide.  This is a part of life.

 

Perhaps, we are the ones making choices for our loved ones.  We are making decisions on where to live and how to be cared for.  “This is your new home,” we say.  

 

I see it in their eyes and feel it in the atmosphere; “This is not my home.” they think.  Oh, some people adjust, like Auntie Sue.  She was positive, grateful and kind no matter her circumstance; no matter where she was.  But it is hard for others.  It’s not familiar or comfortable…it doesn’t sound like home or smell like home.  “My heart is not here,” they think.  “I want to go home.”

 

I don’t have a response or even an alternative suggestion; I wish I did.  For it is not always possible to give our loved ones the answers they want.  So, we dig deep into our souls and bring out our bowels of compassion, love and care.  We remember the dignity of others.  We respect privacy and requests for certain things….familiar things.  We do the best we can.

 

Yes, it will happen to all of us, this aging process; if we are ‘lucky’.