Posted in Aging, Grandmother

Technology: “Crooked as a Barrel of Snakes” by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Grandma Keller’s Slot Machine

Technology: “Crooked as a Barrel of Snakes!”

Grandma Keller had a nickel slot machine in the hall next to the front door of her home. Several times a day she’d use her walker to reach a stool set in front of the machine and feed it nickels from a metal cup she held.

The machine was green and spun pictures of cherries, oranges, plums, bells, and bars for the chance to win the $7.50 jackpot. You could win five nickels for two cherries or a cherry and a bar. The machine never hit the jackpot, and 18 nickels (for three bells) was the most it ever paid out. Like other one-armed bandits, it was programed to keep you playing without emptying its whole stash of coins.

Grandma Keller, aka Madame Queen

Grandma loved to gamble! From betting on the horses at the New Orleans Fairgrounds to playing poker or bouree with her lady friends, she loved games of chance when money was at stake. And like most of us, she hated to lose. After depleting her cup of nickels at the slot machine, she’d mutter, “Crooked as a barrel of snakes,” before she’d limp back to her favorite arm chair in the living room or her large wooden rocking chair on the front porch. Then she could let a cup of coffee or a Salty Dog (depending on the time of day) help her forget her losses.

For me, dealing with technology is like pulling that slot machine’s long metal arm and hoping my nickel was not used in vain. When I try to reformat a document or navigate a spreadsheet, my head watches those wheels of cherries, plums, and oranges spin. Will my revised  document look centered and pleasing to the eye?  Will my saved numbers on my spreadsheet make it to my employer correctly? Who knows? Your guess is as good as mine.

At times the document I spent seventy minutes working on disappears, or the info I emailed to work gets me a reply that explains how I entered information incorrectly.

I’m not a total idiot. Before I retired from full time teaching, I managed my online grade book, and most of my assignments were linked to class calendars. However, I could no way navigate the current issues of a virtual classroom! When I successfully shared my screen during a Zoom meeting with some student teachers I work with, a twenty-one year old had to remind me, “Ms. Gannaway, your mic is on mute again.”  

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

My oldest son helps me with blog posts, and he tries to remember that patience is a virtue. But I hear his deep sighs and see him comb his hair back with his palm before saying, “Mom, what did we do last time we edited an image?”

Back in the ‘90s someone told me, “Don’t be afraid. You won’t break the computer or permanently lose stuff.” Well, I don’t know about that! I often have no idea whether clicking on a link or pressing a return button will have the result I want. The slot machine gears keep spinning and it’s all a game of chance!

I hate the fear and uncertainty COVID has created in our lives. Yet technology and social media put me on uneven ground years ago. SnapChat made me nervous when those weird animated photos all went away in 24 hours. But it’s also unnerving that FaceBook stuff never goes away.

I don’t understand or trust the Cloud and I wish texting had not become my go-to form of communicating. Since I seldom see people in person, I miss hearing their voices.

I’m still more optimistic than pessimistic, so I’ll pull that cold metal arm that sometimes sticks a bit and trust the technological slot machine of life as I say, “Please, Lord” while I cross my fingers and watch the blur of fruit and accept the whirring, spinning uncertainty of now. I never know when several coins will clatter into the pay-off slot.  

Emile is making sure the slot machine is still spinning
Posted in Aging, Family

Balled-up Kleenex by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Momma and me, 2010

Momma always kept a balled-up Kleenex in her right hand (or in her pocket).

She used this all-purpose tissue to wipe her drippy nose caused by what she called her “hay fever.” When we were kids, she also used her Kleenex to wipe a snot-nosed child’s face or to stop a scraped knee from bleeding. In the 1960s right before entering our Catholic church for mass, she could use a not-too-crumpled tissue as a make shift head covering for a forgetful daughter who had left her chapel veil at home. I still remember her pinning the white tissue atop my head using a stray bobby pin from her purse. No need for her to fuss at me for my memory lapse. My pin-scraped scalp was punishment enough. 

In a way always having the Kleenex on hand is a “Mom thing” – a being prepared thing. (for small spills, runny noses, dirty faces, fresh lipstick blots, minor cuts, or sudden tears).

When Momma was wheelchair-bound and barely talked, she still kept a Kleenex in her hand. After she died, I looked through the small leather purse she had carried everywhere she went. Inside I found her wallet, which held My Daily Rosary prayer card, her drivers license, and her library card. Also, there was a tiny round frame with a picture of my sister Kelly, a half-used Wine with Everything lipstick, a nail file, Double mint gum, and a couple of balled-up tissues. I smiled. 

I’ve been going on long walks around 7:15 each morning, and I take along a Kleenex in my pocket. I use the tissue to open the black iron gate that surrounds our apartment complex, to scratch my nose, and to wipe my forehead when the temperature gets in the 90’s. 

After my walk, the tissue is ragged and sweaty. It seems to symbolize my fears and uncertainty these days. The tissue keeps me from touching my face or some random object. The Kleenex I shove into my pocket before I venture out (for a walk, to the grocery, on an errand) feels as necessary as a face mask or hand sanitizer. 

Either I’m turning into my mother or channeling  a parent’s attempt to be prepared for life’s surprises and disasters. If a balled-up piece of tissue gives me comfort, I’ll take it. And I’ll focus on not tripping on the cracked sidewalks while I listen to birdsong and car horns.

Posted in Aging

Old Stuff by Ginger Keller Gannaway

        In 2016 while cleaning out my grandma’s attic, I held up a dilapidated box that held tap shoes from 1960 when I was four years old.

“Should I keep these?” I asked a friend who was helping us go through the treasure and the trash in a home built in the 1890s.

“Of course!” said Mark.

“Can’t believe Momma saved them! Can’t think why I’d want these.”

“We like old things,” Mark explained.

An epiphany hit me like a couple of rusted TV trays and a stolen ash tray from Caesars Palace (circa 1966). I do like old stuff!  Mama Joe’s pie safe where Momma stored mismatched glassware and playing cards; Dad’s beat-up paint stool that my cousin found on Grandma’s back porch; stacks of brittle love letters between Reggie and Gerry (my parents) when they were courting in the 1940’s; a partial set of Shakespeare plays, faded, bent and water-logged, that an intuitive student gave me right before he graduated. “I found these in our attic and thought of you,” he had told me.

Mama Joe’s pie safe

Also, my tastes in movies are in the “old” category: Casablanca, High Noon, and Rear Window. Likewise, two of my favorite books are Great Expectations and Wuthering Heights. I adore my turntable and stereo receiver from 1972. The U.S. city I most love to visit- New Orleans – is a place where the past clings to everything like the moss in the live oaks.

Old stuff comforts me. It connects me to some of my best memories. When I use Momma’s bent-up aluminum bun warmer she got as a wedding present in 1954, I remember homemade biscuits in the kitchen with family gathered for a holiday. I smell coffee from a well-used pot on the stove and hear kids and adults vying for space and talking over one another.  I recall the taste of hot boudin from Johnson’s Grocery. 

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with old pictures. I especially love the black and white photos, the ones from before I was born and the ones of me as a child. Life seemed simpler and easier. I’m not sure that’s accurate, but that rose-colored tint does slip over my memories before puberty hit and sent me to the land of pimples and self-doubt. 

Reginald A. Keller, 1929
Geraldine and Stretch, 1952

According to the CDC guidelines for the coronavirus pandemic, I’m “high risk” and I could go to the local grocery store’s early hours for old folks.  I suppose Gary (age 75) and I (64 today) are old people. 

Too bad our society does not extend a love of old things to old people. No one I know looks forward to old age. We fear the weak mind and frail body as much as the loneliness and incontinence. I wish I felt the same comfort and peace when I hold someone’s wrinkled and arthritic hand that I get when I run my fingers over the dents of a bun warmer or the rough paint flecks of a wooden stool. 

Dad’s paint stool from Keller Advertising days

I’m not one of the enlightened. I wish these uncertain days with lots of time for reading and praying and thinking might guide me to an appreciation for old stuff that includes old folks. As much as I like my fat-faced images when I was two, I should be kinder to the 64-year-old I see in the mirror now. She’s doing the best she can with what she’s got, and  that needs to be enough.

Posted in Aging

The Pandemic Made Me Do It

 

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Written by Nancy Malcolm

 

As I turned off the alarm, my mind went through this checklist:  What day is it? Why did I set my alarm? What am I supposed to do?”  And then it hit me….Senior hours at Costco!!!!    I sprang from the bed like a shot of caffeine.

 

Since all of the craziness began, the essential stores are trying to work with the public by providing safety rules and procedures.  There are wipes for your grocery cart, hand sanitizer upon entering and exiting, and marking X’s on the sidewalk so we are six feet apart.

 

A few stores like HEB and Costco are offering Senior Hours or even free delivery for those of a certain age, so we don’t have to fight the crowds and risk not getting our necessities.  Boo and I had set our alarms, and talked about our strategy.  

“Let’s hit the Kleenex first.  I heard that runs out fast.”

Armed with a list, bottle of water and hand sanitizer, we drove full speed to Costco.

 

I have to admit it was exhilarating.  The thought that we would get in before the throngs of families and small children was promising.  We envisioned a peaceful, leisurely stroll through the aisles, during our early bird hour of shopping.  (8:00-9:00 a.m.)

 

“I hope they don’t card me,”  Boo popped off. “I look so young and spry.”

“You’re safe,”  I said. “But, just in case, bring your ID.”

We were in a great mood, anticipating the best, when we turned into the drive leading to Costco.

We were thirty minutes early, ready to be the 1st in line when I heard Boo say, 

“Oh, Hell no!”  And I saw the line.

 

Hundreds of senior citizens in various stages of masks, gloves, and sunglasses, were in a line snaking twice around the outside of the store.  What time did these folks get here?

If we were thirty minutes early, they must have camped out the night before, like waiting for concert tickets.

 

The patrons had diligently left six feet space between themselves and most seemed happy and chatted with their neighbors in line.  Instantly, I thought about bathroom emergencies. I bet some of these people had on Depends merely as a precaution for the long wait.  (note to self.)

 

Amazingly there were still a few parking spaces far, far away, which made me wonder if these people had taken a shuttle to Costco or had drivers drop them off.  There was no way we would have made it into the store during the one-hour time slot. Sadly, senior hours did not happen for us.

 

Boo went on a short rant about bogus seniors in line and the possibilities that we may never have Kleenex again, so we drove by two more HEB’s in our neighborhood and after assessing the lines, just went home.  

 

We vowed to make ourselves eat whatever we had left in the house, which meant the things I like and he doesn’t;  quinoa, spinach and roasted red pepper hummus.  We practiced social distancing as we walked in the neighborhood and up to the mailbox. It all worked out.

 

I have a new appreciation, though, for my senior citizen status.  We’re tough. You have to get up pretty early in the day to get past us and I can see that Boo and I have a lot to learn as we compete with the other seniors.  Stay prepared! Be flexible in a crisis and plan ahead! We’ll be ready next time!!

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Posted in Aging

Crepe Season

 

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written by Nancy Malcolm

My eye doctor is twelve.  She’s smart, thorough…downright delightful, and yet, I have clothes older than she is.  At this mature time in my life, all of my doctors are getting younger while I am heading in the opposite direction.

My orthopedic doctor was talking to me about shots for my knees and said, “If you were my mother, I would definitely recommend this.”  

“That’s sweet?” I thought.

Are the regular doctors in the forty, fifty, and sixty age-range giving up too soon?  Are they retiring, traveling and taking it easy, just like me?

It seems wherever I go someone is calling me “Ma’am.”  I respect the respect but I still feel thirty-seven inside, so it’s hard to compute.

If you are my age and visiting a dermatologist lately, heaven help you!

“What is this?”  I asked him. “And what is this little red spot?”

“It just happens,” he said.  “To people your age.”

Oh, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear.  And the force be with you if during your annual mole check, he burns, cuts or freezes something off of a sensitive area.  “It just happens,” he says. “It could be worse.”

I also wondered if it really is true that our noses and ears continue to grow as we age?    Well, I looked it up and apparently the cartilage in our ears and noses does continue to grow and then it droops.  Gravity takes over and makes the cartilage in the nose and ears look bigger because it is sagging, just like everything else.

I don’t believe I’ve ever been able to bounce a quarter off of my butt.  Maybe the ‘firm’ gene skipped a generation. I remember once, years ago, I thought I was firm, but I see now it was an illusion.  Crepey skin is my new normal.

Recently, my grandson was sitting next to me on the couch.  “Nannie,” he said in astonishment, “Look at your arm! Why is it doing that?”

“Doing what?” I asked, trying to play it off, as I pushed the skin back up toward my shoulder.

He lightly pinched a piece of skin above my elbow.  “This,” he said, and I knew what he meant.

You see, years ago, I remember asking my Grandma the same thing.  “Grandma, look! Your skin stays up if I pull it. Why does it do that?”SCAN0004 (2)

Be aware, children, be very aware!  This could happen to you.

I will never again buy crepe paper to decorate for parties.  It’s just too real.

Two years ago, I went on a crusade to fight the crepey skin situation.  I had watched all the infomercials and ads on TV, and I truly believed I had found the answer.  I asked for Crepe Erase for Christmas and my birthday. It was expensive, but I knew it was pure magic.  It smelled wonderful and the best part was that Jane Seymour was their spokesperson. Jane Seymour is my age and she looks fantastic.  Her skin is youthful and firm.

I was faithful to use it for one whole year.  I exfoliated. I lotioned, rubbing in an upward direction.  I prayed and yet….. I fear I was fifteen years too late to change the course of my crepe.  I’m doomed to have grandchildren gasp in horror at my sleeveless arms.

I’ve had a good run.  I really have, and it’s nice to know I’m not alone.  Jane Seymour is with me as I march into the losing battle of aging.   I have to believe sooner or later she will experience the devastation of the ‘ crepe.’  One thing is for sure, I won’t go down without a fight armed with hair dye, what’s left of my Crepe Erase and Aspercreme.  The trifecta of aging!

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