Posted tagged ‘senior citizens’

Dad’s Hairbrush

September 2, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W                                                       September 2, 2018

                                     

When my dad passed away last February it was the end of a generation. It was also the end of a gathering place for family keepsakes. Dad’s apartment in the Wyngate Senior Living Complex needed to be packed up and moved out. That task fell upon my sister and brother-in-law to complete after my family flew back to Colorado, and my brother drove back to Frankfort, Kentucky.

A few weeks later a box arrived at our house packed with family pictures, an iron skillet, and various other items that had meaning to the Wolfe clan.

And in the box, stuffed down in a corner by a tube of Brylcreem, was Dad’s hairbrush. The bronze-colored handle fit my hand easily. When I picked it up out of the box a flash flood of emotions surprised me. I recognized that this hairbrush had stroked the hair on Pop’s head for years. In his last few years it would be accurate to say that it didn’t have that many hairs to brush…kind of like a cornfield during drought conditions!

Each morning since I opened that box I’ve used Dad’s hairbrush on my own head of hair…well, with the exception of the few weeks when I shaved my head because of a lost bet with one of my basketball players (See “WordsfromWW.com” 3/4/2018 blog post “My Last Day With Hair For a While”). 

I’ve moved my part over to the left slightly to allow the brush to take a longer stroke. Having a part in my hair isn’t as easy with a hairbrush as it was with a comb, so I’ve just relocated it closer to my left ear. Darla, my barber, shows me a path that I simply trace over each morning.

And each day I pick up that hairbrush and hold it in my hand I think of Dad. It’s a simple thing, a moment of reflection and connection. 

There are some people that you miss about as much as a hemorrhoid…and there are other people you miss like your heart has been cut from your chest cavity. Dad was our heart, our wisdom, the groomer of our civility. 

As I ponder the words I write this morning my emotions rise up from within. It is the way things should be; that our parents reappear in the moments of ordinary routines. 

For my mom, who passed away five years ago today, she comes back to life every time I see a crossword puzzle, or see a pair of those fuzzy looking house slippers, or eat a ham and cheese omelette. (I ate one last night!)

For Dad, he shows up anytime a Kentucky basketball game is on TV, I put hamburgers on the grill, and…brush my hair!

A lot of people think of flashy events and extravagance when they remember people from their lives. Flashy would not have been a word that anyone would have used in describing my dad. The motorized wheelchair that he used for the last year or so of his life was about as flashy as he got! His life was more like a consistent steady walk with strides of patience and humor. 

It was more like a stroke from a hairbrush, long and loving, the same day after day.

Senior Adult Television Network

August 9, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   August 9, 2018

                          

There is a plethora of television channels that I can flip through on my cable system. Most of them are worthless! Just sayin’!

In the midst of this chasm of blah-blah-blah there is a noticeable void. Well, maybe more noticeable to me as I creep further into the amazing 60’s of my life! The gap is the absence of a television network devoted to senior citizens. Maybe they thought we wouldn’t notice…or we’d simply forget!

There are 46 million people in the United States who are 65 years of age and older! 46 million!!! There’s a lot of beans in that pot!

I got to thinking about the programming possibilities and the ideas flowed through me smoother than my last bottle of Ensure.

Here’s the sample Monday programming lineup:

7 AM- The Iron Skillet- Cooking the old way! My Mamaw Helton would be proud! I can smell the bacon…and the eggs frying in the bacon grease! 

7:30- The Cholesterol Physician- An actual doctor who specializes in treating people with high cholesterol because of their tendency to consume bacon and eggs for breakfast.

8:00- Old News!

8:30- Senior Discounts- The deals that go unnoticed, like free foot massages on Mondays and the cheapest places to get your hair colored.

9:30- The Andy Griffith Show! Self-explanatory.

10:00- Gunsmoke! Even more self-explanatory

11:00- Wyngate- A reality TV show based on the actual senior adult independent living complex my dad lived at the last three years of his life. Drama, humor, field trips for the residents, slow fire drills, groans and gripes with an amazing cast of real characters.

12:00- New Old News

12:30- Senior Bowling League- The best geriatric bowlers in the country compete for fame and glory.

2:00- As The World Turns- Got to throw one of those soap operas in. I remember that some of my aunts revolved their days and lunch hours around “the soaps.” 

3:00- The RV Reverend- Reverend Roger ministers to the elderly residents of an Arizona RV park. 

4:00- Senior Scambuster- Mr. Smith investigates, informs, and exposes the growing number of scams aimed at senior folk. 

5:00- World News Tonight for Seniors

6:00- America’s Got Mature Talent- Sometimes talent doesn’t emerge until a person passes sixty. Who will be judged to be the most talented elderly performer?

7:00- Penny Mason- The niece of the great defense attorney continues her uncle’s legacy of defending the falsely accused and revealing who the real murderers are.

8:00- Snowbirds in Paradise- What happens when a retired couple from North Dakota decide to spend their winter months in the south Texas town of Paradise. The plot line of every episode revolves around the couple not understanding what their new Texas neighbors are saying!

9:00- Slowing Down- In a world where people are infatuated with speed the stories from the other side, how people are going slow to do amazing things.

10:00- Octogenarian Odysseys- The amazing life journeys of those now in their 80’s, stories to give hope to those of us approaching that period of life.

11:00 Symphony Music for Insomniacs- Just the music, no picture!

And that’s just one day! I haven’t even gotten to “Gaming From the Rocker Recliner!” and “Replacements Who Are Really Hip!”

As you can see, the possibilities are almost as endless as the throbbing pain in my knees and hips. By the year 2060 the senior population is estimated to be 98 million! We desire our place, our station! 

When Pops Is No Longer There

July 19, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           July 19, 2018

                                  

Today is different.

It is the first time I have traveled back to where I grew up in Ohio and neither of my parents are here. Translated into years that equates into 46 years of coming back home and seeing Mom and Dad…until today!

When Pops passed away February 15 things changed. I’ll be going to my nephew’s wedding in Frankfort, Kentucky this weekend, but I’m here in southern Ohio today with no father to eat lunch with.

It’s hard to explain or describe. The best that I can compare it to is that it’s like going back to your roots and seeing that the house you grew up in has been torn down in order to make way for a parking lot. Or, for me, when I went back to the town I was born in and realized that the elementary school where I attended first and second grade had been condemned. There’s something sobering about that!

My dad would have turned 90 on June 18, so it’s not like his passing was unexpected. However, when someone has always been there for you it is unbalancing. It’s unsettling…kind of a conscious disorientation. 

In the midst of the new reality I’ll honor some traditions. Dad and I would always visit Bob Evans Restaurant for breakfast at least once during each of my visits. I’ll carry on that practice one morning during my week-long visit. I’ll go have lunch one day at Wyngate, the senior living complex he resided in his last three years or so. I’ll sit with Carl and Louise and soak in the old stories, visit with Robin, the residence manager who loved my father dearly, and try to talk to Chuck, who would visit Dad in the hospital but can’t hear squat!

And while I’m here I’ll drive down to Paintsville, Kentucky and visit the cemetery. That may be the moment that overwhelms me as I gaze upon the plot of ground where my parents now lay side-by-side. For the past five years or so each cemetery visit has had Dad standing beside me quietly staring at Mom’s resting place. Now I’ll stand by myself and long for his voice to say a few words. 

One tradition I will not carry forward is taking Pops to at least one doctor’s appointment, radiation treatment, or hospital admission while I’m here. He had a “time share” at St. Mary’s Medical Center across the river in Huntington, West Virginia!

Life is populated with assumptions. One of those is that things will always remain the same even though we are fully aware that they won’t. I assumed that Victory Heights Elementary School would be there fifty plus years after I last attended it. I assumed K Mart would always be in business! I assumed I would always have hair and be able to run fast! And at some time in the journey what I thought would always be changed to”the way it used to be!”

I’ll miss watching my dad socialize with the Wyngate residents this trip. He could bring a smile to the face of the most sour personality. I’ll miss sitting in his living room and talking about what was and what is, as well as just sitting and watching NBC Nightly News. 

I’ll miss seeing the respect that people had for him. He was Deacon Emeritus at his church. People still remember him as a gift from God. There’s still that respect, but his passing has reshaped that respect in a different way. 

Carl, who was born four miles from Dad in a remote part of eastern Kentucky and turns 90 this coming September, will look me in the eye and say something like this: “I miss your dad. He was my friend and a wonderful person!” And then Carl will pause for a moment out of respect…and I’ll see a tear slide down his cheek. That’s when I’ll know that although Pops is no longer here…he is!

Living Longer, Living With Purpose

March 3, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W                                                         March 3, 2018

           

My father passed away two weeks ago three months shy of his 90th birthday. He lived a long life, and for that we are thankful. Carol and I are now the oldest generation of our family. There is no one above us and two generations below us.

Death makes a person ponder and think about where he/she is in the living of their life. I turn 64 in two months and, although I’m fairly healthy and active, I understand that I’m closer to entering the pearly gates than I am to the memories of those high school days.

There’s more research and study being done of the longest-living people around the world. Are there common themes? Are there communities that have a higher percentage of people who are a hundred years of age or older? Are there certain aspects of our world’s opportunities that tend to decrease the possibilities of living longer?

Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones and The  Blue Zones solution draws out some secrets of living long in his books. Blue Zones are places that he has identified in different places around the world that have a high number of people who live long lives. It’s interesting that Loma Linda, California is the only Blue Zone he mentions in his sharing of information with TIME magazine in the February 26, 2018 issue. Loma Linda is a haven for Seventh-Day Adventists, a denomination that avoids meat; eats plenty of plants, whole grains, and nuts; and emphasizes community and a day of rest (Sabbath) each week. Loma Linda Adventists live 10 years longer than their fellow Americans.

This is not to convince everyone to become Seventh Day Adventists, but rather to note a few of the trends that seem to be “preaching” to us.

Community, rest, diet, and (I’m putting this one in there as well!) purpose. Howard Friedman, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside also draws out the importance of some of the values that are a part of a faith community and our religious traditions: respect, compassion, gratitude, charity, humility, harmony, and meditation. Of course, when a faith community becomes more about power, bickering, discord, and being judgmental the opposite can happen. People can lose their spiritual relationship in the midst of the chaos of congregational dysfunction.

Although I grieve that my dad has passed on, I rejoice in the fact that he lived a long life that had purpose. All of those values that Friedman draws out as a part of a faith community were also evident in Dad’s life.

And the thing is…people are more and more wondering how to live longer and seeking to live longer, but living longer just to live longer is kind of like hitting the golf ball twice as many times during a round of golf. It’s not really what it’s about! Living with purpose and, hopefully, longer…like my father, is where I seek for my life to follow!

Senior Place

June 24, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               June 24, 2017

                                              

Back in the 60’s there was a TV series that attracted a large following. Peyton Place, for that time period, sizzled with drama. At it’s hey day ABC was airing three episodes a week. It was a soap opera aired in the evening. Some good Baptists had to face the dilemma of watching a TV show with questionable morals versus their belief in leading the pure life. As a result curtains got pulled shut to hide their giving into the temptation. Peyton Place was a diversion to those of us who lived lives with minimal drama, ate macaroni and cheese at least once a week, and didn’t wear anything that hadn’t been bought at J.C. Penney’s (where my mom worked!).

In this age of reality TV shows that I cringe at involving teenage moms, wayward Amish, dance moms, and “You’ve got to be kidding me!” wives, I think there’s a place for Senior Place. It might not have the steamy sex of the 60’s hit TV series, but a large part of our population could identify with the issues, crises, and life situations.

My dad’s senior complex, a nicely situated thirty resident building called Wyngate, located on the banks of the Ohio River, could host the show.

Here’s a few of the episode elements that would become evident.

Meal complaints- It’s just about impossible to satisfy thirty elderly people who have been accustomed to eating what they want. One of the main complainers is an over-the-top gentlemen who is loud and demanding. At a recent residents’ meeting he was quick to point out that there were a couple of things in their contract that weren’t being fulfilled in regards to meals. Of course, I had noticed that he had been bringing his dog to breakfast with him and giving him a feast of bacon every morning. That probably wasn’t a part of the contract either. His dog was showing the effects of too much bacon consumption. His nickname could have been “Porky!”

Meal conversations often focus on something that was served in the past. “Do you remember those lima beans we had last week?”  “Weren’t those mashed potatoes a little lumpy last night?” And yet, the chef of Wyngate comes out and talks to them, fixes salt-free entrees for people like  my dad, and converses with them like she is one of their daughters. The women who help in the dining room- Robin, Gail, and Valerie- are incredible and caring. The food simply becomes a conversation piece in the midst of their community living.

History Lessons- I’m a history buff, and I was always amazed at the history shared at meal tables. My dad was in the Navy, and two other men who live at Wyngate were stationed in Norfolk, Virginia where he was stationed. A story that one of them tells usually resulted in two other stories that the other thought of as the first one is being told. Some stories get told numerous times because although they remember fascinating accounts of the past they seem to forget that they’ve already told it so often that the listeners know it even better than the Pledge of Allegiance. They are the Appalachian version of Prairie Home Companion! Stories are punctuated with knee-slapping laughter.

Drama Because of Hearing Problems- Half of the residents can’t hear the fire alarm when it goes off…thus necessitating the flashing lights! Conversations are interrupted with the question “What was that?” every twenty words or so. Something said at a dinner table on one side of the room can frequently be heard by those…who can hear…on the other side of the room because of the limited hearing of someone at the table where it is spoken! I’m positive there has been Peyton Place drama created by miscommunications because of the elements of deafness and misplaced hearing aids.

Companionship- The heartwarming element of concern for others is the over-riding feature of Senior Place at Wyngate. The residents watch out for one another. They care about one another. When my dad was in the hospital recently a man named Chuck came to visit him. Chuck can’t hear diddly, which made the visit a little bit awkward, but he cared enough about my father to check in on him. That’s the part of Wyngate that my dad loves the most. When you’re 89 you could care less about things like a hot tub, exercise room, and cook-to-order omelettes, but if you know that there’s a group of people on the same journey of “getting older” with you it makes the final years a bit more tolerable!

Dad-Sitting

February 4, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      February 4, 2017

                                       

My dad has had a January to forget. Two weeks in the hospital…one week home…and then back in the hospital for another week. He loved the nurses, but disliked the meatloaf.

So I had the opportunity to fly in for a few days and be with him. My dad turns 89 in about four months. He’s no spring chicken! In fact, his spring sprung a while ago. The times I’m able to come back to the southern tip of Ohio from the elevation of Colorado are special, deeply personal, and filled with shared stories.

Yesterday I walked with him down to the dining room of his senior adult apartment complex. A slow walk, but a steady walk. When he arrived he made the rounds, giving a hug to each of the women who, I swear, all initiated the embrace. He shook the hands of each man before setting down at a table with two of his peers, Leo and Dale. It was Dad’s first meal taken in the midst of the gathered “white hairs”, and it brought a sense of exhilaration to the 25 or so. He is loved and appreciated, always ready to give a warm word of greeting and an engaging question.

Then it was back to his apartment to sit and talk. Three days earlier I had “grandbaby-sat” for a two year old. Now I was “Dad-sitting” a man who was almost twenty-six when I was born!

We shared stories about teaching, his military service, Kentucky basketball, and all the nice nurses who cared for him at the hospital. Our conversation wound its way through the many rooms of our lives, one door leading towards the next one on the other side of the story.

I told him stories from my recent three-week teaching stint and the one student that I sent to have a chat with the assistant principal, and he told me about the student who he had a difficult  time with when he was student teaching high school agricultural science.

We got on the topic of security guards at schools, banks, and other places, and he recalled the pre-security days at the Social Security Administration office he managed…the times when an irate citizen had to be calmed down simply with words, not a Taser gun!

We have a way in our culture of devaluing our older folks, minimizing their relevance and becoming deaf to their voices. Thankfully I’ve come to the point of seeing how treasured my life is because of the father I have. The occasions of “Dad-sitting” are dwindling, shared moments waning, and I breathe each one of them in as if they are my last sip on water in a long journey.

Tomorrow I’ll watch the Super Bowl with Dad. I can’t remember the last Super Bowl we watched together! It may actually be the first time we’ll share the moment. The game will become secondary to just being together. I’m sure we’ll laugh at some of the commercials and take bathroom breaks while Lady GaGa is being a spectacle. We’ll talk about the Cleveland Browns of the 60’s, the Ironton High School Fighting Tigers, and recall when my big brother came back from an away game that the Williamstown High School football team had played on a Friday night and said to Dad, “Look Dad! Real mud!”

We will simply sit and enjoy the moment. The depth of life is made from moments like these.

Cake For Seniors

June 22, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            June 22, 2016

                                         

They were ready to pounce. The ladies and man (as in solo!) at Dad’s birthday party were ready for the cake. If my dear Aunt Lizzie, who always stared at her wrapped Christmas present like it was a Rembrandt, had been there she would have said “It’s too pretty to cut into!” But Aunt Lizzie arrived in Glory a couple of decades ago so she wasn’t there to hold back the cake lovers.

Dad’s cake, with two eights rising out of it, was a tribute to his University of Kentucky roots. The white icing was outlined in Kentucky blue, which is much easier on the eyes than “Tarheel Blue!” He stood behind it and gave one forced puff to extinguish the small flames on the two eights. Blowing out two candles is not seen as being much of an accomplishment, unless you are surrounded by a crowd of seniors who are all crowding ninety!

There was applause for the disappearance of the candle flames, and Robin, the lady who my dad loves and trusts with a knife, commenced to cutting. I passed out the plates. No one passed on the cake. Tongues were licking the outside of lips even before the cake arrived in front of the partygoers. Seniors like cake. It is seen as a valid. almost mandatory, reason for disregarding their dietary restrictions.

Conversation eased a bit as the mature audience focused on their next bites. There’s a time to talk and there’s a time to be quiet. If white icing is involved hold on to that story that was in the midst of being told. We’ll get back to it… if we remember!

My dad looked out at the people gathered in the dining room and he smiled. These were people who were a part of his journey. One of them he had taught how to give insulin shots to. She was scared to death and he had coached her to the point where she could do it herself. Another lady, Valerie, who works at his senior apartment complex, had come back from her Myrtle Beach vacation a day early to be in attendance…and to show the envious women that her skin tone had undergone a noticeable change. The senior women, who had talked about getting bikinis, now recognized that the cake they were enjoying was not going to help them look “bikinish!” Some of them were thinking that they would just ease off the carrots at dinner to compensate!

Dad appreciated each one of them. He had a stack of cards, some beautifully written and others filled with jokes about being as old as Methuselah! He laughed and thanked and paused to enjoy. The only hurry in the occasion was getting the cake cut. After that, people had nowhere to go but to finish reading the Saturday Herald-Dispatch, check the mail, and sink into afternoon slumber in their recliners.

The rest of the cake was moved to the kitchen, and would be served at dinnertime. The ladies  smiled at the future sweet offering. It would make the dinner spaghetti seem tolerable.

Dad was filled with joy and gratitude. After he had blown out the candles someone had asked him what he wished for, and with his quick wit he had replied, “Eighty-nine!”

The ladies “amen-ed” that. It would mean another cake!