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Not only the news, which I’d like to avoid more, but very welcome visits from observant daughters sharpen my awareness these days that perhaps I can do more than worry (panic!) about the state of the planet. Weather patterns are changing before our horrified eyes. Those of us who are on high ground or dry ground, breathe smoke-free air, drink unpolluted water, and live in secure places are seeing life in more basic terms these days. Fretting is not enough.

I took the hint when one daughter brought me two refillable water bottles and managed to wean me off the plastic store-bought bottles that not only add to pollution problems but discourage consumption of water that is no better than the stream coming from my own kitchen faucet. It feels like a form of liberation and an opportunity to feel useful at the same time. Less trash and steady hydration.

In the course of a three-day visit last week, our other daughter managed to both begin downsizing our house, but also to contribute to the lives of many people who need the clothing and household items we will never use again. A dozen large bags for Purple Heart await pickup outside. The prodding and the physical help were more than welcome.

Just two drops in the very leaky bucket, but two steps toward my activity in a cause affecting us all.

How about you? Taking some new steps? Are you as worried as I am?

Please tell us.

Worried at 74? Yes for my grandson growing up in a world where Russia, China, other Asian countries and Middle East enemies are forming an alliance with America as the target.

I have at least 25 bottles of water because my water smells like a sewer and the plumber suggested bottled water. My friend’s mountain retirement cabin may be in the path of our numerous wildfires, as river waters dry up from our drought.

A COVID mutation named DELTA is filling up our hospital beds with unvaccinated patients, while tornados, hurricanes, earthquake are shaking up cities throughout the world.

BUT IN MY VERY SMALL CONDO ALL IS WELL.

I am aware of all the dark overhanging clouds, but the sun still shines through my windows and I refuse to bend in fear, especially with situations that are out of my control. My condo is filling up with house plants and I decided to paint my desk white and move it under the window. I am still writing and thought it would be a great move to have the sun beaming down on me and the plants on the window sill.

I know what is out there but I am not living in fear of tomorrow. I am a stage 4 lung cancer survivor, in a never ending quarantine, but I am grateful to be here and to have this time with my grandson.

I love being the gardener! Now in the drought it has to be much reduced but I really take care of the vegetable gardens. The family is next door and have loved and devoured potatoes, green (string) beans, tomatoes, red and yellow bell peppers, romain lettuce, spring onions and rhubarb. The cooks love the herbs: mint, oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary. I’ve been wondering if there might be a way for those living in senior centers to get a little plot of soil, or a good-sized pot in which to grow a tomato plant, or several lettuces, or bell peppers. 

The exercise of bending to the ground is so useful and getting one’s fingers in the soil is liberating if you let it be.
Wherever you are in the USA I think you can still plant potatoes to be pulled between Thanksgiving and Christmas unless you get awfully early cold snaps. 

I can imagine half the residents of a Senior Center might become gardeners. They might meet and talk with local folks who used to be gardeners for their stories, memories and ideas. If many become gardeners, what to do with the food could be an interesting conversation and family might love the idea of holiday gifts to support gardening: gloves, trowels, clippers, watering can, aprons, books.

Wishing you all the best of luck with this project.

Many of us reach a point when moving from independent living on our own is no longer in our best interest. I reached that point a few months ago, and did a lot of exploring to find the right ‘senior living’ community for me.

But, I went about it in a way I can’t recommend, in hindsight. I was most interested in the actual living quarters, the activities provided, the food, and the kind of people who would be living there. I assumed something I had no right to assume! Maybe it’s reasonable to assume that a large facility, non-profit, serving 200-300 people would have a doctor on call during daytime hours, weekdays at least, but that proved not to be the case. And, because I needed respite care for two weeks after an eye procedure I learned the hard way. Hard to believe, but they were complying with legal requirements for a skilled nursing center, when they only had a medical doctor on site, one day a week!

I developed a stiff neck during my first week of respite, and wanted some medical attention. I had no tylenol with me for the pain, but when I asked for some, I was told to ask my daughter to bring it to me, or go to a hospital!!! IN independent living, a resident of this facility is totally on their own to provide for their medical care. They certainly cannot rely upon this once-a-week physician to do that.

So, if you or a loved one has need of a continuing care facility, here is an important set of questions I now think it wise to ask up front:
1. Do you have a physician on the premises five days or seven days a week? If so, what are their hours? Do you have back-up physicians on staff who can assist with urgent medical conditions that really don”t reach 911 proportions, where going to a hospital emergency room is not indicated?
2. Do you have nurse practitioners on the premises 24/7 who are able to prescribe minimal pain relief, like tylenol for example for an urgent situation, even in the middle of the night?

I maybe able to arrange for my own medical care outside the institution itself now that I know, but I sure am glad I found out before I signed a contract to move in permanently without knowing.

The weird thing is that I made this mistake four years ago, when I was also looking for a senior living community. I found one I loved: food, pool, activities, living quarters. I simply assumed that the medical facility was great also. It wasn’t! I chatted up a person who happened to be a 90 year old physician living there who told me about flaws in the medical system that remained uncorrected, even after he made suggestions what should be done to improve patient care.

So, if you do not know people who can speak highly of the institution you are considering, here’s something else you can do. Go there. During mealtime. Sit down and chat with residents, and ask THEM what they think of the medical care in that facility. Due to Covid restrictions I was not able to do that this time, but it is very informative.

Ask the right questions!

What would have been normal five years ago was an enormously positive event last week. Five years ago, while living in Chicago, my friend Barbara and I took weekly classes at the University of Chicago and met up afterwards for lunches that lasted most of the afternoon. Then we moved away and shortly after so did Barbara. I promised her then I’d come to see her soon as she’d be only four hours from me.

In the interim my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer and died three years ago. Then my life was in a bit of a tailspin for a while, and I could not see my way clear to make the trip. My daughter and her family were in Barbara’s city during this time and she stopped in to see her and extend my greetings, but while that helped, it, of course, wasn’t the same. Even texting or Zooms didn’t match up with the heart-to-hearts we used to have.

But last week I took my first solo driving trip and went to see Barbara. She was waiting for me in her new home looking as sharp as ever, dressed in rust and white, rust matching the color of her hair, and sporting a fresh manicure and pedicure. We visited an hour in her home and then went to a restaurant she’d picked out in her new city–on the shore of a man-made lake with a gracious bubbling fountain in the center.

We sat outside in the sunny warmth under a canopy by this lake. Over margaritas, lamb popsicle appetizers, and crab cake entrees, we talked from eleven in the morning until five in the afternoon. Our lives had completely changed since our last in-person visit. Now, partly due to our aging, we’d both moved to be nearer children and had given up our Chicago jaunts down Michigan Avenue, the concerts in Millennium Park, the classes at U of C, the lunches at Corner Bakery, and so much more.

But, at the end of our long heartfelt chat, I at 79 and Barbara a bit older, agreed we were in the best places we could be–near our daughters. So not only was our visit a huge positive, but being able to come to terms with the idea that it is best, at our ages, to be near our daughters, concluded our visit on a happy, positive note. 

And we are very grateful that our daughters even want us around! We can be rabble rousers, but are trying to behave!