Facing our (Aging) Face

Success in shooting pool is a matter of geometry. The angles for shooting an aging face are even trickier. Especially with a cell phone.
Success in shooting pool is a matter of geometry. The angles for shooting a selfie of an aging face are even trickier. Especially with a cell phone. Taken Sunday, August 17, 2014.

I know a real estate broker who continues to use a photo in her newspaper ads that was taken thirty years ago.  It might work if she never met her prospects. Makes it much harder to establish trust. We wear the years in different ways. I see something in my eyes, a weight, a fatigue,  that wasn’t in earlier photos. It’s subtle, perhaps invisible to the casual observer, but hard for me to look at because I know from whence it came.

Questions for the Winter Sky

DSCN1654
Winter sky late February, 2014 at Longleaf Preserve near Pensacola, Florida

The photo above is a good reminder never to leave the house for a walk without the old point and shoot camera in my hand. It was Monday, February 24. Buck and I started our walk later than usual. After our second or third house-to-gate lap, we rounded the driveway in front of the house to circle back to the gate a third of a mile away when I looked up and saw this amazing sky. The clouds looked like they were quilted from softest down. The opening, like an upside down inactive volcano, was rimmed in sun-gold.

Our hearts were heavy that day, because we had learned Sunday that a dear old friend was near death. After returning from our walk, an email from his daughter told us TC had died Sunday, only an hour after we had talked with his wife, B.

A brilliant, wise, and kind man, TC was an engineer with a stellar career until retiring in 2000. Disaster struck eleven years ago, when he was diagnosed with an unusually cruel disease known as Semantic Dementia. Imagine an intellectually gifted person, one who managed a major industrial plant and thousands of employees, a person who founded a scholarship program at his beloved alma mater which continues to educate new engineers every year, a person who — along with his devoted wife of 55 years — created a youth program at their church decades ago which continues to thrive long after their relocation from Pensacola to other cities and ultimately to Birmingham; a father of two accomplished adults and grandfather of five. A person who loved to read.

Now imagine that person, or yourself, with four objects on a table: a pen, a pair of scissors, a table knife, a flashlight. Someone asks you to pick up the scissors. You pick up the pen. Frontal lobe deterioration is rapid, irreversible. For the last five years of his life our loquacious friend didn’t say a single word.

Some days I wonder whether we might be more content not to have so much information at our fingertips. In the past few weeks, I’ve learned far more than I am comfortable knowing about conditions that can affect the lives and quality of life of human beings: Guillain-Barre Syndrome, from which our friend Harold is slowly recovering (he proudly took eight steps on a walker yesterday); and Semantic Dementia, which took our friend TC’s mind and eventually his life.

I look at the photo of the sky and wonder at it’s ability to comfort my ruffled spirit. I have so many questions.

Ambush

Sweet Old Con
Westmark’s No-Cut Contract January 22, 1988 – April 19, 2003

Sweet old Con. My big-headed puppy. She was the daughter of Buck and my first Lab together, the queen-like Amanda Blackvelvet. After Contract’s death in 2003 at fifteen, irreplaceable Maggie, (Maggie the Wonder Dog), joined us and shared adventures until her difficult struggle with hip dysplasia and arthritis of the spine ended in November of 2011. Trolling my computer hard drive looking for a photo having absolutely nothing to do with dogs becomes a pop-up arcade. Memories ambush my heart. Most of what I know of dignity, loyalty, and grace, I learned from them.

Pursue, keep up with, circle round and round your life, as a dog does his master’s chaise. Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth, and gnaw it still. — Henry David Thoreau

The Trouble with Trouble

1-The trouble with trouble.

Grace Futch Grider sent me this cocktail napkin. It’s vintage Grace. I ran across it this morning. when I was fetching a writing “vision board” back out of the closet that I had begun some months ago. The last time Buck and I saw Grace was in a hospital bed. She was aggravated because pancreatitis had gotten in the way of her immediate desire to put her nearly eighty-year-old self and a bunch of her fun-lovin’ friends on a train to Las Vegas. Gracie was a tough, self-made business woman. She founded Pensacola Beach Realty at a time when women running a business show here were an oddity. She served on a bank board with Buck. She was a passionate, if not especially skilled, golfer. She was a hell of a woman, a hot mess, and two tons of fearless fun. It’s been eight years, and we miss her like crazy.

The best I can do, Gracie, is enjoy the memories and name a pretty darn good book character after you. You’d like my Grace. She’s giving as good as she gets and more. Sound like anybody you know?

The Trouble With Trouble

1-The trouble with trouble.

Grace Futch Grider sent me this cocktail napkin. It’s vintage Grace. I ran across it this morning. when I was fetching a writing “vision board” back out of the closet that I had begun some months ago. The last time Buck and I saw Grace was in a hospital bed. She was aggravated because pancreatitis had gotten in the way of her immediate desire to put her nearly eighty-year-old self and a bunch of her fun-lovin’ friends on a train to Las Vegas. Gracie was a tough, self-made business woman. She founded Pensacola Beach Realty at a time when women running a business show here were an oddity. She served on a bank board with Buck. She was a passionate, if not especially skilled, golfer. She was a hell of a woman, a hot mess, and two tons of fearless fun. It’s been eight years, and we miss her like crazy.

The best I can do, Gracie, is enjoy the memories and name a pretty darn good book character after you. You’d like my Grace. She’s giving as good as she gets and more. Sound like anybody you know?

Pulling a Published Post Is Like Unringing A Bell

SUBSCRIBERS TO THIS BLOG RECENTLY FOUND THEMSELVES on the Avenue of the Busted Link, a dead-end cul de sac, and for that I apologize. Let me tell you what happened.

Last Wednesday at twilight, I had been working at my desk and was just about to head to the kitchen to start supper preparations when my fingers went all Ouija Board on me and typed a name in Google that I hadn’t thought about in a long time. The name was that of my first husband. What happened next stunned me. I went to the bedroom, where Buck was doing free-weight bicep curls. I tried to speak, but nothing would come out. He looked at me first with curiosity, then concern. I held up my right hand, palm out, my “give me a minute” signal.

I realized I was about to cry, but managed to blurt out, “It’s Ralph. He died last Sunday. Pancreatic cancer.”

Buck put down the weights, reached me in one step, and wrapped me up in his arms. “Oh, babe, I’m so sorry.”

On Friday, I posted a blog post about it. Here is an excerpt:

We met when I was a freshman at the University of Florida; he was a graduate assistant teaching a course. We married in 1971; divorced in 1983. We broke each other on the rocks of delayed adolescence.

I found the blessing of lasting love. Now I know he did, too.

A good man. Rest in peace, and comfort to your loving wife and treasured life companion.

Without thinking, I included a link to Ralph’s obituary. Sometime later, maybe on Saturday morning, I Googled his name again, perhaps hoping to find a new, happier set of facts. What I found was not only the obit notice and newspaper articles praising his work over the years, but a link to this blog. For some dumb reason known only to my subconscious, I had included a YouTube video of Simon and Garfunkel’s “I Am A Rock” in the post. Its themes of isolation and emotional detachment may have resonated with the young people we were as we tried to figure out how to grow up, but not with our fully evolved selves. Seeing it, I realized instantly that it could cause confusion or pain to others who know and care for Ralph, especially his loving wife. It was massively inappropriate for me, a former spouse from more than thirty years ago, to pop up with a link to my blog, of all things.

So I removed the post. Unfortunately, on Google the link still exists, even though it is a link to nowhere. I have filled out a request with Google’s web link removal tool to have it removed ASAP. I sincerely apologize to one and all.

Swamp Jessamine spotted on overcast day on February 24, 2013 at Longleaf Preserve in Escambia County, Florida. Buck and I walked the woods between rain showers. We almost missed this bright flower. It was twined on an iron-like vine more than 25 feet up a pine tree.
Swamp Jessamine spotted on overcast day on February 24, 2013 at Longleaf Preserve in Escambia County, Florida. Buck and I walked the woods between rain showers. We almost missed this bright flower. It burst forth from an iron-like vine twined more than 25 feet up a pine tree.

Buck and I took a long walk in the pine woods yesterday. We noticed growth tips on all the Longleafs, young and old. It is no longer possible to distinguish pines planted a decade ago from the continually regenerating volunteer trees. We celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary last Sunday, February 17, the same day my first husband ended his time on this earth. Buck’s first wife passed away in August of 2005. It’s not the same as being orphaned as an adult. We have both experienced that, and it is, of course, a completely different sort of connection. But it is impossible to read about Ralph and not reflect upon our lives together with equal measures of sadness, regret, and the relief of knowing we parted friends and both found the loves of our lives.

Rest In Peace, Ralph

My hands on the keyboard tonight were Ouija Board operatives. They typed a name I had not thought of in years, much less Googled. I was thinking of Scotland. How did my fingers know to reach back to a former life? How was their mark so devastatingly true?

We met when I was a freshman at the University of Florida; he was a graduate assistant teaching a course. We married in 1971; divorced in 1981. We broke each other on the rocks of delayed adolescence.

I found the blessing of lasting love. Now I know he did, too.

A good man. Rest in peace, Ralph Glatfelter, and comfort to your loving wife and treasured life companion.