Tag Archive | Baby Boomers

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da

The other night, shortly before my mother-in-law, Doris, fell and broke her hip, I was singing “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” to Annabelle, who turned 4 today. She turned to me with her enormous eyes widened and said excitedly, “You used to sing that to me when I was very little.”

Yes, I did, when she was months old and I had the pleasure of keeping her when her mom first went back to work. We listened to music every day. (I’m constantly singing to the grandkids – one of those grandmothers. I was as impressed as she was excited that she remembered.

And since it’s such a cycle-of-life-affirming song for this spell we’re going through (albeit an alternative lifestyle), it seems the perfect backdrop for this dual purpose post.

In case you missed it before, not only did our darling Doris break her hip two days before Christmas, she died in the early  morning two days after Christmas. John and I made a hasty trip to the Yakima Valley (in Washington) and it’s been a confusing and blurry time.

She was 93 and had been lost in confusion for years, but what a great little lady she was.

I’d like to share a few sweet photos from her lifetime.

Baby Doris Haworth, with her paternal grandparents, shortly after her birth in October 1921.

Baby Doris Haworth, with her paternal grandparents, shortly after her birth in October 1921.

Little Doris Hardy, sometime in the early 1940s, I'd say, with her beloved mother and darling baby sister, Irene (who towered over her

Doris (the little one), sometime in the early 1940s, I’d say, with her beloved mother and darling baby sister, Irene (who towered over her “big” sister and is still a ball of fire).

Doris in her prime – definitely around her birthday, and I'm guessing in the vicinity of 40. Kitty, can you correct or confirm?

Doris in her glorious prime – at her 40th birthday party.

We saw her for a moment before she was cremated, and as her beloved Walt (Allan, her second husband, to whom she was married for 38 years) chose to be scattered in the mountains he loved to hike, her ashes now rest in her mother’s grave. She adored her mother, so it’s a perfect resting place.

But Doris resides in the hearts of all who knew her.

We came back flight-delayed in the middle of the night – and well into January – with our bedraggled Christmas tree still standing – I undecorated it yesterday, just before Annabelle’s party, and John carried the sad little thing to the curb today.

Life goes on.

In three months, Mother and I go to Italy. I’ve got to get my head back into that trip, book our train tickets, learn Italian (OK, refresh myself enough to get by), etc. etc. The good new is that Mother’s health is on a definite upswing at the moment.

John is hanging in there. He and Mother have a  mutual admiration society and deep love for each other, so that helps. But losing your mommy when she’s been a good one, no matter your age  …

Mother, looking fabulous, and John share some thoughts at Annabelle's party, the first chance we had to see her since we got back two days before.

Mother, looking fabulous, and John share some thoughts at Annabelle’s party, the first chance we had to see her since we got back two days before.

Life goes on, happy ever after – despite the all-too-frequent bumps these days – especially when you get to be Lolly and Pop to five precious grandkids.


Until next time – ob-la-di.


Mr. Moonlight

Mr. Moonlight

The Beatles’ “Mr. Moonlight” has been stuck in my head for days, so it wasn’t surprising to see the full moon Saturday evening as I drove east, and the clouds parted briefly to reveal it. The song fits with the melancholy I’ve felt lately – induced, in part, by the continuing deaths of people from my youth.

We’ve reached that time of life, the baby boomers.

But today, when I opened the front door to grab the newspaper, I was caught off-guard by Mr. Moonlight staring me in the face above pink clouds in the early morning light.

That gave things a little perspective. The moon sets on some, the sun rises on others, and life goes on.

Yes, another of Mother’s old friends was in the obituaries again this morning, but yesterday we celebrated little Luke’s first birthday.

We also celebrated my friend Caran’s mother’s life, instead of mourning her passing from it. Alzheimer’s had really already taken her a while back, so the family focused on the Carolyn Curry who was a force to be reckoned with in her day, and people came in droves to celebrate her.

Which helped remind me to celebrate each day, even if I’m tired or crabby or overwrought with to-dos.

Mother’s doing well, the grandkids are divine, my kids are healthy and Marie-Noelle arrives Friday night for a visit! Thursday night, Cathy, Mother and I get to see Willie Nelson at Robinson Auditorium. Life is good, if hectic and crazy.

Listen to what the man said

I can’t speak for all baby boomers, but many, many of us grew up with parental and other authoritarian voices ordering “turn that music down! You’ll damage your hearing!”

We probably should have listened to what the man said.

I first noticed the chirping three or four months ago – only sometimes, only in very quiet times and not enough to interfere with my life (yet, and I hope it stays that way). I hope that it’s stress-induced and will go away altogether but also recognize that that’s dreaming.

Especially after reading Shouting Won’t Help: Why I – and 50 Million Other Americans – Can’t Hear You, a reported memoir by former journalist (the New York Times, the NYT Magazine, The New Yorker) Katherine BoutonShoutingWon'tHelp

I can’t remember where I heard about it, but the introductory excerpt on Amazon.com hooked me so hard I hit the pre-order button (adding in Joan Osborne’s Bring It On Home CD to qualify for free shipping – I can’t help myself). JoanOsborneThe The

The book was released Feb. 19 and both arrived few days later.

My initial reasoning was that in addition to being fascinating reading,  the book would help me understand my husband’s hearing loss and his reluctance to wear the hearing aid he wouldn’t even get until he turned 60. There’s no shame in it, I’d callously thought – he spent too much time around loud machinery without hearing protection in his younger years and tinnitus runs in his family, in each direction for generations. No big deal.

Bouton begs to differ and frankly writes about the anguish associated with years of trying to hide her hearing loss.

After finishing the book a few minutes ago on my noisy treadmill, the crickets are going to town in my quiet kitchen, and I realize the information will be helpful in more ways than I’d imagined.

It’s really a must-read for anyone who loves or spends time around someone with hearing loss or deafness – as well as anyone who has played fast and loose with her hearing. The facts and statistics may startle you in places, but it’s an upbeat, can’t-put-it-down book.

I knew my hearing was damaged from five years of teaching at Central High School. The halls are horribly loud, and the security guards’ whistles are (literally) deafening. One of my newspaper staff students did a science fair project on just that – he was a doctor’s son and brought a decibel meter to school. Exact details escape me years later, but the whistles definitely hit the permanent-damage-inducing level if blown directly into the meter.

Or into an ear, which happened to me once in the hall outside my room. A female security guard about my height stood directly behind me and blew her whistle full blast into my ear – I assume she thought I was a student. I couldn’t hear anything for a few minutes and couldn’t hear out of the receiving ear for hours. I could visualize my little inner-ear hairs flattening out in self-defense.

My ears, despite my predilection for loud music, have always been sensitive. Music can be painful, especially if I don’t like it. I loved Humble Pie in my teens – had two of their albums (and at least one on CD now) – but I walked out of their concert at Barton Coliseum because they were so loud my ears felt as if they were bleeding.

A year or two later I had a close encounter with a firecracker with a short fuse that went off in my hand next to my ear. Don’t ask.

After reading Bouton’s book, I find myself thinking about all the reckless listening I’ve done.

But I won’t stop playing music loudly. Just maybe not as loud.

When Pam and I were adolescents, we discussed just about every potentiality you can imagine. “If you had to go deaf or blind, which would you choose?” was one of them. I always chose to keep my hearing – hard choice, but I couldn’t imagine life without music or the voices of my (then unborn, of course) children and grandchildren.


Speaking of children and grandchildren, my baby girl is 33 today. Her baby girl is smitten with two maternity tops I made for her mother and delivered yesterday (not birthday presents – they were just way delayed by circumstances of late). Sylvie stroked them over and over jabbered on and on about them. Beyond cute.

Happy birthday, Liz. Love you.


John and I both hit the mother-in-law jackpot, so we’d have to change the lyrics to this old song from the first album I ever owned. (Yes, it’s Herman’s Hermits. I was 9 – I’m not ashamed.) We both agree ours rank more like “the best person I know, mother-in-law, mother-in-law.”

“She wor-ur-uries me so, mother-in-law, M-I-L” would have to be “she lo-ov-oves me so, M-I-L, M-I-L ….”

So I was especially pleased to get to spend the afternoon alone with my 91-year-old (as of Sunday) M-I-L today at her new home in Yakima. She recently made the move from her long-time home in the orchards of Naches to assisted living in town, something that could have been terribly traumatic but to which she’s adjusting rather well, over all.

She has good days and bad. Today was an excellent day.

Kitty and Norm woke this morning to a phone call that daughter-in-law Nicole (Kitty’s also a great M-I-L) was in labor – still no baby at 6 p.m., but she’s getting there – so my main purpose for this trip to the great Northwest kicked in a bit sooner than we expected.

Kitty and Norm hit the road for the Tri-Cities area and I’m holding down the fort, taking care of kitties and buddy-dog Milo, looking in on John’s tiny mother and being here in case she needs something. It’s an easy and pleasant job.

Doris and I talked about all kinds of things and I showed her pictures of Jude, Annabelle and Sylvia on my iPhone. She’s having a good day and was spot on most of the time. The afternoon felt like a gift to me.

The baby boomer shuffle kicks in for anyone lucky enough to have elderly parents and new babies popping out all over. Yes, it keeps you hopping, but some parents die young and some of us don’t get grandchildren, so consider yourselves lucky if it happens.

Our elderly loved ones get more childlike and need our help. That’s just how it goes. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for boomers with teenagers at home and elderly parents who need assistance. That would be crazy-making. Taking care of folks in their declining years can be hard as hell and less than pleasant more often than not. That’s also how it goes for many of us.

But today was a delight. As I was leaving and said “I’ll see  you tomorrow,” Doris reminded me not to come in the afternoon because she wouldn’t be there – some of her high school friends are picking her up for a birthday lunch.

A lovely plan for a lovely lady. Let’s hope it’s another good day.

My little mother-in-law, Doris, was a bit apprehensive the day she moved into her new digs (which is when this photo was taken), but now she thinks they’re pretty swell. Her baby boy, John, and beautiful daughter, Kitty, are happy she’s safe and well looked after.

Flirting with time

Reading and thinking about the biology of aging this week (for a class) has had me thinking more than ever how people of a certain age who don’t exercise are just flirting with time.

Time may be quite a tease, but it will get you in the end with things like faulty balance, weak or stiff muscles, uncertain gait, and loss of confidence from being unable to do all the things we do that make life easy and keep us independent.

Like bending over to tie a shoe. Or standing on one foot to put on pants or on your tiptoes to reach for something on a high shelf. Or picking up your grandchild.

When we’re younger exercise often starts as a function of vanity. By the 50s, well, there’s still that, but it’s also to maintain strength and balance. Working out/exercising regularly might not literally add years to your life, but it will add life to your years in terms of pep in your step, youthful posture and confidence.

Not to mention the whole calorie-burning thing. And the cardio health considerations. And the apparent fact that exercise converts white fat into calorie-smoking brown fat so you can eat more and maintain your weight as you age.

Baby boomers, I’m talking to you. But also to your grown kids. And to your parents. Do yourselves a favor, even if you don’t “exercise,” and work on your balance. It’s never too early and it’s never too late.

If you want an enjoyable DVD to help you get started working on your balance, Ellen Barrett Live: Power Fusion  is great. And, for me, anyway, it’s fun, fun, fun.

Part yoga and part dance, the many repetitions of deceptively easy movements will have you sweating in no time – and wondering how that level of intensity snuck up on you.

You may need to adapt some moves (I have to tweak the arm movements to avoid damaging my refurbished rotator cuffs, for example); conveniently, you have a “modifier” to follow. Another example: I’ve never been very limber and can’t “thread the needle.” Probably never will be able to, but that’s ok.

In my 40s, I’d have struggled to thread that needle no matter how bad it hurt and what damage it did – and that’s at home in front of the TV, not in a class full of fellow she-jocks. Silly, huh?

I got over myself. These days I modify and move on.

Back to Power Fusion – I’d recommend it to anyone. Even if you can’t do the one-legged balance moves today, stick with it and you’ll get there. And you just might be able to outwit time.

Comeback kid (That’s my dog)

Nicky was a ramblin’ man, a rover, a rapscallion. Though the leash law was firmly in effect in North Little Rock well before we moved to Blackhawk Road, Nicholas von Robwillaurcath considered himself an exception to the rule.

Nicky was a rambler, but he always made it home to sleep in his own bed.

He wandered the streets of the east side of Indian Hills, meeting folks as he went. But he always came back.

People we’d never met would greet him by name if we took him for a walk. “Oh, we know Nicky,” they’d say. We were never quite sure how his name got around, but we did meet lots of people that way.

Nicky was a scrappy dog – he came from blue-blood lineage and had the paperwork to prove it, but he quickly got nicked ears (which made his name seem pretty appropriate, now that I think about it) from duking it out with other dogs over territory. Never mind that he was a slim miniature dachshund; he was large in his mind and attitude.

Once Mother heard him ferociously barking in the carport and opened the door to find the dogcatcher backed into a corner.

“Lady,” he told her sternly, “you’ve got to keep your dog at home.” Or something to that effect. Fat chance. We were lucky he didn’t arrest our four-legged juvenile delinquent; those were the good old days.

He was also a ladies man and a lover. He only sired a few puppies that we know of, once as a stud to another registered dachshund and the other time was with a homely, small mixed-breed dog from way down on another street. She used to strut down Blackhawk when she was in heat.

Pam and I called her a “slut mutt,” or something like that, and thought it was exceptionally funny that her name was Fanny. One of her litters had a couple of puppies that looked very much like dachshunds. Oops.

This was before people routinely spayed and neutered their pets. Don’t know that my dad could’ve borne neutering his boy anyway – Nicky was the other male in a family of girls for the few years he stuck around. Daddy called him “son.” They had a special bond.

When Daddy came home from work, Nicky would follow him to the bedroom and “talk” loudly about his day as Daddy changed out of his suit. “Tell me about it, son,” Daddy would say, encouraging him to go on. That little wiggling dachshund body would whip into a frenzy, and he’d twist the small round area rug on the hardwood floor into a ball as he wriggled.

Daily routine, it was. Another routine was helping Daddy mow our giant back yard. Daddy would pick up rocks and toss them into the woods behind our house to keep them out of the lawnmower. Nicky would retrieve each one.

One of his cooler tricks was turtle hunting. Daddy would say, “Go find me a turtle, boy,” and off into the woods Nicky would tear. It might take him an hour or more, but he wouldn’t come back without a turtle in his jaws.

Cathy and I (and Pam and Connie and whoever else happened to be there) liked to play a trick on Nicky, too, and though we felt mean, we thought it was hysterical to call him “Ricky” – he never seemed to notice and got just as excited when we talked to him. Shame on us. 

Nicky came to us as the cutest little wiggly Christmas present you ever saw in 1966. I was in the sixth grade and Cathy the second. It was mad love at first sight.

We decided on Nicky, short for Nicholas for his registered name, and Mother came up with the rest of it, a combination of Robert, Willette, Laura and Cathy. Robwillaurcath.

Nicky left us on Christmas Day in 1970.

What happened was this: We used to have violent acorn wars in the space between the Cartwright and Crownover houses. We’d divide into teams/sides/whatever and pelt huge acorns as hard as we could at the opposite side.

Hurt like hell, actually, but kids will be (idiot) kids and we thought it was great fun. But little Nicky wanted to be in on everything we did, and he’d chase and scoop up acorns too. At some point, he accidentally swallowed one whole, but we didn’t know it.

He became terribly ill in December and x-rays showed the acorn that had ripped his intestines. Of course my father told the vet to operate, and the surgery went well. His recovery was long and we’d go visit him to keep his spirits up.

No one was a more regular visitor than Daddy. We couldn’t go Christmas Day, of course, because the vet’s office was closed. My father came home in shock on Dec. 26 – he went to visit his boy, only to learn that the holiday caretaker hadn’t read the instructions and fed Nicky dry food.

His incisions ruptured and no one was there to notice he was dying. We were all heartbroken, beyond crushed. But none as much as my dad.

Daddy came home and took to his bed. Cathy and I, as aggrieved as we were, were scared. We tiptoed around and whispered in respect.

Sometime after he emerged from the master bedroom, Daddy announced that there would be no more dogs. He couldn’t go through the pain again. Of course that’s before we met tiny Katie Scarlett Cartwright, the cutest little gingerbread dachshund puppy you could imagine.

She was a faithful companion to Daddy through his illness and outlived him by a few years. But she’s another dog tale.

This is about Nicky, who blue-blood or no, was still nothing but a hound dog. And one heck of a guy.

Mother at 35 on the kitchen couch with my first Ben, who seems to be cleaning his foot, and Nicky shortly before the acorn wars of 1970.

Pleasant Valley Sunday

So, Sunday I get an e-mail trivia quiz for “Semi-old” people (20/20 for me – useless trivia is one of my strengths). One of the questions was “Pogo, the comic strip character said, “We have met the enemy and …”

If you don’t know the answer, you either a) are not from the south or b) didn’t have a daddy like mine. Daddy didn’t have much time to spend with us girls when we were growing up, but our Sunday afternoon ritual was “the reading of the comics.” He read them aloud to me from as early as I can remember and continued for way longer than was necessary – just because it was a cozy bonding time.

And when I was little, he explained the satirical/political meanings behind “Pogo” and “Li’l Abner” instead of just reading the regular funny ones. (“Li’l Abner” was also big time popular then. One of my dance recitals featured “Daisy Mae”-like costumes – I was 10.)

I adored those creatures from Okefenokee Swamp. But I really adored sitting in the chair with Daddy – and the fact that as soon as we could afford it, he started subscribing to the Democrat as well as the Gazette, just so he could have access to “Blondie,” one of his favorites.

Dagwood cracked him up.

We also watched “Rocky and Bullwinkle” in the evenings when I was 5ish. He especially loved the “Boris and Natasha” Cold War episodes.

Bonding over comics was especially important because Daddy was a workaholic. When I was a toddler, he was gone to work before I even got up most mornings (I’ve never been a morning person) – but he left me a sip of sweet coffee in the bottom of his cup every day. Mother says I’d cry like my heart were broken if he forgot.

One of my earliest memories, very vague, is of him coming home for lunch when I was 2 – we’d all watch “As the World Turns,” and Daddy called one of the characters “Poor Penny.” Perhaps he was coming home to see his girls. Hmmm….

After he went to work for Pickens & Bond Construction, where the young-gun engineers were worked like indentured servants, the hours got longer. He’d get home in time for dinner and worked virtually every Saturday morning, it seems. And he golfed to let off steam many Saturday afternoons. But Sunday meant church at Park Hill Presbyterian, sometimes lunch at Minuteman (oh, those little deep-dish fruit pies), and the reading of the comics.

We moved to Blackhawk when I was in the later months of my fifth-grade year, yet the ritual continued for a while after that. I’d been reading on my own for a long, long time – it was about the ritual.

Later, when Mother and Daddy forced me to go to the Sunday night youth group at church (which I hated, hated – no offense to my friends there, whom I enjoyed, but church was not my bag), Daddy would pick me up and let me drive home – starting when I was only 12. That became our secret bonding, although Mother surely knew.

It was his way of rewarding me for going to something he knew I didn’t enjoy. Driving was worth it, but barely.

Had to get those memories out, but school work is screaming in the background, so I must stop and switch gears.

But it was nice to take time to reminisce about those pleasant Sundays (even though the Monkees are actually singing their version of a ’60s protest song).