Monday, September 27, 2010

Wait, I Have a Great Excuse

I sat in an extremely noisy restaurant with three of my friends waiting for one more to arrive. I love the latecomer dearly, but after being friends for over 25 years, I know the only way to get her somewhere on time is to lie to her about the meeting time. I accept her flaw because other than her dysfunctional internal time clock, she’s a terrific person. When we formed this Mah Jongg group years ago, we should have told her we would meet at 11:30 for lunch before heading to one of our homes to play Mah Jongg. If we fibbed, maybe—just maybe—she would arrive at the real time, 11:45 most of the time. As soon as one of the gals told Ms. Perpetually Late the real gathering time, I knew she’d rarely, if ever, show before noon.

After several years of playing with her, we’re used to her tardiness and listening to all the upheavals that justifiably delay her—excuses that make us forget she is late. She, in turn, has learned if she’s late and wants to eat, she has two choices. If she’ll only be around 15-minutes late, she can call one of us on our cell and tell us what to order for her. More than that, she needs to order take-out and eat on the run. None of the players in our game wants to spend a half-hour waiting for her to order and finish eating if we’re about to pay the check when she arrives.

She’s far from the only person who is always late. My manicurist tells a story about a client of hers who was always a half hour late, and like my friend, always rushes in with legitimate excuses. She said the client thinks she has a 2 o’clock appointment, but it’s really 2:30. She told me that the one time the client was “on time,” she was livid she had to wait!

Back to my story—this week, by the time the waiter came to take the order, my friend still hadn’t called, which I must admit is unusual for her. Our meals were being served when she rushed through the front door laden down by her up-to-date, over-sized, and over-stuffed bag.

“None of your phones are answering,” she exclaimed. “I’ve be calling all of you for an hour.”

One by one, we reached into our bags. One phone said no service, the others said “Missed Call, listen to the message.”

“See,” she said. “I did try to call.”

Since it was obvious the noise in the restaurant muffled our phones, I placed my phone in my pocket so I could hear it. I didn’t bother to dial my voice mail. Instead, I listened to a first hand account of all the calamities that occurred that morning causing my friend to be 45-minutes late.

When the afternoon was over, I called my husband to tell him I was on the way home.

“It’s about time you returned my call,” he almost growled.

Whoops. I guessed I had more than one message in my voice mail.

Now what creative excuse could I come up with for not checking my voice mail? I couldn’t. Instead, I told him if it was that important, he should have called back. Nothing works better, than turning the tables if you can’t come up with a valid excuse.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Synchronization Needed

“That didn’t happen last year,” Hubby said to me while we were walking this morning. “It was only four months ago.”

I sighed. The concept of exactly when the year begins and ends has always given me a problem. I may have stopped teaching in 2001, but my mind still considers the first day of school as the beginning of the year and the last day of school signifies the end of the year. July and August are in the twilight zone.

To reinforce my confusion as to when the new year begins, the Jewish New Year is in September. So, after spending two-thirds of my life thinking of the new year as September because of my career and religion, the concept that “last year,” ends before summer is engraved incorrectly in my brain. To me, January 1st signifies the end of the Christmas/Chanukah holiday festivities and the beginning of crash dieting.

I did a report on the Gregorian calendar, the official calendar for the Western World, while in college. I remember coming across information that the New Year wasn’t always January first. Through most of the last millennium, many parts of the world did begin the year in September and other parts began it in March.

Perhaps in my previous lives I was a member of the culture whose year began in September, thus I was born with a genetic tendency to resist the January first date. Or perhaps its time for the people in charge of calendars to realize that since folks spend the first 20 or so years of their lives viewing September as the new (school) year, that its time to make September the official beginning of new year. Either that or have graduation in December and begin the next grade in January. That way all the teachers and students in the world will stop confusing others and/or being momentarily confused when they say or hear, “last year.”

Thursday, September 16, 2010


It’s not easy to simplify the meaning of the holiest Jewish High Holy Day, the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, but I shall try. G-d can’t forgive you for sins you commit against fellow man. You must clean that mess up yourself and ask those whom you hurt in any fashion for forgiveness. However, he can forgive you for sins you committed for not living according to the good book. To me, Yom Kippur is a day for fasting and praying and reflecting on how I can be a better person. Hubby and I attend services and there are two aspects of the day that “reach into my very being.” One is an inner belief that when the day is over, my fate is sealed for the future.

The other is a prayer which enumerates the vast amount of sins one may have committed and should atone for. Many of the sins are written in almost Biblical language. While it is recited, some Rabbis “bring the sin alive” or restate it in every day language. Usually this causes a stir of discomfort to some worshippers who up until then were simply reciting words without digesting their meaning. Each time I hear a Rabbi do this, I wonder if maybe the prayer should have an addendum, and I even thought that if even a similar prayer exists in other religions, they also might be interested in my updated addendum that might give potency to things like the sin of “baring false witness.”

I do not mean to be disrespectful, but Hubby and I just completed a ten-hour drive home from Atlanta and while looking at some drivers weave around the road this idea came to me.

We could ask for forgiveness for the following:

The sin of texting during the religious leader’s sermon.
The sin of texting while driving.
The sin of talking on the cell phone while driving.

The following ones popped into my head after listening to various politicians on the talk shows last night.

The sin of lying to the voters while you are running for political office.
The sin of lying to your constituents if you are an elected official.
The sin of lying about your opponent while you’re running for office.
The sin of distorting facts.

Anyone else have any other sins that everyone should be atoning for, regardless of what House of Worship you attend?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Insincere Question

The most insincere question is “How are you?” Most people don’t want to hear anything other than “fine.” The only reason most people ask the questions is somewhere in polite society we were brainwashed that a conversation or letter is supposed to begin with “Hi, how are you?” Most people back away from people who constantly exaggerate and/or dwell on doom and gloom news, especially in Seniorville where almost everyone deals with something.

Years ago I learned not to ask certain of my relatives who are in fairly good health how they are feeling. Their answers can make the listener think the kvetch is within hours of impending doom. Some of these complainers will even give you a drip-by-drip report of their body fluids. Perhaps these folks feel the only way they will get and hold center stage is to have everyone think they are near death. I’ve discovered, truly ill people rarely complain. When I call people whom I know are fixated on finding something wrong with their daily health or making their problems sound worse than they are, I make it a point not to ask how they feel.

The other day friends and I were in the cafĂ© in our clubhouse having lunch before our Bridge game. One of my friends smiled at an acquaintance of hers and politely asked that dangerous infamous question—the one that the only one who wants to know the real answer is your doctor—“How are you?”

Well, the lady—who looked fit enough to be on the cover of a Senior Glamour magazine— spent a full ten minutes giving what I call a “daily medical briefing”—you know like doctors do at news conferences in hospitals when an important person is sick. Yes, the women has physical problems, but far from fatal. Her husband has real problems, but somehow I feel he would probably be mortified if he knew how much his wife divulged about his bowl problems.

By the time my group headed for our bridge table to begin our afternoon of leisure we had all agreed that at our age many of us have serious, albeit not fatal problems we must deal with daily. However, we have to focus on the positive in our lives and not dwell or even talk about each ache and pain as if doom was waiting around the corner. We all also agreed that an update if one of our near and dear has real concerns is expected and accepted. Then without a word being said, one player dealt the cards—after putting her back brace on her chair—two other players put prescription drops in their eyes, and I took off my shoe so I could put my swollen foot, which was injected with cortisone that morning, on an ice pack.

The complainer, who was sitting at another table, stared at us. Never once did she come to our table to ask, “What’s the matter with you?” Sadly, life has taught me that the biggest complainers have no real interest in how others are feeling. They don’t like to share the spotlight, and if they find out what your ailment is, they rush to the nearest doctor to see if they have it also—or they already have it and spend half an hour telling you theirs is worse. I wonder if anyone ever read them The Boy Who Cried Wolf?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Alzheimic Day

Before you read this blog please understand that when I’m really afraid—like when I haD cancer years ago—I use humor to reduce stress. I know Alzheimer’s and Dementia are horrible conditions, and fear of being diagnosed with either is something many seniors have, especially if like me, they watched it destroy a parent. I deal with my fear of this illness with humor and that is what this blog is about—laughter is still a great medication, especially as we age. I do not mean to minimize the illness.

Alzheimic Day

Every time I took my mother, who suffered from Dementia, to her various doctors they would immediately ask her the date to check on her state of mental awareness. She always knew the answer, even long after Dementia had claimed most of her gray matter. My memory of her rapid response scares the heck out of me. I rarely know the date since I stopped writing it on the board each morning in my classroom about nine years ago. Today, one of my recently retired friends confessed on Facebook she doesn’t even know which day of the week it is anymore!

Last week, I had my first Alzheimic (new word) Day. Until then my memory lapses rarely lasted more than the infamous senior moments I’ve been having since I was a senior in high school.

Once a week, I play Mah Jongg in the clubhouse of our development and the gals in my game alternate driving. To all of us there is nothing dumber and more wasteful than seeing women or men who live on the same neighborhood all driving their own cars to go to the same place at the same time.

Anyway, my friend honked her car horn to announce her arrival. Hubby went outside to tell her I was searching for my eyeglasses. Prior to cataract surgery, I always wore them, so they were never misplaced. Since the surgery, I spend half my day looking for my specs and the other half looking for my car keys. After 5 minutes of rushing and hunting, Hubby informed me that he found them—they were dangling from my shirt. I then went to my kitchen cabinet to get my Mah Jongg card* and the few dollars in change I needed to play the game. I glanced at the label on the card—you know the kind we use for return addresses—and it was my old address, which meant it was an old card.

Since someone in my game always has an extra Mah Jongg card, I left my house and drove with my friend to the clubhouse. As we were walking in, my cell rand. It was another player in our game. “Where are you? I’m beeping and no one is home.”

It was the caller's turn to drive. This made me feel better about my forgetfulness because the person who picked me up is 4 years younger than me. Not only didn’t she remember she wasn’t driving, but both of us forgot to pick up the other players. By the time we started our game, we both were up another notch on our fear that the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or Dementia—the undoing of both of our Momshad arrived.

By the end of the game that day, my forgetful friend and myself were the “big” winners—I think we won a couple of dollars each. We both decided to panic about having the beginning stages of the dreaded illness when we forget how to play the game, not when we forget where we put our card or who is supposed to drive.

My glee lasted until I came home and picked up what I had earlier in the day thought was last year’s card and resumed my search. The card had 2010 on the front and the address label was clearly that of my new home. Maybe if I stop wearing my reading glasses around my neck and put them on my nose, I’ll go back to having “senior moments” and not “Alzheimic Days.”

*Each year the Mah Jongg League prints a card with “hands”—combination of various tiles—that the player must match with the tiles he or she gets when he or she picks—kind of like gin rummy but with tiles in lieu of cards.