Forever friends.

We are Blue Ridge Mountain women, Carolyn and I. Providence placed us together at the age of ten in fifth grade at Appalachian Elementary School. How fortunate we are to have forged a permanent bosom-buddy friendship at that young age. I am abundantly richer for it and I know she feels the same.

Sadly, I lost my lifelong friend on April 1. Her daughter Amy and I got a chuckle about her passing on April Fools Day. Carolyn stated clearly, more than once, that it was her least favorite holiday. She said she disliked most surprises and she certainly didn’t enjoy being the victim of silly pranks. She did, however, have a terrific sense of humor. She was a master at telling a good story and making me laugh. I think she would have found humor in the fact that her demise came on her most dreaded holiday – and it sure as hell wasn’t a joke.

It’s difficult to write in the past tense about a friend whose presence I’ve known for almost 70 years. Her presence, I think, will always be with me. It helps that over the years we were more separated than together geographically; but we were always together in our hearts. We were able to pick up the conversation as only good friends can, as if we were sitting across the kitchen table from each other having coffee.

I had my last conversation with Carolyn the evening she died, metaphorically speaking. I was standing next to my bed wondering if I should put my pajamas on early and settle in with a book. I can never think books without thinking Carolyn. When her name came to me I paused. I knew her end was coming soon, just not quite yet. I took a moment to say a little prayer for a serene passage. Then I said aloud, “I’m here, Carolyn, I’m right here with you.” The next morning her daughter called me.

On our last phone call she answered with a deliberate lilt in her voice. That was her way of telling me she was okay. Then she told me she had been lying there thinking about all the things I had done for her over the years.That is so like her. I told her if we were taking inventory I feared I would end up on the short end. She was having none of that.

From the very beginning of our friendship, Carolyn was generous with her love, companionship and her worldly goods. If she had a candy bar she would break it in half and share with me. As we grew up she became aware, I’m sure, of my family life – my dad was an alcoholic, but she never mentioned it. She only ever saw him when he was sober and she talked about how funny and charming he was. That was one of the many ways she protected and cared for me. For me it’s a symbol of her continuing kindness and generosity throughout our lives together.

I believe that all of us (humans) have our angelic and devilish/impish sides. Carolyn was no exception. She was particularly impish as a child/teenager. It seems to me that her imp came out when her intelligent deep-thinking made things too heavy for her. But that wasn’t always the case. Often she was hilarious because it felt good to laugh. Below are a few of the many memories I have of times spent with my dear friend. Some are funny. Some are not. All are indicative of who she was: complex, intelligent, generous, caring, funny, sad, and more. One thing I can say for sure is that we laughed more than we cried.

Carolyn despised stupidity and incompetence. When one of her relatives did something she considered crazy/nutty, she would tell me about it by saying, “Guess what Bob’s cousin did? Can you believe anyone is that stupid?” (Bob is Carolyn’s brother.) It was okay if his cousin was stupid, but she wasn’t going to claim her.

She always thought that her mother favored Bob. I can’t say whether that’s true but I can say that Carolyn was Daddy’s girl. Once, when her dad was far away working (Iran?) he called Carolyn on her birthday. She wouldn’t let her mother have the phone and she wouldn’t tell her what he said. “It’s my phone call and my birthday!” I was a silent observer that day and I think the devil made her do it.

In high school I could recognize Carolyn’s laugh (or her sneeze) from one end of the hall to the other. Also from the top of the stairs to the bottom. One morning at class change, traffic in the stairwell stopped. I yelled up, “Carolyn! What’s the holdup up there?” Her response, “Oh, I fell up the stairs.” Uproarious laughter ensued. Here’s the thing: Carolyn knew she was about to make everyone laugh. That’s why she said it. She took what might have been an undignified embarrassment and made it a dignified conspiracy to be a few seconds late to our next class. Ingenious!

Carolyn was in nursing school when I gave birth to my first two daughters and somehow she managed to be in delivery with me. She was a nurse at the hospital where I had the third. Until she married the love of her life, Randy, and moved away, she was like another mother to my little girls. They loved how she read Winnie the Pooh, especially Eeyore’s voice.They still remember her trips to our house laden with gifts (wrapped) and not just on birthdays. She even picked up takeout on the way. That was for me.

I think my friend would appreciate our remembering her kindness, generosity, sense of humor, etc. But I can’t end this post without giving special space to her innate intelligence. She was promoted to Head Nurse in the heart unit of a large teaching hospital when she was barely out of nursing school. She read every book she could get her hands on and won the Reading Award every year. She knew things. And she didn’t mind letting you know that she knew things; that she was smart. In fact, I think she wouldn’t have minded if you thought she was the smartest person in the room.

Sometimes Carolyn would use that superior brain to argue with others. She used to argue with my first ex-husband. He was a member of MENSA. I’ve heard her argue with her husband Randy. He’s a doctor. I was never around when she went into combat with her children but I’m sure there were a few tiffs. Her daughter Amy and son Rich have a very impressive gene pool. What I’m trying to say here is that she didn’t always win. She wasn’t always the smartest person in the room. There were others as smart. Oh, how I will miss my brainy friend.

This post is for Carolyn’s devoted husband Randy, her daughter Amy, son Rich, granddaughter Violet, Violet’s mother Kristin, Carolyn’s brother and sister-in-law Bob and Kathy. I am so very sorry for your loss.

Asheville, NC, where Carolyn’s beloved and devoted husband grew up.

A vote-by-mail (mis)adventure.

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Last week I voted an absentee ballot by mail for the first time. I encountered some obstacles as I gingerly jumped through the requisite hoops.

If you’ve never voted absentee, you may not know that you need a witness to sign for you, vowing that you are who you say you are. Since I can walk into the polls and vote without identification, this doesn’t make sense to me.

Though voting might be simple to accomplish under normal circumstances, there is nothing normal about living and voting with COVID rules. I decided that no matter how silly the regulations may seem, I will follow them precisely as this is important stuff and not a time to argue and make waves. So…I did a little candidate research, marked my ballot and lassoed a friendly neighbor.

Next I gave obsessive attention to the delivery of my prepared ballot. I wanted to be positively, absolutely 100% certain that my vote would arrive at its destination and be counted well before election day.

I sometimes refer to myself as “pragmatic Pat” and often that’s who I am. On other occasions, though, I go on a tangent that would seem weird to others but makes some sort of sense to me. I’m not sure but I think I’m wired that way. My mind diverges and I see numerous solutions.

For example, the ballot title would appear to indicate exactly what one must do with it: Mail it! But I’m thinking about that Joe Biden flag I have in my yard right under the mail carrier’s nose every day. What if she’s a Republican and maybe she’s fan of 45 and maybe she will do something devious with my ballot. Am I crazy? Maybe. I’ll blame it on my continuing isolation.

Next option is to drive to my nearest post office, go in and put the envelope in the slot. Job done. Ah, but my slightly warped brain takes another divergent detour.

The ultimate destination for votes is the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections. I’ll drive it over there. It’s only a 30+ minute drive each way. I have cabin fever. It will be good to get out. Ha!

I lost count after the fifth construction site I had to slow down/stop for on the way there. I drove around and through the parking lot three times before I found a parking space. Once inside, my envelope in hand, I felt as if I had arrived in Covid Hell. People were milling about and not safe distancing. Apparently an infinite number of voters could occupy the space. The one positive was that all did wear masks as far as I could tell.

A woman asked if she could assist me. I thanked her. She handed me a clipboard and asked me to fill in the top segment. And…you guessed it. I was to print my name, sign, date, put time of day, and check the block avowing that I was the person I claimed to be. Redundant? I would say so. Then she asked me to watch her drop the envelope into the box. I did appreciate that gesture.

I don’t imagine I need to tell you that I take voting seriously. It’s not only a right but a responsibility. I hope you feel the same way. A word or so of warning, though: DON’T OVER THINK IT. Just do it. The sooner the better.

The wave of the future?

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IMG-0777This is a sign I put on my front door recently. I try to keep my sense of humor in all situations. Recently, neighbors have been ringing my doorbell. Without masks. I’m generally happy to see another human, but I wish they wouldn’t come to my door without a mask. It’s a little too close for comfort.

In any case, I didn’t want any interruptions while I was on my first ever virtual doctor visit. As it turned out there was something wrong with the connection so we hung up and he called me the old fashioned way.

Some offices were conducting virtual exams before the corona virus. It was already the wave of the future and Covid rushed it up a little. I like it. It’s nice not to have to maneuver the maze that is my rheumatologist’s parking tower. Up one elevator, down another and then up again. Crazy design.

Now that I’m so old my GP doesn’t examine me anyway unless I have a problem. And then she orders tests. Typically we talk. She asks questions. I ask questions. I’m perfectly happy to do that on screen.

If you have read this far, I thank you. I know this is boring, I feel fatally bored today; therefore I’m boring.

Someone please tell me what you’re doing to avoid succumbing to ennui. I’m in a state of despair.

 

 

Masks for the masses.

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The isolation is getting to me. We humans are tough as nails but at the same time fragile, delicate, vulnerable. One day at a time until we get a vaccine.

The scientists will figure it out. They always do. In the meantime, I wish the populace, especially in the United States, would wake up and use their brains. I’m not sure which is worse – the ignorance or the closed mind but when you put the two together – Katy, bar the door!!! It’s terrifying.

Since when is it not okay to sacrifice for the greater good?!? We requested that our citizens wear masks in public. Instead they went out and bought more guns. We mandated masks in public but they still wouldn’t put on a mask. Instead they ranted and raved about how the government can’t take away their god-given right to do what they wish with their own bodies. WTF? Let that sink in for a moment, women.

The government tells us what to do every day. We pay taxes. We obey the rules of the road. It’s how we survive in a civilized society.

Locally, we recently received 2,000,000 masks, donated for mass consumption. We want everyone to have access. And on a bright note we are seeing more masks than bare faces in public venues. Unfortunately, a great deal of damage was already done. That’s probably why our cases of COVID 19 are still spiking in many states. North Carolina is one of them despite the determined hard work of the governor and his dedicated staff.

And so we wait and we isolate. We’ll get through together. One day at a time.

 

Let’s stop the insanity. Vote blue!

(Old) white men are scrambling to keep control of something/anything.  Their minds are closed to the notion that women, young people, members of other cultures, anyone different from themselves can manage banks or run the government or operate machinery or, heaven forbid, be President of the United States.

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say, “I’ve had it!!!” THIS PATRIARCHY MUST GO. WHITE PRIVILEGE MUST GO.

Is there anyone out there who believes that our country would be falling apart at the seams right now if Hillary Clinton had won the election? I certainly don’t. Did we even come close to such dysfunction with President Barack Obama. Absolutely not.

I’m stunned several times a day at the total chaos and incompetence emanating from Donald Trump’s White House. I’m sure there’s more garbage since I last looked, but after realizing that he really is having a major rally in Tulsa today, I haven’t had the courage to look at the news. How many Covid cases will we reap from that fiasco. Makes me sick to think about it.

img_1511VOTE BLUE! VOTE BLUE! VOTE BLUE!

 

 

Hope springs eternal…

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One of my favorite writers from British literature is Alexander Pope. He’s the one who said “Hope springs eternal in the human breast…” He said a lot of wise stuff. This particular expression of happy optimism came to me recently as I was hanging artwork in my new home.

Back in November I sold the home I had lived in for the past eleven or so years. It was too big for me. Too much cleaning. Too many repairs. Too many stairs. Steep stairs that almost killed me several years ago. And I bought a cottage in a 55+ community just a couple of miles from the big house. It’s a significant change. More so than I imagined. But good, I think.

I tried to prepare for my move for months in advance. I gave numerous boxes of clothing and household goods to charities. I even convinced daughters and granddaughters to take quite a haul. Big stuff like furniture that I would not have room for in a smaller house. I was hyped and hopeful. Moving day came and went and I was ready to start a new life. Exhausted, but ready to open the door on the next adventure.

Just as I was growing accustomed to my new environment, making the acquaintance of a number of neighbors and feeling hopeful in this new space, along came COVID 19. Pandemic. Quarantine. Social distancing. Masks. Fear. Grocery delivery. Amazon. Cabin fever. Crippling isolation.

Despite the difficulties just listed above, I still have hope in my heart and love for my companions on this journey. (That means you and you and you.) I have made enough friends in the neighborhood to have safely distanced and masked conversations. I look forward to getting to know many more. I think this was a good move for me at just the right time.

HAPPY JUNETEENTH. A HOLIDAY WORTH CELEBRATING!

 

Out of the mouths of babes…

I’ve been cleaning for some time now so I can sell my house and move to smaller quarters. I’m finding really cool memories amongst the junk. This is one of my favorites so far. I have seven lovely granddaughters and one of them wrote this wise treatise. I’m still trying to figure out which one.

Here’s what it says in case you can’t make out the writing:

If a woman was president…

There would be flowers everywhere. She would love her country so much that people would try to stop being mean. She would give everybody a house and stop homeless ness. There wouldun’t be as many wars because women don’t like killing. She would make peace with everyone. She would help kids. It could happen.

Wise words from a small child. Our little girls, and big girls,too, really need a woman in the White House – now more urgently than ever.

Ageist, sexist, racist.

image_ABC8D8E3-7FBB-4AAE-8E9D-4FB07EAF0CBE.IMG_0351 Before I acknowledge that the title of this post means me, allow me to make one very important statement: No matter who is nominated to run against Trump, I will vote for her or him.

I don’t want to rant or rave, so I will calmly state this once, get it off my chest, and then apply what energies I have left to other endeavors. Neither Joe Biden nor Bernie Sanders should be our Democratic nominee for president. Call me an ageist, but Joe and I are the same age, and Bernie is even older. I recognize that both have more energy and better mental acuity than many our age. They don’t, however, have the high levels they had twenty years ago. They may think they do but they are wrong.

We have watched presidents come and go – most old-ish, a few young. One notable thing they all have in common is how dramatically they aged while in the office of President. Even Kennedy’s angst showed on his face and he was able to serve less than half a term. President Obama aged better than most; so did President GW Bush, but even they grayed at an impressive pace.

It’s a hard job – one of the most demanding on earth. We want someone who, unlike our current White House resident, takes the job seriously. It’s a 24/7 assignment. My experience with aging tells me that I want a younger candidate. Sorry, Joe and Bernie.

Now to the sexist/racist political commentary. It’s time for the centuries-old patriarchy to recede. Old white men (OWM) have brought us to this dysfunctional state of woe. Even when we defied the odds and elected Obama, our OWM refused to allow him to do his job. (Think Mitch McConnell.)

There are more women than men in the country; therefore there should be more women than men holding public office. Indeed, our country is demographically a patchwork of diversity. Our elected officials should reflect that diversity. Alas, we aren’t even close.

We are making progress. If all eligible women would get out and vote, we could move beyond this snail-like pace we are currently treading. The greatest way to accelerate progress would be to elect a woman for President this cycle. What a concept. Maybe that’s the real reason I think Joe and Bernie shouldn’t run. OWM have screwed us. No pun intended. It’s our time. Hear us roar!

 

Walking with Bob Dylan.

IMG-0055I go for a walk every morning. My goal is to walk the better part of an hour. I usually walk a little over two miles, starting out with a podcast. Some of my favorites are The Daily, Ted Talks, and Fresh Air. If you haven’t discovered podcasts, check them out. There’s a wealth of information and entertainment at your finger tips.

Some of my podcasts run a half hour or less and that isn’t enough walk time. That’s when I go to my music and more often than not listen to Bob Dylan.  I have a wide range of musical tastes. In fact, I like almost all music. Why, then, do I choose Dylan so often? The first of several reasons  is a practical one.  Many of his songs are verrrry long. Two or three songs and my walk time is over. The notion of only a few songs tricks me into thinking I haven’t walked very long.

Pragmatism aside, I have many reasons to listen to Dylan. I like what he expresses in his songs and I enjoy the way he delivers his work. I know most of the words to most of his songs; thus, I can stroll along singing with him; speeding up for an upbeat song and slowing down a bit for a more sedate number.  I consider him not merely a song writer, but a poet.

I’ve never been a fan of poetry. (I imagine that makes me less educated in the eyes of some folks. So be it.) However, when it comes to the poetry of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, I’m all over it. Some have called these two gentlemen the best of 20th century North American poets. I agree. Someone described Dylan’s work as “poetry for the ear.” I declare the same for Cohen’s immense body of work. I suppose this means I want my poetry set to music. That’s not surprising considering how much of my day is spent listening to my favorite, and some new, artists.

In 2016, Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. There was a little controversy over their choice. He is the first songwriter to receive the this award. The committee said he was so honored “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Indeed he has done that, in my opinion.

If you like this great artist as much as I do, I’m “preachin’ to the choir.” If you don’t like Dylan, but you do like poetry, check out his lyrics on the web. Go to bobdylan.com (this is his official site) and you will find a list of his songs. Touch the title of a song and the lyrics will magically appear on the screen. Listed below are a few of his best poems/songs:

Masters of War; A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall, Blowin’ in the Wind; Like a Rolling Stone; Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright; It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)

 

Nosy Nelly.

photo-38I used to read “Dear Abby” in my daily newspaper. One issue that came up frequently was “How do I answer when a friend or acquaintance asks me a personal question that I don’t wish to answer?”

Abby had a number of possible replies – Why would you ask me that? Why do you want to know? That’s personal. – Or sometimes, when Nosy Nelly is persistent, That’s really none of your business. Or perhaps a gentler version would be Let’s not go there.

Unfortunately, when Nosy Nelly is being her most inquisitive self, there is no gentle version that will deter her. She goes into a rapid-fire mode and makes numerous inappropriate inquiries, causing me to want to throw something at her, like maybe a serious reprimand about how damn nosy she is and how she needs to get a life.

Here’s the thing – the other side of Nelly is a kind, gentle, caring woman who goes out of her way to do for others. She doesn’t call attention to her acts of kindness. I truly believe she would take the shirt off her back and hand to a friend (or a stranger) if she thought they needed it.

The last paragraph doesn’t solve the problem of Nelly’s inquisitiveness, but it makes me pause and reevaluate my relationship with her. I don’t want to hurt her feelings. Neither do I want to spend a lot of time with her. Somewhere there’s a happier balance. I’ll keep pondering.