Caregivers Get No Appreciation

I refer to this posting often when speaking with other people, but I cannot find it or its first draft that I usually save. If I can’t find it, no one else is likely to, either. This is rewritten from memory of the original, so you may have read it before—I just don’t know what happened.

Caregivers get no appreciation? This first surprised me: A caregiver essentially gives up their life to care for another. You would think the care-receiver would fall on their knees in gratitude for this ultimate gift, but this almost never happens. Why? On thinking it over, there are good reasons.

First, the caregiver is a constant reminder of what the care-receiver can no longer do for themselves and of their daily dependence on someone else. No one likes to be dependent.

Second, the care-receiver feels they were unfairly treated. Why were they burdened with all of their new restrictions, often through no fault of their own, while the caregiver was not? And they are right. Life is not fair. It’s a crap-shoot.

And last, the care-receiver’s life shrinks down to dealing with their own overwhelming problems, so they cannot appreciate the relatively minor problems in anyone else’s life. “Why isn’t the caregiver here to fluff up my pillow?”

“They’re at the dentist.”

“Well, they should have scheduled their appointment for a different time!”  (So goes the reasoning.)

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The Grange Hall In Delaware

The Grange was a farmer’s organization that held social events in their hall. Their official name was “The Patrons of Husbandry,” but local chapters were simply known as the “Grange.” There was a supervisory Grange in Washington, D.C. It was a popular movement from 1867 to 1906, depending on the state. Delaware still has a Grange downstate in Dover than has a webpage showing photos of many people looking like farmers. I still see the Grange mentioned in old movies when the hero moseys on down the trail to the square dance at the Grange where he meets his favorite gal, Sal.

When we first moved to Delaware in the 1960s, there was a historic Grange in the middle of divided Concord Pike, right where shopping areas were being developed. At the time, there was a great hue and cry that the historic old hall would be destroyed, but the developers assured everyone that it would be preserved by moving it to a vacant location on the side of Concord Pike near the Tallyville Post Office. They would pay for the move, chump change to get a land deal passed.

I had not seen or thought of the Grange until I recently mentioned it to a member of the senior center. He assured me it was still there, which surprised me because I go that way almost every day.

So, today I explored the area to see it for myself. It was on a short street behind a Christian Science church, but on the opposite side of where I remember it being moved. Was it moved a second time?

It is a plain, two-story, boxy wood building, freshly painted white. The sign saying “Grange” over the front door is gone, but it must be stored somewhere. Its boxy style probably saved it. It can be used for many things, and moving it a short distance is more economical than building something similar from scratch. No one seems concerned about its historical significance anymore. Several marked parking spaces are on the side and back, and there seems to be a real estate company in there, but no one was inside.

We don’t have many Christian Scientists in Delaware, so I haven’t found anyone at the church, either, who could tell me more about the building. The doors were locked, but peering in the window it looks like someone is usually there.

I’ll keep trying. I must have picked a bad time.

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Old Black Joe

So there I am, late one night, watching a rerun of the Seinfeld episode where Susan dies from licking the cheap envelopes for the wedding invitations that George picked out. It is the last scene where the doctor in the hospital tells George she has passed, and the others, Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer, don’t know what to say, and I break out singing the chorus to “Old Black Joe,” all alone in my living room. Why? I don’t know. It just popped into my head and seemed the thing to do.

I recalled the lyrics easily, but I have no recollection of learning them. I was never in a school play where I sang it. I don’t remember any teacher writing the words on the blackboard. But there it was, in my mind, clear and effortlessly recalled:

I’m coming. I’m coming.
For my head is bending low.
I hear those gentle voices calling
Old Black Joe.

Stephen Foster

Stephen Foster

Do they still teach it, or is it now too politically incorrect? The song is by Stephen Foster, and a classic even in my time. Foster, they taught us in grade school, was the only American song writer worth remembering, but I doubt today’s children have ever heard of him.  Among his most famous songs are: Oh! Susanna, Camptown Races, My Old Kentucky Home (theme song of the Kentucky Derby, easy to sway to when all dressed up and drunk), Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, and Beautiful Dreamer.  Children of today probably never heard of these songs, either.

Back in Stephen Foster’s time, referring to someone as “black” could be offensive.  Better play it safe and call him “Old Negro Joe,” but now that would be offensive. The black opera singer Paul Robeson, among others, side-stepped the issue by recording the song under the title “Poor Old Joe.” Foster was said to have been inspired to write the song by an old slave servant in his father-in-law’s house.  Foster did not write it in demeaning dialect, even though that was popular at the time (1853).

Gone are the days when my heart was young and gay,
Gone are my friends from the cotton fields away . . .

I never worked in a cotton field, I kid you not. This whole recollection thing is chilling. Is someone trying to tell me something?

Or, is Joe a metaphor for all of us? Maybe this is about general truths, and not about cotton fields at all. Or old black guys. Maybe there is more to Stephen Foster than I thought.

I hear gentle voices now too.  Is that you, Ma? . . . Dad?

Why do I weep when my heart should feel no pain?
Why do I sigh that my friends come not again?
Grieving for forms now departed long ago
I hear their gentle voice calling, “Old Black Joe.”

Where are the hearts once so happy and free?
The children so dear that I held upon my knee?
Gone to the shore [Ocean City] where my soul has long’d to go
I hear their gentle voices calling, “Old Black Joe.”

Old White Roger

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Cheap Philly Travel Ending

Under Billy Penn’s feet.

We Delaware seniors traveling to Philly had a bargain for a long time, and now it is coming to an end. We could take the train from Marcus Hook into center city for only $1. Then, in Philly, we could ride the subway and buses for free. All we had to do was flash our Medicare card and we were waved right on. It was too good to last, and I took full advantage of it while I could. Over the years, I explored Camden, the Art Museum, the University of Penn Archeology Museum, the University of Penn campus, the Mutter Museum, Franklin Field, the Penn’s Landing area, the Drexel campus, the Italian Market, 30th Street Station, Chinatown, Old City, Rittenhouse Square, Society Hill, the Schuylkill Banks, and the Reading Terminal Market. I walked across the Ben Franklin Bridge (several times). I ate a Pat’s cheese steak (Wiz, wit). I saw movies at the Ritz theaters. I even rode up the city hall tower to the feet of the Billy Penn statue. Many blog posts here describe my adventures. Now it is ending, but that is okay because so is my energy, and my wife’s. Also, I have experienced many good things that have ended, so I have learned to enjoy what I have while I have them, never expecting them to continue forever.

This generous transportation system was always meant only for Pennsylvania residents whose taxes were paying for it. We out-of-state residents were getting a free ride. Of course, this couldn’t last. Pennsylvania residents will still have the same benefits, but they will have to get a photo ID card with a chip and they will have to tap the card on a fare box.

The choppy enforcement of the old system by the whim of a transportation worker had to change. This may have been the real problem. The bus driver who waved us on without paying could also be waving on his friends and neighbors. The change-over will be painful for many, but memories are short, and within a year the old way will barely be remembered.

The train stations are already set up with the new turnstiles and gates and cattle chutes to direct their customers. They are set to begin operation September 1 (I think). Many SEPTA employees, themselves, are unsure how it is going to work. Before, on the train, checking ID was up to the conductor. My wife and I are clearly seniors, so our ID hasn’t been checked for years. And, I noticed, almost no one pays full fare. They just flash some sort of card and the conductor nods and moves on.

The first day of operation is bound to be chaotic. When my wife and I were presidents of a square dance club, we would occasionally have to change the location of the next dance. We learned to station someone at the old location on the night of the dance because a few would not get the message no matter how clear we made it or how often we repeated it. SEPTA will face the same problem.

Their new system is stupid, but that should be expected of political actions. There never were enough out-of-state seniors or just plain cheaters to justify the cost of the new system.

I always rode in on a Saturday to avoid the crowds when the public transportation was mostly empty, anyway. And I patronized the almost-deserted museums and food stalls, who seemed happy to have me. I never thought I was taking from the system.

SEPTA now runs trains into Delaware’s Wilmington and Newark stations. I am hoping Delaware will eventually make some sort of accommodation for our seniors, but by then, I will be too frail to use it (just being realistic). Our political system in Delaware moves slowly, almost as slowly as that of Philadelphia.

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The Lifespan Of a Car

Before my time.

In my day (the 1950s), the common thought was that you should trade in your old car for a new one after 60,000 miles. After that, the increasing repairs would become too costly.

Today, of course, a car with only 60,000 miles would be considered almost new. No one talks about mileage as a guide for trade-ins anymore, but if they did, it would be something over 200,000 miles. That’s a big jump in reliability. Cars have gotten much better over the years.

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Looking Asian

My wife of over 55 years is of Japanese descent and is clearly Asian, no doubt about it. The incident I will describe happened long ago, and she has since matured into a person with different attitudes, just as I knew she would, and as I have myself.

I noticed her wearing sunglasses indoors. Why is she wearing them? I asked her.

“So people will not know I am Asian,” she replied.

(This was said when immigration laws were different and very few Americans had even seen an Asian.  My wife felt alienated in her own country.  Of course, things have changed much for the better since then.)

I was speechless. Most importantly, What’s wrong with looking Asian? That’s her look and the look I would be happy seeing every day for the rest of my life. That’s the look I wanted our children to inherit.

But also, she was buying into the stereotype that Asians are only characterized by slanted eyes. I assured her there was a lot more to looking Asian. She wasn’t fooling anyone. Anyone could tell she was Asian with a mere glance, even with her eyes covered. (Although I admit I have trouble recognizing someone as Asian because our friends and family are a mix of full Asian, partially Asian, and non-Asian, that I no longer see race as a defining characteristic. Each person is unique in their own way, and that’s not just a liberal trope—it’s the truth.) I should have added then that she would not expect me to pass for Japanese by my wearing sunglasses, but I did not think of this killer argument at the time.

This would not be her attitude now. When we married, we were both young and immature. I expected we would mature together, and we have.

Racial difference is not part of our daily thinking. It almost never comes up. She is who she is, and I am who I am, and our race is only a category of some of our physical characteristics. Our race is something we cannot change, anyway. You can change your religion, your political affiliation, but not your race. Your partner must accept and appreciate that from the beginning. I certainly would not want my spouse to be just like me. Diversity is why we marry—to stir up those genes.

Years ago, our young granddaughter said she knew one of us was Japanese, but which one? To her, we were just Grammy and Poppy, not Asian and Caucasian.

I once watched a TV talk show where a black guy was complaining his Asian wife had no butt, and he was always pushing her to exercise more. I wanted to tell him if he admired big butts so much, he should have married within his own race. Asian women usually have flat butts and always will. Exercise has nothing to do with it. Accept it or move on.

Differences in opinions between my wife and I do come up, but these derive from the small differences in our backgrounds, the same as with any couple. To name one, she did not grow up with my Uncle John in her family.

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Please do not send me anything by Facebook, or at least, don’t expect me to get it.  I do not understand it and don’t plan to learn. You are overestimating my computer knowledge.

Facebook often sends notifications over your name but without your knowledge.  Don’t worry about these.  I simply delete them, which only takes one click.  Just be aware I do not read them.

Years ago, I signed up for Twitter just to see why anyone would use it.  I quickly saw that I would not, and never have, but signing up for Twitter automatically signed me up for Facebook.  I never use Facebook either, although you may see I have an account.  Email coming from either source gets lost in my spam folder. Mostly, they seem to be messages about what my granddaughter’s friends are doing.  They would all die of embarrassment if they knew I was getting them, so I don’t even read them.

If there is anything you really want me to know, send an email under your own name.  My email address is always at the bottom of each posting.

The big problem I have with computers now, especially Windows 10, is that they show you from the beginning everything they can do and let you disable the ones you don’t want.  This is contrary to the way computers used to be (I started out using MS-DOS that had no graphics and opened only with a “C-prompt,” but it made Bill Gates rich).  We started out with a blank operating system and added the programs and features we wanted.  Under that old system, we knew exactly what we had and how it worked because we first recognized the need, then bought (or downloaded) and installed the programs to do it.  Under the new way of doing things, you do not know if you will ever need what is offered, so you tend to leave it, not go to the extra effort to eliminate it, and your computer becomes unbelievably cluttered and complex.

As I recollect, on something like Windows 4, a software company whose product compressed and stored music complained that no one bought their software because Windows had something similar, inferior but workable, as a free part of the Windows operating system.  They claimed this gave Microsoft a monopoly, or at least, an unfair advantage. The next version of Windows came as only the basic operating system, but had all of the bells and whistles on a free download.  Somehow, that was resolved in Microsoft’s favor and Windows now comes supplied with everything you could possibility want, and much you will never use.

Adding to the complexity, several devices are often “synced” together.  That is, you can work on a report on your smart phone, and what you accomplish can be seen and refined further on your desktop when you get home.  I suppose this is handy for some people, but it quickly becomes too complex for me.

Adding another layer of complexity, Microsoft has announced Windows 10 will be the last one offered, and they will modify and upgrade that version automatically for everyone.  The trouble with that is you may buy a book to tell you how to use Windows 10 and find their instructions no longer match what you see on your screen.

Someone once explained tennis pros spend hours practicing just one aspect of their game, such as an overhead smash. If you did that, it would only prove your life priorities are badly screwed up.  The same is becoming true with keeping up with computers.

The bottom line:  if computers are getting too complex for you, it is not your fault.  It is the fault of system designers.  Understanding computers is nothing to be proud of. It is like the scholar of ancient history who can read hieroglyphics, but forgot to tie his shoes.

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