Me — Then ’til Now

Recently I’ve decided to change doctors. I have decided to see a physician that has more knowledge about the specific needs of those of us who are aging. The medical history form for the UNC Geriatric Clinic requested that I tell them about myself. It is probably a bernieonstjohnlittle more lengthy than they required. Somehow it morphed into a blog post! So here goes.

I was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on January 7, 1928 at 25 minutes to midnight at 4 lbs/10 oz. Arriving two months earlier than expected, I had to be fed with an eye dropper. I went down to 3 lbs/13oz. before my weight started to pick up. I was told that I was wrapped in absorbent cotton and put into a cigar box. (I must admit I don’t remember any of it, but I guess that’s because of my aging.)

The family moved to Queens in New York City when I was six months old, first to Jackson Heights and then, in 1936, to Flushing. My younger brother, Arnie, was born when I was three. Like most other Queens kids most of those early years were spent in public schools. Summers were spent at camp. At 12 I became a Boy Scout in Queens Troop 45. The next three summers were spent at Ten Mile River Scout Camp Keowa in the Adirondacks. In my second year I was chosen for the Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s honor society. I became a Star Scout, but never made it to Life or Eagle Scout.

In June 1941, I completed the first half of the eighth grade. In September I was accepted by and went on to high school at Fieldston School in Riverdale. Fieldston is the educational arm of the Society for Ethical Culture. To avoid the long daily commute from Flushing to Fieldston, I boarded with a family in Riverdale during the week.

Continue reading “Me — Then ’til Now”

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I’m Sorry?

sorry

Last Friday was a beautiful afternoon. I went over to check out the progress that had been made at the Farmer’s Market site. They have been working to improve existing structures and create new ones to make the farmer’s market more enjoyable, no matter what the weather is. I walked into the construction area and my foot got caught on a piece of plastic sheeting. I tripped and fell, hitting my head on the concrete floor. I was bleeding from the cuts on my head and nose and my right shoulder was painful. Phil, the manager of the site, gave me a hand and was very helpful. I called Erin to let her know what had happened. She did not pick up.

Erin called back later and said “I’m sorry.” As she explained, what she meant was “I’m sorry that you fell”. The unspoken portion of her reaction was ‘that you fell’. Knowing Erin has I do, that was her way of expressing deep concern. Moreover, I heard it in her voice.

Saying (or hearing) “I’m sorry!” in response to an accident or event that caused injury or harm makes no sense to me. That is especially true when the person saying it was in no way involved in what happened and is not apologizing for their role in it.
Continue reading “I’m Sorry?”

I’m Back!

Hi folks. It’s been a while. But I’m back! In the interim I turned 90. Things are fine. I’ve been busy, good busy, but busy. Since the last post my time has been taken up by a number of things. I’ve recently BK_headshotpublished a book entitled Making Space for Yourself that I co-authored with Erin Coyle. I provided the sayings and she created the images. It is the first of a series entitled “Drawing from the Well”. You can check it out on our website: drawingfromthewell.net. The book is available through Amazon. Looking forward to your comments. There’s more to come.
I’ve also just finished the manuscript for what I thought of as a paper entitled, “Making the Poor Richer: The Causes, Consequences and Suggested Remedies for the Greater Inequality in the Income Distribution”. The paper begins at the end of World War II,  just after I graduated from high school at Fieldston, and explains how the significant changes since then have brought us to where we are now. For those of you who are not aware, TVs had just come on the market and there were no computers, no Internet , no GPS and no Apps. Can you imagine? The book also provides some suggestions on how to correct the problems the changes brought about. At 150 pages long I have to admit that the paper morphed into a book. I’m trying to figure out what forms the book should take and how to reach the audience that might be interested in this day and age. Any suggestions?
In my time away I’ve come up with some more ideas for blog posts. They will be coming your way shortly. Thank you all for taking the time to tune in. I’m looking forward to another productive year.

Aging is Isolating

If These Old Hands Could SpeakAging is isolating. Friends move away, effectively disappear, or die off. Others drift out of the relationship. We spend less time together. The younger ones appropriately have their own agenda. It is their time to take care of themselves. Furthermore, they may have already learned what we have to offer. It’s time for them to move on and build their own life experience. Moreover, things have changed since you and I were their age, in some ways drastically. Consequently, some of the things we have to offer them are less relevant.

So what can we do? How can we address aging? One thing is certain, our time here on Mother Earth is limited. Since that is part of our reality, one thing each of us can do is do our best to take care of ourselves. By doing that we will be less of a burden on others and less of a drain on society’s resources. Another is to pay attention to our limitations. We can’t do everything and certainly not as much as we used to. I can certainly vouch for that.

We can start by admitting to ourselves that we have a finite time left here on earth. Each of us has skills and experience. We can use them to the best of our ability to take care of ourselves and to continue to make a contribution. It is a good time to decide what is important, to figure out what we really want to accomplish in the relatively brief time we have left, and what we would like to be remembered for.

Think seriously about your relationships with others. Do you have any issues with those who are still alive, where by doing or saying something now could make a difference? We can all start by acknowledging our errors. And perhaps saying, “I’m sorry. What I did was inappropriate. I certainly didn’t intend to cause you any pain or harm.” Those are some of the things each of us might consider doing while we are still alive. This is not just good advice for the old, really none of us knows how long we will live.

In that way, when we leave, and trust me we will, our departure will make things easier for those who we leave behind. 8033522652_97090eabda_oAging is part of a larger process called life. If we go through it, we are the lucky ones.

Aging brings along with it some other things. We are less mobile, feebler, more likely to forget and less able to take care of ourselves. That makes us more of a drain on others, on their time and energy. It also makes it harder for us to take care of ourselves. If others choose to devote some of their time and energy to support us, the least we can do is say, “Thank you.” It is important to remember that the care provided in our declining years also places a greater drain on society’s limited resources. For example, it leads to fewer resources being available for children’s education, for developing new ideas, or for anything else. Hopefully, each of us has put enough funds aside to reimburse those for the services they provide.

I find myself sleeping longer, taking more time to do things, and making more errors. How about you? All that takes time away from our limited time — the 24 hours in a day. That includes the time involved in maintaining contact and communicating with others, in maintaining relationships. I realize there may be a time when I can no longer drive. In order to get together, friends must come to see me. That will further limit contact and contributes to the isolation.

It is harder to make new friends. There are simply fewer people around with common experiences. My friend Jeanne is five years older than I. In our phone conversations we treasure the fact we can discuss the “good old times,” including the songs we share. Younger folk often have no recollection of them.

Often us older folks are not familiar with today’s ways of doing things — including the new ways of staying in touch, of communicating. When we grew up we did not have computers, cell phones, iPhones or smartphones. They simply did not exist. When you called someone, either the phone rang and rang; or you got a busy signal; or they answered and you spoke to them saying who you are. You talked to a real person. Today, more than likely, you are talking to a computer. It pretends to be listening and has its own preprogrammed way of doing things. How frustrating and time-consuming that is. It takes away from your limited time and energy, often without successfully accomplishing what you intended, leaving the problem unresolved. Boy, is that frustrating.

Here’s another example. You decide you want to give someone a call. You can’t remember their phone number. The old way of looking it up in the phone book doesn’t work anymore. They’ve moved and kept the old number. The area code tells you they are living in Richmond and you know they live around the corner. Oh, you forgot, they now carry their phone with them. Unlike the old days. Now you know who I am without my saying anything. You know where I am, but I have no idea where you are. Or, the only way some people communicate is by e-mail. That’s no help. You don’t have, or can’t use a computer, an iPhone or a smartphone. Perhaps you call and all you get is their answering service. Apparently they never check it. In any case they never get back to you. Even if you’ve heard about texting, you don’t have the equipment or the know how. It’s all so complicated, so frustrating. From your perspective it is a waste of your time, draining and unproductive. It contributes to the feeling of isolation.alone

Those are just some of the hassles of being an older person living in today’s world. They create obstacles even when you have no infirmities or disabilities. As we get older, as with any other complex machine, the system is likely to breakdown. The longer we hang around, the more likely that becomes. Add that to the mix, and things become even more complicated. It is harder to achieve our objectives or even to take care of one’s self. In fact, that may even become impossible.

All that, as well as the realization of it, leads to one conclusion, “Aging is isolating.”

Stepping back, however, there is a bigger picture. The fewer relationships we have — that is what isolation is all about — the less of an impact our dying will have on others. By pulling back in the relationship with us now, others are effectively going through part of their grieving process. That is only true, however, when they have already dealt with any “issues” that they have in their relation with us older folks who are still around.

The Birthday of an 86-Year-Old Economist

You may have noticed that the blog name has changed, reflecting yet another year gone by. I want to offer three gifts to Anna — my birthday buddy, and to everyone and to the Universe on my 86th Birthday.
1st My true Love to all.
2nd A suggestion — at 86 I don’t give advice. It is, “The only standards you have are the ones you set for yourself; and don’t be afraid to make a mistake, you can learn from it.”
3rd Is a story.
       This past week at 85 going on 86 I learned something. My driver’s license was about to expire on my 86th birthday. It had to be renewed. My eyesight is not as good as it has been and I was afraid I would not pass. The fear kicked in and along with it came delays, procrastination, excuses, etc. What should I do? What will happen if I don’t pass? Now I’ll teach you a Yiddish term, one of the few I know. It is to “Dreh” something. (I’m not sure of the spelling, but you pronounce it like “lay” with the accent on the D.) It means to over obsess about something, anything.
       It is a waste of time. Deal with the situation. Except the reality for whatever it is and adjust to whatever limitations it imposes — if, in fact, those limits actually occur. That is not to say, that there are those times when some preplanning and preparation will help. But the time spent on over-worrying about it and the energy wasted on the anxiety can be better spent on something, anything else. Like just cooling out. See, in the end, I am an economist.
Think about it. The best, truest and long-lasting gifts are the nonmaterial, non-monetary ones that come from the heart.
Love,
Bernie
P.S.: Thank you, Erin, for acknowledging the transition by changing the Blog heading.

Communication

communicationIn today’s world, communication –if you want to call it that –seems one-sided. As a 1930s kid, I could never have imagined talking to a computer. Yet that’s what I do everyday.

Yesterday I got my monthly bill from Time Warner Cable. I called the suggested phone number. It knew the number I was calling from without my saying a word. By the end of the transaction I paid the bill by credit card and the computer said, “Thank you.” Later in the day there was a message on my answering service. My doctor’s office called to remind me of my next appointment. A computer was talking to a computer. Continue reading “Communication”

Speak up, young friends!

One of the things that has made me feel isolated is my hearing loss. I don’t hear as well as I used to. High-end frequencies create the biggest problem. It is harder to hear what girls and women say, especially those who mumble or don’t speak clearly. It is challenging to understand dialects like those in British movies and TV programs. Figuring out what is being said is difficult and tiring enough but made even worse when someone has their back to me or we are in a noisy restaurant or at a stage performance. It can be a real chore.

Once a week my friends, Erin and Grace have a “Tea” salon. They invite friends for an evening get-together. They are in their 30s reganand they invite me. Wow! Sometimes there are just a few of us, sometimes many more. When the group is large and when there are side conversations, keeping up with what’s being said is hard. Especially when someone slides a side comment or joke into the conversation. The discussion frequently centers around music. Importantly, there are significant differences in our musical background. When I grew up in the late 30’s and early 40’s we had big bands, jazz, folk and North Carolina mountain music — the Dorsey brothers, Louis Armstrong, Cab Callaway, Gene Krupa, Frank Sinatra, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lena Horn, etc. I saw Sintatra on stage at the Paramount Theater in Manhattan in the early 40s and Krupa’s band played at a dance at UNC- Chapel Hill later in the decade. It was the only time I went to a formal; I had to borrow a tux. I still hear sound of Krupa’s masterful drumming. Continue reading “Speak up, young friends!”