Jan 28 2011

Choices

“You shouldn’t feel guilty for not being there to help her. You shouldn’t feel guilty that she is ill and elderly and alone, without family near her or many friends nearby. She made her choices and you do what you are able to do, when you can do it, to help her as much as you can. She’s where she is because of the choices she made.” This is what a friend told me recently.

But what kind of choices do we make in our lives? How much thought do we give them? How free to choose are we? And how responsible are we for our own choices and the choices of those near and dear? And even those far away?

I go into the supermarket to buy food for dinner. If I’m just coming home from working hard all day at my job and its getting late and I’m tired, Ill be looking for something quick and easy to make. Perhaps I buy a package of Bratwurst, enough for all of us and a box of instant mashed rutabaga. The bratwurst just goes in under the broiler for 10/20 minutes and the powered rutabaga only needs to be poured into boiling water and stirred and allowed to sit for 5 minutes. Voila! A tasty meal in under a half hour. Add some sliced raw carrots and you are all done.

But if I know that Ill be home most of the day and can spend some time and energy on making dinner then I will buy a different sort of ingredients. Perhaps I want to spend the time making a stew or even a roast. Maybe with a creamy potato casserole to go alongside the roast. For those kinds of meals I buy different ingredients. For the stew, I need to get enough stewing meat, a lot of nice potatoes, a bag of carrots, some onions, preferably the red kind, and maybe even mushrooms. For the roast and casserole I need to find a nice chunk of beef, a bag of potatoes, onions, cream, and a nice cheese to grate into the casserole. Ill also pick up veggies to include in a good salad and maybe even stop off at the local bakery to pick up a nice crusty fresh baked bread.

But for all three of these meals, the fast food and the slow food, I’m required to make choices. For the slow food dinners I might use a cookbook to guide me. It will tell me how long the roast should be in the oven and what temperature for it to come out good. For the fast food, I might read the ingredients on the package of the bratwurst and decide which brand of bratwurst based on what it says on the package. The box of rutabaga will give me instructions on the side of the box and might even give me ideas how to improve it.

But where’s the instructions for life? Where’s the cookbook that tells us what to do, in what order so that when we’ve cooked our life we haven’t burned the meal and ended up hungry?

When I moved to Sweden 23 years ago, both my parents were still alive, still living in the house I grew up in and still working. I admit I didn’t give them much thought when I decided to move so far away. I was more concerned about leaving my friends behind. Now things are different. My dad is gone since 1997 and my mom has moved twice since I moved to Sweden. The 10 years she and my dad had at the 55+ place called Homestead were good years for them and the 10 years there after my dad died were also pretty good. She had lots of friends and activities to keep her busy and I would come to visit once a year, usually dragging my family with me. Two years or so ago, she graduated from Homestead’s 55+ to Independent Living at Monroe Village. There she started off her stay by editing the Resident’s Newsletter, following a life-long love of writing, and she met Marty. Life was good and still independent was a key idea. But last week she ended up in the hospital because she had trouble walking. Now she is spending some time in Monroe Village’s health care center where they can keep a close eye on her and give her physical therapy to get her legs working again. I try to call her everyday. But life in the health care center is pretty boring. While she still sounds cheerful when I talk to her, she also sounds tired. Like life is getting too complicated, with all the medicines, and doctors and feeling in pain and not being able to walk or be in her own apartment. And I feel guilty that I’m not there to be of help to her. And here we come back to the choices we make in life.

I don’t mean only my choice to move to Sweden but also my mother’s choice to live where she lives. She chose long ago to live in Budd Lake NJ. That was pretty far from much of her family which were centered closer to New York. But it wasn’t really her own choice. It was made more by her parents who had bought a summer cottage there and eventually both my parents and grandparents decided to permanently move there – away from the rest of the family. Then when my grandmother died, my folks found Homestead and moved there, even further away from New York. But they loved living there so it was a good choice and an independent choice. Now she lives where she lives. Still independent.

And I feel guilty that I am so far away.


Oct 13 2010

Chronic life

Now, if I were to, one more time, remark on how the crinkling my face does when I laugh has now become permanent and thus, can now be officially called wrinkles, I would only be stating the obvious. But it seems that there are now other things that are also here to stay.

Continue reading


Jan 27 2010

Dirge time

The politics of fear has won another battle: those who fear the immigrant who speaks with an accent; those who fear that government will force them to do things they don’t want to do; those who are afraid of the power of women; those who are afraid of gay people; those who are afraid of people of another color than themselves; those who are afraid of the poor and those who are afraid of the rich; those who are afraid of the bigger world out there filled with different countries and different cultures; those who are afraid of intelligence and the ability to think. All of these people have won another battle. And once again, it’s time for America to be afraid and to start worrying.

Continue reading


Dec 26 2009

Another year older

A new year is fast approaching. That’s a good thing, I guess. A new beginning, new resolutions, a new start. All good things. It also means a new notch on our belt, another year older. I’m still not sure how I feel about that. Here’s something I wrote almost 7 years ago but being that its soon the eve of a new year I thought it appropriate to put it up on my blog now. Something to think about as we cross over that demarcation line that causes 2009 to change over to 2010. Happy New Year everyone!

I feel the need to rant a little. I want to start off by making something very clear – this whole thing about aging – I don’t like it, not one bit.

I haven’t been feeling so good lately. When I wake up in the morning, just getting my feet over the edge of the bed down to the floor takes an effort. And then I have to stand up! What a job! Walking’s OK, once I manage to bend down to buckle my shoes. I keep hoping that I don’t have to go uphill though. That’s a real bother! When I ride a bus, I generally get up and give my seat to any white haired old lady when there are no seats left. I figure that I have to set a good example for my 12-year-old son. But, I don’t know, they must have done something to those bus seats when I wasn’t looking because they are so hard to get up out of!

Continue reading