By Karen O’Connor –
My four-year-old grandson, Miles, walked from one room to the next in our new house––located not far from his home. My husband and I had moved from Southern California to Central Coast California to be closer to Miles and his family. So he was intrigued by our new digs!
“I like coming to your house,” he said, as he continued to survey each detail. “You have a nice big television and a nice little television. You have a nice room for kids to sleep in and a nice kitchen. And you have nice snacks.”
It was clear we had scored. According to Miles, everything about our house was nice.
His mother and I agreed that Miles would spend every Wednesday at our house. He referred to it as a “play day with Grammy.” Granddad got in on the act too, building figures with blocks and creating designs with wooden tiles.
I took Miles and his friend to the park or out for ice cream or to the airport to see the planes take off and land. We had many good times over the months of our weekly get-togethers.
Generally I drove him home in mid-afternoon, after picking up his older sister from school. On a couple of occasions he asked if he could stay till it was dark. The setting of the sun seemed to indicate to Miles that he really did stay at Grammy’s for a whole day. So we gradually put that practice into place.
Then one day when his parents had a party to attend, I offered to keep Miles for an entire day and evening—until it was really dark! While we waited for his mom and dad to return, I suggested he stay overnight. He had an extra stash of clothes at our house and we always have a spare toothbrush for guests.
“Miles, what do you think of the idea? We’d love to have you spend the night. And I’ll make you a great breakfast in the morning and then take you home.”
He looked at me with worried eyes. “No, Grammy, I can’t stay overnight. I’m too little.”
“Really?” I asked. “But you stayed till it was dark and that seemed to be all right.”
He nodded his head and continued with confidence. “I’m big enough to stay till dark but not big enough to stay overnight.”
I accepted his response. “It’s okay. We’ll try again when you’re older, okay?”
He wrinkled his nose. “I can’t sleep unless my family is all around me.”
I’ve decided to put off my question till he’s in college!
By Karen O’Connor -
I love the movies, I have to admit. A good story with drama, action, some love-interest, and an intriguing plot that inspires and entertains is just what I look for when I want to spend an afternoon at the cinema.
I like to talk about films with friends too. We trade stories and opinions about what’s hot and what’s not and then recommend our favorites or pan the ones we didn’t like.
As I get older, however, it’s getting more and more difficult to keep the names and storylines straight. The more time that passes between films the less apt I am to remember what I want to share with a friend.
That happened one day years ago before I had access to the Internet. I knew my friend Jane likes historical fiction so I was sure she’d enjoy one of my favorite movies. But as I started to tell her about it, I couldn’t recall the title. So I did the next best thing. Decided to name the female lead, but I couldn’t think of her name either. So then I tried to think of the name of the man she’s married to but his name escaped my memory, as well. Surely I could recall his sister because she was a famous actress a couple of decades ago and she’d written a few books too.
Well, neither of us got very far in the conversation because every time I tried to nail a detail, it dropped out of my mind. Finally, I gave up and promised to call her when all that information came back––even if it at was three o’clock in the morning!
Sure enough, the next day I remembered the female lead’s name. Annette Bening who is married to Warren Beatty whose sister is Shirley MacLaine, but I still couldn’t pull the title of the film. So I drove over to the video rental store in my neighborhood and asked for help.
The clerk, at least forty years my junior couldn’t remember it either, though he seemed to know the movie I was referring to. He then pulled out a book listing all the films available on video within the last two years. We checked under Annette Bening’s name but the list did not include the movie I was looking for––at least I don’t think it did. But then come to think of it, if I didn’t know the name how could I expect to recognize it on a printed list? Oh my, these senior moments are getting the best of me.
By Karen O’Connor -
“If only I were as organized as Don,” my friend Dolly declared. “He has all his ducks in a row––shoes, socks, shirts, tools, toys, and tacks! No wonder God put us together. I’m finally learning after forty years of marriage the benefit of keeping things in order—well sort of. It’s not easy, I can tell you that. But I see how little time he spends looking for lost items because he knows where they are.”
Dolly admits she’s another story. Her shoes, socks, and t-shirts are well…she’s not sure where they are. “Around here somewhere,” she said, pointing to the piles of clothing on the ironing board and the sofa. “I look for them when I need them. At least they’re in plain sight.” She chuckled and waved a hand across her forehead.
Don’s tidy ways even spill into the realm of paper. Colored folders hold various documents, neatly labeled and filed in a plastic box that he can retrieve on a moment’s notice if a fire breaks out or an earthquake tremor threatens. He has a neatly typed list of names and phone numbers of friends and family members, as well, ready for the couple to take on the road when they travel. And of course he has a checklist of items they need to take in their motor home.
Dolly talked about their next trip and the chores they need to complete before meeting their friends for the caravan to a state park. While she packs the food, clothing, and personal items, Don assembles the necessary paperwork: checkbook, maps, address and phone list.
Dolly phoned me the morning before they left with the latest development. It was good for a laugh, though I doubt Don found it amusing. While reviewing the page of contact information to be sure it was current, his cell phone rang. Don needed both hands to find some data for the caller so he set down the list he was holding on top of his paper shredder. A corner of the page slipped into the feeder and suddenly the machine started gobbling the sheet before Don realized what he had done.
When he heard the motor humming, he grabbed the page in a frenzy and jerked it upward, lifting the entire shredder off the floor! Quickly, he pushed the ‘reverse’ button and was able to salvage at least part of the page. “The top of his specially-typed list now looks like the Jetson kid’s spiked hair,” said Dolly, laughing.
“Poor Don! He’s been attentive to our papers and possessions for so long,” she added, “keeping every one in perfect condition, this was a blow to his ego. Maybe now he won’t be as quick to tell me he wishes I would learn from his example.”
By Karen O’Connor -
I was sorry to hear about the unexpected death of my neighbor, Carl. I knew it would be difficult for his wife, Marion. They’d recently celebrated forty-five years of marriage and in recent months they were inseparable—well almost. Marion was totally committed—devoted even––to keeping Carl healthy so he’d be around for a long time. She couldn’t imagine life without him. And I could see why. He was tall and still good-looking for seventy-nine years and he was a fix-it man besides. There was nothing Carl couldn’t do around the house and yard. Maybe Marion had an ulterior motive for serving her hubby seaweed and wheat germ!
I have to admit, though, sometimes it was a real drag to be with them, especially at community potlucks or holiday buffets. Marion was a broken record (make that a CD) on the subject of healthy eating. She prepared lots of veggies, bran muffins from scratch, raw fruit at every meal, and plenty of fresh, purified water. And whether or not you wanted her advice on how to renew your energy, you got it.
Carl went along with the plan because he loved her and he wasn’t the kind to make waves in a calm sea, but I could see the mischief in his eyes when she wasn’t looking. His friends saw it too.
Henry, who lived in the house behind Carl and Marion, once told me that when he and Carl met for lunch on the days Marion played golf, Carl indulged himself in all the no-no’s like chocolate cake (sometimes two big slices), hot fudge sundaes, eggs cooked in bacon grease, and a double portion of pure whipped cream on his apple pie. He loved them all. Figured it didn’t hurt to have a little fun once in awhile as long as he was being “good” most of the time.
Carl used to joke about what it would be like in heaven. He could imagine St. Peter ushering him through the pearly gates and then pointing for miles around at the huge buffet tables filled with all the goodies Carl loved. And best of all, they wouldn’t be forbidden in heaven. Surely God wouldn’t post a list of healthy and unhealthy foods. New creatures in Christ wouldn’t have to worry about counting calories anymore.
“There will be no more tears and no more pain in heaven,” he said chuckling at the prospect, “so I won’t have to watch what I eat. No cholesterol to check either!”
Henry said now that Carl was gone, he could picture his dear friend looking down on him and shouting, “Henry, it’s great up here. No diets, no exercise regimes, no restrictions, no bran muffins. If I’d have known all this ahead of time, I’d have come a lot sooner.”
Heaven does sound heavenly at this point in life. There are still so many things to deal with on this side of eternity. I’m watching Marion now that her partner has left for his reward.
Sometimes I ache for the time when I won’t forget where I laid my glasses, whether or not I brushed my teeth, what my own phone number is. But then I stop and realize it’s wrong to wish my life away. God will bring me “home” soon enough. Meanwhile, pass the bran muffins.
By Karen O’Connor -
Parents of eight ducklings need a bit of help finding a safe place to raise their brood. During a rest stop in Boston’s Public Garden, Mr. and Mrs. Mallard agree they just might have found the ideal spot. But when Mrs. Mallard and her darlings are stuck on a busy street in downtown Boston, their policeman friend Michael rushes in, stops traffic, and makes a way for them. And so goes the story, Make Way For Ducklings, the children’s award-winning classic by Robert McCloskey, published by Viking Press in 1941.
Perhaps there have been times in your life when you needed someone like Policeman Michael to make a way for you. I have! Especially now that I’m older. Sometimes I feel as though I’m invisible. I want to throw up my hands and say, “Look at me. I’m a person too. An older person, I know, but still a person. Make room for me, please. Couldn’t you at least acknowledge me?”
Maybe that’s why I pump iron and jog and hike. If I stay “buff” I won’t be overlooked so easily. Maybe my age won’t matter.
Well the time came when that almost occurred. One summer morning I jogged along the beach near my home wearing a pair of old shorts, a ratty t-shirt, and a bill cap to keep my hair from flying in my face. There I was––with my naked, lined face––and the rest of my body tagging along too!
I finished my run, wiped my face on the tail of my shirt, and slowed to a walk. Just then a teenager on a bike sailed past me, then stopped, turned around, and jabbed the air with his right thumb. “Not bad for an old broad,” he shouted, and then pedaled out of sight.
What nerve! Who does he think I am? Then I broke out laughing. At least he looked. He was rude, but he had made a way for me that day—a way to feel good about myself just as I was.
A year later my husband Charles and I were on our way to one of my speaking engagements. One evening at dusk we ventured out of the hotel where we were staying and walked up to the corner of Highway 1 and a cross street that led to a restaurant on the other side.
We were about to make a run for it (no traffic in either direction that we could see) when suddenly a small truck appeared. We back-stepped in surprise as it squealed to a stop. The driver leaned out the window and motioned us to cross. “Go right ahead.”
Kind enough, I thought, since he was in the wrong. We stepped in front of the vehicle, waved a “thank you,” and then started across.
“No problem,” he called after us. “We have to take care of our older folks!”
Darn! Here I am, fit as a farmer, but to this younger generation I’m still an “older folk!”
There’s something about that phrase that clangs in my ear. I’m not ready to listen to it. But maybe I should, since chronologically I am one. I surrendered, jumped off my high horse, and became willing to admit that people of any age can use a bit of support now and then. I decided to view the situation with new eyes.
That evening the young driver had been our “Policeman Michael,” making a way for two elder ducklings to cross the highway safely, so we could return home the following week and get back to the gym.