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Father: Dead or Alive?

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am concerned about my 80 year old father. He’s a widower, and the last of his siblings. When he was younger he was a force to be reckoned with—one of those strong, confident Mad Men sort of businessmen—but he’s been retired for a while, and has lost touch with a lot of his old contacts thanks to time or their passing. He doesn’t go out much, and so he doesn’t really take care of himself. He never shaves, he has crazy-man hair, his clothes don’t fit and he’s got dirt caked under his fingernails. I feel like he’s just not concerned about his appearance any more. Continue reading Father: Dead or Alive?

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Does Mom Stay or Does She Go?

Dear Bartender and Priestess

My sister, “Cindy” is driving me out of my mind. She is so irresponsible.

A year and a half ago we celebrated my father’s 90th birthday. My sister lived in another part of the country, so she took some time off work and came home, staying at our parents’ house as she always does. The day before she was ready to leave, Daddy died of a heart attack. Continue reading Does Mom Stay or Does She Go?

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Pool Peace

Swimming. it’s such an odd thing for me. When I’m in the pool, it doesn’t feel any different than it ever did. The magic is as magic as ever.

It’s the only sport at which I’ve been halfway competent. (very little falling down, i like that!)

Only sport in which I’ve felt the beauty of my body doing what it’s supposed to do.

I can get in the pool after ‘way too much time off and still swim. I get out of breath, but nothing hurts as a result… just a little achy muscle, waking up from not being used.

So it’s always a surprise to catch sight of myself in a mirror… and see I’m not a skinny teenager. And neither were any of the women swimming with me.

Thank goodness for the other women. I love the swimming but the casual conversation and the laughter encourage my attendance.

Some of those women are hella strong. it’s something to aspire to.

But it did make me laugh to see a couple young women. They’re so beautiful. So strong. And no one was ill-mannered enough to gawk… but i remember thinking i would always have that skinny girl body.

I learned early, however, about women’s laughter. I knew about my own experience at my women’s college. And then 5 years after I graduated, there was a problem at school and all the alums showed up. The women we’d dismissed as bluehairs? HA! solved the problem, with guts, ingenuity and money. And oh, my goodness, could they laugh!

I knew then that I was safe in my future, although I was equally sure I’d always be skinny.

Well, there was a curve ball!

But laughing and swimming, they both stuck with me and I stuck with them. And they always make me feel like a girl. And isn’t that great.

HarvestMoonLunacySept15

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Great Words from a Favorite Author on Reading Aloud

Reading is perhaps my greatest joy. It has been my delight since I managed to to crack the rosetta stone of the alphabet.

But long before there was reading, there was being read to. Our parents read aloud to us, often the group of us for years. We gallumphed through Winnie the Pooh and wept through “The Yearling” and “Ol Yeller.”

And they schooled us in reading aloud as well. And we all read. And we all read.

Barbara Kingsolver is a favorite. An old beau and I once read “High Tide in Tucson to one another. Steve and I read to one another (and push poetry at each other). It’s a wonderfully intimate and comforting thing. In fact. Steve and I like it so much we’re working on reading children’s story with voice and drum.

My parents aged and stopped being able to read. Dad couldn’t see it. So i started reading. I chucked the mysteries for other things. We spent many months slowly working our way through “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” The day he died we were giggling about reading “Jesus for the Non-Religious” in a very religious setting.

Mom doesn’t necessarily comprehend it. But Winne the Pooh is an old friend with whom we visit from time to time.

Tip: So go read Verlyn Klingenborg’s essay in the NYTimes. and then turn off the tv, find a favorite book and read it to some friends.

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Mom: Doing what we love to do together

My Mom, Betty Evans, was a painter before macular degeneration and alzheimers’ robbed her of her sight and her ability to translate her visions onto canvas. I miss her painting. Sometimes I find her moving her hand purposefully through the air, imaginary paintbrush in her hand. What, I wonder, is she painting? It would be amazing to know.

Most days what we do is eat together. Today, we’ll do that too. This will be a big day over at the home. It’s one of two or three days a year when everyone floods in to see their moms. Allergans run high as everyone totes in flowers.

My family never did a lot about holidays. Most went by fairly unremarked. There were presents at Christmas, but a fairly modest amount. Cards for birthdays, and that pretty much took care of it. And so today, I’ll be known as the daughter who doesn’t show up with flowers.

But I’ll show up. Twice. Once to feed her lunch and once to feed her dinner. Or is it dinner and supper? I still can’t remember. And she and I will smile and giggle. I’m incredibly lucky. Over at my house, every day is mother’s day. And I’d better take advantage. Because pretty soon in the not-to-distant future, no day will be.

So do something today with your mom(s). Lots of women have mothered you through the years. Remember them and do something fun with them. And don’t rule out doing something fun with them at some other point. That’s all they want. Flowers are nice. Time? It’s priceless and limited.