King Lear’s Message: Aging and Children

Raising children, taking care of aging parents, continuing professional education, working in high-level administration of an agency…all have given way to retirement and relocation.  Living at the beach has provided beautiful sunrises and sunsets best enjoyed with strong drink.
My three children are successful professionals and I have two wonderful grandchildren, one on each coast.  Traveling is an important distraction and a necessity to maintain contact with children and grandchildren.
But, I feel lonely and bored occasionally, without the driving purpose of my 40s and 50s.  I have family and friends and many interests.  But, I am not necessary to my grown children’s lives.  There are no executive decisions impacting many lives.  Calls are more about birthdays to friends.
I am not unhappy, but I am not necessary either.  I am an aging baby boomer, looking at adjustments, not challenges.  It is okay but what choice is there?

My Son, The Ironman​

Several years ago, my cell phone was ringing and as I glanced at the screen, I saw my son calling. He lived on the West Coast. West Coast calls are an amusing mix of adjusting to the time change and discrepant activities.  It was mid-afternoon, mid-week.  Normally not a usual time for a casual call from him…As soon as I answered I knew something was wrong as frightened sobs shuddered through the phone.  Unable to decipher the chaotic speech I kept repeating, “I can’t understand you.  What is wrong?”  He was shouting, “I’ve had a stroke!  I need my brain.”

In what seemed an eternity, the strong voice of his girlfriend came on the line and explained he was in the ER at Cedars- Sinai Medical Center.  Ultimately, he was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage of unknown etiology, not common in someone in their mid-20s.  After a period of treatment for severe headaches and many diagnostics, he went home.  He returned to work and with the exception of the headaches seemed fine. Intermittently he has been able to upgrade the focus of his meds and seems good, back to working 14-hour days as a lawyer.  I now am sure to see he and his family as much as able.  I look at him and well up with unexpected emotions.

The reason I write this is because today is a gift, not one I really thought about seriously.  This is really a story about an ironman and Ironman Races about which I knew nothing. I have learned about these races and the training and commitment it takes to development the endurance and strength in three sports.

Today he is competing in a half-Ironman, which consists of the following:

Swim – 1.2 miles/ 45-minute average

Bike – 56 miles/ 3-hour average

Run – 13.1 miles/ 2 hour & 15-minute average

I saw veterans with prosthetics.  I saw the young and strong and lean.  I saw the little bit overweight.  I saw the old and fit.

My son finished in 6 hours and 40 minutes.  The life story importance? He lived, he completed the event.  To me…a miracle.

 

A Box of Photos

Sorting and reorganizing life has become a tireless goal filled with another box of souvenirs, envelope of pictures, or notes stuffed in folders.  Maybe it is approaching a milestone birthday or maybe clutter in the back closet is finally too bothersome to move around and tidy up.  The other day, wandering through piles of pictures from 1996 for filing, scanning, or the trash, many seemed forgettable.  Kids heads were turned away from the lens.  Family members were captured chewing with their mouths half open.  Lighting proven elusive and the photos shone a murky orange.  Without remorse these were flipped into the trash.

Abruptly, almost like a punch in the chest, there appeared the phantoms of long-ago wishes for life, past friends, traitorous loves, lost family members, and incomplete life plans laid bare.  Here in Kodachrome were images of a life past, forgotten, improbable given the 90s and crushing speed of a new century.  Twenty-two years later I find myself mourning what I had thought would happen then and ultimately the loss of the dreams of what I believed was a charmed life.

Life isn’t about what plans and dreams; life is what happens each and every day, every week, each month, through the many years.  Reshaping our hopes and dreams keeps us whole and allows us to move on and reclaim the joys of the moments, again growing into years of love and contentment and maybe…. cynicism and a knowledge that nothing is what it seems and life changes.

Discipline and the Perplexed Grandparent

“Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
    but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”  Proverbs 13:24

When I was dealing with grandchildren under the age of two, I was knowledgeable, competent, and successful. Feeding, burping, diaper changing… all second hand to this mother of three children.

Regrettably, I am humbled and disappointed in myself after a weekend with my six-year-old grandson. Also, surprisingly, I am bewildered. I mostly remember my children at six. I found them to be calm yet exuberant, happy but not labile, active but able to concentrate, chatty but not nasty. Not so much with my grandson.

My generation was raised on Dr. Spock and The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Carepublished in 1946 and widely tested on Baby Boomers.  His philosophy emphasized the parents’ role in trusting themselves in child rearing, retreating from rigid schedules for feeding, toilet training, and most of all encouraging affection and treating each child as an individual.  By the end of the tumult of the 60s, his practices were criticized for condoning overly permissive parenting practices encouraging rebellion, feminism, the sexual revolution, and lack of respect for authority.

By the time I was beginning to teach young children, Barry Brazelton and his Infants and Mothers book in 1969 and his Emmy-Award winning TV show “What Every Baby Knows” were encouraging parents to value their child’s feelings as well as their own intuition.  He spent his life assessing the development of children and helping parents to make use of the information to intervene and assist in their children’s lives.  He supported the notion that parents should enjoy their children and not worry so much.  Have fun!  His philosophy recommended permissiveness in parenting, allowing children to control many of their developmental milestones in their own time.

By the time I had my own children in the mid to late 80s, Penelope Leach and her book Your Baby and Child: From Birth to Age Five, published in 1977 and revised in 1988, had offered a philosophy suited for new moms and the pace of the “new” world, emphasizing the successive tasks of development, the reactions of the parent and the child, especially in the home.  While criticized for her emphasis on mothers over fathers and the home environment rather than child care, she was embraced for her support of the mother and emphasis on the happy relationship between happy mom – happy baby.

Getting back to my current life, I am perplexed by my reaction to what I view as a difficult child. He is sweet and naughty and happy and angry.  I found I was at a loss so back to the books I went.  This is the 21stcentury.  Of course No Drama Disciplineis The Whole-Brain Way to Calm Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, is the new handbook for intervening in the child and the Id. Effective discipline is broken down to two goals: get children to cooperate and do the right thing and concomitantly develop skills and the capacity to handle challenging situations, frustrations, and emotional storms that may cause them to lose control.

I will have to get back to you AFTER I finish reading this book and try it out on the newest generation.

 

 

Symphony in the 21st Century (at the beach)

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Living at the beach, access to symphony music is limited usually to Alexa, Pandora, and CDs.  Fortunately, the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra has a schedule of Fall Concerts that are available in several settings in the Delmarva area.  Planning to attend requires careful strategic activities around calendar, family, and location.  Tickets are available through Ticketmaster and it was easy to select seating and print the tickets.

Sunday was the day, 3:00 in the afternoon in the Ocean City Performing Arts Center.  I looked about the room after recovering from a pushy senior with a rolling walker who believed we were in line at Southwest for seating of our choice.  Once seated I spent some time people watching.  Initially, most seats were still empty 10 minutes before the performance was to begin.  As folks shuffled in, probably over 90% of the group were over 55 years of age, with many over 70.  While the audience at the beach is disproportionately older, I have also noted the same phenomenon in Baltimore.  The graying symphony audience is a serious issue, crippling budgets and shrinking attendance. Some posts suggest this is a red herring.  The claim that this so called aging situation is really reflective of the overall aging of the population, parallels later marriages, or maybe a problem of boring repertoire.  Perhaps the focus on patron donors requires a shift to retention of audiences and strategies that focus on audience appeal.

The program on Sunday, entitled Eternal Prodigies, featured selected traditional orchestral repertoire: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7.  The violin soloist, Stefan Jackiw, hailed for his international performances and touring played with exemplary technique yet sustained a sense of poetry and emotion echoing through the audience in collective breathtaking awe.

Many American orchestras are incorporating “new “music written since 1970.  This program included Ouverture en forme d’etoiles by Regis Campo, b. 1968.  Not my fave! It was typical of newer musical pieces, filled with dissonance and irregular tempos.  While described as tempos with genuine vitality, the piece was difficult to appreciate although well played by the orchestra.  Many orchestras are attempting to incorporate newer music but a study by Rocky O’Bannon, December 30, 2015 showed that few newer pieces are catching on and fade quickly.  In checking the Bannon study, it would seem that this composer is not in the top seven played by 89 of the orchestras studied.

I am looking forward to the rest of the season which looks challenging and based on the skills demonstrated in the varied pieces, it will be delightful!

 

 

PT (or physical activity to cure your ills)

Excitement in anticipation of a much heralded physical intervention to ameliorate the ravages of neck, foot, and shoulder surgery almost tingled when I rung up the Center. This was going to be easy, being altogether quite fit but needing a tune up.  Miss Peppy answered and reviewed the need for a personal visit for an evaluation before scheduling sessions.  What? Why wasn’t a script enough; certainly my physician knows what’s best for me!  Nope, it starts with an evaluation visit.

Off I scurry to the evaluation visit only to find three other cheery folks there, each with a unique title with a flattened sense of hierarchy.  The clinic lead was leaving for vacation so a substitute PT conducted my on-site evaluation.  Range of motion, strength, and flexibility baselines were part of the process.  I had hardly recovered from the stress of this process and in my vulnerable state agreed to schedule therapy twi a week for what seemed like forever.

Session one was fabulous and included a relaxing neck massage to smooth out the lime size lumps in my “traps.”  The actual exercises seemed mild enough and going home I was thrilled.  Now we are in week umpteenth.  The weakness is me!  I am not energetic to engage in twice a week regimented exercise.   My body is tired even though I am fitter each week.

The physical conundrum…. Better with exercise and PT.  Problem with the spirit is willing but…

Seasonal Transitions

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Slowly, excruciatingly, the sun creeps along the skyline ever southernly, sneaking to the winter solstice, smiling with anticipation of a long winter’s nap.  Complicating the sunset view, forcing a rise from my customary seat, I crane like one of the few remaining great egrets, to remain settled in my living room comfy chair yet appreciate the autumnal evening.  The sky burns blindingly with flashes of red and orange plasma slithering into the bay and the sounds of taps ratatating in the mind.

Who Am I?

Commenting on the current hearings in Congress is too political and too painful.

But, the bigger question of who I am really is, of course, a long time philosophical epistemology beyond me and the moment.

What is our personal notion of reality or viewpoint and experience, and how is our memory structured?

The years since my first conscious memory and the intervening chapters of my life are distinct, only to me.  I can recall sitting on a tree limb in my first house when I was five years old…or is it because my parents have a picture of that occasion?  I also recall a stained glass, circular and with no thematic purpose, above the front entrance to our home.  Never made sense to me but remained there for about 40 years subsequent to our move as I have verified many times with a drive-by.

Adolescence is conjured visions of angst, school success, ugly duckling to swan-like physical changes, and painful relationships of both emotional and bumbling sexual interactions.  College was wild and experimental, filled with firsts, lasts, and geez I wish I wouldn’t have done that moments.

I can fill in the types of experiences and the moments of clarity of what I had done and where I wanted to be going.  Did these shape my personality or did I shape these events to my personality?

Continuously I remain baffled by feedback from others.  I didn’t see the good, bad, or ugly in myself.  I don’t remember being “so cute” in high school (Fiftieth High School Reunion feedback).  Party behavior feedback seems about someone else.  Leadership excellence and work achievements came and seemed temporary, yet lasted 45 years.

Now, as I am “in the mature phase” of my life, I cannot so much remember as reflect.  I am shocked by the specifics of memory but often lack the context and implications for who I became.  I now have interactions with my children that are stunning.  They attribute behaviors to me and events in their childhoods that seem preposterous, yet they are firm in their memories.  Work friends reminisce freely when we get together and share recollections of social, not work, activities.  I can recall mutual workplace events, but am vague on the social synergy, yet we were there together for 15 years, day in and day out.

All this said, I have been asking myself, what is the nature of reality?  Is it our personal recollection or a composite of our memories and how others knew us?

Daily Posts

I have been overwhelmed with travel and many family activities since May 1. I finally have my daughter’s wedding behind me and a trip to the west coast and Hawaii over.  Today I resolved to get back into a grove of writing each day.  When my mind was lazy but my will was strong I would go to the Daily Post for motivation and an easily addressed target topic.  I was disappointed and experienced a moment of panic to discover that in my absence, the Daily Post folded its literary tent and disappeared…

Mating Season for Limulus Polyphemus: The Horseshoe Crab

Unique among hard-shelled creatures is the horseshoe crab, though not really a crab.  Actually an evolutionary oddity, this crab has not changed its utterly unfashionable appearance for more than 350 million years, and is actually an arthropod, related more to a spider than a crab.

Every year in late spring the horseshoe crab crawls onto the beaches of the Eastern Shore to lay eggs.  Slaughter Beach is an especially exemplary area and is sheltered to enable spawning.  The high tides on this Delaware Beach and the coincidence of migrating birds during the full moon in May attract many an enthusiastic birder and curious crab watcher to these sheltered beaches to watch the female crab crawl up to the high water line, usually with one or more male attached by their claws.  The female drags them through the sand during the spawning process, laying up to 100,000 eggs in a cluster which will hatch within two to four weeks.

During the trip from the ocean to the tide line in the sand to lay eggs, the female which is larger than the male will occasionally flip on its back, destined to perish unless the tide or a human rescuer flips the hapless lady onto her stomach again.

Volunteers often are found walking the beaches looking for stranded females and gently turning them and place them carefully back into the surf.