Archive for March, 2019

Advertising for “active senior” communities usually depicts a silver-haired couple or two, golfing, playing tennis or lounging around some palm-studded oasis featuring a huge pool. “Retirement adventures.”

For many, that portrayal says everything they’re looking for is “Nirvana for the taking” and is immediately available in California, Nevada, Florida or, as in our case, Arizona.

But, there’s another side. One we’ve come to know living in one of three Del Webb communities that are “cheek-by-jowl” which total some 90,000 of us “silver-haired” folk.

People who move here may be in their 50’s, 60’s or 70’s. Ready to dive into that “active” retirement, doing all the things they promised themselves they’d get do someday. And, nearly all “go for it.”

But, we get older. We get weaker. We grow more susceptible to the physical and mental changes aging brings about. While communities like ours may be filled with wonderful facilities and golf courses every few blocks, as our years stack up, we often find our “new” physical limitations make us spectators rather than “active” participants.
Medical care in these communities is usually first-rate and, with Medicare – and possibly a “medigap” policy – it’s all available on a moment’s notice. From sniffles to sophisticated surgery, we’ve got it. In abundance.

Over the last few years, Barb and I have spent some time in various medical waiting rooms. And, we’ve seen a lot of those formerly “active, silver-haired” seniors who aren’t so “active” anymore. We’ve experienced the other side – the down side – of senior community retirement living. It’s something those attractive ads leave out.

When you lump some 90,000 seniors together, you get a steady progression to the end of life. Some may eventually move elsewhere in the country to be near family for assistance. A few more have enough resources to hire the best home care support. But, without those options, you’re pretty much on your own. Sitting in waiting rooms can be damned difficult as you see so many people suffering from every ailment known to man. Up to and including near total incapacity.

The “other side” of retirement communities is not advertised. You can spend years playing golf, pickleball, shuffleboard, swimming, working on exercise devices and enjoying hundreds of clubs for just about every hobby you ever heard of. But, the “new faces” will become the “old-timers” and the “old-timers” will eventually become the frail elderly.

We are surrounded with first-class medical care, several hospitals catering to geriatric medicine and a wealth of specialists for every ailment. But, the plain fact is, there is an end to “retirement.”

There are five main entrances to Sun City Grand and Sun City West. I’ve often chuckled that, outside two of them, you’ll find two funeral homes. Just outside. Waiting. Plus four more “on campus.”

Some folks find humor no matter the downside. One of the funeral parlors offers monthly “pre-need” sessions. At each, they serve pizza. “Pizza and pre-need,” it’s called. If you can’t find humor in planning funerals while eating pizza, you’re probably too old to live here.

For months, there was a huge billboard in the middle of our community that read “COMPLETE CREMATION JUST $695.” Why it needed the word “complete” is beyond me. Folks talked about asking the proprietor what you get for $475?

A joke going around these communities of senior living has a couple in their 90’s meeting with an attorney to file for divorce. “Why now, after all these years,” the lawyer asks? “We wanted to wait until the children died,” was the response.

Not funny? Maybe. Tasteless? Could be. But, if you’re in your 80’s or 90’s and retirement isn’t “fun-and-games” anymore, you’ve gotta laugh at something. Even yourselves and your conditions.

Getting into your last years is a most personal experience. Different for each of us. Even if you’re been a caregiver for a loved one – even if you’ve been a healthcare professional – someone else’s spinal pain or cancer surgery or even dementia is entirely different when it’s yours. In so many late-in-life experiences, it’s “learn-as-you-go” because it’s your pain or your cancer or your dementia and nobody else can live it for you.

Please don’t read this as a condemnation of retirement communities or even retirement living. It’s just that, when you put 90,000 people in one big plot of land, and when they’re all growing older together, it’s a far different experience than traditionally depicted in those glossy ads.

Unless life is cut short by disease or some fatal event, we’re all heading in one direction. Long life is a privilege not granted to all. Most, who’ve been “allowed” the experience, find parts of it challenging or downright hard to deal with. The “machine” that is our physical being isn’t under warranty. Some of the “breakdowns” can’t be fixed. Each day can present a new obstacle we have to learn to deal with.

The retirement experience can be – and most often is – a good one. For awhile. You meet so many folks that, though strangers, often have a lot in common, even if it’s just the aging process itself. You share things. You remember many of the same things. You do things together to the best of your current abilities.

But, eventually, it’s not retirement anymore. It’s personal experience dealing with issues you’ve never known in the “first person.” End-of-life issues. It’s also a learning experience. How you handle it is all up to you.

You won’t find that in the ads.

Context is everything

Author: admin

A long time ago, author A.D. Garrett – wrote “Context is everything. In a long media life, those words were a sort of Holy Grail for me. Whatever the story – whatever the situation – context was everything.

For sometime now, I’ve been unable to get the tragic story of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam out of my head. He’s accused of either wearing blackface or a Klan hood when in college about 45 years ago. He’s admitted to painting his face with shoe polish or something similar for a medical school party.

Whatever he did, it’s badly affected his political career. As it should. But, how badly? Will he be a one-term governor? Is he being held to a false standard?

I would say “Yes” to both.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m neither a racist nor an anti-Semite. Never have been. But, have I done or said racist things? Certainly. So, too, I would guess, have you. Have I accepted racist portrayals or laughed at racist portrayals. I have. So, too, I would guess, have you.

Faced with changing moral values and social mores, we’re constantly asked to accept where we are and what’s acceptable today and not where we were and what was acceptable yesterday.

Consider: In the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, the most intelligent and brilliantly written show on television was “MASH.” Weekly, we followed the comedic but thoughtful Korean War adventures of Hawkeye, Trapper John, Frank Burns and Hotlips. Masterly crafted comedy with a continuing subtle – but very strong – anti-war message.

In the first years of “MASH,” there were four doctors in “The Swamp.” Three surgeons and an anesthetist who happened to be a Black man. Do you remember the anesthetists character name? “Spearchucker.” “Spearchucker” Jones. While we nationally enjoyed the series for its humor and well-developed characters, we didn’t give a thought to an obviously racist name that was used in our living rooms for several years. The ‘70’s. When Northam was partying.

Each December at our house, we watch a seasonal movie called “White Christmas.” Released in 1954, it’s become a sort of classic musical companion to “It’s A Wonderful Life.” I’ve seen it dozens of times and it’s on my top 10 list.

It was full of brilliantly staged musical numbers. The kind you hardly see anymore. About midway through “White Christmas” there’s one with Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Danny Kaye. Very prominent. With Crosby and Kaye in blackface and a cast of other blackface actors sitting toward the rear of the stage. It was called the “Minstrel Show” number on a production “call” board.” You probably read it, watched the scene and thought nothing about. Just like me. In the ‘50’s.

In the ‘30’s and ‘40’s, two of the biggest comedic stars were Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor – both of whom used blackface in their movies and vaudeville shows. Nobody made a big deal out of it. Under the makeup, it was just Jolson and Cantor. Characters we readily accepted.

Context. Commonly known people with labels and mannerisms we just accepted – because it was then. Not now.

Now, we like to think of ourselves as “enlightened.” We don’t accept those “relics of our past.” We’re wiser, smarter, more aware of what’s proper – what’s “the right thing.”

But, consider. About 75 years ago, acting as a nation, we drove entire families of Japanese-Americans out of their homes – confiscated their businesses and other property. And, we trucked them off to barbed wire compounds in isolated areas of our country and kept them there for years. Most lost everything. But, in 1942, it was “necessary.” It was “proper.” It was “accepted.”

Later – much later – we acknowledged what we did then was wrong. It was racist. It was unnecessary. And, as a nation, we said “Never again!”

I happen to live in a state that borders Mexico. Enough said.

“Context is everything.”

What happens if …

Author: admin

I’ve harbored a thought for some time that’s seemed like pure fantasy but now others in the opinin’ business are talking about it. Even the loquacious George Will. Something that’s never happened in our system of government. But, it might.

Suppose D. Trump either doesn’t get to finish his term for some constitutional – or criminal – reason or he loses at the polls in 2020. Will he walk peacefully out of the White House?

Or, if he makes it to the 2020 election, and he loses, will he accept the results and step aside? Ex-Presidents always have. But, would he?

Talk about a “constitutional crisis!”

Now, you can add another voice to that thesis: Michael Cohen. In last week’s testimony at a congressional hearing, he said “Given my experience of working for Mr. Trump, I fear that, if he loses the election in 2020, there will never be a peaceful transition of power.” BOOM!

We’ve always prided ourselves on the ability to elect one or more candidates to office and change administrations without a fuss. Even in the worst of times, we’ve always transitioned and kept right on going.

Out here in the desert, I’m beginning to think the odds of Trump acknowledging a loss at the polls are about 60-40 no.

He’s said before – in 2018 – he wouldn’t accept losing. “Election fraud” and “voter fraud” and all that. A number of times, he’s railed against all sorts of imaginary enemies and promised, if the results went against him, he’d ignore them.

There are several options to enforce an election outcome. One is in the Electoral College. But, suppose some delegates refuse to follow the popular vote at home and vote their own way. It’s happened before but only in small instances. Remember, too, Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 but still won the election. In that same Electoral College.

Then, there’s Congress. Congress must verify election results. But, the basis on which to do so is – wait for it – what’s certified by the Electoral College. Would the present Congress refuse to verify? Would Congress authorize a second election? Could it? Very, very deep constitutional waters there.

How about the courts? Would our Supreme Court step in? Happened with Bush-Gore and the Florida outcome. Would SCOTUS tell Congress to do it all over or accept the numbers it has. Would Trump accept a loss in a court decision?

And, how about a possible faceoff at the White House front door. What would the Secret Service and the FBI do? After January 20, 2020, Trump may not be president but will he leave?

Then, there’s the possibility of a nervous military.

I know all this is imaginary at the moment. A lot of rambling by an old guy. But, I’m not the only one with an imagination fueled by Trump. Some of the national writers are moving the possibility of a Trump refusal to vacate from discussions at the corner watering hole to the pages of respectable media forums. And there’s Cohen.

In his own disastrously mercurial way, Trump has operated as if the rest of the world was his personal fiefdom. He’s ignored protocols, treaties, contracts and, in some cases, even the law. He’s made enemies of friends and supposedly “friends” of enemies. Wildly unpredictable. He also has a following of some 30-million or so folks that have and will likely continue to support him in whatever he does.

So, maybe a little speculation about Trump refusing to accept the outcome of losing re-election to our nation’s highest office is not totally farfetched. Maybe it’s worth thinking just a bit about the possibility. What if………