Category Archives: Babybooming

life as a babyboomer

Superwoman Bites the Dust, Part 2

You know how people say, “Listen to your body,”? It occurred to me this morning that I rarely do that. Instead I say, “Listen, body, do what I want.”

Since I had pneumonia, I must have had fifty people say, “Listen to your body.” I jokingly reply that the doctor should never have diagnosed walking pneumonia because I just kept walking around. Instead, she should have said, “Cindy, you have ‘going to bed and resting pneumonia.” I’d end up in bed only because I couldn’t do anything else, and I’d feel guilty about it.

Although I’m much better (I’ve turned the corner!), I’m still a work in progress. I may start off well when I get up, but I can hit the wall at about 11:00 A.M. Then I might be done for the day. So I’ve been trying to short circuit the fatigue by resting before I’m overcome by exhaustion. I make plans for what I can do—things that I never counted before like going to the market or dropping stuff at the cleaners.

When I walked this morning, I got quiet and went inward. I tried to listen? What was my body saying? It was hard to perceive any instructive advice because I’d turned that voice off years ago.

“How the hell should I know?” were the only words that came out—and those were from my mind. Which continued: “You can walk a little farther. You should be able to! You were walking five miles some days before. You need the exercise—you gained weight on your vacation! No pain, no gain! Don’t be a sissy!”

All of a sudden Dr. Phil was there in my head too. “And how’s that been working for ya?” he asked.

When the pulmonary specialist had said, “Don’t push yourself. Don’t walk too far so you’re too tired to walk back,” the words floated to my memory bank but not my conscious decision making center.

But Dr. Phil’s a big guy. His booming voice stood out in the crowd of bullies in my brain who urged me on. So I listened to him and turned towards home.

There’s more to this never-ending story, which I’ll share later. It includes chest X-rays, CAT scans, blood tests, pulmonary tests, inhalers, netty pots and a “No cancer,” diagnosis. It also includes me needing to make an attitude adjustment, which I’m working on. It’s hard to give up the feeling that you’re invincible. I don’t like it.

 

 

 

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Miss Smartypants Bites The Dust

So for some reason I’ve been putting off writing this blog. I could plead fatigue. I could plead that my worries are so small in the face of all the disasters around us that I’m embarrassed to focus on me. But I realize most of it is avoidance and denial.

Our mother always said: Pride comes before a fall. This can be a crippling refrain if it plays constantly on your brain’s radio dial. But in the story I’m about to tell, it plays a big part. I let my ego take control and it all got out of hand.

I was so proud of myself at the beginning of May. Here was my mindset: Seventy-one years old and close to being in the best shape of my life!! Walking four to five miles a day, working out, doing yoga, eating well (well, mostly well), and in fantastic health. Working on my memoir, writing short stories, writing my blog! And I only needed 6 hours or less of sleep a night! Others around me might be aging, but not me!! I was like good wine. (Muscato fine vintage.)

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Then on May 25th, I got a sore throat. But because of allergies, I often get a sore throat and then it goes away. Or if I get a cold, I easily get over it. Positive thinking and meditation helped with that. I even wrote a funny blog about how sick I felt. But after a month, it wasn’t so funny. I made it to the important things like my grandson’s high school graduation, but I’d have to rest all day. My brain was a little fuzzy—I’d mean to say kitten but I’d say cotton. Even though I couldn’t manage to go to a manicure appointment (that should have told me how sick I was) I managed to finish a memoir piece about being sexually harassed when I taught school in the Sixties.

And I did start to get better. “I can tell I’m turning the corner,” I’d say to people when they asked if I’d gone to the doctor. “Look at Rachel Maddow. She had this thing too and it knocked her out of work for over a week.”

But then I started to get worse. I began to feel like a vintage wreck.

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“You’re still coughing?” my son said at the beginning of July when they returned from their trip to Thailand. “What did the doctor say?”

Well, unfortunately my doctor was away on a trip also. And it was a holiday weekend. I found out a month later that no one had really read the results of my chest X-ray to see the pneumonia and other issues. So I kept going like the little engine that could barely get up the hill. I thought I should be done with a cold so I started walking three miles. Yeah, not so smart.

After two months I went to Seattle. My daughter took one look at me and called her doctor. We went first thing the next morning: her doctor diagnosed walking pneumonia and I got on an antibiotic. It probably would have been better if she had said I had lying down pneumonia or stop what you’re doing pneumonia because I thought I could still walk around. Me, who thinks I’m so smart, just didn’t hear the message that I needed a lot of rest.

I guess my hearing is non-existent when I’m supposed to be listening to my body. I always push myself beyond my limits so was I going to quit now? No, not me. I went to Canada as planned and to the Bruno Mars concert. IMG_1719

 

I didn’t cancel plans with friends in Seattle though I was having trouble breathing, especially in the smoke filled air. I couldn’t really talk because it made me cough, but I went to a party and tried.

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I could go on and on, and I did. When we got back home, I finally shut down.

 

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So now we’re past the third month. I am better. I am. I’m trying to do less while keeping up with must get done. I prioritize better.

I’m not good at staying in bed. I get antsy. Fortunately, I’ve kept busy at home with little projects. Researching sponges was fun!

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Yes, I did become addicted to Facebook and the news.

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I found Facebook to be similar to leafing through magazines in the old days when you were sick. Oh, and shopping online!

I always try to learn from my experiences. This time I’ve learned that I’m an idiot. My husband is happy with that thought, and the fact that I’m no longer giving him advice on how he should follow doctor’s orders. The blind can’t tell others how to see.

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Okay, there’s more to this story, but I’m tired. I think I might listen to the doctor’s advice and go rest. He did go to medical school, after all.

 

There’s No Flu Like An Old Flu

 

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I’m not done moaning about my virus. I still don’t feel good enough to do anything constructive so I’m filling in my time… I found that watching the news was too heartbreaking. I love the London Bridge. I love London. I love Nice, actually. But we’ll never feel safe there again. Now I know why they have those cement blocks in front of airports and on certain streets.
I turned off the television and went to sleep for awhile. My dreams were crazy but then I woke up to the reality of a world gone crazy. In so many ways. I fear the Salem Witch Trials can’t be far from restarting. One little word, and they cut off your head. (THAT’S A JOKE!! A QUASI PUN. Actually, most of this post should strike you as humorous. I feel I need to point that out in today’s world were context isn’t given any value. )
My head started spinning as I tried to keep track of everything. I just couldn’t so I went to sit outside. My dog sat next to me and I began wondering if he was seeing what I was seeing. I mean, do dogs do that? Is their eyesight the same as ours’? Then I began to wonder if I couldn’t get well because I’m in my seventies. Maybe I had something worse going on in my lungs??????? I told myself “to calm down”, “be happy,” “don’t worry”. I sat back and tried to take deep breaths. The smell of the jasmine was so sweet…that it started a coughing spell so I had to go inside.
Then our grandson stopped by to show us how handsome he was in his tux for prom. We even took a picture, which you’ll never see. Take my word for it, he is gorgeous and I look like death on a low burner.

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Just before I started writing this, I realized I had been on Facebook for at least a half hour. (Hour?)I was reading every post carefully and playing every video presented.

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Trevor Noah, the puppeteer on America Has Talent, the Canada Salute, the giraffes on the high dive, Animals on Twitter. You name it, I watched it today.

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I even started reading some tweets. I didn’t post anything but I did reply to a Joe Scarborough post.
OK. So you get the picture and it ain’t pretty. The Tylenol, antibiotics and Codeine Covfefe medicine better start working better or I’m toast. And Facebook will own my soul.

Too Cool For School? Not Me

I don’t know about you, but I have an affliction: when I try to be cool, I end up looking like a fool.

I think this all started at the end of junior high. Until that time I was a confirmed bookworm who never had time to think of things like being cool—my nose was always in a novel so I rarely registered where I really was in time or place. Nor did I care about how I looked or what I wore. Not until the day I saw Gloria wearing a cool sweater with a dickie collar. Wow, I really wanted one!

The poodle skirt phase was before my time, but I craved having a dickie collar.

I think I probably also wanted to look like the girl in the picture below. She was so white–so American. From her loafers to her plaid skirt to the shutters on her house, she personified the kind of girl who scared me to death. But I wanted to imitate.

Next thing I knew, I really wanted to shop at the Bon.

None of this was happening for me as my mother was against all of it. She thought shopping at Lerner’s was just fine for me. Somehow I wangled white bucks out of my dad.

The coolest was the white buck bag that accompanied them—it came out in almost every class so I could apply a little of whatever that powder was to my shoes, whether they needed it or not.

My mother did loosen up enough to buy me pedal pushers and saddle shoes, which was a great victory.

I was 14 when I started high school—being young was a disadvantage to coolness. I joined this high school sorority to be cooler and started smoking to be cooler still. But it really didn’t work.

I still wasn’t cool. Which was fine at Garfield High School. Just getting to go to school there was cool enough.

In my heart of hearts, I was still a nerd who loved being in the library more than anything.

This continued on into college. I loved to study. Well, maybe not loved—but I admit to liking it a lot. At the University of Washington, I used to study at Balmer Hall—it had big tables where I could spread out my books, notebooks, three pens with different colored inks, index cards and ruler. I remember one day acting very cool as I walked by a group of guys, pretending not to see them. I walked straight into a huge ash can that tipped over, spreading sand and cigarette butts across the floor. I can still hear the clang of the metal as it bumped over the floor. Not so cool, after all.

As I get older, a lot of my “too cool for school” episodes involve falls and/or being a know-it-all. My mother always said, “Pride goes before a fall,”—it seems my karma is to act that out again and again. It’s not that I’m unsteady on my feet…yet. I go to yoga to practice my balance and work out to keep my strength up. No, it’s more that I don’t pay attention to my surroundings.

Usually, before it happens, I’ve just congratulated myself on my fitness, and that my skinned knees and elbows have finally healed. (It takes so much longer now.) I’m thinking things like, I’m doing pretty darn well for a 70-year-old!

Like on our 50th anniversary. I wore a flowing dress and my new diamond ring—I felt youthful and beautiful.

As we walked up a few stairs into the oceanside restaurant, I was handed a glass of champagne. How sophisticated and cool is this, I thought.

I stepped forward to take the champagne, not realizing I was on the edge of the lanai. Yes, I stepped into empty space. I tried to get back onto the stair and keep my balance, but couldn’t quite do it. I started falling backwards and decided the wisest course was to just go with it. Fortunately it was only a short distance into the flowerbed. The horrified onlookers did give me points for the gracefulness of my descent. Except for a few scratches and a rip in my dress, I was just shaken, but unhurt.

My final point about being cool or being a fool concerns my fondness for getting things right. It’s not that I say, “I told you so,” (although I do roll my eyes quite a bit). Like when we were traveling in the Galapagos and Peru with friends. I was wise and ate according to the rules we’d be given. The rest of them ate off the street and tried the national dish, guinea pig. What fools, I thought, as they all succumbed to Inca Revenge, and asked to borrow Imodium.

I, on the other hand, was so cool that I had nary a stomach cramp. Until we got home. Then the 105 degree fever that goes with malaria hit me. Not so cool after that.

Another problem is that I try to stay current technologically: I’m so cool that I use the Internet all the time. This leads me to buy gadgets, which I can’t figure out how to use. Like this electric wine opener. You have to admit it looks cool and very high tech, but I can’t even figure out how to put it in the charger unit. Now, I don’t know what to do with it.

I hate to say it, but being cool is just not my thing. At this point, it’s a battle to keep from making that old saying true: There’s no fool like an old fool! 🙂

 

 

 

Need to Know Basis

I want to start worrying about getting old again. I want to worry about my crow’s feet turning into pigeon’s feet. I want to feel bad that when I wave my arm, my sagging skin keeps flapping like a loose sail. I want to worry about whether I should be buying a cemetery plot rather than worrying if there’s a plot to bring down America as I’ve known it.

I want to worry about not being able to remember anyone’s name. Is it dementia creeping up on me or overload? Because all of a sudden I need to know a lot of names that I just took for granted before.

I can be naïve—I used to think banks existed for me to deposit my money in. Bankers were there to help and protect me. That’s what I thought about our government too. I thought the elected officials would act in the best interest of the country as a whole. So complacent was I that I didn’t worry about officials’ actions or know their names. I admit I still don’t want to know the name of the Speaker of the House is Paul Ryan or the senator from New York is Amy Schumer’s cousin. I don’t want to know that Mitch McConnell is from Kentucky. I’d like to feel everything was going to be all right and I could obsess over my bunions.

I want to worry about my weight. That would be so refreshing instead of worrying about my granddaughter taking ballet at our local JCC. And I’d like to fret about whether I should join the American Hair Loss Association or just quit coloring my hair.

I’d like to have trouble falling asleep at night thinking about how time is flying rather than thinking about neighbors who could be deported in an instant. I’d like to have time to think about whether Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty screwed up because they are old farts instead of needing to think nonstop about the deep divisions in our country.

I’d like to worry again about how short a skirt a woman my age can wear. And whether I can read a Jodi Picoult book without getting my heart broken. I’d even like to worry about how I can get my husband to drink enough water. That I know is a lost cause. I just hope our country isn’t.

New Year, Not so New Resolutions

This is my new year’s resolution blog. You might think it’s too late for it but it’s only January 15. 2017 is just two weeks old. Still a baby!

Anyway, one of my resolutions is to stop rushing around like a chicken with my head cut off. (You might think this is a cliché but my husband actually got to see the phenomenon. In the old days of his Ancestors.com, a newly built home was blessed by cutting the head off a chicken. The vision of the chicken running around their yard featured in my husband’s nightmares for years.)

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As for my resolutions:

I have resolved to stop multi-tasking and to slow down. We had dinner with friends last night and she asked me what I’ve doing. “Since we’re in Hawaii, are you sitting around and relaxing?” she added.

I shook my head. “You know me. That just doesn’t happen. But, I’m trying. As soon as I get caught up with everything, I’m going to put relaxing into my day. It’s one of my new year’s resolutions.” It’s that I so rarely get caught up. Then something happens, either good or bad, and I’m behind again. I didn’t think I’d have this problem in my 70’s. Still.

I find that every year I resolve pretty much the same thing. Writing that, it reminded me that two years ago I printed out my 2015 resolutions and taped them to my computer. I was supposed to look at them every day but then I forgot they were there until just now. Oh well, one of my resolutions this year is to give up trying to do everything right. That leads to perfectionism, which means you’re polishing things at midnight, be it silver or words. It also means there’s constant judgment being aimed at my endeavors. Mother has been dead twenty years but she still is holding up the signs and there’s never been a 10. So time to get over it!

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Now, I’m looking at my list on the computer, and I like it. I haven’t accomplished any of the items, but they still seem like worthy goals. They aren’t global but more about me taking care of me. As a Grandiose Co-Dependent, I’m good at taking care of others, especially in the way I see fit. Taking care of me can go sideways.

No more procrastinating: here goes:

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  1. Be happy with myself at my age.
  2. Stretch after my walk.
  3. Eat Healthy.
  4. Do one thing at a time. Finish it.
  5. Think the thought that makes me feel good. Work on reducing anxiety.
  1. Write a blog every two weeks. Write every day.

 

All of this should keep me busy. I told myself just the other day, “You better learn to be happy with your age, or you’re going to be constantly depressed. Stop looking at your arm and wanting it to be firmly muscled. Ain’t happening. Be happy if it is has a muscle at all.”

Which reminds me—this getting older is not so much fun sometimes. Keeping healthy is more than a full time job. Cancer knocks on your door and comes in uninvited. Strokes and heart attacks and dementia are only a Plavix away. Friends and relatives are getting really sick or dying. I finally get it when people say, “This is not a dress rehearsal.”

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So, I guess my main resolution is that I’m going to do less and enjoy it more. (Okay, friends and relatives, stop snorting.)

 

 

 

 

Turning Seventy is Sublime

 

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I am in the middle of writing an essay about how wonderful it is to be 70. I started it in January, but got caught up in other things and in writing a memoir piece. So now I’m almost half way to being 71. With luck and time, I will finish the essay before that birthday.

Meanwhile, I’m going to share some thoughts. On my 70th, I was determined to not look or feel my age. It was a lot of work! Now I’m purposefully slowing down—as a matter of fact, I took myself out of the race. I’m not so touchy about people holding a door open for me or asking to help me with my grocery bags. I don’t have to be in charge. I don’t have to be the responsible one. I don’t have to try proving that I’m as strong and capable as I once was. I can surrender to the aging. I can admit that I get tired. I can admit that I can’t lift my suitcase. I can admit that a swimsuit is not my best look, but I’ll wear one anyway.

One of the great benefits of aging is that I like being who I am. I say to myself when I’m doing something, “You know, that’s who you are. You’ve always been that way.” And I feel good rather than thinking I should change to conform to somebody else’s ideas. It’s true, for instance, that I rather write than play golf.

 

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I still think of myself as young. For instance, if I’m on a bus or train, I’ll stand up to give my seat to an older person. Only… what’s happening is that sometimes there is no older person. The first time this occurred was last summer when I went to DC to look after my grandson who was interning there. To begin with, that was a joke. Garrett, in reality, looked after me. He set me up with a Metro pass and with Uber. He made sure I was fine when he went to work. He’d call to check on me. He made the dinner reservations and showed me where the washer/dryer was in the building. The day we took the Metro to Capitol Hill, he made sure I got on the train without any trouble. I was standing next to him when a man asked me if I’d like his seat. I smiled and looked around for an older person to take advantage of his offer. Then I realized I was the oldest by at least twenty years. That was a “Yikes” moment!

I’m not denying that aging comes with a lot of loss. We have lost so many dear friends and family to cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Or they are suffering with the effects of their disease. There is a sadness now that really has no time to go away. Then there is the loss of taut skin, height and strong muscles, eyesight and hearing—but let’s not go there right now.

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I want to age gracefully, but I want to have fun too. Cindy Joseph’s make up tips for older woman have been widely distributed on Facebook. Here’s some of her advice around the eyes: “Women older than 50 tend to lose definition in their eyebrows. Just go with that. Don’t recreate the brows you had in your 20s.”

Really? I liked my eyebrows in my twenties, and if I don’t use eyebrow pencil now, I have no definition at all. I also tint whatever eyebrow hairs I have left. True, I don’t want to get to the stage where I’m drawing them on and entirely missing the eyebrow line. That is not attractive. But I figured out the solution to that: getting a stronger magnifying mirror for now and a trusted helper in my nineties.

Joseph also says: “Do not wear any eye shadow at all. …A little bit of mascara is OK.” Sorry, Cindy, but I plan to be wearing eye shadow in my coffin when I’m a 110. I love eye shadow. I’ve loved it since I was 13 and my mother wouldn’t let me wear it. So I’m not giving it up now or ever. I had a friend who got false eyelashes when she was 84. She loved them and they were cute on her! So there!

 

 

 

 

 

Older, But Wiser?

Lately I’ve been meeting people who have a preconceived notion of me. They’ve buttonholed me into several categories: old, entitled white person, golfer, living a life of leisure, problemless, one foot in the grave… Maybe the last is unfair, but sometimes I see the look in the eye.

We stayed in Hawaii this winter for four months. We always said that when we got older, we’d live in Hawaii because we love it so much. One day, we looked in the mirror and said in unison, “That time has come. It’s now or never.”

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Our condo is by a hotel on a golf course so my gregarious husband meets a lot of people at the driving range.

“You’re playing golf with us Monday morning,” a new acquaintance of his says one evening as we sit watching the sun set.

I shake my head. “I don’t really play golf.”

He looks amazed. “You don’t? What else do people do here? Well, come with us anyway. My back is bad so I’m only chipping and putting.”

“Sorry, but I’m busy Monday morning. I teach a class.”

He looks at me, trying to assess what I could teach at my advanced age.

I don’t offer any more information. I’m sitting at the beach trying to absorb the fact that someone I’d been talking to yesterday had died five hours later in a car crash. A guy who was only two years older than my son. A guy who was a sweetheart.“What kind of class?” the man asks.

“A writing class. A memoir writing class,” I say.

“Really. I should talk to you. I’ve written a book,” he says.

Oh here we go, I think. Another stranger who wants free help.

“That’s great,” I say with no enthusiasm.

“Yeah, it’s sold over a million copies. It was at the top of the bestseller list.”

Now I’m confused. He obviously needs no guidance from me.

He begins to tell me about his phenomenal success with his self help book.

“Very nice,” I say, wishing I had the guts to tell him he was blocking my view of the sun setting behind him.

“That’s nice you have something to do to occupy your time,” his young wife, a fantastic golfer, says.

“Really?” I want to say. “Occupy my time, as in giving me something to do while I’m in God’s waiting room? No, I’m very much alive and busy living each day.”

But then I think I may be a little defensive, and I stay quiet.

Two days later, I’m in a store and the saleswoman ringing me up says, “So you live in California part of the year and Hawaii part of the year? I’d sure like your life style.”

I look at her and try to imagine what she sees when she looks at me. I settle on: privileged white person living a life of leisure with not a problem in the world. (Again I was probably being defensive and over sensitive, which I need to get over…some day. )

She’s not the first thirty-something-year-old to say this to me so I have a ready response: “You live another forty years, work hard every day and save your money. Then you, too, can have this life style.

I say it kindly and with a little laugh, but it’s the truth for me.

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Making A Difference

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Catching up is hard to do or maybe I’m just not good at it. I always seem to add more to my plate each day. I was just thinking that I could be satisfied with what I’ve already accomplished today, but then I was compelled by some unknown force to come to my blog page and write. That could be a good thing or just that I’m in a manic phase! (that’s a joke).

This morning I met with a young woman who is going to the Community College here in Kona. I’m going to tutor her in English composition. It was fascinating to see the work she has already done–to see what the professors are teaching and asking their students to accomplish. Very impressive. (We talked about fragments and how I use them for emphasis and how she could never use one in her essays!) I already learned a lot from her.

One of the best things about teaching is how much you, as teacher, learn. My horizons are always expanding. Another best thing, especially at my age, is the sense that I’m doing something worthwhile and that has meaning to the larger community. I mean, I’m quite good at organizing my closet, but there’s more to life than straight rows of underwear. Or even fresh flowers in the living room.

So it makes me happy to know that the skills I’ve honed through the years are not going to be put on a shelf to fall rusty in disuse. I have found a niche that I fit into perfectly.

 

High Anxiety!

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT TAKE THE FOLLOWING SERIOUSLY. IT’S MEANT TO BE HUMOROUS EVEN WHILE POINTING OUT MY MENTAL DEFECIENCIES.

Just when you think it’s safe to go in the water, life throws you a curveball. (I love mixing my metaphors, BTW.) At the beginning of November, I was congratulating myself on a year of accomplishment (my entire check list was clear—I’d finally gone to the Getty, even gotten the colonoscopy and the closets cleaned out) when the mail came.

I wasn’t alarmed when I saw the DMV letter. I knew my license was expiring and since I’d moved, I figured this was a form explaining how to change the address. WRONG! The letter stated I had to appear at the DMV to have my picture taken, update my information, give a thumb print, pass the eye test and. …TAKE THE WRITTEN EXAM.

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I swear to you that in the silence of my house, I cried out in anguish, “Why me?” Looking back, I realize I was quite tired and in overwhelm before I opened the letter, which could excuse my pitiful over-reaction. At least, I’d like to think that.

“I have to take the DMV WRITTEN EXAM,” I told my husband.

“Somebody’s got to do it,” he said, barely looking up from his book.

“I have to take the DMV WRITTEN EXAM,” I told my daughter.

“Oh no,” she said. “You have the same tone of voice you had when you were prepping for your colonoscopy. I don’t know if I have the energy to keep you propped up again.”

“I have to take the DMV WRITTEN EXAM,” I told my daughter-in-law.

“Don’t worry about it. You’ve been driving for years—you know everything. Besides, you can miss six questions,” she said.

Yeah. It’s easy and you can go online to take sample tests,” my sixteen-year-old grandson added.

“But I never know which way my wheels should turn if I’m parking uphill,” I wailed.

“Up, up and away,” my eighteen-year-old grandson put in.

With all this encouragement, I felt calmer and made an appointment to take the test. But when I went on-line to take a sample test, things went south. I took the first test and missed four out of the eighteen questions. How should I know that you must park seven and a half feet from a railroad crossing? Or that the lines on a one-way street are solid white? Or that BAC stands for Blood Alcohol Concentration and it’s not safe to drive with even a 0.01 level? Who cares if a sign is regulatory or warning?

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“YOU FAILED!!!!!” flashed on the screen in gigantic neon letters (or so it seemed). It turns out if you are taking a renewal test you can only miss three questions. When you think about it, most people taking a renewal are probably inching towards the 70-year-old mark. Is there ageism being subtly practiced here?

I immediately went into Catastrophe Mode. I drove to the DMV to pick up a booklet (and also to find out where it was) and began to study like I did when I was in college. I got out a yellow marker and underlined the whole book. I wrote out flash cards. I became addicted to the online tests, unable to stop myself taking them from early morning to late at night. (None of this part is an exaggeration, BTW.) I studied even at a doctor’s appointment.

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Some time during this siege, I decided I wanted my hair to look really good for the photo so I began experimenting with different styles. I also went to the eye doctor who said I needed glasses, which got me worrying if I’d pass the eye test. Because I was studying so much, I didn’t have time for much of anything else. I didn’t realize that my whole family was avoiding me—none of them could handle my angst they told me later.

One day, my husband and I drove to Santa Barbara to visit friends. Actually my husband drove, which gave me the opportunity to study “driving rules” in real time. Not only did I get to see the road signs and solid white lines on the road, but every time my husband did something wrong, it cemented what you’re supposed to do more firmly in my mind.

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“What’s your biggest fear?” my neighbor asked me the day before the test.

“That I’ll fail,” I replied with no hesitation.

“But why would you fail? You’ve studied so much.”
“But, sometimes they phrase the questions in a tricky way,” I said. “Or they ask the question in a way that you don’t understand. Or they ask you how many yards you can drive in a left turn lane.”

“That’s true,” she said, which didn’t alleviate any of my anxiety.

Speaking of anxiety, the only good thing about being so anxious about the test was that I forgot all my other worries for awhile. Even my back straightened out!

The day of the test finally arrived. I washed my hair early and chose my outfit carefully. I played an anxiety reduction audio, which helped me to relax. I got dressed and put on jewelry. I decided to go early—I could be nervous there instead of nervous at home.

When I arrived and took my seat, I looked around. Seventy-five per cent of the people there looked to be 16. The rest of us looked to be 65ish or older. Definitely, ageism, I thought.

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Within fifteen minutes, my number was called. The man behind the desk seemed kindly enough. “Let’s start with the eye test,” he said. He gestured to the tiny chart in the low light behind him.

Somehow I read enough F’s and P’s to pass, and I moved across the room to the guy who takes the pictures. He was sweet, offering me a chance to see if I liked the shot or not. He then directed me to a group of booths behind us. “Use your bar code to sign in,” he directed.

“Okay,” I said like I knew what he was talking about.

I went to a booth and found a large monitor with a prompt “start here” on the touch screen.

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“First, scan your code,” flashed on the screen. That took a couple of minutes to figure out but I was finally in. By the time the actual question hit the screen, I was exhausted. But I persevered, reading each question carefully to make sure I understood it. Even then, I did miss one. But long story short: I passed!!!

When I was finished, I had one more line to stand in. The two women in front of me were my age—one passed and one didn’t. We started chatting until the woman behind the desk called out, “NO TALKING IN LINE!”

When it was my turn, I handed her my information.

“You passed,” she said, seeming disappointed.

I smiled at her, a wide and happy smile. “Yes I did!”

In the parking lot, I did a little victory dance by my car. On the way home, I looked out at the iridescent autumn leaves instead of the lines in the road. I was free at last!

It’s been ten days and I just received my new license in the mail. I think my hair looks pretty good.