Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘aging

Doin’ Lowertown

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Last weekend was all about the Lowertown district on the edge of downtown St. Paul for us. We attended a concert at the Palace Theatre for a Valentine’s date on Friday night and met our friends, Barb and Mike on Saturday for dinner at the Handsome Hog restaurant that overlooks Mears Park. The drive from home feels quicker than the 35-40 minutes it takes when we exit directly onto 6th street and instantly find ourselves at our destinations, with no other turns required.

The highlight was by far the food and company on Saturday night. The contemporary Southern pig-centric menu is incredibly well-executed, based on the variety of delicious selections we all shared family-style. The location worked as an exact half-way point between our two homes, with the Wilkuses coming from the west and us from the east/southeast. They are the bestest of friends!

The concert on Friday was a meld of Calexico (Joey Burns and John Convertino) and the endearing Sam Beam who performs under the moniker Iron & Wine. They are a good match and clearly enjoy each other and performing together for an audience. I am a fan of Sam Beam’s songwriting and performance and generally can appreciate the Americana Tex-Mex indie rock of Calexico.

Unfortunately, I’ve reached an age where I too easily let the peripheral aspects of going out to see live performances tarnish the ultimate impression of events. The music was good, and the performers wonderfully engaging, so I was happily entertained in that regard.

We were impressed that the opening entertainer, 22-year-old Madison Cunningham, started exactly at the time the show was billed to begin, regardless the many unfilled seats. The first thing I noticed when I sat down in the balcony was that the rows were so tight I would be breathing into the hair of the person sitting in front of me. Luckily, there was no one there for the opening set.

Cyndie and I were unfamiliar with Madison and were pleasantly surprised. It would be fair to compare her singing and guitar skills to Joni Mitchell. No wonder we both liked her.

When the headliners took the stage, the seats in front of us filled and the fog machine pumped a mist to better show off the lights. I’m not sure where the director of the light show was sitting, but it’s a good guess it wasn’t in the balcony. They kept turning the fog machine on so often it was getting difficult to see the performers through the constantly thickening haze.

To make matters worse, they too frequently turned bright lights on behind the musicians, shining the beam up into our line of sight.

While I was fighting to see through all that, my eyes started to water from the essential oil or exotic shampoo aroma the woman in front of me (right beneath my nose) was radiating into the atmosphere. Maybe she had just pulled her coat out of moth-ball storage. It was hard to tell. It evoked a blend of rancid spices rubbed into an old dirty rug.

Much as I appreciate Lowertown, and as fun as it was to hear Iron & Wine music live again, I’m afraid the return to comforts of home with tunes playing through my speakers seems just as good, or even better.

Definitely a sign of aging.

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Big Think

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I’m not sure about the trick of living in the moment while trying to make big decisions that have the potential of dramatically changing the rest of my life, but that is the reality that simmers beneath my every minute lately. As Cyndie slips ever deeper into focusing her time on caring for her parents, decisions being contemplated have the potential of defining whether we will stay on this property or go.

There is a challenging balance in a committed relationship of cultivating what we want together as a couple while also honoring each of our individual desires. That would be made a little easier if we both definitively knew what it was we wanted the rest of our functional years to look like.

I had no idea that our empty-nest years would lead to the gorgeous property we found that became our Wintervale. The seed for this dream originated from a supernatural meld of both Cyndie’s and my interests and experiences, but I would not have arrived at this point without her energy driving most of the outcomes.

That same inclination has me leaning toward following her lead again as her focus has changed, despite my heart increasingly being gripped by the sanctuary of the forests and fields, and beautiful log home where we’ve been living for the last seven years. If I could figure out a way to afford it, I’d stay here even if she moved in with her parents –sighting the year we lived apart when she moved to Boston as a case study precedent– but that might be at odds with achieving our best long-term joint effort.

Neither of us knows how well our health will hold out, how climate catastrophes will impact the coming years, whether our meager retirement accounts will protect us from the next recession, or what future life events will demand our attention, but those unknowns are all lumped into our thinking as we consider the big “what next.”

I want to also include the simple joys of standing still in the woods and listening to the natural sounds that surround me. Breathing in the forest aromas and feeling the reality of temperature and precipitation against my skin. Walking over the rise in our open fields to feel the wind when it blows, or the stillness when it doesn’t.

At the same time, I’ve lived in town and know the conveniences associated. I would welcome the opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint and return to riding my bike more than driving my car.

I tell ya, living in the moment of planning the future is one heck of a big think.

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Written by johnwhays

January 12, 2020 at 8:57 am

Learning More

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Last night we attended a community education class in River Falls on the topic of planning when to initiate receiving Social Security payments. As you might imagine, it was rich with fascinating detail and enticing facts. Yawn.

One of the highlights of the night was the series of images used for the presentation, collected from years of marketing literature received by the instructor for his financial planning business. He pointed out the universal themes on marketing materials from a wide array of retirement industry service providers shows happy, swooning gray-haired couples on beaches wearing light-colored linen clothes.

He seemed to have amassed an endless supply of these images and has devised a keen way of getting additional use out of the photos.

One aspect of importance he conveyed was the total amount of money ultimately available if certain choices are made. Make a different choice, you end up getting less money in the end.

So what? That parameter of maximizing the total dollars collected over time does not hold much allure for me.

If by the end of 25-years, when I’m in my mid-to-late 80s, whether my total amount received ends up plus or minus $20K seems an illogical parameter on which to prioritize. More important to me is whether I will have enough income month to month to cover my expenses.

Especially when the length of time I will be collecting is not a given. Why set a goal to collect the most money possible by the time I reach 85-years when the timing of my demise is not guaranteeable?

I tend to spend within my means, so if I have less money, I spend less.

All this planning would sure be a lot easier if I knew what my medical expenses will be as I age. Something tells me the discs in my lower back won’t become less of an issue in my eighties.

When we walked out to the parking lot of the high school in the dark after the session, there weren’t many cars remaining. A woman in front of us climbed into the only car parked in the front row. That created a problem for us, because we had parked in the front row. Where was Cyndie’s car? It made no sense.

I walked closer to read the license plate on the car despite the headlights shining in my eyes and recognized them as Cyndie’s. About the same time, the woman was discovering the car she was in didn’t look anything like hers.

Somehow, though Cyndie claims she didn’t do anything, as we approached, our lights came on and the woman in front of us assumed it was her car responding to her fob, so she climbed into Cyndie’s Honda. The woman’s Subaru was out of view in the adjacent spot beyond ours, in the second row.

We all had a good laugh over the confusion.

This kind of thing happens when aging minds are preoccupied with planning for our eventual financial scenarios.

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Written by johnwhays

October 2, 2019 at 6:00 am

Mental Mixups

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I’m not sure how a person can know when they are actually at the top of their game, but I have a pretty good idea when I’m not achieving peak performance out of my mind. The shortcomings have come in series for me lately in a repeating pattern that is becoming difficult to miss.

Although, missing things is one of the shortcomings I am noticing. The thing with that is, it makes me suddenly wonder if there are other things I missed when individual errors pop up. It gets my mind all mixed up.

Is any of this related to the song stuck in my head since Sunday morning? While making breakfast that morning, I heard Kris Kristofferson’s version of “Me and Bobby McGee.” Later in the afternoon, while I was mowing the lawn, it was Janis Joplin’s voice “ear-worming” over and over in my mind.

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Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose…

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I found it interesting that my mind jumped to Janis’ version, but not that surprising. It’s the one I’ve heard the most. What seems odd to me is how long it has hung around.

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I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday…

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Then my poor brain got stretched into next year. Did you know 2020 is a leap year and Christmas will be on a Friday?

(Just to emphasize my point, while writing that, I asked Cyndie if she knew 2020 is a leap year. She said, “You already asked me that an hour ago.”)

One of my challenges with the day-job is the need to function far from the immediate moments and plan the future. Yesterday I was forced to print out a calendar for 2020 to assign dates into January. No wonder my mind gets mixed up.

It’s a wonder I ever know what day it is.

On the way home from work yesterday, I forgot to get gas in the car.

I sure hope I haven’t forgotten anything else important this week.

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Latest Observations

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Okay, I admit it. I am officially getting old. In the good ol’ days, my lovely wife luxuriated in the summer heat while I sweltered. We rarely turned the air conditioner on, preferring to let all but the most humid of summer days fill our living quarters for her comfort.

It’s no longer like that today.

I walked in the door yesterday and immediately sensed she had turned the air conditioner on again, after we had opened up the house on Sunday night. It was cold enough for me that I needed to put on long sleeves.

I am now the one who gets cold while Cyndie is too warm.

It reminds me of the decorative flowers Cyndie planted around the grounds. The petunias appear to be perfectly happy, but the marigolds haven’t changed since they were put in our soil. Maybe the marigolds were old.

Or maybe it’s just been too cold for them.

Last weekend was basically our first real heat of the summer. Progress for many of the growing plants around here is looking rather stunted, now that I think about it.

The old saying, “knee high by the fourth of July” is just not happening this year. Fields that did get planted are all maturing just about as fast as Cyndie’s marigolds.

Our wild raspberry bushes looked like they weren’t going to bear fruit at all until just recently. I haven’t seen it for myself yet, but Cyndie says they are just starting to blossom with hints that there might be a lot of berries. I love her optimism, but I fear the amount and size of berries are more likely to be less than impressive, given the stunted growing conditions.

Maybe I’m not getting old. It’s probably just the type of weather we’ve been having.

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Written by johnwhays

July 2, 2019 at 6:00 am

My Turn

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Today it is my turn to join the club of 60-year-olds. Sixty years ago today I showed up as the latest addition to the Hays clan. Luckily, we tend toward not remembering our moment of arrival, but I bet I was kicking and screaming until that warm blanket swaddled me tightly. By my calculations, I have just completed a third stint of becoming a twenty-year-old.

I’m pretty confident that I am twenty years smarter than I was when I reached forty.

I will always remember the spectacular celebration of my fortieth birthday, because my life-long chum, Paul Keiski, and I combined our adjacent birthdays with a plan to thwart our wives trying to hold a surprise party for us. We announced a plot to do a nighttime 40-mile bike ride figuring nobody would be crazy enough to participate.

Turned out there were a lot more crazy people than we accounted for, so a fabulous group night-ride became an annual necessity for years after. That night when Paul’s birthday ended and mine started, we decided we had each ridden 20 moonlit miles by that point, so together, forty had been achieved.

Now, twenty years later, we gave in and let our wives plan a celebration event. I fear it may dwarf either of our weddings in terms of their efforts to prepare food, beverages, and entertainment for a wedding-sized guest list.

Once again, Paul came up with the perfect antidote for too much party. This time we are going to do all the miles.

Turns out, the distance between Paul’s house and Wintervale Ranch, location of the joint-birthday gala, is sixty miles. He suggested we ride our bikes to the party.

Count me in!

Pedaling from the biggest city in Minnesota to our country sanctuary is symbolic in more ways than just the mileage for me. Joining Paul for the journey is icing on the cake.

It is a precious treat to be sharing the process of aging with a pal to whom you’ve been connected since grade school.

Happy Birthday to Paul (yesterday) and me (today)!

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Written by johnwhays

June 26, 2019 at 6:00 am

Conversation

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how do you have
the conversation
that is easily avoidable
because some are uncomfortable
about things inevitable
saying out loud
the worst that could happen
along with wishes they might not
can cloud the visual
of events in our minds
that haven’t happened yet
but will in due time
precious time
to crown a life well lived
with love and affection
establishing peace
understanding
forgiveness
resolution
celebration
demonstrating to the world
an extraordinary bookend
to the miracle
of birth

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My Day

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Honestly, I never seriously thought I would one day be telling stories about how different things were, back in my day. That’s something old people do.

Last night, there was a news ticker across the bottom of the tv screen announcing school closings for today. At that point, not a single flake had wafted down out of the sky. How does that work?

When I was in school, if we woke up in the morning with mounds of snow covering everything, we would immediately turn on the local radio broadcast and listen for our school to be named in the list of closings. Superintendents waited until the last-minute to announce their decision. We never knew the night before.

Nowadays, kids know before they even go to sleep. They have no idea how easy they have it.

Have winter storm forecasts become so much more reliable that school officials trust them that much farther in advance?

This is what was posted yesterday as NOAA‘s model of what today’s storm would look like:

That was enough for me to throw in the towel on driving the long distance across the entire Twin Cities today.

If we end up with nine inches of snow by the end of the day, it’ll be another feather in the cap of present-day meteorology, for accuracy of their storm modeling.

And, I will feel justified to have voluntarily missed another mid-week shift at the day-job, avoiding the hazards of two rush-hour commutes during a snow event.

If the snow accumulation doesn’t measure up, I’ll be reminded of the old days, when we never knew how much snow we were going to get, until it had actually fallen.

 

 

 

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Written by johnwhays

February 20, 2019 at 7:00 am

Contrast Comparison

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Let’s review.

Last week, polar vortex:

A few days ago, February thaw:

Yesterday morning, the commute to the cities was an ice adventure. On one of the close-to-home country roads, my tires lost grip and the Crosstrek started to float at a bit of a sideways angle. At the wee hours of morning, there were no other cars around, otherwise, that slide could have been a head-on collision disaster, as I encroached into the oncoming lane.

After a short distance, the tires re-gripped and the car violently responded with a sudden jolt of physics reality, returning without trouble to rolling straight forward, aligned in the proper lane of travel.

I adjusted my speed accordingly for the rest of the commute.

The residual trepidation that gripped me after that brief adventure in free flight was the possibility, or probability, of someone driving toward me losing traction like I had and then floating uncontrollably into my lane. Luckily, there were only a few cars that approached while I was on two-lane roads. After that, it was all divided highway.

I witnessed no crashes driving in the 5 o’clock hour, but my nerves were further rattled by a radio report that 4 salting trucks had slid into ditches in the county just north of our home.

I carefully pulled my car into the parking spot at work and breathed a sigh of relief. When I stepped out onto the glazed pavement, I was startled over how slippery it actually was. I couldn’t walk up the tiniest incline of sidewalk to the front door. I needed to “penguin” my way over to some snow and walk on that.

A coworker had the best solution for all this crazy winter weather we’ve been facing lately. Humans should be genetically engineered to hibernate during winter.

This is how I am able to recognize I am truly aging. That idea actually sounds appealing to me.

I suppose in a few more years, I will start talking about moving south over the winter months.

It’s enough to make my 20-year-old self roll over in his hypothetical grave. There are days I miss that guy.

I gotta admit, though, the sight of my 60-year milestone approaching on the horizon has me leaning more toward liking the looks of that future snow-bird guy a bit more than the young winter athlete of years gone by.

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Written by johnwhays

February 5, 2019 at 7:00 am

Mixed Tracks

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The thing about aging, especially complaining about the less than glamorous aspects associated with it, is that there are always going to be people older than you for whom the whining will appear inconsequential.

“You think that’s bad, just wait until…”

We each have our moments in time. It’s natural to try comparing, but it’s also natural, to discount each other’s comparisons.

I used to be able to write my name in the snow when peeing. Now I just make Pollock style splatter painting designs.

At least I can still pee.

Speaking of tracks in the snow, I captured a cute combination of chicken traffic along with what I’m assuming were prints of a local prowling outdoor cat.

I’m not sure who was there first, but it is unlikely they were actually wandering around together.

If you pay close enough attention, you will see the tracks of the chickens are pointing in opposite directions.

I also think the paw print is a double exposure. It seems like too many toes, but I suspect it is a function of two feet being placed in the same spot.

Watching Delilah on walks, and often wanting to capture pictures of her paw prints, I have come to notice how often her back feet step in the same place as her front feet did. I think the cat was doing the same thing.

I am reminded of a snowy morning during my trek in Nepal when two of my travel mates were pestering the Sherpa guides to find us some tracks from an elusive snow leopard.

Eventually, (we think) they used the old trick of making some rather convincing prints in the snow with their own hands.

Everybody had a good laugh over it, although no admissions were ever offered, and a question over authenticity lingered unresolved. We were happy to imagine the excitement of what such evidence implied, if it had been real.

My mind has returned to my 2009 Himalayan trek because we watched a Netflix DVD last night called, “The Himalayas,” which dramatically told the story of South Korean climber, Um Hong-Gil, leading an expedition in 2005 to attempt recovering the bodies of three friends who died there a year earlier.

I find such expedition movies fun for the brief few minute glimpses they almost always include of the flight to Lukla, the swinging bridges, the rocky trails through rhododendron trees, the shrines, prayer flags, and initial views of Everest that are all the very places I walked.

Even though we weren’t on a mountain climbing expedition, those who were, traveled the same route we did, to get where they were going.

We all made mixed tracks in the snow on the trails.

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Written by johnwhays

January 9, 2019 at 7:00 am