When I was a child Easter Sunday was a time for church, spring coats, hats, white gloves, a family dinner in the dining room, a jelly bean hunt, Easter baskets and hard boiled eggs. It was a quiet day home with my parents and siblings and if we were lucky, a visit from my grandparents.

My mother is one of my role models. Changes with age have given her substantial challenges with hearing and memory. It’s not uncommon to hear her declare, “Oh – this memory of mine!” when she realizes she’s forgotten some history or a name or event. It’s a decided change from the vibrant organizer who people turned to develop a speaking series for her church or run the blood mobile for the city of Detroit. Nevertheless, folks often comment to me, “Your mother always has a smile on her face”. She’s peaceful and pleasant to be around. She is content.

“With your talents and industry, with science, and that stedfast [sic] honesty which eternally pursues right, regardless of the consequences, you may promise yourself everything – but health, without which there is no happiness.” THOMAS JEFFERSON

Year after year, decade after decade, through both Republican and Democratic Presidential and Congressional efforts, we’ve tried to address our floundering health care system. Every year there are more uninsured. The cost of their unfunded emergency room and hospital care shifts onto premiums the insured pay. Insurance costs go up. Employers drop or curtail coverage due to higher costs and even more people are uninsured or severely underinsured. The spiral continues unchecked.

An odd thing happened last month. My husband and I got a long letter from our daughter-in-law. The novelty was startling. Not an update on Facebook, or a tweet, or a note on a card, or even an email. It was a five page handwritten letter full of news of the family. She always did write a good letter. I sat on the couch and leisurely read about one family member after another – and realized how long it had been since I’d gotten a letter. Perhaps this would be the last.

An the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you ef you don’t watch out! So said James Whitcomb Riley in his poem about Little Orphant Annie. 
One of my favorites from childhood, he advised minding your manners and taking care of people -- or else you’d better beware of what comes in the night when the wind goes woo-oo. Just eerie enough to be creepy and fun enough not to be too scary. My mother would read assorted poems out loud and set the mood for many an event.

Every time I go to buy face cream there is another new product designed to restore moisture to my skin, ease or slowly erase wrinkles and take away my age spots. Amazing. Why does anyone have wrinkles if you can just choose not to have them by buying a little pot of special cream?

My mother’s parents had a summer home on the north end of Lake St. Clair near the town of Anchorville north of Detroit. The full front of the house was an enclosed knotty pine porch that looked down over a short lawn, a shuffleboard court that traced the water’s edge, and the lake. A seawall stretched the length of the property with lake access provided by a long wooden dock, ever adorned with a tall flagpole at the end. Originally one of nine siblings, as the family grew into young adulthood in the 1930s and 40s, the lake, dock and various motorboats became the summer mecca for many a good time. 

Excitement mounts whenever I enter one of our national parks. The parks are American gems that preserve national history or natural wonders. I don’t think my husband and I have ever been disappointed by a visit to one of them. Last summer we were able to revisit Montana’s Glacier National Park where I’d worked during college.

In 1976, my final project to complete an undergraduate degree in social work at Western Michigan University was helping to establish an office of information and support for students with disabilities. The primary paper for my second major in environmental studies focused on recreational planning for people with disabilities. While searching for a job I served as volunteer staff for a state event associated with a White House Conference on issues surrounding disabilities.

Family recently gathered to celebrate the first communion of Abigail, our youngest granddaughter.  I got chatting with her “Uncle Pete”, a long time family friend. He asked me what I thought about the new health care reform law.

A colleague of mine once described the speed of his brain as similar to an old cash register - you sequentially push one key after the other and then push the total key. This was in contrast to the speed of a younger person's brain, which was compared to a high-speed computer. High contrast in processing speed, same result.

As I get older, it's amazing the number of people who have mentioned to me in passing that they're worried about the health of their brains. They worry they're starting to lose it, that maybe it's the beginning of dementia.

Lila lived for 2 ½ years in a nursing home funded by Medicaid. Her daughter was concerned about her decline and called the Area Agency on Aging [AAA] to see if it was possible for her to move out and live in a less restricted residential setting. 

I was nine years old when Kennedy was assassinated. Child that I was, his election was the first presidential election I was able to remember with some detail; I was old enough to have the memories of that day imbedded in me for a lifetime.  That evening my family sat glued to the television in silence watching every detail that came over the air. 

Wasn’t it just recently we were focusing on Y2K? How can that be a decade ago? The speed of a decade takes my breath away. When I was in college an older friend, then eighty something, told me that time would simply go faster and faster as I aged. It was hard for me to believe as my schedule was full of classes, studying and friendships. Time seemed to go plenty fast already.

Home for the Holidays ---- where is home anyway? I think the best definitions come in a non-traditional sense.

Notions of a traditional trip to a childhood homestead are relatively rare among the people I know. More often, people reconnect with family and cherished friends whenever and wherever they can. Not all see each other each year. Life is messy. Death, separation, illness and economic worry can put strains on a season where gaiety is in the spotlight. What if you don’t feel gay?

I don’t tend to watch a lot of TV. Now and then it’s relaxing, but often it seems like there’s nothing on. With precious few hours in the evening, TV time can feel like lost time for living. 

In the King & I Anna encouraged her son to whistle a happy tune so no one could tell he was afraid. They whistled like pros and off they went. I’ve never been able to whistle worth a darn. My mother however, encouraged me to “Stand tall, shoulders back, and smile”. Good advice; it served the same purpose.

The projected life expectancy for women just passed 80 years of age. That means that a baby girl born today can expect to live just over 80 years. A baby boy can expect to live to 77 years.  We’ve come a long way.
 

What constitutes retirement nowadays seems to be rapidly changing. I recently had the opportunity to listen to a talk by Marc Freedman, a well-known author on the changing face of retirement and co-founder of The Purpose Prize and Experience Corps – both of which focus on people finding or creating meaningful work after the “job” of their earlier life has ended. His talk put the retirement of the baby boomers in a different perspective.

Recently my husband and I had the opportunity to visit some dear friends in France. We hadn’t been to visit them in sixteen years. How long it had been became immediately apparent as we landed, made our way to the rental car and headed out. I had to search for every bit of broken French I knew. An unmanned toll booth directing “prenez un billet” or “take a ticket” left me momentarily baffled – where were those words I once knew? By the end of a week and a half I was feeling somewhat like an old pro; albeit one with terrible grammar.

Subcategories