Terry's Notes

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Mother's Day 2012

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MOTHER’S DAY  CIRCA 2012

I was born during the Hoover administration so I  know something about change having seen my shoes go in and out of fashion thirty times and  forget about swanky hats.  And   I’m not one of those relics who say “I believe in progress. I just don’t like change.”  Especially when astonishing progress has given me a cell phone, Netflix and  a cherished GPS (which lately, truth be told, mostly guides me to funeral homes).

Age does not guarantee wisdom but it does offer perspective. In addition to societal and technical changes I’ve also   survived five wars and the feminist and sexual revolutions.  And now, late in the day, with eight granddaughters to consider, I’m confronted with the recent War Against Women, a conflict which targets mothers inasmuch as the explicit issue is women’s reproductive health.   I see progress  threatened to be reversed by adversaries who are not  turbaned Talibans but misogynistic white collared Christian men trumpeting their  “family values”.

Historically  women’s only  significant advantage was first crack at the lifeboats.   We’ve slogged through a protracted uphill battle to achieve parity with men and recently, bewilderingly, we’re sliding back down that slippery slope as birth control is being challenged.  Birth control being the hard fought linchpin of women’s progress having factored  opportunities  our grandmothers never, ever,  imagined.  When women had no control over their own bodies their  prospects were also beyond their control.  Now we see priapic men in high places proclaiming that Viagra deserves to be covered by health insurance but women’s birth control must regress to a bewildering  version  of Russian Roulette.

If family values are at stake  we must first appreciate that mothers are the backbone of every family.  As a species we are mammals receiving our first food from the bodies of our mothers. Whose survival depends on mother and  child being nourished and sheltered.  Lip service is given to motherhood as “the most important job a woman can have” and children as “the hope of the future” but  government  subsidies go elsewhere.

In this new assault on women it doesn’t help that the  feminist movement appears to have lost its mojo. For instance, in 1978, 100,000 women marched on Washington demanding equal rights.   Currently called “The Women’s Equality Amendment” it still hasn’t passed.  Also “feminism” egregiously overlooked  the protection of mothers working outside the home.  NOW has yet to address the embarrassment  that, according to  the National Geographic,  170 countries offer paid maternity leave and 98 of them offer at least 14 weeks off with pay. The United States is not one of them.  In fact we are one of only four countries with no mandated paid family leave placing us in the fashionable company of Papua New Guinea, Liberia and Swaziland.  How’s that for equality and “family values”?

Because you really can’t fool Mother Nature,  I’m not convinced that   leaders  of the feminist movement respected the gravitational pull of motherhood for most women.   Just look at the incredible lengths  women these days go to trying get pregnant.   Fertility specialists.  In vitro fertilization. Surrogates. Thousands of dollars spent to achieve what, ironically, most of their mothers tried to avoid.

It also seems the height of hypocrisy that “family values”  politicians  have the effrontery to come up with unlimited funds for  warfare   while  simultaneously trumpeting their commitment to the intrinsic value of  every human life.  Actually most of their positions are spectacularly incoherent inasmuch as they cut services to children and the poor while positing  themselves as “Christians”.  Makes you wonder how much they understand the compassionate nature of Jesus Christ.  Or better yet, have  figured out whose side He’d be on.

In the matter of faith, having been raised a Catholic, the niece of a  Jesuit,  I am particularly frustrated by the Church’s empirical disregard for women’s reproductive health.   Saddened  by a church that   traditionally treats women as second class citizens (even their own devoted nuns). The prescient Fr. Charles Curran claimed, “Many men in the Church are only comfortable with their mothers or with the Blessed Mother especially if she’s an unmoving statue with glass eyes and a marble body.” Amen!  And what celibate man could appreciate pregnancy and childbirth and the 24/7 care of a child?  I absolutely believe that if  bishops could get pregnant, objection to birth control  would go the way of meatless Friday.

And then there’s the  doctrinal  dilemma.  While  the Vatican also vociferously opposes  surrogate mothering is it concomitantly grateful that there was no such decree when Jesus was born?

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Notes – December 2011
BECAUSE I MISS ANDY ROONEY WHO SAID IT BETTETR THAN I EVER COULD

60 Minutes Correspondent Andy Rooney (CBS)

Women over 50!

As I grow in age, I value women over 50 most of all. Here are just a few reasons why:

A woman over 50 will never wake you in the middle of the night & ask, 'What are you thinking?' She doesn't care what you think.

If a woman over 50 doesn't want to watch the game, she doesn't sit around whining about it. She goes and does something, she wants to do, & it's usually more interesting.

Women over 50 are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won't hesitate to shoot you, if they think they can get away with it.

Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it's like to be unappreciated.

Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to a woman over 50.

Once you get past a wrinkle or two, a woman over 50 is far sexier than her younger counterpart.

Older women are forthright and honest.. They'll tell you right off if you are a jerk or if you are acting like one. You don't ever have to wonder where you stand with her.

Yes, we praise women over 50 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it's not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed, hot woman over 50, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year old waitress. Ladies, I apologize.

For all those men who say, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” Here's an update for you. Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage. Why? Because women realize it's not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Andy Rooney is a really smart guy!

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Notes – November 2011

OLIGARCHY, AMERICAN STYLE

Many readers have emailed me about the anti-Wall Street protestors here in New York.  Several suggested they should   “get a job”.  Think about it . . . that’s what the protests are about . . . there are no jobs. That’s why it’s  being supported by trade unions, teachers, social workers . . . no one is looking for a handout. They want to work. Jobs are the compelling problem and  painful housing issues . . . people who can’t sell their homes, or have them foreclosed.  But  mostly the protest is about the inequality in a great country where the rich are getting richer and the poor getting more poor. The stock market is booming but that rising tide is not lifting all boats.

I am with them because I have twelve grandchildren and want a better future for them than I see on the horizon.  I don’t own any stocks but I know when something is unfair. The situation  that bothers me right now began with the ethos of Wall Street but is about Main Street.  It involves my local newspaper . . . a business I do understand.  We once had a local paper that kept us informed of the goings-on in our community.  What the Village Board was up to, what new parking fees were being considered . . . information important to our lives.  Their office was in the center of our village.  Then it was bought by the Gannett chain and moved out to the highway.  Then it moved across the river into another county.  On the way it made cutbacks and  jettisoned most of its reporters resulting in minimal local news.  An inconvenience for our community and a blow for a democratic process depending on an informed citizenry.  Advertizing rates became prohibitive for local business. Another blow to our economy but Gannett insisted that the financial situation of newspapers demanded cut backs.

This week’s NY Times reports that Gannett’s Chief Executive, Craig Dubow,  resigned. In the six years he ran the company the stocks fell from $75 a share to $10 a share and 20,000 employees were fired.  So why was he  rewarded  with a $37 million package on top of the $16 million he’s received in the past two years? To quote the Times media reporter David Carr, “Forget about occupying Wall Street: maybe it’s time to start occupying Main Street, a place Gannett has bled dry by offering less and less news while dumping and furloughing journalists in seemingly every quarter.”

All last year  we heard about the deficit and the budget, huge problems but not the ones most Americans have the luxury of worrying about.  The protestors, in casting an eye on economic inequality, shouted a message that resonated with millions of people  all over the world who picked up banners and marched. The media took notice and suddenly they stopped focusing on the deficit and began  reporting the hard fact that the top 10% of American earners share 25% of all income.  An elite few, the top .01%, snags 5% of all U.S. income. This unconscionable inequity  being the result of the incestuous liaison between elected officials and financial powers who  use their  lobbyists to engage in legalized bribery.  Oligarchy is a form of government in which power is vested in a few and was once the provenance of Latin American dictatorships. Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman gave this brilliant assessment. “Inequality is back in the news, largely thanks to Occupy Wall Street.” And  concluded we now have such a society where money is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people and in which that concentration of  wealth threatens to make America  a democracy in name only.

That ends my rant.  Because I was travelling this posting is late which allowed me to include two recent events and, at least, end on an up note.

Sadly Andy Rooney died yesterday leaving behind two terrific comments. He observed that “there are more beauty parlors than there are beauties” and that “if dogs could talk, it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one.”

Not so sadly Kim Kardashian announced that she was getting a divorce after 72 days of marriage.  Which prompted one of my granddaughters, headed for Manhattan, to wonder if she bought something in the highly touted Kardashian boutique, DASH, would they now offer a 72 day return policy.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

 

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NOTES – OCTOBER 2011

New York Times – September 26, 2011

“Boston – Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law new limits on alimony in Massachusetts. It sets limits, based on the length of a marriage.  A marriage of five years or less that ends in divorce could require alimony payments for up to half the length of the marriage.  Those lasting between 15 and 20 years could require payments for up to 80% (of the number of years) of the marriage. He is making a series of changes to a system that critics consider outdated.”

Now this is a good beginning but fails to address the issue of stay-at-home mothers who have left the work force to raise their children.  And the problems of older wives ditched by long-time husbands.  I courteously  propose a more evenhanded arrangement which I have sent to Gov. Patrick for his consideration.

Dear Governor Patrick,

While I applaud your efforts to make divorce more equitable there are several issues that demand further attention.  My thinking, backed by almost 8 decades of experience,  suggests that in childless marriages, just divide the assets. In decades-long marriages with children the working wife gets 3% of her husband’s income for every year difference between her age and the age of the woman he leaves her for.  The stay-at-home wife with no means of support, gets 5% meaning a  ten year age difference will cost her ex 50% of his income. A twenty year differential wipes him out completely. Forget marriage counselors . . . couples will be kept together by their accountants.  How many younger women would want these old guys if they came burdened with sexually transmitted debt?  

And these husbands would be better off in the long run. Trust me, Governor, those about- to- stray men will thank you in the end. Spared the humiliation of hair plugs, the Nordic Track and Viagra prescriptions, they will, eventually, become your most fervent supporters. Because they will come to understand that younger wives of older men can mean trouble. 

I offer, as example, the sad tale of Dennis Kozlowski, CEO of Tyco Corp., who divorced his first wife to marry a younger woman. He threw his new honey  a birthday party in Sardinia featuring Michelangelo’s David carved in ice with vodka spewing out of his penis which cost 2 million dollars. He bought her an extravagant NY apartment featuring a $6000 shower curtain.  Trouble was the money didn’t come from his pocket. It belonged to Tyco. And when his lavish life-style came to the attention of its Board of Directors an indictment was followed by a jail sentence. Having once made $170 million in a year he now makes $1 a day mopping floors in prison. Governor, you will not be surprised to learn that the second wife divorced him requesting alimony. And he was left with more than a few regrets.

Truth is when you see a high-profile business man or politician indicted, the newspaper picture rarely shows a matronly lady by his side. His arm candy, who undoubtedly caused this tribulation, will be a sleek high-maintenance trophy wife.  And I mean sleek. One of my friend’s  husband left with a young woman who looked like a stick figure (my Irish grandmother would have said, “There’s more meat on a butcher’s apron).” These poor suckers should also have taken into account  the inevitable Donald Trump Syndrome.  “A man who marries his mistress creates a job opening.”

Governor you’re on the right track.  Carry on!

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NOTES - SEPTEMBER 2011
How I Spent My Summer Vacation

three

two

one

Even thought I've just lived through an earth quake and Hurriane Irene, the pictures show the high point of my summer. Not because at age 78 I got to fly 500 feet up in the air above the Atlantic Ocean but because I got to share an unforgettable adventure with my family. Since, unless you are a public figure, in the end your legacy lies in the  memories left with your children and grandchildren. I choose not to have them remember me when they see a dog drooling or sniff OPS. (old people smell). In fact they have been urged to let me know when chin hairs sprout or breath is foul, recognizing that the only absolute rule of old age is Never Decline a Breath Mint.

My sons beach house is on the path to the ocean. I sit on the wide porch for hours every day and the youngsters going by on their skate boards and bicycles wave and call out GRANDMA HEKKER. If the Queen of England granted me the title Duchess it could give me the joy I get from "Grandma". I begin every morning on that porch reading the New York Times and am assaulted by bad news. Terrible problems. Daunting obstacles.  But I remain serene because I am surrounded by youngsters who will be more than up to the challenges the future presents. The young people at my part of the Jersey shore are nothing NOTHING like the reality television Jersey Shore misfits. And I bet that no one reading this knows any young people like the ones viewed on reality tv. Or any housewives like them either. Our children are the hope for the future. The future is in good hands.

All my life I have looked forward to summer.  To not going to school.  To not having to get up early and send children to school.  To going to the beach.  Now summers are even more precious since I don't have that many left.  Happily I can still swim in the ocean although if the waves are rough I get help going in. For many years past I held the hands of small granddaughters helping them into the surf and now theyre helping me.  The only thing that remains the same is the amount of material in their bathing suits.

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NOTES – AUGUST 2011
MORE RULES THAT DON’T WORK

Last month when I wrote about lies you’re told and truths no one tells you, I received terrific emails back from friends sharing their favorites.  The one that came up repeatedly was the old marital chestnut DON’T EVER GO TO BED ANGRY.  There is universal estimation that this axiom  doesn’t work at all. Which brings me to the following,  an excerpt from an article I  researched and wrote on this subject almost three decades ago for McCalls magazine. Which,  I am assured,  still resonates with married couples.

“When pressured not to go to bed angry you force yourself to contrive a reconciliation with that insensitive oaf/cow just because it’s bedtime. Then you’ll be awake all night, gnawed at by repressed rage and plotting revenge.  Whereas if you go to bed furious you are lulled to sleep by the certain knowledge that your warming self-pity is justified inasmuch as you are truly the most undervalued wife/unappreciated husband.

The wily experts who gave you  that goody two-shoes rule should have instead let you in on the more effective  well established “Rubrics of Marital Fighting”. So you’re forced to discover them through trial and error, wasting valuable time. Actually these definitive regulations are quite elementary if you just keep in mind that all other rules of conduct between adversaries are simply reversed.

Unlike the guidelines established by the Marquis of Queensberry, in marital  fights you must, verbally,   aim to hit below the belt.  Unlike legal disputes, there is no statute of limitations…no previous infraction is too far back in time to be dredged up and rehashed.  Unlike the Geneva Conventions there is no safe zone marked by a red cross . . . marital fights are no-holds-barred. But not free- for- alls.  Indeed they are as stylized as a Kabuki dance.  And all battles end in a draw.  There is no recorded instance where a husband or wife was declared a winner (or admitted being a loser).

Marital wars are generally fought along much the same lines as traditional warfare. Weapons are only and always words  which can be flung out or simply aimed softly depending on the combat conditions.  The only inhumane weapon that should be outlawed by international convention is silence.    

As Phyllis McGinley wrote:

“Sticks and stones can hurt your bones
Aimed with angry art
Words can sting like anything                                                                                                       
But silence breaks the heart”

Now to the  pageantry.  However distasteful, most seasoned couples can dispense with preliminary sparring and proceed promptly to the main event because each partner has recognized that one phrase guaranteed to set the other one off.  They are able to push each other’s buttons having personally installed them.

 Common phrases are androgynous and can be used by either partner with equal effectiveness although “nag” is customarily applied to the female and “needle” to the male. But most are unisex phrases like, “You never . . . ”, “You always . . . ”, “Your mother . . . ” And  that old standby, “Once, just once can’t you admit you’re wrong”.

The initial skirmish may be different each time  but once the  battle lines are drawn the war is fought with conventional weapons and predictable tactics until both parties can’t remember how it started.  At his point peace overtures are commenced and these are ritualistic and often couched in the interrogative: “Can I get you a drink?”  “Did you notice I took out the garbage?” Or simply “How about it honey?”

 Aunt Lizzie who’d been married more than fifty years told me, “I always told him his faults and he told me mine but we certainly never paid any attention to each other”. My own parents could fight like Kilkenny cats but when things were calm again Mama would voice the feeling every woman ever married to a man has known. “I’m  glad I didn’t murder him yesterday”.

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NOTES – JULY 2011
NO ONE TELLS YOU THE TRUTH

Have you ever noticed how many things no one ever tells you?   Universal truths exist but for some reason, in accordance with some unwritten law, you have to find them out  for yourself. And then when you finally do figure it out you’re expected to keep it to yourself.

Then there are  the  lies we were told as children. “Good things come in small packages.” Small things come in small packages. “It hurts me more than it hurts you.” No Way! “The best things in life are free.” But the tragic things like sickness and death cost a bundle. “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”  Actually a friend in need is a pain in the ass.

My current concerns are the  myths about old age which I approached  more rapidly than I’d expected. Having been warned that when you’re over the hill you learn to coast,  I felt fully prepared to slow down a bit but no one told me that after seventy short years the warranty on my parts would run out.  That past my sell-by-date my pipes would clog and I’d need all new washers.  That eyes and ears would become inept, gums less gummy and teeth wobbly.  That a waist that heretofore had only stretched horizontally would begin inching upward vertically like a badly tuned TV picture, threatening a rather nasty collision with a simultaneously falling bust. And that knees would commence to malfunction, working well enough to lower me down but failing dismally to boost me back up again.

Worse yet the old age I was assured would make me more mellow has not worked out.  In fact it has further diminished my chronically weak resolve to set a good example. I blurt out truths because whatever filter used to keep me politically correct has also degraded.  Opinions best kept to myself are now shared with anyone within earshot. Discretion has evaporated altogether and worst of all, I (who actually knew  the identity of Deep Throat) blab ceaselessly about the most confidential information. I’m becoming like my friend Doris who claimed “C’mon tell me.  You know I can keep a secret.  It’s just those loudmouths I tell it to that can’t.”

On the plus side  feel free to confide in me because the odds are that within hours I’ll forget altogether.  Come to think of it maybe I was forewarned about old age but can’t remember. And with my Irish heritage I’m probably doomed to forget everything but the grudges. 

Notwithstanding all these complaints, I am thoroughly enjoying old age and  I have directed that the epitaph on my tombstone should be SHE DIDN’T WANT TO GO.

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NOTES  -  JUNE 2011
SEX AND POWERFUL MEN

I had planned to write this month about my love affair with Medicare, offering a pox on those who would tamper with it. But events involving sexual misconduct have over-ridden that proposal  because so many deserted wives  emailed me about Arnold Schwarzenegger, most of them claiming that his betrayal  trumped even theirs.  A fling with a hooker is one thing, an affair with a secretary is yet another but ongoing sex with someone in your own household hits a new high . . . or low.  And a child with that woman, a secret that continued for more than a decade…that sent infidelity soaring to a whole new level. In terms of  degrees of betrayal  Arnold, to use a carnival weight-lifters metaphor,  swung his hammer and hit the bell.

Then we heard about the French banker, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund for heaven’s sake,  who  sexually assaulted an innocent hotel maid because, according to the brilliant Maureen Dowd, he couldn’t tell the difference between “ a can-can and a can’t- can’t.”  Triggering, back  in France, an avalanche of aggrieved women coming  forward to chronicle their sordid experiences with rapacious supervisors.

Although men across every social strata commit adultery, the current glut of rich and powerful men as sexual predators has brought fresh attention to the social and moral issue of  seduction and morality.  Success may produce serial philanderers but their arrogance often precedes power, not the other way around. Psychiatry professor Samuel Barondes explains, “If the person has this sense of superiority . . . he begins to think that the risk-reward ratio that applies to everyone else doesn’t apply to him because he’s so special.”

These guys  share the unique advantage  of having money and opportunity denied less affluent fellows.  Usually  they have “staff” to arrange their sleazy liaisons . . . think Tiger,  John Edwards, Governors  Spitzer and Stanford,  Italy’s tawdry Berlusconi . . . it’s such a long list.  Their   support systems frequently makes them  sloppy about covering their tracks what with their hubris and sense of entitlement. But basically high profile wealthy men have no unique predisposition to sexual misadventures. They just generate more attention from the media and paparazzi.

Political sexual scandals are hardly new. Thomas Jefferson had children by his slave and Franklin Roosevelt managed liaisons with his mistress from a wheelchair.  But my absolute favorite paradigm happened back in the 70’s and involved Congressman Wilbur Mills (D. Arkansas) who was 74 and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. A pious family man and  tough taskmaster he had made an issue of forbidding the elevator operators in the Capital from having  little pull-down seats claiming that their duty, given the prominence of their passengers, called for them to stand up. All  day.

Then on October 9, 1974, at 2am, he was pulled out of the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial, where he’d jumped in after his companion Fannie Fox, a stripper billed as the Argentine Firecracker. He was “drunk as a skunk” and  the Washington Post proclaimed he’d “set the gold standard for dumb-ass behavior by an Old Guy.”

Now the former California Governor has not only managed to deceive and hoodwink  his wife but he pulled off another impressive trick.  He succeeded in making old Wilbur look like a pillar of rectitude.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES  -  MEMORIAL DAY 2011

Page 4   - Kabul:
. . . a NATO airstrike killed 14 civilians, most of them women and children (it was accompanied by a photo of an Afghan man holding the bodies of two children).

Page 5  - AFGHAN BANK COMMISSION ABSOLVES PRESIDENT’S BROTHER IN FRAUD CASE
“A commission appointed by President Hamid Kazai to assess responsibility for the massive fraud at Kabul Bank issued its report absolving the President’s brother of any blame. The brother, Mahmoud Karzai was among the bank’s politically connected shareholders and insiders who took out a total of $925 million in loans, often with no collateral. Only $347 million of that amount is so far expected to be repaid.”

Further down page 5  - NAMES OF THE AMERICANS DEAD IN THE AFGHAN WAR
Thomas Bohall, 25
John Runkle, 27
Christopher Thibodeau, 28
Louie Velazquez, 39
Adam Patton, 21
John Runkle, 27
Joseph Hamski, 28
John Johnson, 28
Edward Mills, 29
Ergin Osman, 35
How better to honor these brave Americans on Memorial Day than to pledge that this atrocious and absurd war will end quickly.

FYI: The Department of Defense has identified 1,581 American service members who have died as part of the Afghan War and The Congressional Research Service reports that the Afghan War has cost $557 billion.

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NOTES FEBRUARY 2011 - REAL LIFE AMONG THE REALLY OLD

The brilliant Susan Jacoby writes about approaching old age from the perspective of her 65 years and her view is quite gloomy. She expects old age to be “an unremitting struggle” but it doesn’t have to be. So let me offer a little hope to someone who I consider young.

I was born during the Hoover administration so my view of age is as one living it rather than contemplating it. And I am enjoying old age. I see no value in age-defying products and never wished to be forever young because each year brought me new challenges and rewards. I haven’t lived right by society’s standards. Like I have acquired what Alexander McCall Smith refers to as “a traditional build”.  I don’t look my age because I actually look older which serves to alarm me when well-meaning strangers rush to help me across the street. I don’t exercise because living in a third floor walk-up is enough of a challenge. I don’t color my white hair because I’m grateful to still have hair. The trick with advancing age is acceptance. And gratitude that you made it when so many marvelous people die young. If you see  life as a lottery, living to an old age makes you a winner. Growing old is a great blessing and it baffles me that advanced age could be viewed as a burden. Serenity should not be confused with surrender.  

It is liberating that no one expects much of you. You can throw away the alarm clock because there is no place you really have to be. There is time to visit your few remaining friends (half of the names in my address book have already been crossed out). You understand what Noel Coward meant when he claimed all he asked of his friends was that they live through lunch.

There are downsides. Your body begins sprouting little knobs (think old potato) and your skin has moved from silky to seersucker. While it has become politically correct to make fun of the elderly no one sees the absurdity more than the elderly themselves. We talk about senior moments but in fact our heads are like an old computer . . . the information is there but it takes time to bring it up. The limitations of age force us to adapt and alter the ways we conduct our lives and these are not without absurdity. In England it is common for seniors to be referred to as Twirlees because whatever the event they are “ too early’.

If you’ve been lucky enough to have children, it’s harvest time. Dessert time in the banquet of life. My five children are  grown up and my twelve grandchildren are exceptional. At a time when your days can be plagued by loses (your friends, your teeth, your marbles) grandchildren bring enthusiasm and excitement. And they rather expect me to speak my mind, teasing that I have one foot in the grave and the other in my mouth. My father claimed that the great bond between grandparents and grandchildren is that they shared a common enemy. But I have found that our mutual devotion to the children has bound our family into a strong, if lumpy, tapestry.

The amazing Alexander McCall Smith, wrote “The realization of our mortality comes slowly . . . until we bleakly acknowledge that everything was on loan for us for a short time . . . the world, our possessions, and the people we know and love.” Watching your friends leave the building is tough.

As a group we old folks are amazingly cheerful although there is that specter of humiliating illness and death which hangs over us. Which is why our country should embrace the right of the elderly to decide when they’ll “leave the building.” We’re not afraid of death . . . we’re afraid of being kept alive. This is a contentious issue and I recently had a discussion with a very religious friend who claims that time of death should be left to God. And only God. My response to her was it was God’s decision to give you an A cup bra size and a nose like a macaw so why did you mess with Him about those assessments.

Your senses are refined even if when you feel it in your bones it’s probably arthritis. And, alas, sex is marginal. My mother-in-law claimed that in her eighties she went to bed every night with three men. Arthur Itis, Ben Gay and Johnny Walker.

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NOTES – JANUARY 2011
AN ODE TO BOOKS
 
In  reading Pat Conroy’s MY READING LIFE I realized how significant an influence books have been in my own life. From Nancy Drew to Frank McCourt books have been friends. They informed, amused and enlightened me. But never  more than fifteen years ago when, after forty years together, my husband divorced me.  I  felt betrayed and humiliated. And alone.

Then by some miracle I came upon a few books which comforted and inspired me.  And miraculously made me laugh. Because I was not alone.  And oddly enough for someone who fancies herself a rather high-brow reader, back then when the wounds were raw, these books that turned my heart around were tasty murder mysteries which had become escape devices in my new empty-bedtime reading.

My personal favorite, Susan Isaacs, began her book AFTER ALL THESE YEARS, with. “After nearly a quarter of a century of marriage, Richie Meyers, my husband, told me to call him ‘Rick.  Then he started slicking back his hair (so) how come I was surprised when Richie told me he was leaving me for…Jessica.”

Sharyn McCrumb took as  the title of her mystery a phrase overheard from a  battered woman, IF I’D KILLED HIM WHEN I MET HIM I’D BE OUT OF JAIL BY NOW.  It’s the story of a dumped wife who snaps and murders her ex-husband and his bitch (Golden Retriever) of a new wife.  The unrepentant murderess suggests that middle-aged men get strange. “I think it’s testosterone poisoning.  Do you suppose anyone’s working on a cure?  We could organize a telethon…!  Poor Baldy is doomed to a life of bimbos and Nordic Track unless you help.”  Her rage fueled by the “cosmic double standard…the fact that men get more than one chance to live happily ever after.

In her witty novel, MURDERING MR. MONTE, the brilliant Judith Viorst describes a meeting of a group of wives in their fifties and sixties who’d been deserted by their husbands. “Urged by their counselors…to regard their new unattached status not as a loss but a chance to grow,” they call their support group “AFGO”…as in my husband walks out and gets a sexy new girlfriend and I get Another F**king Growth Opportunity.” That one rang a loud bell.  AFGO became my mantra.  It’s my license plate.  My grandchildren believe the F stands for fantastic.  And, as it turned out,  they’re absolutely right.

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NOTES – DECEMBER 2010
 
One of my friends who is also a dumped older wife sent  the superb email  below and it struck a note  since it humorously addresses  two of the most  serious subjects flooding current media.  They are the emerging data on  the institution of marriage and  equally disquieting information on  the growth of the internet and how it affects our thought processes.

On the subject of marriage, A NY Times column on its changing face  quotes  the National Marriage Project as charting the decline of the two-parent family.  A Pew Research study revealed that in 2010 only 26% of men and women in their 20’s are married, while in 1960 68% in that age range were married. And that 39% of Americans think that marriage is obsolete.

On the subject of the internet, a study called, ‘Will Google make us stupid’, shows that 76% of the individuals polled believe that by the year 2020, the use of the internet will increase the intelligence of the population and will have a profound impact on the way humans think. But visual stimulation and constant distractions on the internet may also physically alter the brain leading to a loss of short-term memory. A brain addicted to the internet does not use deep thinking and contemplation so that many people today using the internet  are living in reality and on the internet at the same time.

Here is a brilliant view of these two converging subjects.  Probably sexist  from the viewpoint of husbands but credible in its interpretation of wives.

 

Dear Tech Support:

Last year I upgraded from Girlfriend 7.0 to Wife 1.0. I soon noticed that the new program began unexpected child processing that took up a lot of space and valuable resources. In addition, Wife 1.0 installed itself into all other programs and now monitors all other system activity. Applications such as Poker Night 10.3, Football 5.0, Hunting and Fishing 7.5, and Racing 3.6.

I can't seem to keep Wife 1.0 in the background while attempting to run my favorite applications. I'm thinking about going back to Girlfriend 7.0, but the un-install doesn't work on Wife 1.0. Please help!

Thanks,
A Troubled User.

REPLY:
Dear Troubled User:

This is a very common problem that men complain about.

Many people upgrade from Girlfriend 7.0 to Wife 1.0, thinking that it is just a Utilities and Entertainment program. Wife 1.0 is an OPERATING SYSTEM and is designed by its Creator to run EVERYTHING!!! It is also impossible to delete Wife 1.0 and to return to Girlfriend 7.0. It is impossible to un-install, or purge the program files from the system once installed.

You cannot go back to Girlfriend 7.0 because Wife 1.0 is designed to not allow this. Look in your Wife 1.0 manual under Warnings-Alimony-Child Support. I recommend that you keep Wife1.0 and work on improving the situation. I suggest installing the background application "Yes Dear" to alleviate software augmentation.

The best course of action is to enter the command C:\APOLOGIZE because ultimately you will have to give the APOLOGIZE command before the system will return to normal anyway.

Wife 1.0 is a great program, but it tends to be very high maintenance. Wife 1.0 comes with several support programs, such as Clean and Sweep 3.0, Cook It 1.5 and Do Bills 4.2.
However, be very careful how you use these programs. Improper use will cause the system to launch the program Nag Nag 9.5. Once this happens, the only way to improve the performance of Wife 1.0 is to purchase additional software. I recommend Flowers 2.1 and Diamonds 5.0!

WARNING!!! DO NOT, under any circumstances, install Secretary With Short Skirt 3.3. This application is not supported by Wife 1.0 and will cause irreversible damage to the operating system.

Best of luck,
Tech Support

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NOTES – OCTOBER 2009

Two weeks ago I was asked to write a column for Expressen, Sweden’s biggest newspaper. They wanted me to comment on an article they’d run by Anna Aberg Anka who is featured on their popular television show SWEDISH HOLLYWOOD WIVES. An international extension of the dreadful American tv shows claiming to be about “Real Housewives.”

I confess to having issues with “Real Housewives”. Because I know housewives. In 1977 I wrote an article for the NY Times about the probability that I might end up the last American housewife … an endangered species. From what I’ve seen on television these women, whatever city they inhabit, are not real housewives. First, they hardly seem real. Even their breasts don’t seem authentic. And second the housewives in my world spend their days at home caring for their families. They are by definition “married women whose principal occupation is managing a household and taking care of domestic affairs.” “Women caring for a home and practicing thrift and economy.” Ha!

These so called “Real Housewives” are more accurately Real Social Climbers, Real Spendthrifts, Real Bitches. Let’s be honest. And they represent the worst unmerited clichés about women as being manipulative, back-biting, critical and profligate. The antithesis of the amazingly ordinary housewives I’ve been surrounded by … family, friends and neighbors … who’ve been encouraging, dependable and supportive, always putting their families first.

And now in Sweden there is a tv program which spun off our housewife shows, and celebrates Swedish women who have married affluent men in Hollywood. The aforementioned Anna, with astounding braggadocio, wrote that she aims to be a model for Swedish women, admonishing them not to settle for Swedish men when it is American husbands who know how to treat a wife, “buying expensive gifts.” She gloats that “If you employ someone in Sweden they have to have training and be qualified. In America the illegal Mexicans do the job … The list of people working for me is long … I can barely keep track of all those on my payroll.”

Who is this paragon of housewifery? She is a former model who is now the trophy wife of the singer-songwriter Paul Anka. His first wife of 39 years, was the mother of his five children. Sounds familiar! She trumpets the glories of an older husband and her glamorous life and urges Swedish women to follow her lead.

It gets worse. Many Swedish women, having read my response, emailed me about their rage not only at her put-down of them but of how sympathetically she has been treated in their country. One woman wrote, “I sent an angry email to the political secretary of the Swedish Christian Democratic Party who welcomed Anna Anka and her views into the Party … We really don’t need people like Anna Anka telling us to keep the men pleased at all times and that women are only made to be there for men. We have worked long enough to make people see that you are not worth more as a person just because you are born with a penis.”

Expressen was deluged with similar angry comments on Mrs. Anka’s diatribe and most were disturbed by the prevalence of older men ditching their wives for younger women. A well-documented and accepted phenomenon in America.

When will it end? I used to admire John Edwards and now he’s one of the worst. It seems that in an effort to keep his mistress from tarnishing his political image, he calmed the anxious Ms. Hunter (aptly named woman don’t you think?) by promising her that after his wife died, (oh God he actually said that?) he would marry her in a rooftop ceremony in New York with an appearance by the Dave Matthew’s band.” Do you think it was the band that nailed it for her? What an admirable value system. She’s dreadful and he’s a creep. A match not made in heaven.

I would tell Ms.Hunter what I told Mrs. Anka. Be aware of The Silver Rule … that a man who marries his mistress creates a job opening.

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NOTES – September 15, 2008

Dear Senator McCain,

Your selection of Sarah Palin was inspired and the excitement around her meteoric rise has been astonishing. She certainly is the Edmund Hillary of political climbers. But it’s beginning to look like she may not be able to stay-the-course with all this egregious media attention. And just in case she drops out I humbly offer myself as an instant replacement. I want to get my resume into you now knowing how swiftly you like to make decisions. Frankly I envy you that because I tend to over-think things. It took me longer to pick out wallpaper for my bathroom than it took you to select this astonishing candidate.

I respect your criteria for a running mate and only presume to pitch for the job because I have the same critical credentials as Ms. Palin. I am a mother of five (and grandmother of twelve) and my sons all played hockey (albeit most recently in the “Fifty and Over League”). And I was the three term mayor of a community about the size of Wasilla. Amazing isn’t it?

And as your running mate I have a big advantage over Ms. Palin in that standing next to her makes you look dowdy and, let’s face it, old. Since I am seventy-five and a plus size woman, standing next to me you will not only appear younger but more fit. Perception matters! And keep in mind the press will have to be gentle with me since to do otherwise would make them appear not only sexist but ageist.

To my credit, unlike Ms. Palin I do know the duties of a vice-president and here again I have her beat. Breaking a tie in a vote is child’s play for a Mother of four sons (and sister of four brothers). But where I really shine is the funeral-attending piece. Being Irish I am a funeral mavin. No one knows funerals like the Irish. Although I’m not as good as my Aunt Bridee who could scan the room in the funeral parlor and calculate the cost of the coffin and flowers. To the penny. (Grandma O’Donohue said she had “the gift!”) Also I won’t be dipping into the petty cash for appropriate attire since I have already amassed black outfits (with matching support hose) for every season.

I must confess to being “a community activist” (Chamber of Commerce, Library Board, Hospital Board, Rotary etc. etc) and hope you won’t hold this against me. Especially since, like you, to get this nifty job I am willing to accept the unwritten dictum of conservative government that initiative and innovation are essentially subversive.

I am a registered Independent but would have no problem switching to Republican since I understand the Vice Presidency comes with a swell house and my poor old knees are getting worn out climbing to my third floor walk up flat. Yet another plus, I have a passport which shows I’ve visited Europe, Africa and China albeit with cheap senior tours but I can certainly claim a better sense of the larger world than Ms. Palin. Although I haven’t seen Russia from afar so she’s got me there.

Born and raised in Brooklyn I’ve never handled a gun and I’ll have to stretch it a bit to match Ms. Palin’s ability to field dress a moose. I can only proffer that I am celebrated for my turkey dressing which has stuffed six thirty-pound birds at each of the Thanksgiving dinners I’ve been preparing for my 80+ relatives for the last twenty-five years. That’s 4500 pounds of turkey to balance against several mooses. As I said it’s a stretch but we politicians have to do that sometimes.

I presently hold the title MIT (Matriarch in Training) of my large Irish family so my family values are unquestioned. Although in the interest of full disclosure your vetting guys may come across a scurrilous family legend about my pot roast killing Grandpa. I cannot begin to dredge up the apotheosis Ms.Palin has achieved but I believe I could be a splendid replacement should she choose to withdraw to Alaska.

And finally, there is one more gigantic plus for me. Since unlike Ms. Palin I am totally devoid of political ambition you won’t have to hire that taster.

Hoping to hear from you soon,

Terry Martin Hekker

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NOTES – June '07
I Went to a Marvelous Party

 

 

In The New York Post on May 24th Liz Smith wrote "NATHAN LANE proves again what a master he is of every word and nuance. His remarks before giving the National Corporate Theatre Fund award to the legend Elaine Stritch were a life-saver for the Tavern on the Green evening at which regional theaters were saluted. Nathan brought things up to super pro par, saying he is a "Stritchoholic" and adding, "Al Gore has also told me she is indirectly responsible for global warming, because wherever she goes, things tend to heat up!" His story of Stritch waltzing into theaters without paying, and only "Mamma Mia!" saying no to her, was priceless."

I was at that party at Tavern on the Green, one of the most beautiful restaurants in the world and better yet I was at the “family” table of the honoree, my old pal Elaine Stritch (who gave me the title “Disregard First Book"). And it was some table. The picture above is of (right to left) Shelia Nevins, the president of HBO Documentary who as Executive Producer has collected over 80 Emmys and 17 Oscars. She produced the documentary about Elaine that won both of them Emmy Awards two years ago. Next is the adorable Nathan Lane, then me, next the columnist Liz Smith and then the gorgeous Arlene Dahl. Not in the picture was Olympia Dukakis who was one of the presenters as was David Hyde Pierce.

It was one of the great nights of my long life and when I thought about it later what struck me was that at seventy-four I was one of the youngest women there. Shelia is much younger but Elaine Stritch, the toast of the town, is 82, Liz Smith shares her birthday but is a year older, Arlene is in her seventies as is Olympia. All of these great looking women are energetic, active and excited about plans for future projects. Arlene who is as bright and kind as she is beautiful has a motto, "Love life and life will love you back." And all of these women appear to buy into that as evidenced by the positive and joyful way they approach their work.

I keep a picture on my dresser of myself as a four year old with my grandparents and Grandma is every bit the “little old lady” but when I did the math she had to have been in her early fifties. Perhaps eighty is the new sixty and we who are on the far side of seventy can take heart. Gypsy Rose Lee may have said “I have everything now that I had twenty years ago except now it’s lower.” But more encouraging is a quote from my treasured friend Helen Hayes who claimed “The hardest years in life are those between ten and seventy.” She felt after seventy you had nothing left to prove, no one left to astonish. That age offered great compensations.

These compensations of getting older were put best by the brilliant Judith Viorst who wrote:

“We aren’t as self-centered as we used to be

We’re not as self-pitying – or as just plain dumb

We aren’t as uncertain as we used to be

We’ve learned to tell the real from the tinsel and fluff

We aren’t as compliant as we used to be

We choose our own oughts and musts and got-to’s and shoulds

We aren’t as judgmental as we used to be

We are quicker to laugh and not as eager to blame

There’s time left in this game

We’re deep in the woods yet we find

(Along with the inability to eat a pepperoni pizza at bedtime)

A few compensations"

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