The Bladder Does not Hold

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I am 64 years old.  I am not exactly certain what that means.

Medicare–Part A, what to do about Part B?  Part D?  If I do nothing about the parts, what happens then?

I have received a medicare card, though it is only a slightly-larger-than-business-card sized piece of paper. Much like my original social security card, which I have not seen in nearly 40 years.   I had expected something sturdy, shiny, like my Sally Beauty Supply card.

Will being of age to have a Medicare card mean that I get to be treated like I am a child:  in a louder-than-usual voice, will someone ask, sighing, as if preparing for a protracted battle, “Ma’am, do you have your Medicare card?”  While I have not been thus queried (not until November), I have witnessed the querying.

Given that we become the way we are treated (well, sometimes), I am on guard against becoming the woman who spends 10 minutes rifling though her purse, all the time talking to no one in particular, “I know I had it in here.  It’s in here.  I never take it out.”   (Never mind.  That’s me rummaging for my cell phone, debit card, jump drive, mirror, nail file, keys, tweezer–but not usually as a line forms behind me).  At any rate, I refuse to become a codger, a coot, a fuddy-duddy.  A character I don’t mind, as in “Girl, you are a character.”

My Medicare card, however, will validate me.  Often when I checkout at a commercial establishment,  I inquire, “Senior discount?” Sometimes I get the suck-teeth, “thhhht”, sometimes a raised eyebrow, and the occasional, “You don’t look that old.”   I offer to show my driver’s license.  It is always refused as in “Oh no, it’s not necessary” followed by a barely audible, “You just don’t look that old.”

“Sixty-four,” I offer proudly.  Just to hear “Really?! You don’t look that old.”  But the bladder reminds me that I am.  I remain poised.

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Mona Lisa Smile

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This story was related to me by my daughter (I’ll call her “What’s That You Say,” WTYS for short, pronounced “wits;” the “y” is silent.) over dinner at the Cheesecake Factory on November 19, 2007:

A fellow musician complains on the regular–about the venue, the stage space, the lighting.  Earlier in the day, the salon orchestra of which WTYS is a member, had performed a benefit at a small, partially renovated theater in a riverside town near a small city known for its civil war battlefield and antebellum houses.  This town, like many Southern tank towns, has not even a glint of its grandeur, much of which it lost “when integration came.”  What it does have are several unused elegant, architecturally imposing buildings.

In this case, the town is revitalizing a once-grand theater and ballroom.  What was once a racially segregated “centerpiece” movie theater is being re-purposed as a performing arts theatre for all citizens’ use.  There being a mega-complex of movie theaters located at a mall within thirty minutes of the town, it would not make sense to compete.  Hence, performing arts theatre, not movie theater.

The musician was upset that a fellow player’s instrument impeded, though did not prevent, his entering and exiting the stage by the route he chose.  Reports WTYS, he could have stepped gingerly around the instrument.  And, she says, he seemed purposely to kick it both times he passed it.

WTYS observed him during intermission gesturing wildly, glancing towards the stage as he spoke animatedly to his wife who offered comfort by gently stroking his back and shoulder in an oh-it’s-all right-let-it-go manner.  As she stroked, she smiled.

“She has one of those smiles,” WTYS notes, “that could be concealing anything.  She probably went home and beat him.”

The Devil Made Me Do It

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One day last November as I stood in the checkout line at TJ Maxx, I realized that I did not have my wallet, hence no debit card and no driver’s license. In line behind me was a woman (I’ll call her Forty-something) whom I know and with whom I had been exchanging small talk and to whom I had murmured, “I don’t think I have my wallet.”

As I fumbled through my purse, searching for enough cash with which to complete my transaction, she leaned over my shoulder and with suck-teeth “thtt” declared, “Chile, that’s nothin’ but the devil. ‘Cause Jesus wouldn’t let you do anything like that.”

There’s this slow turn I do when I am certain my brain has not fully processed what my ears have heard. I did my turn towards her, my eyes squinted, head tilted slightly downwards to the right, brows raised, lips pursed. “I beg your pardon?”

“Devil got me too yesterday. I took my mama to a morning appointment, but the person she was supposed to see had an emergency, so I had to turn around and take her back in the afternoon. I had asked for the morning off from work, but I had to call in and ask for the rest of the day, so you know they got a’ attitude. The devil, chile.” All this spoken in a singsong rush of words.

To my mind, no universal force had conspired against me. In the blur that is sometimes my day, I had hurriedly switched my belongings from a larger purse to a smaller one and had not taken care to check the zippered pocket which contained my debit card and license.

Nor, I suspect, was Forty-something, who assigned a series of happenstance events to some disembodied consciousness, the victim of satanic forces. I’m thinking: things just didn’t work out the way you wanted them to. Poor planning perhaps?  It is what it is.

Later that day, I related the story to my daughter (I’ll call her What’s That You Say, WTYS for short–pronounced “wits;” the “y” is silent). I check in with WTYS when I need to know whether or not I have lost my mind. In this case, I found the devil blameless. The focus of our conversation? The new cultural phenomenon, blaming the devil.

Here’s what I’m saying: when I was a child, I both knew and understood the rules of our home, of school, of church, and of community. I knew and understood that if I disobeyed the rules, I would be held responsible and I could expect swift and certain consequences for my actions. My parents never blamed the devil for anything I did. I was held accountable.

So, recently, when I read of the Bynum-Weeks debacle, and that Mr. Weeks allegedly told his parishioners, in so many words, that the devil took control of his fists, tongue, and feet, I knew he had not been reared by my parents. And what were the alleged tears for? His fear of God? But I digress. Or maybe not.

Perhaps my point is this: in our zeal to be individual and free, we have either forgotten, abandoned or never understood (1) that we have a personal responsibility for our own actions and for the well-being of fellow humans; (2) that adherence to a moral structure enables us to find meaning in our lives, to discover our raison d’etre; and (3) that spiritually, life is a journey of learning and change, joy and pain, as we discover the highest level of humanity a human can attain in a lifetime. The devil is not in that.