Seniors: Sign Up for SilverSneakers!

Recently I received a pamphlet from my insurance company with specials on fitness opportunities, including SilverSneakers, a free fitness program for all seniors, offered through Medicare. I had heard about this program and was eager to take advantage of it.

I have a membership at my local YMCA where I participate in an aquacize class twice a week. This swim class seems to address my health issues more effectively than other forms of exercise. SilverSneakers partners with the Y and pays the Y membership fee with no additional charge to me. (Not all Y’s partner with SilverSneakers but many private gyms do.) The program is available to those who are 65 or older, throughout the U.S. A member can enroll in as many activities as his/her stamina will permit.

A woman I met, Pat, used to walk with two canes due to a chronic back problem that kept her bedridden for several years. After receiving medical treatment, she’s working on her therapy at the Y, thanks to SilverSneakers. She can walk straight and swim laps.

The Affordable Care Act narrowly escaped disembowelment, but there’s still uncertainty regarding the future of health care in this country. It is incumbent upon all of us to insist that forthcoming health delivery provides fitness programs, free of charge or at a manageable fee. SilverSneakers ensures that seniors can improve their strength and agility and minimize the possibility of having a reoccurrence of a disability.

 

 

 

 

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FEMMES of the FIFTIES

My friend, Janice Kaplan Carno is no stranger; I’ve introduced her to you before. One of her daughters was sorting through boxes of photographs and forwarded this picture of five beauties of the fifties. 

Although I don’t remember posing for this picture, I realize that it’s a few members of our house plan, taken during our sophomore or junior year at Hunter College, N.Y.C. The varieties of house plans were looser alternatives to sororities, organized for socialization. As members of a house plan we received invitations to events throughout the city and surrounding areas. Janie had invited me to join the house plan that she founded. In the picture, Janie is the cute one on the far left and I am standing next to her. I recognize one other woman in the photo. I’m second from the left, next to Janie.

I can’t imagine that we posed for a photo where we were all smoking. I guess we thought we looked so “sharp” and sophisticated, imitating movie stars smoking in the films. We didn’t realize that showing smoking on the screen were advertisements for the tobacco industry. It’s really amazing that pictures produced today tell a story without having the characters smoke. I smoked a pack of cigarettes a week, in the company of others and never while eating. I remember casually mentioning to my mother that all of my friends were smoking. She said that if I felt better smoking I shouldn’t spend money on cigarettes and gave me a pack from the carton that my father kept on hand. When I went on dates, it was assumed a date would buy you a pack of cigarettes. Things have changed.

We can laugh at the smoking, but the photo is a priceless memento, reminding me not only of our college years, but also of the enduring friendship that Janie’s family and my family share.

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Faces in the Trees

When I sit at my kitchen table I witness an amazing panorama of trees through the picture window. I have the impression that most of the trees are in close proximity, although this is not so. Yet the branches of each tree appear to be reaching out to others and create the feeling of a puppet show or possibly a type of mating dance. I observe numerous figures in this mosaic, but when I turn my head the images are gone.

The wind and the sun affect how the patterns are created. The markings on the trees such as lichen and scars left by lost branches contribute to the plethora of designs as well. The woods in the background and even the small amount of visible space between the trees add to the magic.

When the wind is blowing the feathery boughs of the hemlocks look like alligators, with open saw tooth jaws. On the old gnarled maple, I observed the head of a man with long hair, wearing headgear suggesting a medieval helmet. His features were amazingly clear. One image that wasn’t so fleeting was that of a deer perched on the branches, dining on leaves of another tree. Hmm! Maybe that wasn’t a vision.

The foliage is sparse now but we still have lots of squirrels and interesting birds to grab our attention. A few days ago Marty and I spotted a pair of gorgeous gray birds with bold, black, art deco -style feathering. After checking my bird book, I determined that these were Northern or Loggerhead Shrikes. According to the book, these birds make rare appearances. Since I’ve been looking out of the same picture window for 52 years and haven’t seen them before, I must be right.

Usually we experience a heavy rainstorm before November is over, which brings down the remaining leaves. Then we see into the woods and imagine how the trees will tantalize us during the following summer. But then, aren’t the sculptures formed by drifting snow, mesmerizing?

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Killingworth Foundation’s: Applied Arts & Sciences Award

Of the many volunteer activities I’ve participated in my 50 -plus years living in Killingworth, CT, one of my favorites has been serving on the Scholarship Committee of the Killingworth Foundation.  I enjoy meeting the young students and talking with them about their aspirations for their educations and futures.

This year we launched a new award, The Donald Welter Award for Excellence in the Applied Arts. The scholarship is named after a long-time resident who was active in the community and taught industrial arts at a local high school.

Founded in 2007, the Killingworth Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports local community groups and grants awards to students for higher education. While we’ve been offering scholarships for academic achievement and for aptitude in the fine arts, we didn’t recognize industrial arts until this year. The members of the scholarship committee realized the need to expand their awards to include students seeking different careers, and are aware that to obtain a liberal arts degree from a four-year college is not the best choice for everyone. We are excited to provide a small monetary gift to help a student entering the vocational trades.

On June 1, 2016 the Killingworth Foundation presented its first award in applied arts and sciences at the Haddam Killingworth High School. The committee agreed to honor a highly motivated graduate who plans to major in Media Studies and Digital arts, with a focus on producing documentaries.

We wish the recipient the best of luck, and hope that she’ll be the first of many to achieve the Donald Welter Award for Excellence in Applied Arts.

 

Wyoming: Butch’s Place

Butch’s Place, a western -style tavern comes complete with swinging doors, tables covered with red and white checkered oilcloth, and posters of locally produced ale and whiskey. A single gas fired stove provides heat for the dining area. The tavern, on Route 10 in Kirby, Wyoming, (population, last count, 375) between Thermopolis and Worland has been a landmark for over twenty years.

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Of course the main attraction to Butch’s Place was Butch. Marty and I don’t remember Butch’s last name and never knew his first name. He was just Butch. His wife, Linda helped manage the restaurant and also held a job working for the Town of Thermopolis.

Butch was a gregarious, accommodating host. He was known for his “okey doky” to any request. In spite of Butch’s claim that he didn’t cook, just “only put food together” there were several items on the menu that were unique to his establishment. A favorite amongst the children were the twelve -ounce hamburgers, whether they were ordered unadorned or smothered. His was one of the first restaurants in the area to serve buffalo burgers, cooked to perfection. A single order of chicken salad was large enough to satisfy a family of four, and the lightly grilled sirloin finger steaks were a delicious specialty. One dish that I haven’t seen before were his “hog wings”, which are pork shins, about the size of chicken drumsticks, very tasty and tender. They were cooked so that the meat fell off the bones.

A few years ago, Butch retired and sold the business. Although the food was still good, twelve- ounce burgers were no longer served, and we missed Butch’s and Linda’s camaraderie and conviviality. The tavern might have changed hands more than once.

You can imagine our surprise, upon visiting Wyoming last winter, to learn that Butch’s Place had closed. The rumor is that the recent owner’s girl friend decided to put pool tables in the dining area, which infringed upon the seating capacity and detracted from the character of the eatery. One of the employees was enraged and pulled the plugs on the refrigerators and freezers. The food was contaminated and it took quite a while before the restaurant was cleaned, sanitized, and safe to be used. To date, nobody has shown any interest in rehabilitating the facility and starting up again.

Back in Thermopolis, we observed other changes. Restaurants come and go for many reasons. As a result of a poor economy there were fewer bathers at the pool. In other years the pool was crowded with visitors from neighboring communities, particularly over the weekends. There were winter athletic meets at the high school and participants from different schools usually included a swim in their busy schedules. We may not have been in Thermopolis during the right week, but the out of town athletes were also rare.

The Quality Inn that we’ve stayed at has the capacity to park the tractor-trailers operated by truckers working in the oil patch. They haul large pipe, massive generators and other equipment to nearby oil fields. With the glut of oil and low prices for fuel, many oil wells hat have been capped and thousands of people have lost their jobs. This has had a ripple effect on the entire economy in the region. Consequently, truckers at the motel were not as numerous as other years.

Thermopolis is still home to the “World’s Largest Hot Springs” and we delight in ducking our heads under the hot water to get the icicles out of our hair. It’s also fun to see children making angels in the snow before jumping in to the pool. Water aerobics, which I find therapeutic, are still offered at the “Teepee” pools where we swim. It’s fascinating to watch the birds migrate in squadron formation, while we ‘re swimming. I love counting boxcars and tankers as the railroad trains whiz by the pool, but I have to admit that I lose track when there are more than two hundred cars on one train. We also enjoy watching the stars come out, whenever we swim in the evening. Some things I hope will never change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SONGS I LEARNED FROM MY MOTHER AND FATHER

 

“Take me out to the Ball Game, take me out to the crowd…”I can still hear my granddaughter, Ruby, now nineteen, sing that song, years ago.

Does anyone over 4 sing anymore? Do we spend too much time texting or in front of a computer screen? Or do we not hear music that makes us want to sing?

I remember the broken heart love songs my mother used to sing like, “The Isle Of Capri” and “Whistling in the Dark.” My dad’s preferred whacky ditties and ballads, such as “The Old Carnarsie Line” and “Grandpa’s Old Brown Pants.” We serenaded my parents at their 50h anniversary party with, ”How do I Know My Youth is All Spent,” the song memorialized by Pete Seeger. You can just imagine my father’s joy upon hearing his grandchildren bellow his old favorite, “Grandpa’ Old Brown Pants.”

l-r: My cousin Stephen, Lisa, David, Naomi, Madeline, niece Debbie and nephew Mark, 1979

l-r: My cousin Stephen, Lisa, David, Naomi, Madeline, niece Debbie and nephew Mark, 1979

I know that I am no Barbra Streisand but I did sing with the choir in college and performed as a member of the chorus with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society. Regina Resnick, the opera star, gave guest concerts for Hillel, at Hunter College and I was part of the chorus that provided accompaniment. Yet if I attempted to sing, when my children were growing up, I was greeted with nothing but scowls. Recently I was singing “On the Old Carnarsie Line” and my daughter couldn’t understand why she hadn’t heard that song before.

I always enjoyed reading to my children, grandchildren, and now to my great-grandchildren. When I am with my great-grandchildren we enjoy singing together, regardless of who’s listening. One of our favorites is “If All the Raindrops Were Lemon Drops and Gumdrops.” 

 

“Grandpa’s Old Brown Pants”

Oh, my grandfather he, at the age of 83
Thought one Sunday morning he was going to die.
And when he was dead, why they took him from his bed.
And hung him on the clothesline to dry.

To my brother it was found, he had left 1000 pounds,
The same to “Eobaimer”, they called Ned.
But when it came to me, the lawyer said I see.
He’s left to you his old brown pants.

Chorus:
How they tittered, how they laughed, how my brother and sister yelled
How they goad me whenever they got the chance,
Cause my grandfather left to me his old brown pants.

One bright summer’s day Isabella chanced to stray
By the river and she thought she’d take a swim.
And the billy goat showed his nose and he ate up all her clothes,
Being summer, her garments they were thin.

I had business there the day and I also chanced to stray
By the river and I saw her situation at a glance
I went over to sister Belle, and I started in to yell,
How’d you like to have the old brown pants?

No more they titter, no more they laugh, no more my brother and sister yell.
No more they goad me whenever they get the chance,
Cause my grandfather left to me his old brown pants.

 

High Tide

About two weeks ago, Marty and I were invited to attend a memorial service for our friend, John, and witness his ashes being scattered in Long Island Sound. About fifty close friends and relatives arrived at the home of the deceased around 3:30 p.m. so that we could be at the beach at high tide, around 4:00.

People wrapped themselves in coats and scarves, in anticipation of cold winds coming off the sound, and we walked a short distance to the beach from the home.

It was a cool fall afternoon without other beach lovers in the vicinity. The children in the group didn’t hesitate to splash in the water and draw figures in the sand.

John’s son, Christian, donned a pair of short pants and carried a large plastic bag containing his father’s ashes. John was a big man and there were seven pounds of ashes. Christian spoke briefly about his Dad, and about how he always waited for the tide to be high to enjoy a swim. There were tears in his voice as well as in his eyes.

Christian waded into the sound just above his knees. We watched as he fed the voracious waves small amounts of his father’s remains until they were all devoured. A very emotional experience!

Even without the accoutrements of a formal funeral, saying good-bye to a parent is traumatic. You become part of the older generation when your parent is gone. Every family must choose the form of closure that is right for them. Yet by disbursing the ashes of a loved one, you in effect, return the person to nature.

We quietly walked back to the house. A gracious reception awaited us.

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