baby boomers


 

Have you met Google Talk?

I have to admit: I’m on it all the time, whether I want to be or not. It’s the main way I write my novel AND talk to my kids all at the same time. Sort of like major multi-tasking.

I’m getting used to having the little screen pop up in the corner of my novel, and I can dash over to it and type a few lines, and then go right back to my book without ever having to click out of anything.

But the other day I was there, typing away to Allie, when suddenly my computer started to sound like a phone ringing.

I jumped back.

And then there was Allie’s voice, COMING OUT OF MY COMPUTER. She was saying, “Hello?” and she sounded as baffled as I was.

“How is it that we’re talking to each other instead of typing?” I said.

She didn’t know. Except that it turned out that her baby, Miles, was sitting on her lap, and then he leaned over and pressed a button on the computer, and suddenly we understood what that little “Call” box was referring to.

YOU CAN ACTUALLY CALL THE PERSON YOU’RE TYPING TO.

We felt a little ridiculous when we realized that this had been available to us all along–times when we foolishly used the telephone to communicate, for instance.

“The BABY figured this out?” she said.

“Yes,” I said. “Get used to it. Children always know more about modern technology than their parents do.”

“But, Mom,” she said, “he’s not even eleven months old.”

They learn fast these days.

 

P.S. I tried to tell my friend Alice about this amazing happening.

“Allie’s voice came out of your computer?” she said.

“Yes, after the sound of a ringing phone. Allie’s computer had called my computer, don’t you see, and then we could talk to each other.”

“How did the computer CALL another computer?”

“Well, who knows? There’s a button you click on.”

“No,” she said. “No. That didn’t happen, and it’s not true, and I can’t hear about it anymore.”

“Well…” I said.

She took a sip of her wine. “But I’ll tell you another amazing thing,” she said. “My son was visiting over the weekend, and he used his CELL PHONE to check his email! Did you know people could do that??”

Yes, I said. I’ve heard of that.

I was thinking for a while of trying to become perfect.

It’s all because of an article I read in “O” magazine last month–one of those personal experience pieces in which the writer decided she’d do everything just right. I can hear you right now saying, “Oh, yeah? Under what set of rules is what she does considered just right?” And you’re correct to be so scrappy about this, of course. All bets are off these days at trying to figure out even how to be good, much less perfect.

But for the purposes of this article, the writer (and if I weren’t so lazy, I’d get up and fetch the magazine and tell you her name, but the magazine is all the way over there, and the dog’s head is resting on my leg and it would really disturb him if I got up)–anyway, the writer decided that she would look up online what amount of calories she should consume, and how many of those should be fat, protein and carbohydrates, and how many beans and legumes she would have to eat, and how many veggies. All that kind of thing.

Plus, she would exercise for an hour each day, doing both aerobics and weights. And furthermore, she would get seven hours of sleep each night, because that’s supposed to be optimal. AND she wouldn’t drink alcohol or give herself any days off whasoever.

It was just going to be her will power, the free weights, the veggies, and plenty of sleep.

Well, I was fascinated, naturally.

I have periodically managed to get myself in line and force-march my way through eating five vegetables a day and not consuming loads of saturated fat. But just as soon as I had managed to adjust my lifestyle to get five vegetables into myself each day, new government guidelines came out that claimed five was nothing; we needed NINE.

I can even get myself to go to the gym–I purportedly LOVE the gym–although just when it seemed possible to go work out three times a week, doing both weights AND aerobics, the new reports came out: nothing short of an hour a day would do very much good at all.

The author of this article was perfect for 30 days, foregoing birthday cake and champagne toasts and all kinds of things she really, truly desired. She actually ate the nine daily vegetables (and prepared without butter, too) and she worked out every single day and even stretched both before and after. And when she got to the end of the time period, guess what! She drank some alcohol, ate something she’d been denying herself…and then, much to her own surprise, went right back to the perfection plan. She said it felt amazingly good to be perfect: her clothes fit better, her neck wasn’t stiff anymore, her skin and hair looked better, she had more energy, and she felt, in fact, FABULOUS.

That was the tempting part, feeling that great.

I’ve decided, though, that it’s too hard to be perfect in March. The weather is cold one day and warm the next. Spring hangs like a promise in the air and then doesn’t come. The house is miserably cold, and who can face nine vegetables over, say, a pot roast with mashed potatoes? And how can I give up the homemade bread I’ve gotten used to making lately, served with honey and melted butter?

Also, if I got perfect, I think I’d turn crabby. I’d be one of those people who would go around in the streets, trying to make all my friends be perfect too. I’d give boring lectures on things you could do with vegetables that didn’t involve fats. Nobody would want to have anything to do with me, which would be okay because I would always need to be busy stretching and toning and making a note of when I next needed to take a calcium tablet or munch on some legumes.

I think, though, the real trouble with deciding to be perfect is the fact that it would pretty much be all you could think about. You’d have to question every decision, every bite of food. You’d say, “Wait! Is this my fifth glass of pure water today, or my sixth? And if it’s only my fifth, how the $^#@! am I going to get three more in before it’s time to go to bed?” (If you were being perfect, you probably wouldn’t use real cuss words anymore either; you’d have to figure out nice ways of saying $^#@!)

And if you were out having a wonderful time with whatever friends would still speak to you, no doubt it would be all too soon time to go and start logging your seven hours of sleep.

My friend Liz said we shouldn’t think of trying to be perfect until we get old and our aches and pains drive us to it. But I’m looking forward to the kind of old age where I don’t HAVE to try that hard anymore. When I get old, I think I’m just going to start having butter delivered by the carload, and I’m going to watch TV in bed and read until all hours, and eat whatever I $^#@! well please.

This is what happens to you when your mom dies of colon cancer: doctors start insisting that you get your own colon looked at.

I’ve tried to explain that I’m not the type for procedures like colonoscopies. I’m sure that I don’t LIKE them, I said. And besides that, I feel just fine, colon-wise.

I didn’t get very far with that line of reasoning. Doctors have heard it all before. One of them–my mother’s surgeon, actually–said to me, “You know, your mom would be alive today if she’d had a colonoscopy a few decades ago. Colon cancer is very slow-growing, and we could have nipped that polyp right out of there before it even turned into cancer…you don’t want this to happen to you!”

It’s true. I don’t.

So I signed up and went to a nice gastroenterologist for a consultation appointment. He seemed very calm and he assured me of many things: It won’t hurt. I won’t know anything about it because I’ll go to sleep. The drugs are very, very good–so good that some people actually WANT to come for colonoscopies. AND, best of all, he said they now have a pill you can take rather than drink gallons of horrible liquid…for the, you know, colon-scouring you have to do beforehand.

“It’s nothing, it’s a piece of cake,” he said. “I do ten of these a day, and everyone does great.”

So I made my appointment and then two days later, I suddenly had a great idea about how to get around this colonoscopy business. I called up and canceled my appointment, cleverly rescheduling it for a date so far in advance that surely the world would have ended by then.

But–quelle surprise!–the world did NOT end, and now, unless those California wildfires suddenly engulf the whole nation in the next 24 hours, it looks like I’m really going to have to go through with this.

Today is my last day eating real food. Tomorrow I am to eat ONLY jello, chicken broth, and drink tea all day long. That’s it. And at 5 o’clock, I have to take 20 pills, four at a time, 15 minutes apart, drinking lots and lots of liquid with them.

According to all reports, that’s when the real fun begins.

Then I have to wake up at 6 in the morning on Friday (like I would have been sleeping, who are they kidding?)  and then I’m to take the last 12 pills.

And then…the colonoscopy itself. 
Sheeeesh.

I’ve always gotten myself to do hard stuff by giving myself rewards. A trip to the dentist means that I get to order a black turtleneck shirt from Lands’ End. If I have to get a filling or a crown, I get a skirt, too. Regular doctor visits with blood work mean new earrings and possibly a milk shake.

But I frankly don’t know what will be good enough to get me through a colonoscopy. I think it’s going to take a trip to Europe or something, possibly a stint in the Greek Isles.

Of course, being told I’m not going to get colon cancer anytime soon–that would be good, too. Along with a nice lunch.   

 

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My uncle Bob loved Elvis so much that when he attended an Elvis concert at the age of 11, he passed out from sheer overwhelmitude and had to be revived and carted home.

Uncle Bob then became something of a rock star himself, being the keyboard player and singer of Cat Mother and the All-Night Newsboys in the late 60s.

What? You’ve never heard of Cat Mother? Get out of town. They had a hit record called “Good Old Rock n’ Roll” which was a medley of several great songs from the fifties. And when I was a teenager, I rode the coattails of Uncle Bob’s fame and got to be backstage at many of his great concerts, the summer he opened for Jimi Hendrix.

But wait. This is about Elvis.

Because in 1977, on the day that Elvis died, Uncle Bob was helping me and my then-husband drive across country from Santa Barbara, to settle in New Haven (a place we intended to stay for four years and not one second more, the length of time it would take Then Husband to get his Ph.D. from Yale…and then we would scamper back to the safety of Santa Barbara to live happily ever after.) We didn’t know on Aug. 16, 1977, that we were going to get divorced three years after settling in New Haven, and that neither of us would ever go back to living in California.

We were just riding through Utah on Highway 70, listening to the radio and watching the U-Haul truck in front of us, with all our furniture inside, being driven by Uncle Bob with Aunt Alice in the passenger seat. And then on the radio came the news: “Elvis is dead, at 42.”

“Oh, no,” I said. “I don’t think Bob can take this.”

The U-Haul in front of us pulled over to the side of the road and stopped.

We got out on the highway and conferred about what we should do. Could people truly be expected to go on with their lives after hearing such news? What were ordinary citizens to do?

We decided to have an Elvis Presley Memorial Campfire that night. And so we did. We camped in a place that to this date reminds me of pictures I’ve seen of the surface of the moon: rocky and white and dusty and deserted. We pitched the tents and then built a fire and sat around it, singing Elvis songs late into the night.

Bob told the story of his fainting, which by then had attained epic proportions. It had already become one of those stories families tell at important get-togethers.

Now, thirty years later, Uncle Bob is dead, Then Husband and I are divorced, and both of us happily remarried. Aunt Alice is back living in California after trekking across the world.

And Elvis–well, he’s still dead, but I like to think that our voices, raised in song around that campfire that night–belting out “You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog” and “Love Me Tender” and “Jailhouse Rock”–might have lit up the deserted patch of Utah where we camped out underneath the moon.

We are in the midst of a veritable population explosion in our family! It’s spring, and the little boys just keep popping out everywhere.

This newest member is Joshua, who was born on May 5, and who is in this picture just three hours old and has already discovered the magic deliciousness of his mother’s index finger. He’s being greeted by his parents, Ben and Amy, and his big brother, Charlie, who is three and a half, and who explained to anyone who would listen just exactly where this baby came from.

He kept saying to his mother, “So you’re not pregnant anymore?” and she would say, “That’s right.” And he kept shaking his head in wonder. It is a mysterious thing.

Also mysterious is all the technological equipment in Ben and Amy’s house, which luckily Charlie was adept at operating. I got to spend four days hanging out with him, and he helped me learn to work the GPS (“You turn right and you turn left and you turn right again, and then you reach your destination!”) and the TV remote, the car radio, the filtered water in the fridge, the night light, the living room lamp, and the key to the front door. In his spare time, he found time to educate me about big rigs, dump trucks, and how certain candies can resemble BMW hubcaps he’s seen go by on highways. 

I am getting so many new babies to rock and cuddle–it’s really a wonderful springtime. On Josh’s birthday, all the leaves burst forth on the trees, and the yellow tulip in the front yard suddenly opened…and we were finally able to take off our sweaters.

Charlie wore his BIG BROTHER t-shirt to the hospital.

I was born right smack in the middle of the baby boom…and so when I first discovered the blogosphere, one of the first blogs that drew me in was one called “Boomer Chick: Musings of an Over the Hill Chick.”

Let’s just say I could relate.

Growing up in both Florida and California in those post-war developments that came about to accommodate the sudden population explosion, I remember thinking that life was just a series of streets with the same kind of cinder-block homes, painted in different colors with perhaps different plantings outside–and scads of kids in every house. I went to an elementary school that was so overcrowded we had to attend in double-session…and there was another elementary school three miles away that was just as crowded!

In my graduating class in California, some 700 kids got diplomas–and I think there were 800 in the class right behind mine, and perhaps 900 in the sophomore class. AND, again, there was another high school within walking distance!

For quite a chunk of my life, I felt as though the entire population was within two years of my age.

And now–well, it seems that most people just aren’t. In fact, my friend Alice (who precedes the baby boom by a few years) said it’s been tiring and annoying to watch how the boomers re-claim and re-create every life stage that she’s just gotten through. She got married…and five years later the boomers had re-done The Wedding. She had her babies–and then the boomers came into parenthood and acted as though they’d pretty much invented the whole concept of reproduction. They redesigned car seats, strollers, came up with Snuglis and backpacks, fixed the wind-up swing so it didn’t wake up sleeping babies, said it was okay for women to work and babies to go to daycare, created new educational toys and TV shows. And on and on.

“I’m so sick of your generation!” she says, laughing. “They can’t leave ANYTHING alone.”

The way she sees it, the only saving grace is that she won’t be around to see what innovations our generation comes up with for funerals.

Today, though, I’m proud to be a guest blogger on the Boomer Chick web site, which I hope you’ll go over to check out. Not just for my post–there you’ll find a whole assortment of interesting posts by Dorothy Thompson, who describes very poignantly and honestly just what it was like for our generation growing up. We were perhaps the first generation in which having divorced parents was almost the norm. Like me, Dorothy was moved all the way across the country to California when her mother remarried…and like all of us, she’s seeking to recreate and connect with that past. Best of all, she writes about it without a trace of bitterness or resentment.

Just a desire to know who she is and a willingness to share that journey with the rest of us.  

   

 

The New Year isn’t even three weeks old, and already a lot of people are fed up with it.

Let’s face it. We are an anxious, exhausted people, made worse by the fact that there is a war lingering on and a winter that isn’t quite a winter, and so you can’t quite feel good about the fact that you may need to mow your lawn soon and you haven’t had to shovel even one flake of snow yet. Worse, it seems that just in my little beleaguered circle of friends, people are suffering from pneumonia, meningitis, cysts, sudden irreversible deafness in one ear, torn ACLs, car breakdowns on highways, computer screens shattering when books fall on them, family arguments, missed appointments, clinical depression, and writing rejections.

And, as if all that isn’t bad enough, now objects are starting to go missing.

Just this week I have spent hours looking for the following items: the receipt to the replacement phone I bought that will not work out and must be returned to the store; the password to Stephanie’s bursar account so I could find out why the hell they are still sending me a bill which they know and I know that I already paid in full, otherwise they wouldn’t have let her register for classes; the headphones to my iPod…and of course, my keys.

Then today I go see my friend Deb, and wouldn’t you know that she’s as anxious and exhausted as the rest of us–really maybe worse. She has lost all her estrogen patches. FIFTY DOLLARS WORTH OF ESTROGEN PATCHES, the only things, she says, that stand between her and even the possibility of sanity since her hysterectomy three years ago.

She has spent days and days looking for these things, dreading and postponing that moment when she has to try to get her doctor on the phone and in ten seconds explain that she needs a new prescription–no, she hasn’t used them all in a riot of estrogen frenzy; no, she’s not selling them to perimenopausal women on the street; yes, she’s looked everywhere; please, please, please, for God’s sake, just write me out a new prescription so I can go and spend fifty more hard-earned dollars for another box.

“And then,” she said calmly, “I realized what had happened to them. My dog Miles ate them.”

We looked at each other.

“He ate them?” I said.

“All of them.”

“And he lived?”

“Yes.”

“But how do you know he really ate them?”

“Well, how do you think I know? He’s wearing pearls and high heels and barking about how he wants to redecorate the place. How else would I know?”