A New Life! Retirement at its Best 63

The greatest Thanksgiving gift ever!

Two days ago I was backing out of a parking spot in the crowded parking lot of Harris Teeter grocery store when my beeper beeped louder and louder. I looked left and right and over my shoulder and was sure I was far enough from the car next to me and there was nobody passing behind me. Then I felt a bump. A soft one, but definitely a bump. I scooted back into the parking place and got out of my car. Across the lane a huge black Porsche SUV was driving back into its slot and a young woman got out. “Are you all right?” she asked. “I am,” I said, “but I was looking for damage at my car. My beeper went off but I did not see anything.”
“My beeper did not even beep, I just felt something.”
We looked at my car, then at her car, and neither one of us had any visible damage. Then she opened her arms wide and hugged me while she was saying, “This is the best Thanksgiving present ever!” We looked at each other and started laughing and went back to our subsequent cars.
“Are you going first?”
“No, you go first.”
And I drove home with a smile on my face and a very thankful feeling for indeed, having received the best Thanksgiving gift ever.

A new creature in our menagerie!
Yesterday, on our walk to the Club for breakfast, I saw her curled up on the sidewalk. “Oh, look, a snake!” I said, and I got my cell phone out to take a picture. I could get really close to her and actually thought she was dead – or dying. Afraid someone would step on her, I put one of the orange cones the gardeners had left next to her. She did not move. When we went for dinner, she had moved closer to the edge of the sidewalk, so I moved the cone with her. The next morning, she was still there; amazing, because the night temperatures had dropped to freezing. So after breakfast I told Mike I would go back and save her. She was so beautiful, and so small, about 8″ when she unfurled and moved when I prodded her gently. I did it a couple more times, with two sticks, until I had her into the grass and thought from there she would find her way home. That night, a neighbor, looking at my picture, diagnosed her with horror as a Copperhead Snake. And look, in the picture you can clearly see the copper color of her head. “Look, she is ready to strike,” he said. “No, I was talking to her and she raised her head to listen,” I said. I had never seen one or heard of one and I found on Google that Copperheads get two to three feet long. They strike and bite, and babies get born equipped with teeth and venom, but their venom is not fatal to humans. Good to know. This one was just a baby, like I thought. I just hope that she will move away before she will be big enough to do harm. Because this was a closeup of about 2″ away, she looks like a large snake, doesn’t she? We have seen some amazing creatures in our back yard. Two small deer, a hawk who once killed a bird at dawn close to our bedroom window, a red fox who ran by, a large turtle, no doubt on her way to find water, geese and goslings, large and small frogs, guppies in the stream, and a great variety of birds. What a lovely place to live; in a city, yet surrounded by nature.

The Thanksgiving Weekend

It has been a wonderful, rainy, very long weekend. I did not have to go out except to Trader Joe’s to get some poinsettias. It was Black Friday, but that was not noticeable in Trader Joe’s parking lot, nor in the store itself. Our cottage is smaller than our home in Prescott, which we decorated with about ten poinsettias every year, but I found a nice place for two of the large ones and three of the small ones in our living room and sunroom here. Then I set out to get the Christmas tree out of the garage. I put it together in the same place as last year, on the glass table next to the loveseat. I had already spent time to puppy-proof bunches of wires by wrapping them in ten feet of black wire cover. I hope we can teach Lani that the whole corner is taboo, so she won’t pull down the Christmas tree. And, D day has been set! Next Wednesday I will work with the trainer to see what he has taught Lani, and then I will take her home. We are all set! Or at least, I hope so.

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,


A New Life! Retirement at its Best 62

Thanksgiving at Waltonwood

Last night, the Club organized a Thanksgiving dinner for Residents, their families and friends. They started the buffet half an hour early to accommodate everyone in a timely manner, but alas, the line was long, and even though they had set up a special table for nine for us in the Café, we had to go through the line to get our food. It was not too bad, because Dennis and Luke arrived much later after Luke’s basketball tryout. Dinner was hot and delicious, and we all had a good time. Next week we will be on our own as the family has other plans.


Yesterday I received an invitation to give my Presentation for OLLI (Osher Lifetime Learning Institute) at NC State University. That is wonderful news, because the audience will be over 50 years old and seniors are usually interested in WWII subjects. I spoke three times for OLLI at Yavapai College in Prescott during the 15 years we lived there; the last time in the new MultiMedia room for almost 100 people. My presentation had improved over the years, so I felt good about sharing my story. NCSU is now scheduling for May through June, and they will soon let me know time and date. And the best thing of all: I get 90 minutes to present and answer questions, and that is much better than the 15 minutes I usually get at a Rotary or Lyons meeting.

Saying goodbye

What do you say when someone who is dying holds your hand and whispers “You are the best friend I’ve had in my whole life.” In her whole life? I had only known her a few  months. My thoughts went back to the beginning of our short friendship. She was a small grey haired woman, completely hunched over her walker, crippled by severe scoliosis. Someone I had easily overlooked. One day, I believe it was last August, it was raining and I decided to walk inside the main building around all the four floors. Everybody has a small shelf outside the front door of their apartment which they decorate with all kinds of personal things. I stopped at a shelf that had a basket with rocks and next to it a couple of geodes; two halves, showing their glittering purple inside, and one huge one, still closed. How interesting. I have collected rocks over the years, coral and quartz, and ones with interesting shapes, like triangles and circles and trapezoids, and I had just decided I should give some away to create room for other things. Ha! I had found someone who would appreciate getting a few of my rocks! In the Directory I looked up who lived in the apartment with the basket of rocks, and found her one day in the hallway. “I noticed your rock collection,” I said. “I collect rocks too. Would you like to have a rock from Hawai’i?” She nodded, and the next day I chose my most beautiful triangular white rock and went up to her apartment, where I added it to her shelf. I always thought of it as the Trinity and loved it a lot. A few days later she tracked me down in the breakfast room and said, “I really like your rock. Thank you. Would you like to have a geode? I can ask my daughter to get you one from the stream on her property.” Geodes hold a secret inside and always intrigued me; so I said, yes please, and a week later she handed me a small geode, wrapped in a paper towel. I took my treasure home and added it to my collection. One day, when I know how, I will cut it open or rather have someone cut it open, to see the inside. But you know, I was really planning to give away some of my rocks. Instead, I received one in return. So I asked her if she would like another one, a coral rock. She did not really know what it would look like, but accepted it for her basket. And then followed a piece of quartz from her grandson’s yard for me and another one. Then she went to the hospital and I put a Get Well card on her shelf, with large, bright sunflowers. She came back and life went on. I decided to give her three of the miniature sand dollars I had found on the beach in Hawai’i. She had never seen such little ones and loved them. She went to the hospital again and came back two days later. I met her at dinner and then she said, “They took me to the hospital to drain the fluids that had built up in my body. I feel a lot better. But I am not going back again. I have colon cancer but they can’t operate, and so I am on my last legs. I know it and I am all right with it.”

At brunch on Sunday, I heard someone say that Lillian was very ill. I did not realize that her time on earth would be that short. I wrote her a letter to say goodbye and put it on her shelf. The next morning I met her daughter who came down to the breakfast room to get some orange juice and fruit. I had seen her before, and helped her get the things she needed. She told me the family had been there for four days and nights and they would not leave her alone any more.

I’ll make a long story short. I took a long stemmed, orange rose up to the apartment and was invited in. Lillian lay in a hospital bed in the living room and gave me a big smile when I took her hand. And then she said, “You are the best friend I’ve had in my whole life.”
“Each time I will look at the rocks you gave me, my friend, I will think of you, so a part of you will always be with me,” was the only thing I knew to say. “I love you, Lillian.”

I went back to see her one more time today to bring some Aquaphor for her dry lips; she was unconscious, and looking at her I knew her time was near.

She has given me a precious gift: the knowledge that, through little kindnesses, you can become someone’s best friend of their whole life. You can make a world of difference for someone by sharing a little bit of love.

I’m wishing you all a Lovely Thanksgiving.

Life is a treasure.

Until next time,






A New Life! Retirement at its Best 61


A tapestry of brown and yellow and red and orange covered my path this morning and my feet made a rustling sound on the trail. Squirrels dashed away, making a similar sound, and birds flew back and forth amidst the trees. It was cold, around 40 degrees, but I was dressed warmly in my sister’s brown suede jacket, a brown velour cap, and a thick, colorful scarf matching the tapestry at my feet. On my way home I figured out with the help of my fitbit that I had walked only 3 miles in one hour, that was 20 minutes per mile! And this was not a casual Sunday afternoon stroll, no it was my power walk on Sunday morning! Fifteen years ago, in Prescott, Arizona, I did 4 miles in one hour, 15 minutes per mile. So, I figured, in 15 years I slowed down one mile per hour. If I continue like this, I will only be able to walk 2 miles per hour when I am 95, with a likely rest of ten minutes on a bench somewhere along the route! Heavens, I hope I will not slow down that fast! Let’s see if our new puppy will keep me up to speed. Although, come to think of her, I wonder how fast her little feet have to go to keep up with me. Sigh. I guess I will have to get used to losing speed in the next fifteen years. That will not be all that bad though. I often cut corners going through the house at my regular pace. I injured my right leg on a corner of the bed and created a permanent scar. And recently I ran into the living room wall on my way to the bedroom and injured an arm and a shoulder – the “good shoulder” this time. So I will try to go through daily life a bit slower. But I will never run out of steam!


After brunch today I checked out the location of Wake Med Hospital. It’s only three minutes away, and I have passed it many times, but they told me to look for the main entrance with the flags and I had never seen any flags. We will go there tomorrow for a pre-op and Wednesday morning for Mike’s routine colonoscopy. It’s been three years, and we decided to do the followup now, instead of in January. This is why. The trainer offered to keep training Lani for two more weeks, so that we could have a quiet Thanksgiving. Do we realize what we are in for? He will continue to train Lani and only charge $10 per day for boarding. “Yes!” said Mike. “Okay,” said I. We have been accumulating several necessary things over the last month. A crate and crate pad, food and a container, toys, chews, a leash, bowls, and a carrier to transport her in the car, tied to the seat belt. I can’t wait!  The trainer asked how to pronounce her name. I think he had called her Lany. I sounded it out for him and he said, “Oh, more like an O.” Hm, that sounds not right, I thought on my way home and when I got home I sent him a text that it sounded like the movie La La Land. Hope he gets it.

Talking about hospitals: many people from here go there and come back, or go there and go to Rehab and then come back, or they do not come back at all. I am learning new words for until now unknown diseases – at least to me. I never heard of sepsis. Well, for those of you who are as ignorant as I was, sepsis is a life-threatening condition that arises when the body’s response to infection causes injury to its own tissues and organs. Donny got sepsis in the hospital recently and died of it. Then Roy, who was gone for over a month, appeared to have contracted MRSA. What on earth is MRSA? Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. It’s tougher to treat than most strains of staphylococcus aureus — or staph — because it’s resistant to some commonly used antibiotics.  Roy is home again, but on Hospice care, because they had to remove his pacemaker.

It is unbelievable to me how many people have a pacemaker. Just recently I learned that a pacemaker is not only to regulate the heart beats. It also increases the strength of the heart; it comes with two or more electrodes and it saves lives! Many people have had a knee replacement or two, or a hip replacement, or a plethora of other ailments. How blessed I feel that I only had one shoulder surgery. Not even a complete replacement, just a corrective surgery. I am thankful for great eyes, without a need for glasses, for great hearing, without a need for hearing aids, for strong teeth without bridges or implants and for feet that can still walk a mile in twenty minutes! Yesterday I went to see my podiatrist, who showed me in an X-ray that one of my big toes has arthritis! Well, I can live with that. Regardless, it’s great to be me at almost eighty!

I’m planning a special surprise for the family on my birthday. I’ve thought of an escape to a hotel on a sunlit beach with warm ocean waters, but there is no such thing close by. I’ve thought about a long weekend in a cabin the mountains, but it will be a long drive and colder than in Cary. I’ve thought about a helicopter flight over North Carolina; but why do we have family close by if we don’t include them? And then I knew it: that’s what I would like to do! I am working on the invitation, and closer to the date: December 26, I will tell you my plan.

It’s a Wonderful World!

Until next time,



A New Life! Retirement at its Best 60


A place like ours is not a likely place to visit for trick-or-treaters. But we had a Halloween Social this afternoon at the Club and many people dressed up for the occasion. We knew that from last year, and so I decided to get my Dutch Girl costume out of the closet and wear that. It is a beautiful, authentic Dutch costume from the province of Zeeland, that my aunt in Domburg made for me the year before we emigrated to the United States. She herself wore her costume every day, even in the Assisted Living where she moved when she became old. We settled in Pasadena, California, and over the years had many parties with the Dutch Club. I had fun wearing my costume and playing Dutch songs on my baby accordion that we had bought in an antique shop in Lake Arrowhead. I could play piano, but the buttons on the other side were new to me. So when I played the Dutch songs, the beginning cords usually came out fine, but later I sometimes skipped some notes. However, the audience was so enthralled that they loudly sang the familiar songs without noticing I did not always play the right notes.

Yesterday, I got my costume out of the closet and thought I could put it on just like that. Yeah right! It was pure vanity to think that my figure is the same as it was 47 years ago! The closure hooks were rusted into the material and I found no hooks in either one of my sewing baskets! I managed to move one rusty hook, take out the only two seams in the front of the jacket that could be taken out, so my bosom had the space it now needed, and the skirt and apron were tight, but with Mike’s help I got everything on.

The costume consists of a long black skirt with a shiny design and a black and white striped long “apron”, covering the entire skirt. All made from heavy material. At the right side of the black skirt is a slit through which I could reach the large linen bag that was strapped with a ribbon around my waist. It is to keep money, keys and the like in your “pocket” so you won’t need a purse. You need to lift the whole apron in order to get your hand into the pocket, and so it is a safe place to keep necessary valuables.

The bodice consists of a black “jak”, a fitted jacket with a three hook closure in the front and a very low neckline in the front and back. In the front I wore a “beukje”, a colorful insert in two parts, that goes over the shoulder to a plain back panel with a 4″ layer of lace on top. The beukje gets strapped to the back panel with a ribbon on the left and right through loops and around the body to keep it in place. It then gets pinned, yes, with small pins, to the jacket in front and back of the shoulder, while the pins are hidden by an inch of fine pleats along the nekline. In the low back neckline of the “jak” a wide strip of lace peeps out.

And then the headdress! The first layer is a small blue cap, peeping out in the front. Over that a small white lace cap, and then on top a beautiful lace construction, pouffed out over the shoulders and hanging down across the back. On both sides of my head are the gold “curls”, coming out of the hat and going around the back of the head to stay in place. Other jewelry is the quadruple strand of red jets, with a gold lock, not in the center, but on the side in the front. In one picture you see me at home and in the other I put on my grandmother’s small gold rimmed round glasses and walked with a borrowed cane, bent over – just for fun at the party. The compliments I received : You look ten years older! That was the purpose exactly. On my facebook page I wrote: In a retirement place like mine, you don’t get scared at Halloween, you get old!

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time!