A New Life! Retirement at its Best 108

Gatsby Night: A Murder Mystery

Waltonwood was transformed into a thirties scene. The employees were dressed Gatsby style with glitter and fringed dresses, feathered headbands and long strings of pearls. An outside company had been hired to put up heavy black satin and gold sequined drapes at the entrance of the dining room, and another outside company organized the event. Five actors provided us with information about the setting and one of them was stabbed to death in the Café. Butler-served hors d’oeuvres were delicious and good wines were served from bottles instead of wine served from carton boxes which we get at Happy Hour on Friday afternoons. The event benefited the American Heart Association and raffle tickets produced the lucky winners of all of the beautiful gift baskets on the tables in the hallway. People from other retirement communities joined us to make for a full dining room. To tell you the truth, things were a little complicated to understand for people in their eighties and nineties, especially those who had never done a murder mystery before and had no clue about what questions to ask whom. But it was a lively, fun event and it reminded me of the time when I was a little girl that my mother danced the Charleston for us and showed us a picture of herself in a fringed dress.

Obedience Training with Distractions

Lani can hardly be managed when we get to the obedience class. Five other dogs are sitting next to their mother in the large circle, but Lani had to be separated by a whole screen across the room and got private training from the assistant in “come when called”. Well, she got so many treats back and forth that she had irregular soft stool for two days and did not eat regular food. She is back on schedule now, but I wonder if she will ever be a well trained dog!

Shoulder Woes

The cortisone injection in my shoulder two weeks ago is not helping yet and I sure hope that I will not need another shoulder surgery. If I do, I will definitely go back to the surgeon who did my right shoulder, but with all the festivities coming up, I dread the thought. So, thinking positively, I will be well again and a free of pain in a few weeks. After all, it is just a bursa. And so, on we go!

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,


A New Life! Retirement at its Best 107

Party Plans

October, November, December: the days are getting shorter, daylight savings time is not until November 3 this year. But the longer evenings will provide fun events, organized by the WW team. This week we will attend Gatsby Night, a Murder Mystery. We’ll have breakfast and brunch and take-out packages for dinner that day, and then from 5 – 8 p.m. the Mystery with “butler served hors d’oeuvres” and refreshments. We skipped a similar event last year, but will try it this week. An outside company will organize it and bring three actors to stage the game. Sounds like fun!

For Halloween we are invited to a Halloween Social at 2:30 p.m., and because last year about fifteen people dressed up, we’ll have some fun with it as well. Last year, I donned my original Dutch costume. That was fun, because I had only worn it a few times way back in California. But with all the layers on my body it was very warm. Mike had a captain’s hat and a mustache, but the mustache did not stay up so he went barefaced. This year, the captain’s hat for Mike will be the only thing he will wear again, so I found a very cute dress online to go with the captain as a sailor girl. And, I had to laugh at the thought, I ordered a red tulle petticoat to make the dress look more “retro.” Imagine, I’ll be wearing a dress with a red petticoat! Only on Halloween! Too many years I’ve been a witch, and too many people are dressing up as witches, so I’ll be a sailor girl to walk next to my captain. The only thing different is that the pillbox hat the dress came with is child size. So I will wear another captain’s hat we still had in the “dress-up trunk”.


In the cottages we are not up to date on everything that happens at the Club. And so it came as a depressing surprise that one of our friends, who recently came home from the hospital after an “easy” surgery during which they took away a cancerous tumor and part of her lung, still has cancer cells in her body. Tonight, we saw her during dinner wearing a wig. Now, several people with thinning hair are wearing a wig here, so we thought it was a preview of Halloween. But no, she has to undergo a brain MRI and chemo for any metastasized cells. She is prepared to fight: she has all the medications the doctor prescribed for after the treatments, including hair! What a brave soul, to talk about it so lightly. What a horrible disease is cancer! How blessed am I to not have it!

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,




A New Life! Retirement at its Best 106

Teenage Woes

On Tuesday I took Lani to the second dog park of the two parks in Cary, the one I had been to with her once before. There was only one man there and one dog. The dogs had a grand old time for about fifteen minutes, then the other dog needed to go home and so did I. But Lani ran far away, all around the perimeter of the park and did not react to my call “Lani, Come!”, the first and most important command that she had always obeyed at home. Another dog came in and Lani ran to him but stayed outside my reach. The second dog left and I did not know what to do. I threw a ball to her – she did not even look. I said goodbye, walked to my car, slammed the door so she would hear I was leaving, and parked the car in another spot. No results. I went back in with a treat (not really allowed in the park, said the owner of the third dog). Lani did not care about a treat – the other dog immediately came to sit next to me: my new friend. Finally, a forth dog with owner arrived. I told her about my challenge and asked her to stay in the hold between the parking lot and the wood chip park with her dog, so I could lure Lani in. Sure enough, that worked! Lani came running toward the other dog, and when I opened the gate for her and she came in, I could finally put her on the leash. I scolded her all the way home. It’s a good thing that we are starting another seven weeks of obedience training on Saturday mornings, this time with distractions. I sure hope that when Thanksgiving rolls around, she will have that coveted Good Citizen Award.

Another thing: for the past two weeks Lani did not want to eat breakfast or dinner. I was worried for a while. Last month, when she stopped eating, I gave away what was left of the bag of Puppy Chicken and Rice kibbles and bought a bag of Adult Beef and Rice at Pet Smart. She did eat that for a few days and then stopped again. So now we take it away if she does not eat. We’ll see what happens. It has been a long time since we had a dog that would not eat!


This Monday, nine days after I fell into the hole in the grass, I knew the pain was not muscular – no ice pack or hot pack had worked and I did not have my normal range of motion without pain  with my left arm. I was lucky: I could get an appointment that same day with the orthopedic surgeon I had seen before when my right shoulder badly needed surgery. Right there in the office they took X-Rays and the doctor could determine that my bones were ok, so it was the bursa or tendon that had received the trauma of my fall. He offered to do a Cortisone shot, which I gladly accepted. Continuing with Advil, the pain is much less already, and I could even participate in a half hour of chair yoga today. What he said when I asked if I could expect a cure and how soon I would be well again? “I am not sure, but if it does not seem to work we could consider an MRI or amputation.” Ha, ha, a doctor’s joke. I would certainly go for a second opinion!  Which is what I did for my right shoulder. I wanted the best of the best, and am very happy I did, because it was not a shoulder replacement, but a very complicated surgery indeed.

Another doctor’s story: when we moved to Prescott in 2001, I needed a new prescription for hypertension pills. I found a doctor who took Medicare and made an appointment. The nurse took my blood pressure and noticed it was high, let me lay down and rest until the doctor came in. When he did, an Asian doctor, brown skinned with slanted eyes, wearing camouflage pants, I thought a Japanese soldier was bending over me to take my blood pressure again. It shot up to dangerous levels! The doctor wrote a new prescription and let me go. I never went back.

The doctor I found after him I was with for a few years, until something he said hit me the wrong way. As I went into his office and a heavy-set older man shuffled out towards the desk to pay, and I asked him what was wrong with that patient (a wrong question of course, but I was on good terms with the doctor), the doctor said “He has very high blood pressure.” So, remembering my condition a few years ago, I asked if he got good medication. “No,” the doctor said, “but everybody has to die of something.” That was the end of that doctor for me!

I have had good, pleasant doctors since then, in Arizona as well as here in Cary. The Primary Cary Physician we have now even comes to our house to check our vitals. She is with Doctors Making House Calls. And that is a wonderful thing for us, saving a lot of time and knowing that we are in good hands with frequent checkups, shots, blood draws and what have you. So…

It’s Wonderful Life!

Until next time,


A New Life! Retirement at its Best 105


It is often called the disease of the century. In the past, it was rarely acknowledged, but as the numbers increase, the disease becomes more visible. Someone develops dementia every three seconds. Approximately one out of six people over eighty gets dementia, and the higher the age, the higher the chance. Of all the illnesses today it is the one we fear most. Our generation is now aware of it in a way that is vastly different from twenty or thirty years ago and this awareness brings social, moral and political responsibility. A diagnosis – very important to get it early – is just the beginning of a process with many stages, different for everybody, that can take years of fear and sorrow.

At the three classes at NCSU, and through a book I am reading, I have learned the basics of the various kinds of dementia. People in progressing stages of dementia who live here are moved from Independent Living to the Memory Care wing, and if you don’t have a loved one who moved there, you don’t see those people any more. They are well taken care of until the end of their lives, and their loved ones can visit of course, but for us they are out of sight, gone forever, even though they are still living on the other side of two doors. It’s all good and well to read about it and to talk about it, but for me it feels so unreal. I have not experienced the trauma that people go through when they keep losing more and more of their brain cells, which changes their perception of life, everything they knew and did and felt and created and makes them into helpless shadows of who they once were. It’s still unreal – it was that is, until dementia happened to a good friend, Jacob, living miles away.

Before we moved to the east coast and said goodbye, I knew that he had became more and more forgetful. Until then Dementia to me was a word, the name of a disease, dawning on the horizon, idealized by the powerful farewell letter of Ronald Regan, who said, “I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life.” But two years later, the very personal stories from his caregiver about Jacob’s condition, gripped my heart. The changes in him were hard to imagine; his manic behavior, the hallucinations that plagued him, the outbursts of fury, his inability to take care of himself – that was not our friend Jacob anymore; and yet, it was. It was the body of himself with a mind that was crumbling away. The realization that my wonderful, strong friend had the terrible disease that was changing him to a mindless human being hit me hard.

It is one thing to read about all that, but to know that these awful things are happening to a friend, a good friend, in his nineties now, and knowing that the symptoms are getting worse with time is unbelievably painful. How his caregiver must suffer. Eventually, even with the best intentions, it will not be possible for one person to take care of her changing loved one. A Memory Care Home with well trained people can take over – if there is insurance in place. I remember that I wrote earlier about a lovely woman with dementia and her husband here in Independent Living, who moved out. The husband, a Navy Veteran who proudly wore his cap day and night, moved to a less expensive place, and what happened to his wife is unknown. According to one of the managers people like that are just turned loose onto the streets. Just imagine. It happens. Not in a third world country, but right here in the city where I live! I heard about it but there was nothing I could do! The only consolation I have is that I bought her a flowered navy long sleeved shirt and navy vest last year, before she disappeared.


From one day to the next fall has arrived. From daytime temperatures continuing in the nineties and nighttimes barely offering relief, nights are now in the low sixties and today reached only 72 degrees. I love summer, but such hot weather is not agreeable with long walks, so fall will bring a pleasant change. Next Saturday Lani and I will start the next obedience class with distractions, and hopefully she will earn her AKC Good Citizen reward just before Thanksgiving. Phew! Then I will take a well deserved break and go to New York!

Last night after dinner, we looked at the Fall and Winter Music Programs in the Triangle area. I have learned to mirror-screen with my Apple TV, so we could see the programs together on the TV. We selected one concert each month, one ballet (Macbeth, supposed to be spectacular) and a couple of Christmas Choir performances, one of which at the beautiful, intimate Duke Chapel. We’ll have to find out in which performances Dennis is playing to double our enjoyment.

Because of that I did not walk Lani as usual, until it was completely dark. I was planning to make it a short walk, but in the dark I stepped into a foot-deep hole in the grass, right next to the pavement and fell. “I fell!” I said out loud to Lani, who had turned around and sat watching me. I never fall! This surprised me more than I was hurt. I got up, found both leashes and we continued our walk – short, to be sure! No damages other than a sore shoulder (the left one this time), a painful muscle down my right leg and a blue bruise on my right butt, where it had hit the pavement. It amazes me that bruises on my arms are always dark red and the one on my butt is blue! With the help of some Advil and a hot pad with our the morning coffee, floor exercises for the muscle, and a three mile walk in Wimbledon, I am almost good as new again today. To make sure nobody else would fall into the same trap (a large hole next to a sprinkler head) I stuck a thick, three foot branch into the hole and attached several orange tape ribbons. The gardeners will have to take care of it next week. It could have been much worse. I feel blessed !

It’s a Wonderful Life!

Until next time,




A New Life! Retirement at its Best 104


I had noticed a little cyst on the outside of the lower eyelid of my left eye and made an appointment with my ophthalmologist to have it removed. It seemed an easy thing to do for an eye surgeon, but when he came in to the room and said, “Good morning, how are you?” I could not help asking, just to be sure,
“I’m well, thank you, but how are you? Do you have steady hands this morning?”
“Oh yes, Miss Ronny. I do surgery inside the eye through a microscope, so this is easy for me,” and we both laughed. And with that he proceeded with bright lights and a needle and alcohol and a scalpel and tweezers, and ten minutes later he applied Neosporin and gauze; no stitches needed. Hooray! Another doctor’s visit was behind me. Tomorrow I may apply mascara again and can look people in the eye.


The bus (and the new Cadillac) took 13 of our residents to the theater in Apex to watch Downton Abbey. While it was a television series we had only watched it once in a while, so I knew most of the actors and the characters they portrayed. The movie is a sequel to the original series, and I have not had such an enjoyable evening in a long time! The plot included a visit of the King and Queen of England, an attempt to shoot the King during his visit, and even two men who discovered their love for one another and went dancing in a gay bar (imagine, in those days!). The incomparable Maggie Smith (Dame Margaret Natalie Smith CH DBE, born 28 December 1934), as Violet Crawley, Granny, urged Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) to keep Downton Abbey going after her death. But don’t let me spoil the story, go see the movie if you have a chance. I love Lady Mary, the British accents of all actors, the happy endings for many of them.

I just read about a new movie, now in the theaters: Judy. Played by another one of my favorite actresses: Renee Zellweger, the movie shows Judy Garland in the final years of her life. What a fascinating performance that will be: Renee does her own singing! I love movies!

Talking about movies: the movie producer I met early this month is about to release his new movie just in time for Halloween! My Soul To Keep just got nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Acting ensemble, Best Music, and Best Cinematography at the Chicago Horror Film Festival! Good news heading into the October 4th release! WOW. Personally, I don’t think I would enjoy watching a horror movie, but if you want to see something really scary at Halloween, go see the Best Picture produced by my new friend My Soul To Keep.

AKC Good Citizen Dog test

On Saturday Lani and I set out to do the fifteen minute test at the testing center, after six weeks of training. Alas, she did not get the AKC certificate yet. Of the ten test points, she failed three, all having to do with sitting down when meeting strangers and keeping calm when meeting other dogs. She is not consistent yet in her behavior. So on we go: on October 12 we will start the next seven weeks of training, this time with distractions. At the end of that she will have another chance to get the coveted AKC Good Citizen Certificate.

OLLI class at NCSU

I have taken a three-week class at NCSU, presented by a docent of the Dementia Alliance of North Carolina. I enjoyed two weeks of incredibly informative information on the differences between Dementia and Alzheimer’s: the symptoms, the progression, the chemical and physical changes that are happening in the brain of people with dementia, understanding their loss of memory and ways we can help. It has been so interesting for me, because I did not know anything about it. I am a resident in a retirement community because we planned ahead: when we would reach our eighties, we wanted to live close to one of our children. At a retirement community like this one almost everything is included in the rent. Of course it is expensive, but not much more expensive than owning and maintaining your own home and the grounds, the cooking and cleaning, taxes and so on. Many people who move here, however, are far in their nineties because they wanted to stay in their own home as long as possible. Wile memory loss is not a sign of normal aging, in many cases it does come with age. And so we have many mentally healthy nonagenarians here, but also many in various stages of memory loss. I am thankful that I was able to learn more about it in this professional class so I can help people around me who may need help one way or another.

It’s a Wonderful World!

Until next time,