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The Cranky Old Retired Lady
Opinions, wailings and observations of a cranky, old retired lady on life after 50.
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I hope you don't mind a story here. It's sentimental. Not being a great euchre player, but a steady partner, euchre is a game I love to play with those who will put up with me. So when I landed in a nursing home after a long and debilitating illness, imagine my heavenly release from boredom when I discovered several other players and we started playing every day.

Three of these players were a minister, and two US armed services veterans--one WWII and the other Vietnam era. The three gentlemen were 12 yrs, 30 yrs and 14 yrs my senior so I was the baby of the group. We were diverse in background but we ALL LOVED to play! We couldn't see that well or hear that well or even hold the cards that well. But we adapted our games with card holders, large print cards and bought cubes to keep track of trump that had suite symbols that were big enough for everyone to see. We cajoled (okay, we badgered) the administrator to purchase a big, round game/card table and would set in a corner of the large activity room and talk and play and tell somewhat off colored jokes and howl with laughter so loud the nurses would come around the corner and observe tears streaming down our faces as we laughed and snorted coffee out our noses if the silliness was ill timed. Then realizing we were just having too much of a good time, the ladies in white would walk off shaking their heads and muttering. A one point I found a small plastic donkey about three inches high and during one raucous game with lots of good-natured insults I placed it on the table and sarcastically said to all if you don't like my dealing you can kiss this where upon the small plastic jackass was set in front of the offending party and more laughing and howling came from our corner. It became the game mascot. It was passed around to different players to be held up smugly anytime you got the little trash cards.

Now the minister had this sense of humor that burned slow. When he made some sly statement our brains took it in, pondered it and by the time the hand was dealt we were laughing, groaning and trying to shake the feeling of being mentally "had." WWII and Vietnam would swap war tales and tease each other about which branch of the service was better. Ever day we reviewed yesterday's games picking on techniques, how gutsy such-and-such a move was, who was cheating, etc. And then one day it happened...the cards were dealt. The final card was flipped up revealing a trashy little nine of clubs. We all peered at it groaning and griping only to look up and see Vietnam guy with a slow spreading, all-teeth grin breaking out across his face. We awaited for him to pass, order up, or something but he started to chuckle which turned into a laugh which gave way to a slow head-shaking. And he simply fanned his hand down on the table before us. It contained BOTH bowers, the ace, king and queen...all black, all spades. A true unicorn. Our jaws all dropped at the same time. Five decades of playing the game and I had never seen the perfect hand until that day. Probably won't see another one in this life time. We all tossed our cards to the center, took a break to refill coffee and dealt the next hand.

We formed good friendships and after I was able to leave and get my own place again I would go back once, sometimes twice a week, and spend an afternoon playing euchre, laughing too loud and drinking bad coffee with my buddies.

Then Covid. It shut down jobs and lives and all things social. And because nursing homes contain the most vulnerable ones, they locked them down as tight as maximum security prisons. No visitors. No outside, "non-essential" people. No more euchre. I was now an outsider. Our little world of fun we'd created was halted, patiently waiting to resume. I missed my friends but communication in a nursing home is hard. People our ages don't do well with smart phones or even dumb phones. And if you can't hear the phone or see the screen you may as well be talking into a brick. Staff don't have time to set up phones or explain technology. Phone calls became less and less. I sent notes and gift bags and treats hoping to encourage my friends in their guarded and sealed dungeon.

As lock down drug on I think my friends began to give up in their isolation. The minister was the first to go in April. I lost track of others in the group only to find out some had been discharged or moved. This month my veteran friends both died within 24 hours of each other. So, I sit here and selfishly wonder with whom will I play riotous games of euchre? Funny how a silly card game united a group of diverse people and brought them together in what could have been a very lonely place. It was normalcy, company and friendship over something as small as a deck of cards.

Rest well good friends. The journey is over. It was an honor and a pleasure playing with you.

Appreciate Your College Opportunities Kids: They Are a Gift From Past Old People

Note:  From here on out I won't be posting blogs here but on my Crank Old Retired Lady Facebook page.  When your old and cranky it is kinda tough to keep up with more than one blog-type-are.  Thanks for reading here.

Observations of the week have fostered the growth of another OPINION in my little flower bed of crankiness.

In the past few years I find it increasingly disturbing that certain groups of young people (let's say the under 30 crowd) seem to feel entitled to everything these days. Especially their post-secondary experiences. And since I am just a cranky old retired lady who has walked the earth like an ancient, but not yet extinct dinosaur, I can name names so to speak. So ya'll I am tired of young black people, young women, young immigrants and young people with disabilities not to mention the LGBTQ crowd and others screaming that life is soooooo unfair to them because they are "put upon" yet they very seldom acknowledge that people way, way, way before them fought long and hard and lost their lives in many cases so you could whine in present time about how unfair the world is to you. A lot of people suffered to give you opportunities--going to college being one. In the current age you wanna blame it all on politics? Seriously? You tell me the Constitution and the Bill of Rights promise you things? Seems like these days everyone is screaming about how unfair their lives are from their dorm rooms at very expensive colleges where getting a hang nail is a major crisis and you need safe rooms to survive disappointment.

Well, my little snowflakes, you are there getting your college degree because people born generations before you fought tooth and nail and put it all on the line so you could whine from your $40,000 a year college campus and go in debt for your educations via government subsidized loans meaning that a large portion of your degree, has been most likely subsidized or paid for by the American Tax Payer in some form or another. Of which I am one.

So before you you burn my flag because America is so horrible how about I burn your student visa that lets you be here at an American university (probably getting American financial aid)? Please don't start lecturing to me at my age about how tough life is until you review a few things. Back when I was a kid (I've waited six decades to say that by the way) only about 20% of people went to college and you went because you needed it to GET A JOB, unless you were a "draft dodger" way back in the 60s and 70s and didn't wanna go slog through the endless, wet , stinking jungles of Viet Nam and get your hiney shot at because you generally got an educational deferment so you could complete said education. And BTW vets, good job to those who had the guts to do leave the comforts of a dry, warm USA and fight. Fear and discomfort was pretty motivating to go become a teacher or social worker... Or maybe you should contemplate how Democrat Governor George Wallace was telling young black people they couldn't go to those very colleges back then. Women were not so welcome either. But those are different rants ladies and gentlemen. The point is, college was not an automatic "gimme" and if you needed a degree to pursue your chosen occupation it was a different attitude than today where people do things "bass ackwards" as my dad used to say. You don't go to college to find what you wanna do my dear snowflakes. You do your research and find how you wanna earn your living and THEN find the training that helps you do that which may be a college degree. Or not.

College should not be an automatically provided extension of your tax payer high school education. You "do" college because you need it to get to a vocational goal. It's not summer camp for pity sake! But if you have to go to college to fulfill your chosen career path via higher ed, please don't lecture me about how rough it is until you have thanked those people who fought long and hard so you could be there. No one owes you a living so stop blaming Trump or conservatives or politics in general and take advantage of the opportunity you have to get your education or training or whatever you are doing so you can survive the rest of your lives instead of being eternal children.

I don't wanna pay for your permanent vacation without a compelling reason as I am most likely subsidizing your school career in some form through my taxes. Many of my generation remember the phrase "working my way through college." And we did literally. So, at least have a little appreciation for what people before you gave up and sacrificed so you could be where you are today because if you are jobless and homeless and camp out on my yard you are most definitely getting off my lawn.

Doggedly Pursuing Pups

When I retired from a busy working life I decided to get a dog.  I always wanted a dog.  My visions were for long, leisurely walks with my camera slung over my shoulder (one with REAL FILM and not some phone camera) on the country roads that surround my home.  Said dog would keep me company, because you know, retired people are all lonely people. Unless you are in Florida, where apparently no one is lonely because they have discovered casual sex.  I am glad to report we did get the rock-n-roll and drugs part of the equation correct ‘cause we like us some vintage Seger (Bob not Pete) and at our ages we are ALL on drugs of some kind. 

When you look at various WHO studies and CDC statistics for STDs or VDs or STIs or whatever they call it these days, retirement-age folks are allegedly highly sexually active; we just don’t use “protection” and from what I understand monogamy at the ACME senior living facility is no longer in vogue.  News flash, we finally discovered the sexual revolution, the one we were too naive to participate in, or for you English majors out there, in which we were too naïve to participate.  We were just 40 years too late.   Since I don’t live in Florida with the swinging retirement crowd that seeks warmer weather, more company and uh, "companionship" I opted for a dog.  Much safer companionship if you wish to avoid embarrassing discussions with your family doctor regarding your private parts.   

The last decade of my working life my job was a usually an eight hour day with a two-hour round trip commute.  Since I didn’t want to put my dog in “day care” or a crate or come home to a living room full of scattered couch stuffing, broken furniture and shredded draperies amounting to a level of damage that could rival the havoc  generated by the Memphis Belle during a German bombing run, I figured ten hours of alone time was not a good life to give a dog.  Ten hours of waiting to pee while you contemplated why your owner abandoned you every day seemed an unfair fate to bestow on a loyal little beast waiting so patiently for your return home. So I waited to get a dog until I retired and was home all day and could be there. 

Getting a dog was a long process of research, prowling the internet, talking to people and finding a breed that matched my life style.  And it finally happened.  The French Bulldog, via rescue, appeared in my life complete with Heavenly choir music and sparkling shimmers of light—halo clad angels optional.  For those who are not familiar with the breed they possess enormous eyes that can stop you in your tracks.  Their smushed-in faces, complete with bat-like, oversized ears and huge heads are stuck onto short, stocky bodies that resemble curled up hippopotamuses (or is that hippopotami?) with short necks serving as connection for both features.  They are stubborn, don’t listen that well and prefer to sleep or lay on the couch most of the day and produce copious amounts of gas.  Since we older people tend to be stubborn, can’t listen that well without a hearing aid (the Frenchie most likely ate it if it is missing)  and generally spend the day sitting on the couch or sleeping producing copious amounts of gas, French Bulldogs and oldsters are a pretty brilliant match upon reflection.  Despite these enduring characteristics, I have two of these creatures living in ma “crib” in hilarious but perfect harmony.  Both are rescue dogs—throw-aways—for reasons I don’t fully understand but the heart breaker of the pair is Ruthie. 

When I sit on my porch sipping coffee in the quiet of my back-country, dirt-road-world I feel a certain amount of satisfaction.  As my other dog, Fen snores at my feet, Ruthie uses my fenced front yard to run.  She runs after butterflies, bugs and birds.  If it floats, flutters or flies she is captivated.  If she can’t track the birds themselves she track their shadows and gives chase stretching full out, leaping through the fresh green grass of an early summer.  She stops, turns making a wide circle and begins again chasing what she cannot catch until she flops down on the lawn or trots over to the kiddie pool full of water I keep in a corner just for her.  After getting warm from all that running, she climbs in like an awkward toddler struggling to climb into his crib pulling herself over the edge with front feet hooked on the edge and hind legs struggling to crawl over the edge to cool, delicious water. She drinks some and then trots around the tiny wading pool.  She digs the bottom of her water paradise enthusiastically with both front paws and then dives under.  She makes circles and flops down on her rotund, jet black belly enjoying a good soak until she is cooled off and then hops out and runs to me to stand up and plant her dripping paws on my knee.  It doesn’t matter if I get wet.  I don’t have to be in an office any more. 

So I sip coffee and listen to the birds and stroke the head of a one-eyed, five-year-old, ex-puppy mill dog that lived half her life in a tiny 3x3  foot cage until she became a liability and was dumped at a shelter a few years ago.  My other dog became had it some better.  He became too hard to handle and was given up by a couple but his life seemed more comfortable than Ruthie’s—his home was somewhat normal with a real house and real people who got him as a tiny pup and at least tried to be a family with him.  Ruthie was a commodity confined to a puppy prison factory—a sentence she really didn’t deserve.  My broken dogs—creatures that need far more attention than a working person could provide--in a way turned my retirement into their life preserver.  It worked out well for a cranky, old, retired lady and her two dogs.

The hour is late.  I have to go put my old records back on the shelf and check the lawn for wayward children and tell them to get off my lawn.  We seem to need it more than they can appreciate.  Peace all.

Commerce and Political Causes
CAUTION--OLD CRANKY RETIRED LADY RANT/OPINION: Ok, last night I read a passionate explanation about how A Spice Company, one of my favorite places to order spices, was supporting pro-choice groups, e.g, the women's' march back during the inauguration in January. Or at least the more subdued portion there of. You remember, the one where woman ran around Washington DC adorned in "costumery" depicting female anatomy that you really don't want to have to explain to your little kids. This is one of the latest companies (I have discovered) that feel compelled to take sides with some social cause in a purposely and politically supportive way.

After decades of being a democrat; and admiring democrats in leadership; and voting Democrat; I felt compelled to back away from the increasing insanity that now defines the Democrat(ic) Party in America. I don't want to be pigeon-holed into any extreme group. There are parts of me who never liked the fringe right wing element in the 80s (think Ruby Ridge-esque) that were so far right it bordered on insanity. There are dangerous factions on both sides. I sat in my safe Democrat cocoon and said thank God I'm not close-minded as those Right-wing people are. I'm an open minded, free thinker.  But I may have jumped the political gun back then because the last decade has seen the Democrat party become just as extreme and radical in their thinking as any 80s skin-head-militia group. Back then if something disturbed the cosmic force we boycotted businesses, but now days this particular brand of fringe seems fashionable and a lot of people jumped on the band wagon to the point that no safe haven exists for the average, politically moderate consumer. Now days I'm not so sure about anything in the political arena.

During the 2016 election it was sad to see local business owners picking fights on face book and railing against Conservatives who dared to question women's rights. If I felt abortion was wrong how comfortable would I be shopping in the store of a person who had just declared all Republicans/Conservative/Christians to be women-hating mouth breathers? Other professional people I knew dove into the tumultuous drink with name calling and hatred because if you voted for Trump you were a bigoted right-wing nut job (that was a personal favorite). A consumer service business wouldn't "do their thing in Indiana" when they had their religious freedom legislation controversy happening. They would not put their business there. A major department store decided they had to be in our collective faces about who used what bathroom. Frankly, if you've transitioned from a man to a woman or woman to a man, when I have to pee I'm probably not looking for transsexuals in the bathroom. I'm looking for a place to pee...with my hands full of packages...and my purse...while crossing my legs. So if I'm looking for anyone its whose coming out of the next available stall and concentrating on getting there first. I understand the concerns from the other side of this particular argument but that's another rant. The point is, if CEOs and COOs and board members make shopping or using a service so complicated that traversing their business model requires learning a whole list of socially just dos and don'ts then it's just too much work to be there. I don't want to engage.

When you make a huge declaration about being open-minded to certain social philosophies I don't see it as welcoming--I feel like you're telling average-person-me that I'm wrong and you're achieving that message  by rubbing what you think is socially just in my face...and my wallet. If I have to work that hard to tip toe around your fragile political feelings to buy your products or use your services it is just...not... worth my time or effort to patronize your business when it makes me feel unwanted or guilty. In fact, it gives a sharp, stabbing pain in the base of my brain that radiates to my eyeballs and makes my nose bleed. I just want to go in and shop or eat a frickin' chicken sandwich or drink a cup o' joe without social lectures or causes being THE  focus of my buying experience from either side.  Trying to sort it all out uses energy I would rather invest in more important things like surviving an increasingly hostile world where people nit-pick the differences to death and don't see the commonalities.

But then, I am just a cranky, old retired lady now. I'd better go check my lawn for politically incorrect kids...and yell at them to get off my lawn. Peace all.
Heros Among Us
I watched one of my favorite movies this weekend.  Sergeant York.  It isn't a hugely infamous film from the 1940s  but it starred the iconic and boyishly handsome Gary Cooper.  He won an academy award for his role as York. When I see the movie it always takes me back to 5th grade and an assignment we were given to name a hero.  I thought on the question and remembered the humble, church-going World War I soldier from Tennessee portrayed in the movie and wrote down St. Alvin York.  This 5th grade memory happened in the mid sixties and the film was made and released in 1941 so not too far in the past (like it would be now).  York himself was a decorated war hero who came home to parades and fanfare on the scale of the  the great astronauts of the space program.  

Since Gary Cooper won an Academy Award for his portrayal, York  was not totally ambiguous in any sense as an American icon.  York was a farmer from "back in the hills" as my mother used to say. He had values.  He was brave.  He captured 132 German soldiers with just a handful of fellow soldiers. He was the best example of a hero I could think of--someone I admired who had faith, was brave and cared enough to risk his own life to save his fellow soldiers.  He won the congressional medal of honor. So imagine my disbelief and disappointment when my paper came back with his name crossed out and "NO" in capital letters was written beside this man's name.  I don't know why the teacher did that.  I never asked.  But that incident made me wonder what is a hero?

With Memorial Day around the corner we can count all those who are veterans or active service members as heroes in my book.  In my opinion, any person who is willing to be shot at or blown up and bleed for America is a hero.  If you are willing to die for America, you are a hero.  If you are are willing to be called names, be spit on because you wear a uniform--you are my hero.  If you are willing to leave your native land and go over seas leaving your wives, husbands and children and parents behind, you are my hero.  Whether the conflict is right or wrong, moral or immoral it takes an incredible amount of discipline and inner strength to suck up your personal feelings, put them away and go to war.  You don't always have that choice and going where you are told because it is what you have to do is a courageous act.  Fire fighters and police and first responders are much the same.  They carry out duties for the greater good despite public sentiment about who they are or what they do.  Even if someone write a big NO across your name you have meaning to me.  I admire what you stand for and the difficult, and sometimes unpopular, setting where you sometimes have to do it.    Please accept my heart felt thanks to all who serve here at home or lands far away. My freedom and safety are mine because of what you are willing to do.

That's just a cranky, old, retired lady's opinion.

PS Any hero who serves, or has served, you can  hang out on my lawn any time.

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