More Thoughts on Aging

I remember as a child wanting so much to be a teenager, like the ones in our neighborhood who sometimes got to drive their parents’ cars and were allowed to stay out until ten in the evening. My J.C. Higgins bicycle made me feel older and wiser than the kids on our street who were still riding tricycles, but that was hardly compensation for me to feel truly independent and free of the constraining label of being a “kid.”

When in my twenties (to which I had looked forward as a teenager), more responsibilities to which I had never given much thought, added to my newly supposed freedom the burden of taxes, rent, insurance for my car (along with the expense of fuel and maintenance for it and my home). The busy, even if “grown-up” conveyor belt taking money from my increasingly starving wallet hummed its way through my forties, fifties, sixties, and seventies so that now I have finally accepted the fact that staying alive and comfortable involves multiple monetary obligations that I have finally accepted as the inevitable and unending entry fee to a life of relative comfort in a world where my not having money would render me far unhappier, even though as an official codger, I claim the right to fuss about things if I need to. I’ve earned it.

If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something. That’s what being an adult is. Also, I have learned that the sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to “catch up.”  JB

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Romantic Partnerships

I admire my friends, who have had successful marriages, some for over fifty years. The steady effort and patience such relationships require are probably beyond my imagining, but as a gay man, I have experienced three long-term partnerships over the past forty years and have learned to appreciate the patience and acceptance of differences that are parts of all successful relationships.

I know that a clear conscience can often be the sign of a bad memory, but I must, in my own defense, say that I have worked hard to keep my partnerships afloat, at times addressing negative issues, like someone trying to determine when he’s out of invisible ink.

I met my first partner in Arizona. He owned his own home, which he neglected to tell me was in foreclosure, and that he had the savings one would expect of a ten-year-old with a piggy bank filled with nickels and dimes. However, his charm and good looks wowed me into overlooking his wandering eye and miniscule income. After only a few weeks, he sold his furniture and drove his red Thunderbird to Indiana, where he would share my house but not the expenses of maintaining it. I had not yet retired, and my conscience began to hurt, while my other parts felt just too good. After only three months, I discovered that he was seeing other men in amorous ways, startling me into realizing that I was merely a cuckold supporting an ungrateful, nefarious bum. He left with his Thunderbird and joined an encampment of monks somewhere in Michigan. Several years ago, he passed away there.

My second attempt at finding someone with whom to share my life, occurred more than twenty years ago with someone from New England who was recently retired and seeking a “permanent” relationship. One can speak about the speed of light, but I was still too much in the dark to know that when everything seemed to be going too well, I was overlooking something.

Eric was doing nothing but eating too much food and watching porn while I was at work. His body weight ballooned to the point where he was the human embodiment of lethargy and good for nothing except playing Santa Claus in a department store in December.

My plan was to find someone online who would have an interest in hooking up with Eric in a permanent partnership. It took two months before Eric met Mort (residing in Indianapolis) online. I invited Mort to visit us and stayed out of the way, praying there would be sparks of mutual attraction. I even took them to dinner at an expensive restaurant in town. I invited Mort to stay for a few days, and I kept out of the way, going out nightly to visit friends, coming home one night to see that Mort and Eric were sharing the fourposter bed in an upstairs bedroom, Eureka!

The next day the two of them confessed their adoration for one another, and I helped Eric pack his bags. I recall waving goodbye from my front porch before hurting myself in the back yard attempting to do a cartwheel.

It was more than a year later that I finally got it right in meeting my third and present partner Jim. I saw his previously unvisited profile on and was at first put off by what appeared to be dorky looks and thick eyeglasses. Then I read what he had written in his profile. The humor and intelligence of his words made me realize that I had to meet him. We exchanged phone numbers and over the weeks got to know each other better. His deep, resonant voice was intoxicating, and his wit and wisdom won me over. He has three grown children and had been divorced for several years when I met him. I met his last wife. She and I became friends.

That was it. After two or three visits back and forth, I knew he was the one. His extended family has become mine too, and I love them as though they were my own family. It still feels wonderful that my search for a life-companion is over. The gene pool has no lifeguard, but that is no longer an issue, as my search has been over for more than seventeen years. Jim has new eyeglasses and is devastatingly handsome. What more could one ask?  JB

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There’s No Place Like Home (Unless It’s Mobile)

Last Saturday I arrived home with my partner, Jim, from a two-week trip visiting his relatives in Tennessee and Northern Florida. I love the idea of traveling at least twice a year to be with family and friends in venues that are loved but always at least slightly unfamiliar. It helps keep my brain synapses hopping to new tunes in harmonious conversation with those whom I don’t know or haven’t seen for a while. It feels sometimes like puzzle pieces I thought were lost, finding their way back to the larger picture.

Jim’s family has truly made me feel as if I were born as one of their members. Hearing their family tales and their listening to mine have been a gift that continues to give me a wider view of the world, while providing a cozy corner for my love of kin, which I believe is something universal in human terms.

If only the world could be as open and accepting, then the wider human family could be just that, a large family, when home isn’t just one specific location, but rather a mobile place of connection, caring and shared memories.  JB

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Yes, She’s Still in Washington

I don’t usually write two commentaries in a row about anyone except Donald Trump, but Marjorie Taylor Greene is such a buffoon in her constant need for attention, that I’m fascinated by her utter ignorance and full-speed-ahead attempts to make the public know for sure that she is about two lobes short of possessing an actual brain. She seems to be unaware of her own “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead” public image, though I’m pretty sure that her broom has duo-quads that help her to fly around Washington, leaving a trail of smoke, hatred, bad manners, and that terrifying stupidity that makes so many of us ask whom she will attack next with her brain-damaged drama and juvenile insults.  JB

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Wake Up, America!

Donald Trump has tons of bravado but not a shred of intelligence or actual knowledge to back it up. He is a braggart who has never done his homework about anything except to study and admire Adolf Hitler’s power in Germany of the 1930’s and early 1940’s. Trump’s adoration of Hitler should be terrifying, even to the dumbest citizen of The United States. Too many starry-eyed worshipers of Trump are suffering from a tunnel vision that could, if overlooked by the rest of us, destroy our democracy and end American history. This is no exaggeration and certainly no joke. We are on the very edge of a deep precipice into which too many ill-informed Americans seem willing to giftwrap our democratic ideals at Trump’s bidding to set ablaze and toss into a dustbin of blind stupidity that will be the bulwark of Trump’s future power. JB

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Medusa Is No Myth After All

Marjorie Taylor Greene seems to have the mentality of a nine-year-old whose only mission in life is to say that all the people she doesn’t like have cooties. It’s her full-time job. She does virtually nothing in Washington for her country or anyone else.  She’s just a tantrum in high heels. JB

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More thoughts on Aging

As teenagers, many of us think we know everything there is to know about the world and the universe beyond. Of course, a young person’s “universe” is quite smaller than that of someone in his or her fifties (and beyond). As an “oldster” now I can say, while looking back, that I often thought my parents knew not nearly as much as I did (insert laugh here). Like so many others in their teens, I loved my parents but believed that they were often old fogies whose knowledge of the world was limited to taking care of our house, paying bills, and tending the garden. It didn’t really occur to me that those things had much wider consequences that my pea-sized brain could not yet grasp.

Now, of course, I see that the values I have about a wide range of responsibilities and attitudes about the world came from their experience, common sense, and an enormous struggle to help us mature into useful adults, who would never have to wear striped uniforms behind the bars of a prison cell.

Mom and dad would now be well over a century old, but the values they imparted to my siblings and me, I’ve managed to pass to many of the thousands of students I taught during my career as a high school teacher. Like so many others who have left their teen years in the distant past, I have been able to observe over and over again the metamorphosis of parental discipline from its origins of my resentment to a kind of wisdom that, if we finally understand and respect it, cannot only change our lives but also turn us into responsible adults, who pass it on to yet other generations. Thanks, Mom and Dad, and all the great teachers I had in school, for the wisdom that, at the time, was not always fully appreciated.  JB

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America’s False Idol

I continue to be puzzled by Donald Trump, or at least by those who seem to worship him.

During the 1920’s and 1930’s, many Americans both feared and worshiped Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, and other newsworthy criminals, who, despite tough times of The Great Depression, seemed to have the power, adventure, and money that eluded the brutal needs of those who were trying desperately just to feed their families. The undercurrent of envy in the face of very hard times was not unlike today’s struggles with inflation and the awful challenge so many working people feel as they break their backs just trying to get up the next rung on the ladder.

Though Donald Trump has, until now, escaped paying for his colossal skill at cheating the system that enfolds the rest of us, this icon of deception and apparent wealth remains for too many, a figure who seemingly knows how to beat the system for monetary gain. He is, beyond all reason, their “hero.”

His snide contempt for “suckers” who follow the rules, his general disrespect for women, his penchant for manufacturing endless lies to cover his misdeeds, and his making his underlings carry the brunt of his crimes have, in a way, divided the nation into Trump worshipers versus those who believe he should now face the music and pay for his career of deception and contempt for all those who have winked at his crimes and encouraged him to be an icon of privilege and open disrespect for all the honest suckers, who managed to build and maintain a great nation without a wall.  JB

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The Food We Eat, and The Price We Pay

I sometimes imagine that my stomach and tastebuds have minds of their own. They seem to remain quiet at a very low-key level through the oatmeal, fresh fruit, fish, and vegetables that I consume on a regular basis. However, as careful as I am (or try to be) about consuming a healthy diet, there are those moments of wild abandon when I crave something more unusual and dangerous than an apple or glass of skim milk.

For my birthday, a friend brought a beautiful, home-made carrot cake with a rich icing made with heavy cream. The chopped walnuts, carrots, and bits of orange rind led to the self-deluding conclusion that my consuming a slice would be astonishingly healthy (insert laugh here) and wondrously good for my physical and mental health.

I should have remembered the powerful but impatient attitudes of the picky and temperamental triumvirate of my spleen, liver, and gall bladder. I can only imagine that the splash landing of that first bite would cause the three to say in unison, “What the hell was THAT?”

To appease them, I immediately swallowed a One-A-Day multiple Vitamin tablet, but it was too late. The three maniacs continued to rumble and make a big, grumbly fuss until it was time for bed, and I knocked them all out for the night with a big glass of French Champagne. I knew then by the gentle sound of their snoring down there that further appeasement would arrive the next morning with a big, healthy bowl of oatmeal to leave them singing with joy until the cheesecake dessert I had plotted to have after dinner, when another internal drama would occur. JB

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The Balance Sheets of Aging

As I grow older, I (like most other people), notice mental and physical changes that are occasionally either comical or just terrifying.

I rather like the fact that my hair is gradually turning silver. The symbolism is, at least visually, a sign of wisdom, regardless of how one has spent his time in learning things. The stereotype is a charming illusion suggesting that simply being alive beyond one’s sixties is automatically a sign that those years have been spent absorbing truckloads of knowledge and understanding, just hanging around a bit longer. One week from today I will turn 78. That “extra time” to which Webster’s Dictionary also assigns the meaning of “a prison or jail time.”

I would like to believe that, however many years one lives, he or she will accumulate, along with silver hair (or a neatly polished bare scalp) a deeper understanding of the world, and especially of other people. Whenever I see someone with silver or white hair, my first thought is often about the person’s life journey. Beyond consideration of silver or white hair, I must say that the principal struggles of growing old aren’t visual, but rather based upon behavior and that winding road of change in our dealing with everything and everyone around us as the years accumulate.

My partner, Jim, a most intelligent (and mostly patient) man, lets me know when I forget something in an obvious way, like leaving a cocktail on a kitchen countertop, or asking the same question to which he gave his answer that very morning. My frustration about such things is probably just as frightening to me as it is to him. The only redeeming part for me is that sometimes, just shaking my head can erase the recollection of a recent gaffe (like shaking an Etch-A-Sketch from the 1950’s).

I still drive my car occasionally to the grocery store, to Walgreens and to visit a few friends locally, but not cross country as I was doing just a few years ago back and forth from Colorado.

This part of growing older is like moving to a strange new town daily and having to learn again each day where the rooms are and how to use the stove. When I reach that point, it will probably be time for Jim to find me a comfy room at the Fort Lauderdale Home for the Bewildered (Please insert laugh here). So far, those glitches of awareness are ones that only Jim and my other close friends notice. Thank goodness for love and patience as I move perhaps to that time of life when my journey each day may require new maps to find my way, even in my own town or my own home. Thus far, that scenario seems far down the road, but one can never tell when the danger signs may appear, and all doorknobs seem to open the same rooms.  JB

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