More Thoughts on Aging

The years manage to creep by, leaving a trail of memories, some of which are crystal clear (even from childhood) while others, like trying to recall the brief grocery list I neglected to jot down, zoom into outer space. Many incidents from childhood are still vivid in all their exhausting detail, while locating my cellphone can require using the housephone to track it down.

I sometimes imagine my mind to be a large collection of rooms in a massive house, where daily routines are still intact until less important surprises invade my comfort zone with issues that involve remembering where I laid my wristwatch or the glass of wine that I was drinking just minutes before. Friends my age say that these changes in our powers of recollection are quite common and simply require a routine which allows as few details as possible to create surprises.

Such military strictness seems too robotic for me to live like a mouse trying to master a maze. Routine is certainly essential on some level, providing some kind of comfort zone of familiarity, but if there’s a ray of hope in my memory having to face annoying little glitches, it’s that I’m not alone in forgetting some daily details, and that my old friends and I still recall the shared happiest days of our childhood and youth together without the roadmap sometimes needed to find a nailfile or toothbrush.

As usual, old friends who know our gaffes without smirking, are the bulwark of shared times and even hope for the future.  JB

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The Dining Room Table

I’m looking now at the dining room table I bought in Chicago fifty-four years ago. It’s made of cherrywood in a style called “Queen Anne,” indicating its oval shape and curved legs ending in carved “feet.” With both leaves, the table can seat ten, even though I have only eight matching chairs so that I use two other armchairs to accommodate a group of ten diners.

It struck me a few days ago that the table, since 1970, has seated dear family and friends for many breakfasts, lunches, teas, and dinners to the sounds of lively discussions and the percussive clicks of silverware against plates and saucers.  Recollections of my grandparents, fellow teachers, and dear friends along with many other guests are still vivid in my memories, so that even the gentle sounds of silverware clicking against the dishes can summon pleasant memories of all those who, over many years, have sat around that table, chatting, eating, and enjoying themselves.

Sometimes it seems that eons have passed, and at other times, the memories come back in a way to make me feel as though those wonderful times were just yesterday and that somewhere, if there is a heaven, there will be a very long table with many “leaves” and chairs necessary to accommodate, once again, the hundreds whose voices, eloquence, humor and joy can once again be enjoyed in a reunion that is an essential part of my ideas regarding what heaven might be.  JB

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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 Match.com 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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