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It’s All in How You Look at It

It had been a busy work day at Apartment 438: two loads of laundry, preparing and cleaning up after two meals, a little housecleaning, considered off-limits by our regular housecleaner. I was tired. I’m learning to use this aging body more gently and caringly. But there was just this one thing left. A seven item shopping list. I could get it all at Schnucks, even the essential wine and corn patches. So I sat down for 10 minutes, thought “I can do this,” pulled myself together, grabbed three cloth shopping bags, and headed down to the parking garage.

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Octogenarian Adventures 2

Well, it happened again. I’d be tempted to say “Damn” or worse, but I just did my annual Lenten confession, receiving forgiveness for cussing. I fell. I seem to be getting every possible clue that my abilities are waning. What’s so surprising, even discouraging, is that this dude believes that he has got it. You know what I mean. Mike drop. I AM on top of things. This firstborn child has never let his responsibilities get ahead of him. If I wanted it, and if I could plan for it, scheme for it, delay gratification for it, I got it.

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Octogenarian Adventures

I haven’t written a blog post this year. In one sentence, the shock of watching Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump decimate our democratic process has temporarily castrated my literary vocal chords. But, as bad as things are politically, sometimes I just have to write. I especially write to clear confusion from my mind, to find out what I do or do not think about an issue, to express feeling, or to share an insight. So I am writing about something which happened to me which is totally unrelated to our current political catastrophe. A couple of days ago, I received a huge jolt on the bumpy, downhill highway on which I and most octogenarian citizens find ourselves. We are gradually but jerkily letting go of all our acquired possessions and most of our treasured activities.

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Going Home at Christmas

by Jim Andris
12/24/78

I love going home at Christmas,
First there are hugs all around—
         Grandma’s bony ribs seem so small in my hands.
Sister pats my back,
         And brother tries to pick me up.
Mom always asks
         “How long do you get to stay this time?”
and
         “I’ll bet you’re hungry!”
So we sit and chat
over the TV;
         dad puts down his organic gardening book,
         and everyone looks at me
and smiles.
Someone passes around the cookiesandcandy
And eventually
I go look under the Christmas tree
And try to guess
What’s in the blue box with the yellow ribbon.
The porch—scuffle, door pound.
Child voices and laughter
We are invaded
by my two nephews.
Conversations break out
in three different corners of the room
and the laughter
always the Holiday laughter
orange candle flames add glow to the
blinking neon tree ball reflections
We catch up on a hundred details:
the baby’s due in March
Gladys was in the hospital
Jeffry can play “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
while Joey pounds the bottom keys
and squeals.
And after a while things
quiet down.
The Smith crew departs
like a three-sectioned wagon.
Grandma gets tired and slowly climbs the stairs
bent over—
         how strange—nearly
like a fetus.
Dad goes back to his balancing act
between the book on his lap and Police Woman,
and eventually drifts off to
half-lidded dozing.
Tom and Dee pack up their gear
and leave—
Tom has run out of jokes.
Mom finishes her crossword puzzle
and she and dad go to bed.
I just sit there
with the poinsettias and potted palms
and African violets
and remember
everything that happened that evening.
The Christmas lights
illuminate
a tear-streak
on my cheek.
I pull the plug,
go upstairs,
get undressed,
and pull the covers to my chin against the chill of the night.
“Five days will go so fast,”
 I think
as I doze off to sleep.

Combating Commercial Christmas in a Seasonal Church

As the season of Advent approaches, a reflection on the true meaning of Christmas from one Christian’s point of view.

The Holidays. Some people love them; some people hate them. I, personally, navigate them in much the same way that I navigate baseball, basketball, and football season. Sports and the holidays mean everything to a lot of people. They throw their heart and soul into the appreciation of them. I don’t want to spoil anybody’s fun, not to mention the fact that being critical of these practices can get you quickly dropped from any number of social calendars. I just try to go with the flow, and manage to find some things to enjoy in all the hubbub. So I’m not exactly Scrooge and I’m not exactly Charlie Brown.

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Like, Bridge over, Troubled Waters

Bridge as a healing force in a time of division.

I breezed through my freshman year at Marietta College. I carried five subjects—math, chemistry, physics, English and geology, 18 hours of credit—and ended up with a 4.5 average. Naturally, I emerged from that experience just a little bit too cocky. I also had decided to be a GDI and not pledge. As the next fall rolled around, I acquired a freshman girlfriend; I’ll call her Debbie. I discovered bridge through Debbie, and I went wild. I did love to play cards, but bridge was not a game that came with my family. Those games were canasta, poker, and pinochle, games at which my parents, uncles and aunts were masters. Unfortunately, Debbie went home to the East Coast at the end of her first semester, and I was a contributing factor in that eventuality. Decades later, I would encounter her on TV by chance channel surfing, and I was glad to see that for all appearances, she had made a successful life for herself.

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Old Age Ain’t for Sissies. Oh, really?

A reflection for the International Transgendered Day of Remembrance

About ten years ago, I was in the lobby of Barnes-Jewish Hospital going to my car from a visit with my spouse, Stephen, who was recovering from an operation. Crossing my path on his way into the hospital for tests was an old friend and former colleague of mine and his wife. We exchanged greetings, brief “catchings up,” and the reasons for our presence there in the lobby. I’ll call this colleague “Roy.” He says to me, “Well, old age isn’t for sissies.” Irrepressible as I am, I stepped back slightly and turned my hand in a gesture of self-display and said, “Oh, yes it is.” And I laughed. He and his wife did, too. Perhaps for each of us, it was a bit of a nervous laugh. I mean, a couple of decades before that, my gay activism had been on display at the campus on which Roy and I then taught. I was known to Roy as a gay activist, a hard-working and competent university professor, and also a man in a long-term same-sex relationshp.

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