Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Narrowing Funnel of Growing Old--The Endurance Crawl

During the Depression years (1930s)
these were sarcastically called
Hoover Flags!
Even sideways, a funnel still gets narrow--the key is slenderizing your life style, gramps, and crawl through it to, "the other side!"

SLENDERIZE YOUR BUDGET:  If I told you that I get little more than $1,000 per month in Social Security and my sweet Gramma Rosie gets less than $500 you'd likely scratch your head and try and figure out how we can almost survive month to month.  We dip into our savings for a few basics.  Our monthly budget last month was more than $2,000.  

We still rent after nearly 40 years of married life and our savings are dwindling.  I was forced into retirement when the Real Estate Coaching company where I worked went under in 2008. For the last three years, I've scattered resumes into the air--and had the scant two interviews and still nothing. Unemployment is long gone after more than three years.  Old guys and gals just seem a little slower and less "bullet proof" than the young bucks who seem to know so much more than you.  It's said that we compare our worst selves to others' best offerings.  Employers may give lip service to experience and line up firmly against discrimination against age, but spot a whisp of grey hair and a little more chicken fat at the belt line and one word pops to a bosses mind:  "NEXT!"  

The poor souls who work because they have to as greeters at Walmart and table cleaners at McDonalds do their best to appear noble about it--but everybody knows:  They gotta.  I guess when our larder has only cat food, I may consider subjecting myself to the pity of my peers.

SELL THE CAR:  Much as we value our independence and the flexibility to rush wherever we want to at a moments notice on Monday, I'm putting an ad in the paper.  We owe about $1,200 on our little Kia sedan with the squinching punishing back doors courtesy of the Korean manufacturer who still thinks they're fighting a police action against anybody who has to ride back there!  Our son has kept it in great shape and with a few touch ups, it will look like new.  Selling the car, paying it off and depending on public transportation would save us nearly $400 in car payment and insurance costs.  Based on what I need to pay for medicaid and medicare and supplemental insurance when I turn 65 in December, selling the car will almost make it affordable .  

Car sales reminds me of an ironic ad on a bulletin board at a small college that read:  For Sale to Faculty First: 19 something  Buick--only ten years old for ($o much)  and then as an after thought "Would make an excellent student second car!"

Consider these other benefits for seniors contemplating the tightening noose:  

THE JOY OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT:  Taking the bus or Trax is reasonable, especially on a monthly seniors pass.  Planning around public transportation promotes physical fitness as you walk everywhere, at least between your front door and public transportation a block away.  Planning on taking the bus engenders patience.  And you meet so many nice people riding public.  There's even a hint of intrepid adventure anticipating the frosty Utah winters, snow drifts, fall promoting ice and wind that leaves you with a much more basic complexion.

Grocery shopping would need to be more frequent, demanding trips for smaller loads of groceries more often.

SIMPLIFIED DIET:  When the nice fresh veggies run out in the garden, the time has come to stock up on cat food, a wonderful affordable substitute for people food (so I hear from documentaries of starving seniors in the eastern seaboard).  Healthy cats endorse it, because after all, in the same way cats are people too, old people can become cats if they work at it, especially for the inexpensive diet.  Just remember, lots of water.

THE RETURN OF THE EMPLOYEE ATTITUDE:  I've had to learn to willingly give up a percentage of my Social Security Check to the Veteran's administration in exchange for quite competent medical care. I have no choice for what comes next.  As a kind of heavy handed gift for my glowing 65th birthday, I will incur about $150 each for Medicare, Medicaid and the dreaded Supplemental Insurance.  (Good thing I will have sold the car by then so I can just about afford it.)  I've worked for the Federal Government before when I took a job in then Senator Gale W. McGee's (D-WYO) Senate Post Office and Civil Service Committee.  I earned $6,000 a year to go to school at American University, then my draft number came up and I transferred my federal service to the U.S.Army as a Chaplain's Assistant at Fort Ord at the end of the Viet Nam conflict.

I really look forward to working for the feds again--exchanging my Social Security check for medical care with enough left over to survive on the economy (almost) 

RELOCATION: During our near forty years together we've enjoyed the blessing of government food stamps occasionally, church welfare kept us alive until we could figure out how to support ourselves a little better.  Now in the twilight of our years as even the most basic cat food goes up and up and our rent steadily increases.  The utilities gently raise the costs of lights, heat, and water.  We look forward to that great social experiment called the homeless shelter. With the increasing medical costs, ever growing utilities  and no car, one day, I anticipate the freedom from rent--and liberation from the chains of junk that plague every senior (like Marley's ghost in Scrooge's Christmas Carol). If my health permits, I plan to be the only homeless person with a lap top and a good relationship with a computer store where I can access my beloved blogs. 

When my folks moved from Cheyenne to Worland, my brave Brother Tom and his wife volunteered to help out by clearing the basement at the Cheyenne house.  Over the months it took to sift and chuck, Tom and Trudy would ship us little keepsakes in what they affectionately called the intermittent BOX 'O JUNK.  I wouldn't force our beloved Landlord and Lady Chris and Ellen to wade through our aggregate belongings--so until the "end" comes that's my last real job. 

With this post I am proud to say I think I have found the ultimate solution for old age:  Poverty, Homelessness and an uninspired feline diet.  I never saved a nickle against retirement.  I have joyously cheered the onslaught of time coping with the little slings and arrows of diabetes, slowly resolving debt and a low credit rating.  

THE LAST MEMORIAL:  Lately we've had reasonably cheerful discussions of funeral arrangements.  We looked into the sevem thousand dollar bill for a fancy schmanzy funeral at one of the best funeral "homes"  We decided we could spend that money more effectively keeping our cat food supply topped off. Laws prohibit my dream: a plain pine box in the backyard--likely because I can't afford the lumber or the time to build it and my backyard is owned by another.  But I have one ace in the hole.  When you die you gotta be buried, if not for love then for stink as my dear friend Elaine Woodward chuckled to me one day. 

Yes the narrowing funnel of growing old gets narrower and narrower for those of us on the bottom of the food chain.  To get through to the other side involves enduring to the end---or just giving into disease and circumstances and jumping the broom to the other side.

WHAT'S AFTER DEATH? National Public Radio interviewed a former attorney who gave up his practice and lived in a walk up efficiency in New York and went out for chinese food a lot.  This man was a compulsive runner who spent much of his waking life jogging around a track that he championed around the old reservoir.  He gave much of his own fortune and contacted a wide circle of friends for the rest to build it.

The reporter asked the near 90 year old guy if he had any idea what death was like.  He said it was. "Like transferring from one apartment to another."  To men and women of such peaceful attitude death comes as a blessing.  For many their kids ignore them.  They haven't taken time to cultivate neighbors.  Their best friend is their barcolounger and the flickering image, hour by hour on what passes for their real life--the plug in drug.  

(The media makes much of fuzz and wuz as Dan Rather used to say.  News of flashing red lights and dead bodies spur TV ratings--when so many other things cry out for coverage)  News of death is like the grass in Jesus' parables--it comes and goes without much lasting impact that we can see.

Gramma Rosie knows I want a DNR (Do not resuscitate) order if and when I go to the hospital for the last time.  It's the getting from here to there than needs resuscitation.  No transplants, no surgery--well maybe a little pain medication!  As someone famous once said, "I'd love to live in the dark ages.....with penicillin!'

With the fall of the stock market and devastation of senior investments for a comfortable retirement, more and more seniors are forced to crawl through the narrow end of the funnel.  Physical and mental challenges make the journey as challenging as any mountain climbing.  I figure I'm among friends, though I've never met most of them.  

DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH FOR A POLITICAL SOLUTION:  I won't wait for a resurgence of the Grey Panthers to find a political solution.  With the Tea Party wealthy dictating a freeze on all government spending--even to keep the government itself in business, I'm not going to depend on Social Security to get a boost and swoop in as if on a white horse and save us. 

Nope, I'm gonna sell the car, shop for a nearby homeless shelter, arrange our cat food by variety of flavor--and hunker down for the end I'm enduring towards.  When the young clerks at the stores we go to less and less frequently bid me to "have a nice day,"  I smile and ask "Suppose I have other plans?"   Happy endurance crawling!  See you over there!


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