Musings of Two Older Women
by Ruth Major (human) and Greta (angel support dog)
Laughter and writing stand high on my list of coping skills for aging.
Almost any “tragedy” can transform into an enjoyable story. These are the stories that stay with our families throughout the years – to be re-told and remembered repeatedly. These are the stories that help us maintain sanity in an insane world.
Four years ago my husband of 44 years with 69 years of living sat down on a Lathrop State Park roadway, gazed at the Wahatoya Mountains (”Breasts of the Earth”), leaned back, and died within a few minutes. Life’s been different without this loyal companion in a multitude of ways. We’ll touch on many of them as the weeks disappear while we’re not looking.
Jim could do anything in the way of mechanics and handyman tasks. In employment he was an electrical engineer; at heart, an inventor. He didn’t like to do everything, but he could.
The adventures I’ve had as a widow – the adjustments, the challenges, the lessons learned, the friends acquired – will be the fodder for the column today and in the future. We’ll include stories, information, profiles of seniors, family history . . . . If you have any tidbits or comments you’d like to share, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 738-2759.
Two years ago we purchased the Daisy Nook, a tiny house that had served well as a beauty shop. It boasted 70 years of existence – as I will in one more month and Greta will in doggy-age. Well-kept and pretty, the aged adobe structure welcomed its new inhabitants – along with awaiting maintenance and repair tasks.
I need to explain that the “we” refers to Greta and me. I stumbled over the use of “I” and “we” for several months as a widow before I decided “we” was legitimate when I included my new and less complex companion Greta, a six-year old Yorkshire Terrier. The change of words eliminated the painful “I’s” that emphasized new-found aloneness.
Tar Struck, Ah, Stuck
The pink adobe shed cries out for attention. Moisture combines with dirt creating mud; the walls are disintegrating. Since the pink adobe shed arrived in my life, I’ve pondered the windowsill dilemma. Water seeps through the sill’s open cracks freely. We’re having abundant rain now; the whole building is in jeopardy. The windowsill seepage demands immediate action.
Perhaps leftover roofing cement will seal the crevasses. The black substance proves perfect for the challenge as it seeps downward and collects across and under the sill in a potentially solid black puddle. A weathered board found on the “farm” property works well to cover the new black base. I need to remove two inches of the board for perfect fit. Its underside takes the remaining roofing cement.
I place the board across two picnic benches. Carefully covering the wet tarred “petrified” wood with plastic sheeting and sitting down provides a better posture for saw maneuvers. Having never fully accepted the width of my posterior and the need for abundant working space, my rear settles-in beyond the plastic shield. I feel the tar soak through my shorts. As I attempt saw blade after saw blade and saw after saw, the shorts grow heavier and heavier.
The groove in the edge of the board is nearly imperceptible. Fatigue is setting in; effective functioning gone. I waddle into my tiny bathroom with trepidation. After gingerly removing shorts and underpants and depositing them in the trash, I prepare for tar battle.
My young worker Larry had introduced me to the cleaning magic of baby oil when he was helping me settle. Rubbing the baby oil into my hands removes that tar. A tissue helps protect the white lace shower curtain as I push it gingerly aside. I ease by the curtain successfully. My shower is small; I am not. Pouring the baby oil onto my blue net bathing tool I scrub the blackness using a memory-and-touch system. My body hits the side of the shower; I slowly turn around and gaze at the round 4-inch stain on the shower wall. Baby oil applied liberally dissolves the mega-spot. After rinsing down, I observe my work in a nearby full-length mirror. The stain had extended across my buttocks all the way down to my knees in the back. Back to the shower stall.
The stinging sensation has lessened but has not abated. I need a good healing salve. My eyes focus on a tiny green tin box on the sink shelf. My Pop was a proud and poor man. He never was a patient in any hospital throughout his life. He used bag balm for his cows, and he used bag balm for his hemorrhoids and rupture – along with a truss ordered from the Montgomery Ward catalog. Ma sputtered for many years about the danger of avoiding professional medical attention. Clover Bag Balm worked for him, and he died with his truss on.
As a child I was embarrassed that Pop used such a primitive method in the mysterious “medical” ritual. Sixty years later Clover Bag Balm is a popular healing agent for wealthy yuppy-types. A few weeks before this tar event, I spotted a tiny 1-inch can of bag balm on the pharmacy shelf along with an adjacent 3-inch green container with the same content. They both cost approximately $4.00. I chose the tiny container; it was cute. Just a whimsical reminder of my father and my adolescent misconceptions, I thought. As the stinging persists, I reach for the bag balm. Soothing comfort accompanies a strange tribute to Pop’s medical wisdom.
With a brief rest and clean clothing I am prepared to observe my work. Doggie footprints are permanently engraved in the black tar windowsill.
After a few dry days the tough board is ready to be cut at nearby Walsenburg Lumberyard. Help is at hand. With just a few moments of professional attention it is ready to install.
Some weeks later I admire the rustic windowsill accented with red wooden posies in an earthen pot. Neither rain nor snow can pass through or around the tar-soaked impenetrable board with white Kilz finish. One down.