Ever since I sat down on the floor in front of the Wheeling living room bookcase and wrote a large “P” with purple crayon in most of my parents’ books that I could reach, I have been addicted to writing. As both my grasp of the alphabet and I grew, my writings have become longer and more important to me. As a youngster, I wrote stories and even had one published in my Dobbs senior yearbook. At Smith, I majored in English and was managing editor of Current, our weekly college newspaper. In almost every organization I have belonged to I have been secretary, and often publicity chairman and contributor to or editor of the newsletter if one was published. I wrote for the Dobbs Alumnae Bulletin for many years, including four as its editor. And in THIS century, I was editor of the Garden Club of America’s Conservation Watch magazine. At 89, my flaky vision forced me to give up driving and most meetings, so I started this blog as a vehicle for the stories, odd thoughts, memories and other things I simply had to share.
This is a long and rather braggadocio way to say that having to write was the main reason for this blog. This is contrary to views expressed by some that I write it just for the flattery of comments. They are the icing on the cake, ego-boosting and soul-satisfying, and Marker will read them to me as often as I want. I cannot now either read them or respond to them, but please know how many thanks I send your way. The fact that I HAVE readers is in itself a heady delight. You are kind, discerning, very bright and put feathers in my cap!
I am also passionate about reading, books and bookstores! Growing up in Fairmont, West Virginia, I collected all the books about Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, and the Dana girls at 50 cents a book. For about six years, the book department of Hartley’s department store got most of my weekly allowance. I think if I could not “read” today—that’s how I spend my days!—I’d rather be dead.
Thank God for the U.S. Library of Congress! Striving to see “that all may read,” the Library developed its Talking Books program. Open to the blind, visually impaired and people with certain other handicaps, this federally supported, free program requires a recommendation from a doctor with your application. Depending on where you live, your local source may be a state library as in Maine, or another special entity. Components of the program include a quarterly catalog of new recordings listed by topic and a small but heavy, simple-to-use player. You may choose books from the catalog, search for specific titles, or let the source choose books for you in selected categories. The talking books themselves arrive on multi-book cartridges specially designed for the player. They arrive in plastic cases pre-addressed for return to your source. These cartridges must be returned, but you can order the same book again if you want to re-read it. This is a truly fabulous service for those of us who can no longer read normally. I want to sing whenever a new cartridge arrives, and I imagine a horde of happy “readers” singing the Hallelujah Chorus together on the Library of Congress steps!
As an avid and passionate reader of advice columns, I have learned that parents who both love and like all their children are less plentiful than one might suppose. So when I admit that I adore all five of my children, like them enormously and enjoy spending time with them, you may think that I am a prideful braggart. But I even learn from them, and have been known to ask for and act on their advice. This is intended as a warm and heartfelt “Thank You” to all of them for their foresight, ingenuity, and generous gifts of time and research to make my home safer and life easier as my vision and mobility worsen.
It was about five years ago that I ignited the “Let’s Help Poor Old Mom” program with a piteous email to my kids begging that SOMEONE come help me organize my piles of papers and choose books to give away. There was a speedy response. Although the papers may have appeared too overwhelming, the book winnowing began and has continued ever since. It was when my two neatnik children visited at the same time that things got really serious. It was felt that the house was over-furnished, filled with clutter and lacking the room I needed to safely maneuver with my walker. Somehow this required cleaning out the so-called “attic,” which led to disagreements on what was essential to keep and what was just plain junk. Carloads of so-called “crap” went to Goodwill and the Biddeford dump. Downstairs, the project required clearing surfaces of cherished knickknacks (“clutter”), moving furniture enough to give a feeling of airiness, and getting everything off the kitchen counters that I had left out in order to easily find. A particular bone of contention was my dead dog’s large metal crate somewhat blocking access to the kitchen. When the crate was moved out of sight and I didn’t notice its absence for 24 hours, I decided it could go. The results of all this cleaning out are a real improvement, although I confess that the counters are filling up again.
My television has been upgraded to high definition and set up to record my favorite programs. Christmas four years ago brought an Amazon Alexa into my life from one family, and two Alexa plugs from another. My old and early iPad was traded in for a new and advanced version, and many new applications were added. One allows me to manage my new Nest thermostat either on the iPad or by commands to Alexa. Having plugged a distant bedroom lamp into one of the Alexa plugs and the Christmas tree into the other one, I began to see a new world opening. Many plugs later, I can turn all the lamps in every room on just by giving a command like “Alexa, turn on the dining room lights.” Meanwhile, one child researched Alexa-compatible email providers, so that Alexa can now read me my emails. Two others spent endless hours adding all the numbers I use most to my home phone’s directory and also to my cell phone contact list, which Alexa can access to make phone calls for me. I continue to find new uses for Alexa and have added two Echo Dots so I don’t have to yell. Bragging about this to family members at dinner last week, my son asked me if I knew Alexa could fart. To my surprise, he then requested that she do so and because of the placement of the three extensions, we heard a CHORUS of farts. Why on Earth???
Don’t hold your breath while waiting for the next blog post. I am happily spending most of each day reading Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey books, which I find enthralling.
See you in June? p