Archive | January, 2016

Kick the Can

18 Jan

There’s an episode of the old Twilight Zone television series that aired February 9, 1962 called Kick the Can.  It is a ‘message piece’ that says more in 30 minutes about life & aging & staying who we are as we age than any current-day documentary could. It was written by George Clayton Johnson with Rod Serling. Since Serling was still a young man, I’m guessing Johnson was someone who was standing on the precipice of advancing years that actually “got it” & wanted to look at a way, even through a bit of 30 minute fiction on a science fiction television show, to change our eventual end. If he was not an older person, then Johnson possessed a healthy degree of gifted insight.

In Kick the Can the residents of a nursing home are disagreeable, disgruntled & dissatisfied with their lives at Sunnydale. One resident accidentally finds a way to return to his childhood by simply thinking / BELIEVING he is young again & encourages his friends & fellow nursing home residents  to join him in a game of Kick the Can. They believe he is totally nuts but eventually succumb to his badgering & join him in the game … at which point they turn into the children they had once been.

Amid children’s laughter & giggles, the episode ends with Ben, the only elderly resident of Sunnydale Rest Home  who would not participate or believe,  sitting alone on the steps of the nursing home holding the can. The others are forever children in the Twilight Zone & he realizes, too late, that they have left him behind. The window of opportunity to join them has closed forever.

I believe this episode is telling the viewer that if we think young & act young, no matter what ravages our bodies as we age, we will forever be young in our minds.

I have thought that as we get older we become more accepting of our own personal aging process. That we somehow adapt to what is happening to our bodies & lose any apprehension of what lies at the end of the road for us. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found out, for me, anyway, that simply isn’t true.

And I’m not the only one. A Baptist minister who is a good friend & often my advisor,  when asked how he was approaching turning 60, said, “Kicking & screaming all the way …” (he  & I will someday have  side-by-side rooms at our own version of Sunnydale Rest Home).

I have gained a deeper appreciation of the fact that getting old is just something ugly that happens to our bodies. If our minds are unencumbered by any form of dementia, we’re STILL ourselves in our head … in our soul;  still 30 years old or maybe just turned 40.

I’ve seen examples of this in my mom, in my aunt who just died 2 weeks before turning 87, in our wonderful friend, Millard who was still climbing ladders, cleaning out his gutters & volunteering his time at a local retreat before his death at 93, & in our beautiful friend, Martha who is 87; a bit unstable when walking in her walker but still a vibrant & charming 30-year-old in her head.

Because of these wonderful people who are & have been such a special part of my life, I am angry about death. My mother once responded to my anger by telling me I should not question “The Plan.” But I DO. While I know, intellectually, that death is a part of life & if new life is to come along with fresh ideas & new ways of solving the problems of our world & our existence, then those of us who have been here a while must go so the torch may be passed. I GET it … I just don’t LIKE it.

Here, the day following our return from North Carolina where we spent time with family following the death of my aunt … a woman so special to me that I can’t even write about it yet … I am hoping someone will find a cure for death in our lifetime. It seems to be the thing that is taking most of us out of here &, to me today, it has a uniquely unfair quality about it.

For me it’s not the dying … it’s the LEAVING.

Still dealing with my grief at my recent loss I am hoping someone will call us out into the yard to play a game of Kick the Can… to continue to be those young people we still are in our heads & to mimic the examples that have been so obvious in my life.  I’m hoping we all learn how to do that before we grow too old & end up like Ben, sitting alone on the steps holding that can somewhere in the Twilight Zone.

Speaking at the end of the Kick the Can episode , Rod Serling said this & I think it’s a good way to end MY episode:

“Sunnydale Rest Home – a dying place for ancient people who have forgotten the fragile magic of youth. A dying place for those who have forgotten childhood, maturity & old age are curiously intertwined & not separate. A dying place for those who have grown too still in their thinking to visit the Twilight Zone ……”


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The Pig in the ‘Hood

11 Jan

Worried about bills?… that heat pump that keeps going on the blink the minute the temperature drops below 30? … your neighbor’s constantly barking dog? … that pesky raccoon that’s finally eaten a hole through your expensive garbage can? … income tax? Don’t feel alone. We’re all worried about those things & annoyed by them.

How we deal with the annoyances of life can often stave off a stroke or nervous breakdown & in the end, make those every-day annoyances easier to endure. Whether you rework your budget, find an agency to do your taxes, eventually buy a metal garbage can or have a stiff drink, if it works for you, then that’s what you need to do to cope.

We live in Virginia & specifically, in the woods. The nearly 100 houses in our quiet, rural subdivision are surrounded by trees & we’re roughly located at the base of several mountains. It’s peaceful. You’d imagine that those of us who live here could deal with our stress by simply walking out the back door, taking a deep breath & taking in the view. And that DOES work a lot of the time. Fairly routinely there are herds of deer that stroll through the woods that surround us & frequently walk through our yards & there’s nothing more relaxing than watching them, especially when there are little ones.

Those of us who live in this particular lovely place, do, however, have the world’s best stress reliever; better than woods & deer, mountains & quiet. We have something that temporarily relieves the stress but also stays in our memory & in our mind’s eye where we can revisit it whenever we feel the need. Better than that “memory revisiting” thing, though, is that we can simply get into our vehicle … or walk on a sunny day … & make the less than one mile trek just down the road to visit our “Pig in the ‘Hood.” And mostly we drive by it on a routine basis & we seldom forgot to look.

About eight years ago my husband & I noticed a house under construction set back off the road just a short distance from our subdivision. As the construction continued, we’d often drive down the driveway & check on the progress of the build. When the construction was mostly complete, we took a moment to drive down that driveway again & look at the house. Its many windows & vaulted roof lines had unbelievable appeal.

The day we took that last drive & look, the home’s owners were there, dealing with last minute details before moving in. Once we were committed to the driveway there was no way to turn around & leave without seeming suspicious, so we stopped in front of the house & told the owners how much we loved their new home. The husband was someone my husband vaguely knew so they invited us in & gave us a tour of their lovely new home. It was as beautiful inside as we envisioned & we enjoyed meeting the owners.

Several months after moving in, the owners of that lovely home put a professionally made sign at the entrance to their driveway, right at the road, with the name of their farm on it. Shortly after the sign appeared, so did a life-sized pink, concrete pig.

A PIG !!!! Well, just cool.

One day, as Christmas was drawing near, my husband came home & said the pig was wearing clothes so we got in his car & went to see the pig. The doggone thing was wearing a Santa hat, jacket, wide black belt & black boots on its little piggy hooves. I was ecstatic!

Over the years we have watched as our neighbors delighted us with their creativity & sense of humor & changed the concrete pig’s outfits according to the season & the holiday. I became so invested in the pig that we started hopping out of our cars & taking pictures of the pig’s new clothes with our cell phones every time there was a costume change. Not only did it become fun to see the new outfits, we started looking forward to them. After talking to a neighbor, I found out that my husband & I weren’t the only ones in our subdivision who enjoyed that pig.

About 2 years ago I started posting pictures of our “resident pig” on Facebook whenever there was a wardrobe change. We were all delighted when the pig showed up in a frilly skirt, high heels & gloves & was receiving a bouquet from a life-sized Kermit. Not only did that tell us that our Pig in the ‘Hood was a girl, she actually was Miss Piggy. How cool is that?

Through my posting Miss Piggy with some regularity on Facebook, she now has a full “fan following,” resulting in a friend from Detroit responding to every new photo with, “I love that pig!!!”

I don’t believe I’ve seen our neighborhood pig dressed in the same outfit twice & recently her owners have been including family events as part of Miss Piggy’s wardrobe changes; for instance – dressing her in a wedding gown when their daughter got married.

Miss Piggy has been an elf at Christmas, a Pilgrim at Thanksgiving, a prom queen at prom time, carried an Easter Basket at Easter, was dressed in a heart-patterned apron at Valentine’s Day with a sign that said, “Be my ValenSwine”  & had a wardrobe malfunction when her coconut-shell bra slipped too far off her piggy breasts last summer.  She was also dressed in a grass skirt with that bra just before her owners took a trip to Hawaii. I LOVE that pig!!!

Our friend & retired mail carrier, John says that Miss Piggy’s owners have been dressing her up for occasions for years … way back before he ever considered retiring & she’s always been a distraction of pure joy.

We can actually tell that she is getting a little “long in the tooth” because the tip of one of her piggy ears is missing & the framework pin is exposed. Her owners haven’t bothered to fix it although they routinely paint her when her hide becomes faded & dingy. I suppose that ear, left as it is, is a testimony to her years of existence & entertainment, without becoming bacon.

Our Miss Piggy has not been without controversy, however. Last year for the 4th. of July her humans dressed her up in bathing trunks & a t-shirt that had an American flag design. One of my Facebook acquaintances insisted to me, in BOLD letters that I “remove that horrific pig” from my Facebook Timeline. She believed the owners had actually draped flags over the pig & was protesting the desecration of the flag. I assured her that the pig was not actually draped in a flag but was wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt & shorts but by then the woman was convinced & very upset. I told her it was not MY pig but said I would defend to the death her owner’s right to dress her any way they saw fit. At which point, she UNFRIENDED me & also BLOCKED me. And that’s fine. Miss Piggy has brought me more stress relief & pure joy than that person ever did & I’m pleased to have Miss Piggy still an active participant in my life.

We & our neighbors continue to be blessed by the wardrobe changes of our “Pig in the ‘Hood.” During this recent “cold snap” her owners dressed her as Anna from FROZEN, right down to the tiny little ice skates on her delicate little hooves.

I hope our Miss Piggy’s “humans” understand what a neighborhood responsibility they have taken on … how much we depend on her costume changes to brighten our day, lift our spirits & vanquish our troubles, even for just a little while. I think they do because they are never late with a holiday or seasonal wardrobe change & they seldom duplicate an outfit. We all admire them for their creativity & their sense of humor. I believe they are truly aware of the symbiotic relationship they have with us; the neighborhood & “our” pig.

Who couldn’t love a life-sized pink concrete pig dressed in a bathing suit, sun glasses, swim fins & inner tube in the middle of July? She is sometimes symbolic of where we’d like to be & what we’d like to be doing … & sometimes, with a nudge from our Pig in the ‘Hood, we take her implied advice & DO it.




Floating an Idea

7 Jan

Since 1991, with the exception of several years of bad weather, my club, Heimdal Science Fiction has built & entered a float in the local Christmas Parade. In 2006 our chapter actually won the trophy for Best Depiction of the Parade Theme.

In September of 2015 our club began kicking around ideas & plans for our float entry in the parade on December 4.

The parade theme was Oh, What a Miracle! At the September Heimdal meeting a member mentioned that he should be a float all by himself for having survived open heart surgery as an infant, which was truly a miracle. Someone picked that up & everybody ran with it, pointing out the members of our club who have survived not only major illnesses, but life-altering events as well. And the theme of our float was born … Survivors, Oh What a Miracle!

A member offered his Star Trek adapted, Galileo-styled shuttle van to pull the float, his trailer FOR the float & his huge shed & yard to build the float. And we were off again & running … or floating.

We had a sign professionally made that stated our theme; Survivors: Oh, What a Miracle! Members volunteered to be on the float holding signs that told of their survivorship; for example – breast cancer, uterine cancer, bi-polar disorder, workplace violence, congenital heart defect, diabetes, stroke; 10 members in all.

I got together with 2 other artistically inclined members at my home & we made signs for each survivor to hold on the float. The signs depicted Christmas gifts with the name of what the person survived written on the package. The bows on each package were the actual Awareness Ribbons that signify the disorder & were the color of those Awareness Ribbons. It took the 3 of us all day long, with a pleasant stop for lunch at a local restaurant, to make most of the signs. I finished up what we didn’t get done several days later.

The last weekend in November, a number of our members met at the Davis home & constructed the float; covering parts & hand rails with cedar & lights. A Christmas tree was set up at one end of the float, decorated & later, on parade evening at the parade site, each package being held by a survivor was connected to the well-lit Christmas tree by a ribbon the color of the individual Awareness Ribbons. All survivors on the float wore Star Trek: Next Generation uniforms because part of our float message was to point out that there are “survivors” in every group of people, every organization & area of life. Truly a miracle.

17 of us came out on parade night & helped with our float. 2 people walked ahead of the float carrying the banner for our parent organization, Starfleet, followed by 3 members carrying our recently acquired Heimdal banner. All our members walking & carrying banners wore Santa hats, which was cool & added a bit of humor to our presentation. One of our members was dressed as an elf & walked beside the float handing out candy canes to those watching the parade along the parade route. Carl drove his van that pulled the float & the 10 of us on the float holding our significant Christmas packages.

All along the parade route people cheered when we went by & called out, “Star Trek.”  Many gave us the Vulcan salute & one woman walked closer to the float, looked up at me holding the Breast Cancer “package” & said to me, “Keep on fighting …” I almost cried. It became obvious at that moment that people not only understood that we were the local science fiction club, but most of them actually “got” the message we were attempting to convey with our float. And somehow, that was HUGE.

It was 34 degrees the night of the Christmas Parade & our folks were so cold at the end of the parade route that most of us could no longer feel our toes.  That’s pretty cold. But everyone was very proud that we had made an excellent original contribution to the parade, especially after seeing the reaction of those lining the parade route. We realized that we were there for a multitude of reasons.

Did our float win any trophies? Not this year. It’s difficult to compete in a county parade with churches, kids & animals, but often, winning is not the most important thing. What we decided is that as a club we ARE winners. Our float theme was significant & made a statement that is timeless & putting the float together was an excellent example of team work & what you can do if you work together & try. And it was just plain fun being in the parade, carrying Starfleet & Heimdal banners, waving to the crowd that recognized & obviously LIKED us & sharing an evening with friends.

Will we do another Christmas Parade float? Some of our members are already kicking around float ideas for THIS year’s Christmas parade, even though it’s a long way off.

In the end, though, enthusiasm & friendship are what drives the float …