New Friends

I accidentally made a new friend today. The woman is a friend of a friend, and she’s taking on a full time (as in 24 hours a day, seven days a week) caregiving job, so she’s looking for someone to fill in a few hours a week to give her a break. Anyone who has been in such a position knows that no matter how much you love a person, those breaks are very much needed. The problem, from what I understand, is that there are too few hours to really tempt someone who needs work, and too many hours for those who need just a bit of money because the extra income might jeopardize their main income. Somehow, my name got bandied about. At first, I said no because . . . well, because I’m out of the habit of saying yes, which has been The Bob’s main effect on me.

As I got to thinking about the request, I realized it would be good to have a bit of income to help fund some of my house renewal projects. (I just contracted for a few tons of rocks, both ornamental and practical — some will go around the house and garage to protect the foundations, some will be used to create pathways about my micro estate to make walking safer in my old age, and some will be used for a driveway.)

Even more than that, I don’t see myself going back to the senior center to just hang around once the restrictions are loosened (although I really enjoy being around most of the people I met there, I don’t especially enjoy playing games, which was our main activity), and except for the Art Guild, I don’t see myself continuing with the rest of my volunteer activities. In addition, one of these days, the contractors will be finished with all the projects that we’ve slated, and then what? Total isolation forever? I don’t see that, either.

So I told the caregiver I was willing to take the job. She stopped by today to interview me, and we really hit it off. When she found out this is my forever home, she was delighted because that meant I would always be a friend. She also approved of all that I’m doing to help with accessibility in my old age. And she said she’d be willing to be my caregiver if it ever got to that point. (She’s the second person who has offered her services. I’m not really sure what that says about me. Maybe that I really am as old as I am rather than as old as I think I am?)

One thing that’s really fun about meeting someone from a small town, especially one who has lived here all her life, is that she knows everyone I know. I think she was a bit surprised because apparently, the people I’ve become closet too are among the best the town has to offer. Special people, for sure! And somehow they gravitated toward me. Pulled in by my tractor beam of charm, no doubt. I’m only being halfway facetious with that last comment because it truly is astonishing how many really good friends I’ve made in the short time I’ve been here.

And now I’ve made another.

The final decision about the job isn’t hers, though her recommendation will be given great weight. I still have to meet the woman I will be caring for (visiting with?). And I will need to talk to the daughter. (Though that might not be necessary, because all she has to do is google me or check out this blog, and she’ll know more about me than I even know.)

But I don’t see that they will have a problem with me. I mean, what’s not to like, right? Admittedly, I might sound cold, looking at the job from a practical angle rather than a personal one, but I haven’t met the woman yet, and even if I had, I wouldn’t want to invade her privacy by talking about her. Though I will say, she sounds like an interesting woman, has lived here all her life, and knows (figuratively speaking) where all the bodies are buried. We also have mutual friends, and since I won’t know any of her stories, I’ll be a new audience, so there should be plenty to talk about. And oh! She lives just a couple of blocks away. How perfect is that?

We’ll see what happens this weekend when I meet her. If nothing else, I’ll make another new friend.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Small Town Encounters

When I was at the post office yesterday, I noticed my mail deliverer working the window. “So this is why my mail is always late,” I quipped. She explained they were shorthanded, so she was basically working two jobs, but that she’d be by later with my mail. We chatted a few minutes, then, as I headed out the door, a woman I didn’t recognize walked in and said,  “Hi, Pat.” I stopped and studied her for a second. Before I could come across as rude, I said hastily, “I’m sorry. I don’t remember your name.”

She smiled. “I only remember your name because of the hat.” She then told me her name, which didn’t ring a bell, but when she mentioned her affiliation with a local church, I finally remembered meeting her. At a pie auction at a local church, she’d stopped me and asked, “Why do they call you Pat in the Hat?”

“Because I always wear a hat,” was my answer. So apparently, not only am I easy to remember because of my hats, so is my name easy to remember.

Although I make is seem as if this is an ideal small town, it isn’t, though some things truly are ideal. A library within walking distance? Priceless!

Other things, not so much. Although I still have no problem with walking to do errands, I’ve developed an inexplicable aversion to walking just to be walking, Well, today I had a few graphic examples that helped explain why I don’t enjoy walking as much as I once did. For one, dogs run loose — not all of them, and not all the time, but enough to be a problem, and I definitely do not like encountering strange and hostile dogs. There is a leash law here, but apparently, the sheriff’s department doesn’t care, and neither do the owners. As one woman told me, “If I were a dog, I would prefer to run loose, even if I end up getting run over.” And, since the dog disappeared shortly after she told me that, I’m sure she, if not her dog, got her preference.

Another issue is the cars. I don’t think people here are used to pedestrians. Too often, if I’m crossing a street or cutting through a parking lot to a store, drivers will simply ignore me or mow me down as if I weren’t even there. I have to be extra vigilant because of those who aren’t at all vigilant.

And then there are all the young men of working age who apparently don’t work. I detoured to avoid encountering a couple of small groups of men and several single wanderers. Good thing I haven’t lost my big city wariness.

I sure do miss having a wilderness area to wander around without all the unpleasant encounters. (Well, there were a coyote or two, and an occasional snake, but I could handle those.) I suppose I could drive somewhere to walk, but really, where’s the sense in that?

Once the garage is finished and I can get my storage items out of my exercise room, I’ll be able to use my elliptical again, but that’s only for a few minutes at a time and doesn’t at all take the place of walking. I have been adding more time to my dance workouts, but even that doesn’t take the place of walking.

I often encounter neighbors walking around the block across the street, and I might have to do that, too. And there is a fairly safe, though rather short street I sometimes walk. Meantime, I try to do a lot of errands!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Suits Me To a Tea

My next-door neighbor came over for afternoon tea yesterday. It was lovely and seemed such a small-town thing to do — heartwarming and congenial and a bit old fashioned. It was especially nice because I was able to show off my tea bag collection and use my author mugs. I still had a few mugs left from years ago, but when I recently broke a mug and needed to get new mugs of some sort, I unexpectedly discovered that my original mug order was still posted on the website, so all I had to do was reorder.

The mugs added to the general feeling of a small-town visit, probably because they don’t seem like blatant self-promoting, but a rather pleasant and personal touch.

I’m now sitting here at the computer with a cup tea, having just returned from a visit to the library a few blocks away. Another seemingly old-fashioned touch, this walk to the library, and a large part of my small-town experience.

Although some people around here make me leery (drug dealers, people who hang out in the alley behind my house, and a smattering of small time thieves), life in a small town suits me to a tea.

Admittedly, that’s not the way to write “to a T,” buy my spelling seems more in tune with the cozy “teatime” way I felt yesterday.

“To a T” does not, in fact, have anything to do with tea or golf tees or T-shirts or T-squares, but is a very old term, first used in 1693. To the best anyone can figure, the phrase came from a much older phrase, “to a tittle.” A tittle now means a speck, a tiny amount, or a small part of something but originally a tittle was a small part of a letter, like a dot or a stroke or a diacritical mark. So if something suits you to a T, it suits you to the smallest detail.

So technically, small town living does not suit me to a T since there’s the leery factor I mentioned above.

But it comes close — it’s only off by a tittle.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Third Time’s an Alarm?

I seem to have backed into period of being accident prone. That there are separate — and understandable — causes for each of these three “accidents” does not mitigate the alarm factor.

I wrote about falling a month ago, a full-frontal splat that jarred my whole body, leaving me with a couple of achy days, but no other damage. My foot had become caught in a strap attached to my carport, and since I hadn’t removed the strap when I should have, that fall could be considered my fault, but still, the fall was a result of an accident rather than a physical problem — no dizziness or weakness or imbalance. It was just one of those things that could happen to anyone (to anyone who let their attention lapse, that is).

What I didn’t write about was a fall that happened a couple of weeks ago. I generally don’t go out at night because it’s harder to see, obviously, but I got a ride from a friend who was attending the same meeting. I’d stepped out of the car, on my way into the town hall, and I tripped on the two-part curb in front of the building. (A brick pathway had been placed on top of the original sidewalk, but since the bricks didn’t go all the way out to the curb, there was a tiny step where the original curb still remained.) The irony was that I had been headed to a meeting to discuss ways to make the town safer, and there it was, a classic example of what needed to be fixed.

A couple of days later, someone asked me how I was and if I’d recovered from my fall. It took me a minute to realize what she was talking about because the fall wasn’t much of anything — the shin pain had dissipated in a couple of minutes, and I’d immediately forgotten the incident. Besides, the woman hadn’t even been there the night it happened. I asked how she knew. She laughed and said, “This is a small town,” Apparently, it’s even smaller and more insular that I thought, because how could such an insignificant fall by a rather insignificant person (insignificant in the grand scheme of town doings, that is) be a topic of conversation?

Then yesterday I went for a walk with a friend. When I’m by myself, I usually walk in the middle of the road where there are no hazards (except an occasional car, of course), but since there were two of us, I was walking off to the side, and suddenly, without warning, my foot slipped out from under me and I slowly but inexorably hit the ground. A neighbor was passing, and he got out of his truck to help, but except for a bruise on my thigh, I was fine and able to get to my feet by myself. I must admit, though, I was (still am) quite perturbed — and alarmed — at falling again.

After asking me how I was, the neighbor said, “I saw you go down.” He explained that I’d slipped on a patch of loose gravel, and then he added, “It wasn’t your fault. There was nothing you could have done.”  My friend agreed and asked me if I were accident prone. I said no. Because I hadn’t been. At least not until a month ago.

Now I need to get her question out of my head because thinking of it might make me accident prone for real, and frankly, three falls are quite enough, thank you very much.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Small Town Living

I’ve lived in towns of various sizes all my life. (Although Denver is now considered a big city, back when I was growing up, it was proud of its “Cow Town” appellation.)

But my current place of residence is by far the smallest town I’ve lived in, and although I worried about insularity, the people have been nothing but welcoming. (I think one of the reasons for the welcoming attitude here is that not only are the people very nice — to me, at least — the town has been on a downhill slide for many years. New people are buying old houses and fixing them up, which helps maintain the small-town friendliness. There is no new development bringing hordes of non-rural folks to the area.)

And I fit in from the very first day.

I was attending an Art Guild meeting the other day, and when I asked a question about an upcoming event, one woman said, “It’s the same as last year.”

“I’ve only been here six months,” I responded. She seemed taken aback and said something to the effect that she hadn’t realized I hadn’t been here very long since I was so active in the group. Another woman laughed and said that she dragged me to a guild meeting after I’d been here just a couple of days.

My comment, “Didn’t you feel a change in the atmosphere about six months ago when I came here? Your lives will never be the same!”

Truthfully, it’s my life that will never be the same.

Ah, small town living!

In the upcoming election, two women are running for city council, and I know them both, which I find fascinating considering the short time I’ve been here. One of the women is the daughter of the woman I bought the house from. (The woman I bought the house from is the Art Guild president, but she’s not the one who dragged me to that first meeting.) The other candidate is someone I met at porcelain painting class, a class I took specifically to meet people of different ages.

Most of my experiences here in this small town have been good ones. The only iffy experiences are of the insect variety. Lots of big red ants, which leave me alone. Even more mosquitoes, which don’t.

And tarantula hawks.

The most ambivalent experience by far is the tarantula hawk. Despite its name, and despite its size (the size of a hummingbird), this creature is not a hawk but a wasp. A two-inch wasp? Yikes! Supposedly, its sting is horrendously painful, but for the most part, it ignores humans. Tarantulas are its favorite prey. (I figure since the tarantula hawks are here already, I should be seeing tarantulas around, but not yet, though people assure me once it cools down, I will see them.)

On the plus side, I have seen a few butterflies.

The next few days, I am going to be ridiculously busy. Baking cookies for an Art Guild event on Sunday. Taking a gourd painting class Sunday afternoon. Going on a road trip with friends on Monday to the nearest city”. Porcelain painting Monday evening. A meeting at the museum on Tuesday to figure out how to do a Murder at the Museum” evening. Mexican Train Dominoes on Tuesday afternoon. Exercise class Wednesday morning.

It still puzzles me at times that despite all my confusion since Jeff’s death about how to create a new life for myself, it happened, almost without my volition. It’s as if I was pulled out of one life in the desert and plopped into a different life on the prairie without even a hiccup of loneliness. It helps that my next-door neighbor and I became immediate friends. But what also helped was my willingness to go to events and invite myself to sit with total strangers. Oddly, none of those strangers became my friends. I don’t even remember who they are, but making the effort put me in a place to meet others, including the woman who talked me into going to the Art Guild meeting.

A lot can happen in six months.

A new town.

A new life.

And tarantula hawks!!

(Neither of the photos in this article are very good since both were taken with my phone when I was out walking. I couldn’t get close to the butterfly without spooking it. I couldn’t get close to the tarantula hawk without spooking me.)

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.