“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?” The Beatles, 1966

Like many people my age, I have medical and mobility issues. This causes me to spend time alone. However I am among the fortunate few who lives with a partner. Donna, my wife, loves cooking for us and she is an excellent cook but it seems every time she does we have enough food for 3-4 meals so I try to take her out as much as possible. While we were out to breakfast one morning, I saw that of all the occupied tables, half of them had just one person eating at them. This made me sad.

Old age can bring about changes that contribute to a more isolated life. One of my biggest problems is my social circle shrinks more and more the older I get. My friends and family members move away or pass on and I left the workforce. I no longer have the daily interaction with coworkers. I know we all promise to stay in touch with those that retire before us, but who among us really does? I know I have lost touch with all of my work “friends”.

Whatever the cause of loneliness it can lead to depression and a serious decline in physical health and wellbeing.

Even for those people who still live near to me, it may be difficult to see them due to limited mobility, particularly for seniors who cannot drive. Changes in one’s physical health due to age like hearing loss or impaired vision makes it seem like it is not worth the effort anymore. Embarrassment might also be a cause of isolation.

Seniors might suffer from incontinence, are on oxygen therapy or need to use a mobility aid like a cane or a walker to get around. These logistical challenges makes it difficult or uncomfortable to leave home, but people must overcome feeling embarrassed about these noticeable signs of aging.

Many elderly people feel like they have been “pushed to the side” and forgotten about. This is particularly true for families that have spread out across the country and have a hard time scheduling visits and even phone calls. It’s important to remember loneliness can affect anyone, of any age. Even when a senior is being assisted by a family member, there is frequently little attention given to having a deep and engaging conversation between the senior and the rest of thier family.

Yes, I have experienced loneliness and it is depressing. I am a social person but I seldom see anyone other than my wife. Everyone seems to be too busy to worry about us. Few people come to visit us or help us out.  My poor wife had to shovel the snow herself all this year. I have conversations with the bible thumpers that ring my bell. After a bit they look at each other and slowly start to back up.

However, I have seen a trend recently with small restaurants and a few fast food places offering communal tables. The most noticeable one I visited recently was a small store front eatery called Tina’s Place in Sanborn, New York. They had individual tables along either side and a long table up the middle seating at least a dozen people.

As we ate, I noticed there was a constant turn over at this table with seats filling up as soon as they were empty. It seemed that everyone knew everyone else at the table and many seniors along with people of all ages were seated at this table. The conversation from this table was lively and spirited and by the few snippets that I heard it covered a multitude of subjects. What an excellent way to maintain friendships and make a few new ones.

There are ways for people to combat loneliness. I grab every chance I can to begin a conversation with a stranger like the cashier at the store or the person sitting next to me in the doctor’s waiting room. My wife says I can hold a conversation with a mugger. Try asking people about themselves. People love talking about themselves.

If you’re feeling alone, it’s very tempting to think nobody wants to visit you. But often friends, and family don’t want to bother you. So make that call or send that text and invite them over. However, chatting with a friend or relative over the phone can be almost as good as being with them. My wife used to call her aged mother every day. It only took a few minutes and made her feel valued.

Older people are particularly susceptible to loneliness and social isolation and it can have serious effects on their health. Older people say that they sometimes go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbor or family member.

While several cultures value their elders, America is one of the countries in the world where their senior citizens are frequently ignored and forgotten. We put them in group homes and let strangers look after them. We must change this. Mom and Dad selflessly took care of you, it’s time to return that favor.

Deciding to seize the day

       

October 9, 2019

BY NORBERT RUG

The day I decided to live my life to the fullest, to seize the day, and stop coasting through life was the day I was diagnosed with cancer over ten years ago. When my doctor informed me that I had cancer I told him to “get it the fark out”, although these weren’t the exact words I used (This is a family newspaper after all.) I wasn’t about to let a few rogue cells define me or restrict my joie de vivre.

I feel that time is the greatest gift we will ever receive and waking up each day is a blessing to be cherished.  You can always get more money, you can’t get more time. However receiving this diagnosis is not the only brush with death I have had. In the 60’s I was driving on Niagara Falls Boulevard when a person coming the other way crossed over the yellow line and strafed the entire driver’s side of my car, from bumper to bumper. My car came to rest in a gas station, about three feet from a gas pump where the attendant was filling up a car with gasoline. I had to exit my car via the passenger door as my door would not open.

I should have known then that I was destined to lead a charmed life. I totaled another car several years later by hitting a large tree, head on. In the last ten years, there have been so many times I have eluded Death that I can’t count them all. I don’t think Death wants to see me again for a while. I was diagnosed with Pulmonary Embolisms.  They were so many that my doctor said he had never seen someone as bad as me that was not the subject of an autopsy. I’ve beat cancer two other times and have been thrown across a room by 440 volts.

I keep checking the bottom of my foot for an expiration date but haven’t found one yet. I really don’t think I want to know though as it might diminish the joy I feel every day just to be alive. 

Knowing that a loved one’s time may be ending soon might actually be a gift that gives us a deeper appreciation for them and the time we have together but I don’t want to know when I am scheduled for my final exit. As research for this article, I recently took an online test (fatefulday.eu) to see when I would die and, God’s honest truth, they told me I died in 2015. Dang, nobody told me!   

Worrying about tomorrow and lamenting the past is a total waste of time. Each day is a gift. Carpe Diem! People don’t call their friends and families or spend time with them anymore, but squander their valuable time looking at Facebook, checking thier messages or watching videos on YouTube. You can hear people mumble I haven’t got the time while they rush home from work to go online. 

I was parked outside the high school recently, waiting to pick up my granddaughter and was watching the children file out of school. Although they were walking in groups, the vast majority had their noses buried in their phones. Here they were, walking with their friends, but no one was talking to each other.

Probably many of our thoughts and worries involve problems and situations in the past or the in the future and the closer we examine them, the more we will realize that only a very small percentage of our thoughts involve the present. 

It takes an honest effort to live your life in the present. This may sound rather simple but not understanding this is the key reason that stops people from living their lives to the fullest. People certainly aren’t lazy or afraid, they are merely trapped in their daily routines. You cannot live your life to the fullest if you don’t dare to try new things or take risks.

Worrying about the past or the future can be a huge problem when it comes to living in the day you have right now. We have to accept that the past is not alterable. Spending a single second regretting your past takes away the chance to enjoy the present. Worrying about the past can be a vicious circle. It not only takes away the time you have to enjoy this moment but it gives you with another reason to be troubled in the future. Thoughts about why did I spend so much time worrying about yesterday in the past. 

Accept the past for what it is. Let bygones be bygones and make the best of your situation today. Don’t lose sleep about the future either, you have little control of it. Deal with life one day at a time. Bottom line is, it depends on you and only you. If you spend your time whining about the past or fretting about the future, you will miss living in the present. Make the best of today. You will never get this day back. One day you want to be able to look back at your life with a smile on your face and recognize that you did the best you could.

Why parents are always late

It’s the second day of summer vacation and already we are hearing Nana, Papa “What can we do?”We try to limit their screen time so we made several game suggestions. They answer no, they didn’t want to play a game today. We suggested that they read a book but that was also met with scorn so we decided we would take them to the park after lunch. But then, shortly after we made that decision, it started raining. Cortana had told me it was going to be a cloudy all day and she was right, it was cloudy all morning but she didn’t say anything about rain. I guess we aren’t going to go to the park either.   

I have the feeling this is going to be a long, hot summer.  My wife took the rain as an indication that she didn’t have to put sunscreen on the boys. Applying sunscreen to a couple of active youngsters is just about as much fun as it sounds. It’s like trying to put an octopus in a shoe box.

We decided that we would either take them bowling or roller skating instead. Offering them a choice however was a big mistake. One of them wanted to go bowling and the other one wanted to go skating.  After much complaining and whining and because we had some coupons, my wife made an executive decision. We were going to go bowling. The local bowling alleys have a “Kids Bowl Free” program again this summer where registered children all get 2 free games a day and we take advantage of this. All we had to do was rent the shoes.

So we began the long process of getting ready to go somewhere. It took a while but we finally managed to persuade them get their shoes on and walk out the door. My wife had just got both of my grandkids in the van and they were buckled up ready to head out when the sun broke through the clouds. 

Now they wanted to go to the park again. I was now swearing at Mother Nature for the sliver of sun light that showed up just a few seconds after we were all in the van. We had finally gotten two kids out of the door, ready to go and I was not in the mood for the persistence of a couple of young children. We said no because the park would be wet. After a lot of “aws” and “you saids” we told them there were plenty of days to go to the park during the summer. They finally accepted his.

Just as we pulled out of the garage, one of them decided that he had to go to the bathroom. This was in spite of the fact we had asked them if they needed the bathroom just 10 minutes before we left. They have bathrooms at the park but apparently he couldn’t wait. My wife threw the van in park and said she would be right back. I think the boys were playing divide and conquer. After what seemed like 15 minutes, the other grandson decided he too had to go to the bathroom. So I shut the van off and took him inside.

Of course they had to take off their shoes to walk thru the house and we were back once again at ground zero. As I sitting there waiting for them to finish, I thought, this is the reason why parents are never on time. I have been unsympathetic toward people with children, criticizing them for being late all the time. Now here I am, once again, running back into my house for yet one more delay and there are always, always delays.

I looked at the clock as we finally left and realized that the last thirty minutes had been pure chaos. Today was a bit quicker than it has been on many other days. The yelling, the screaming and the hollering, and this was just Donna and I. This was just one day, one attempt to leave, and one of many reasons why it takes parents so long to go anywhere.

We all eventually got out of the house, in the car and buckled up. If it’s not a book that a child thinks can be started and finished in a matter of minutes, or asking for just one more minute to do whatever ‘Lego’ thing has to be built right that second, then someone who suddenly can’t tie their shoes or has to use the bathroom.

It struck me that forty years ago, I was dealing with the same problem with my own children. It seems that nothing changes when dealing with small children. It doesn’t matter how long ahead of time you start out, children always have an innate way of making you late.

But seriously, just what is it about us saying that it’s time to go that makes our children have to go?

Norb is a loving father and grandfather who lives in Lockport and is frequently late. He blames children.

Growing older

People my age are so much older than me.

When I think of old age, I to think of my maternal grandfather. When I was a kid, I considered this white-haired, 65-year-old man as old. I can still vividly remember his vegetable gardens at 101 Bickford Avenue, Buffalo and how he taught me how to trap yellow jackets.

He sold Watkins products and aprons to women around his own age. I recall going on sales calls with him in his dark blue 1948 dodge. This was a treat for me because I got to ride in the front seat of the “Blue Bird” as he called it and every client he had invited me in for milk and cookies. Instant grandmothers!

Now that I’m in my early 70’s, my concept of old age is substantially different than it used to be and I suspect I’m not alone. I am positive that everyone else is growing older and that person that I see in my mirror each morning is somehow aging at a slower pace. I frequently ask my wife how come everybody we know is getting older and we’re not, ala Dorian Grey.

If you’ve been pushing yourself for many years by working, raising a family or both, it feels strange to have time to yourself once you have retired and the kids have all flown the coop. One good thing about getting older is that you’ve been there, done that. Now you can take the time to impart what you’ve learned over the years. I try to do this by writing.

Baby boomers seem to be having a hard time admitting to the inevitability of growing older. Granted, we are all mortal, but I never imagined this referred to me. Sure, I am in my seventies and have been married for fifty years. Yeah, my children are in their forties and have grandchildren in their twenties. Indeed, I have been retired for four years and have been fighting cancer for ten. But those are only numbers to me, not an indicator of how old I feel.

When I take sum of my life, everything I’ve created, experienced and collected, I can count more positives than negatives. More than anything else I learn with each and every passing day the importance of appreciating what I have and choosing to be happy. Taking time to laugh with my family and friends becomes more important. Of all the good things about getting old, the best by far, according to older adults, is being able to spend more time with family members.

My 8 year old grandsons will yell “Papa run over here.” I have to explain, Papa doesn’t do run anymore.  There’s a lot that Papa doesn’t do anymore. Papa doesn’t drink anymore. Papa doesn’t go to the basement or attic anymore. Sure I move a bit slower, but that’s just my body that’s acting it’s age, my mind and my spirit are still in their twenties. The great irony, in this, say the experts on aging, is that this could be a healthy thing. Believing you are younger can actually make you feel younger.

“People, particularly older people, usually say they feel younger than they are,” said William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State. “People who report feeling younger actually tend to live longer and healthier lives and they don’t tend to have as much of a pattern of decline.” says Chopik. In most circumstances, people state that they feel around 20 percent younger than they actually are. This is according to a Michigan State study of over than 500,000 people.

They say when you are older, you heal slower but my innate ability to recover from injuries is well known among my friends and family. Recently I hurt my ankle but I thought I could just walk it off. After 8 days of walking on it, I discovered I had broken it. I was in a boot for six weeks after that and still wear a splint. The orthopedic surgeon I went to said “The x-ray revealed that your bones are, and I going to use a medical term here, crap.” (I love a doctor with a good sense of humor). He said he wasn’t sure just how long it would take me to heal but he suggested it would take months.  I surprised him by how quickly I healed. I have had cancer three times, and managed to spit in death’s eye each time.

So, at my age, I’m on a low salt diet, do Physical Therapy, quit smoking, and have to take an assortment of meds to control my blood pressure, cholesterol, edema and pain. I wear bifocals and hearing aids and But I still don’t look into the mirror and see an old man looking back and I definitely do not see a septuagenarian gazing at me. I see someone that is much younger and more vibrant than that. Then again, I never put my glasses on before I look in the mirror. You remember the age old adage “You are only as old as you feel.”? I believe this to be true. In my mind I am still only 25.

It’s kind of funny how being old doesn’t seem so old now that I am old.

Norb is an independent journalist from Lockport.

Surprise

Let me start off by saying my family is a loving and caring one, but even the holiest of angels has a bit of the devil in them. We can be quite devious when we want to be. My wife’s birthday is in June along with two granddaughters, daughter and my son. I won’t tell you how old she is because a gentleman never asks or tells but I am 71 and she is just a little younger than me.

My son asked us to join him at a favorite, local restaurant of ours with his wife and 8 year twin old sons to celebrate his birthday. Donna watches the boys after school so she was to bring them there rather than their home. He sent me an IM and several texts that this was all a ruse and the real reason for dinner was the give my wife a surprise party.

I take great pride in the fact that my wife, “Mrs. Sherlock Holmes” if you will, never figured out what was going on. We seldom can put one over on her but now that she is seventy (oops!) years old and with the turmoil (good) we have had at our house recently I don’t think she had the time to figure it out.

Even the twins were in on this one and you probably know how hard it is for an eight year old to keep a secret. It all started with the twins. At the time we had to leave for dinner, even though they had just gone to the bathroom 15 minutes earlier, they BOTH decided they had to go poop. They were told by their parents to stall leaving our house until 5:45. Of course I had to use the bathroom too and seeing as we only have 2, I was outside the bathroom door waiting my turn.

Donna was pulling her hair out. She didn’t want to be late. There was no way we were going to be on our way at 5:30 like she wanted and she didn’t want to make our son and daughter in law wait. She had lost control.

The one twin kept yelling thru the door, asking Donna what time it was because he was told to stall until 5:45. Donna wondered why he asked her to let him know when it was 5:45 and thought she was dealing with Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory.  Why did he have to remain in the bathroom till 5:45?  The other grandson developed this sudden problem with tying his shoes. Even though I was instructed to stall her I didn’t know at this point what they were doing.

When we finally hit the road the boys were in the back seat. Donna likes to be able to see out of her rear view mirror and when the boys are waving their arms in the air she will actually pull over until they stop. As soon as a song they knew came on the radio, they started dancing in their seats, waving their arms, and Donna pulled to the curb. That’s when I realized just what was going on because up until then I didn’t know they were in on the plot.

Once we got going again I flipped down my visor and watched them in the mirror. They were whispering and then suddenly we would hear “Donna, Ian pushed me.” It was at that point I joined into the subterfuge. I would start yelling at the boys full well knowing that this was pushing Donna’s buttons. At that point she would pull over again and start yelling at them. They never act like this.

They calmed down and Donna started driving again. Once more time the boys started acting up and I began yelling. Donna pulled to the curb again and yelled at them one more time. All the time, Ian had a silly smirk on his face and I yelled for him to wipe that smile off his face. He took his arm and wiped it across his mouth but that didn’t last long.

The whole time they were giggling and that only added fuel to the fire. They are having a sleep over Saturday and she yelled their behavior caused them to lose their television privileges. This made them laugh even more. Donna said that’s it and she was going to drive to the front of the restaurant, throw them out and drive home.

When we got there, I put on my best “It’s hard to get out of her van.” act. You see I had broken my leg the month before and was still in a boot. This was quite believable if I say so myself. When we entered the restaurant and Donna told the hostess “Reservations for Rug.” The Hostess smirked a bit and took us to a screened off area and when Donna rounded the corner my family members yelled “Surprise!”  Donna stopped dead in her tracks and was speechless.

We’ve only been able to trick her once before, at a Bison’s game, but that story will have to wait for another time because I am out of space.

I am an independent journalist who lives in Lockport as do my children and grandchildren. I also blog at norb-has-opinions.blogspot.com

Watching Children

Donna and I watch our grandchildren and a few other children. As we counted them up, we have watched over 20 children not counting our own children. I think that babysitting your grand-kids improves and extends your life and studies have confirmed that.

If you discovered the secret to a longer and more meaningful life I am sure we would all do it.  Apparently, watching children is that secret. People frequently say that being around children will make you feel younger and reports can actually measure and identify the benefits from caring for children. If the experts are all saying that “caregiving” gives older people a purpose in life and helps keeps them active, then maybe even small doses of babysitting may extend your life.

 “Caregiving may give caregivers a purpose of life because caregivers may feel useful for the others and for the society,” said Bruno Arpino, who was the associate professor at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain, in 2016, according to Reuters Health.

Researchers have actually found that grandparents who watch their grandchildren have a tendency to live longer than seniors who don’t. Researchers with Berlin Aging Study conducted investigations over almost 20 years on the effect of caregiving on mortality. The study was published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior in 2016.

The Berlin study showed that after factoring in grandparents’ age and state of health, the risk of dying over a 20-year period was one-third less for seniors who took care of children as compared to those who didn’t. More than 500 seniors were interviewed and had medical tests at their homes, doctors’ offices, and hospitals, and these tests were repeated every other year between 1990 and 2009.

Participants were asked how often they cared for children of during the last year. This was defined as looking after or doing something with a child without the parents being there. Then this was scored from 1 (never) to 7 (every day). The sample did not include any primary caregivers who had full custody of the children, though it did include those who watched non-family members.

We are watching both grandchildren and children of friends that I affectionately call the strays or OPCs (Other People’s Children). The oldest OPC, Andrew, will be 22 in August and lives in Arlington Texas. Donna started watching him after the company Donna was working for closed. We are looking forward to seeing Joedin this summer another of our OPCs. She and her family moved to North Carolina seeking employment. She comes up during the summer to spend time with us. We think of them both often. They feel just like kin to us.

This study concluded that spending time with your grandchildren and helping friends and family members with their children most likely gives people a feeling of purposefulness and assists them to keep mentally and physically active running after a child. Anyone who has looked after a preschooler can attest to having to be physically active.

We are in our 70’s and are still looking after grandchildren and OPCs. Every time a child leaves our care due to entering school, moving or a change in their family situation, we discuss taking on another child. We both agree that we don’t need the money or that it’s tiring for us to do but then someone asks “Are you still watching children?” We always answer yes and take on another child.

As per Reuters Health, half of the grandparents who took care of their grandchildren were still alive 10 years from their first interview. Whereas, those who didn’t provide help lived for only about five years. It is extremely important however for every person to decide, just what “moderate amounts of help” means. As long as you do not feel frazzled about the help you provide you might just be doing something good for others and for yourself.

Researchers have found that grandparent babysitters had a 37% lower mortality risk than adults of the same age that do not provide care. Research has also indicated that people involved in providing care to children had a reduced risk of dying during the study follow up than people that didn’t watch children. But the study can’t prove cause and effect can only suggest this correlation.

So if you are a senior, go find some relatives or neighbors who need your help or support part-time. It might be a challenge but there are all sorts of ways you can help others. Watching kids so mom and dad can work or have a night out, picking kids up after school or providing a “bridge” between the time the kids get out of school and the time their parents get home. We have done all three.

Additional research would be required to find out the cause of the longer life expectancy of caregivers, however researchers present a few explanations. But I really don’t need some expensive research from some razzle dazzle organization to tell me just how good watching children makes me feel, how it lets me connect with my youth again.

Old Age

I thought I would feel completely different about growing older. I thought I’d worry more about getting gray hair and the spare tire that would collect around my stomach after I had retired than I have. As I begin my 70’s, I can’t muster more than a shrug about any of those things. MEH. Last I remember I was in my 20’s so I don’t know where the last 50 years went. Instead, what I find terrifying about getting older is that I’ve totally lost the capability to comprehend what people do and why they do it.

Up until recently, more recently than I really want to confess, I didn’t know what a meme was. I had to look memes up on the internet to find out what they were and I am not really sure I understand what they are yet. It was around last week Monday, when I decided to dig deep down into my own oblivion to write this piece, that I discovered that Drake is not just a male duck.

I need a good strong drink and a  to reduce my stress every time I need to remember a password. I have trouble using the 4 remotes that control my TV that my 7 year old grandsons can use in their sleep. Remotes are bad enough. I see you can now turn your lights on and off, luck and unlock your doors and adjust your thermostat with your smart phone. I just want to make a phone call!

I also have no idea how to use Snapchat, WhatsAPP, Tumbler or Venmo, whatever those are. I have a Facebook account, mainly because I want to let people how things are going, to see how they are doing, find recipes and to promote my writing. I have a Twitter account that I only use to stay in touch with a granddaughter who is now going to school out of state.

I’m hearing that cutting back on social media is starting to be trendy, so I might just find out that I am, for one brief second accidentally on-point. We will see how long that lasts. What should I do now? Try to close up the void between the generations, or should I embrace it?

A few years ago, when I first started to sense a technological gap opening up between me and the youth, I tended to enjoy it, much like an old person who’s reached that spot in life where it’s perfectly acceptable for me to dismiss all new music as racket or trip a passerby with my cane just because.

People in a few generations behind me are now becoming parents and CEOs, and I am becoming exactly what I’ve spent the last 40 years accusing my elders of being, angrily befuddled by every new skill needed to get by in life. Give me a smart phone and strand me in a desert and I’ll most likely die there.

When I was in school, “pop culture” just seemed like a course you took for the easy credits not something that was fun, but I did pay attention because it was fun. Part of the charm of becoming an adult was that I could stop working on the oppressively boring task of having to remember trigonometry, history and the periodic table.

Now, though, it turns out that there’s even more for me to try and jam into my brain. The problem is I’ve been in an elective, educational coma for few decades, having reached my interest in modern culture. I don’t know how many Kardashians there are, nor do I care. Just the thought of trying to catch up on everything I’ve missed now is exhausting.

I’m a member of a generation that can remember a time before texting and email and chat rooms. I learned these things in slowly during my 40s, and it wasn’t a problem. I scoffed at, and even felt bad for, anyone who was older and said that they weren’t prepared to try new stuff.

We have a very negative stereotype of people in thier 70s and that stereotype is usually incorrect. Elderly people are very likely to describe the last five or ten years of their lives as the happiest years of their lives.

It may come as a surprise to some, but studies have shown that seniors are among the happiest segments of the population and they are frequently more contented than people in who are in their middle ages. Older people frequently have a very healthy sense of satisfaction that comes from their achievements. These accomplishments don’t need be great feats.

In John Lennon’s lyric, “A working class hero is something to be,” Lennon explains it succinctly. Achievements like being happily married, raising healthy and happy children, serving in the military or retiring from a company in after years of dedicated service, may see ordinary but they can be the basis of contentment in old age.

Reel to Reel: Replicas:

food snack popcorn movie theater
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What can I say about the movie “Replicas”? I saw this last week and it seems like I have seen this all before. I have. This movie seems to be put together from the cutting room floor debris of several better cloning movies to me.

The plot is so predictable and slow, you can go make popcorn in the middle and not miss anything. The plot of this thriller has so much potential that it is sad it never hits the mark even once. It has more holes in it than a pound of thinly sliced deli Swiss cheese. It might however make a good drinking game. Every time you see a part stolen from another movie, everybody else has to chug their drink.

William Foster (Keanu Reeves), in a lifeless performance that should have been released to VOD is cast as the top neuroscientist at the Bionyne research facility in Puerto Rico where he’s trying to invent a way to download a human brain into a robot body (can you say Robocop). it’s a hard enough job that’s made even more difficult by William’s intolerant boss (John Ortiz), who gets extremely upset when he finds out that William may not achieve “the world’s greatest technological achievement” in time for the company’s next quarterly earnings report and threatens to shut the experiment down.

There’s reason for optimism though when William’s assistant (Thomas Middleditch) wheels in a fresh new body from the morgue. Everything goes well until the android body, a CGI robot that looks like a cross between the robots in “I, Robot” and C3PO rejects the dead man’s consciousness.

All of this is merely a lead in for the real plot though. William has an accident during a storm and his wife (Alice Eve) and their three kids die in the accident. In a hyped up B grade movie like this though, death isn’t the end. And it’s not surprising that William won’t leave the crash site before he decides to map everyone’s neural networks into a “hard drive” for later use. This hard drive looked to me like a love child between a Betamax cassette and an eight track tape.

At this juncture is when the Swiss cheese fest begins. You might think you know where this is going and you probably think that our hero is going to turn his family into a bunch of robots as a way to atone for his poor driving and to save the company. WRONG. That would make way too much sense. In the outlandish world of “Replicas,” screenwriter Chad St. John throws us a curve. William decides to clone the dead members of his family and steals the equipment to do this.

This plan raises several questions in my mind that the movie seems to have no interest in answering. Questions like how you grow human beings in a cube full of Kool aid in your basement. More than that, why is William working on robots if he has the ability to bring the dead back to life in their own skin? I don’t understand why it takes exactly 17 days for them all to be cloned, even though his wife and children are all different ages. And why nobody is looking for the missing equipment during this time.

For most of the movie we are cooped up in William’s house as he toils to bring back his family without raising suspicion. Brace for a whopping 90 minutes of Reeves shuffling around wearing a ratty bathrobe. This is an ideal time to get some snacks, make some phone calls or maybe take a nap, you won’t miss much.

The film is immobilized by all of the competing story lines that are trying to control its plot. It starts to feel as though the movie is simply changing gears from psychological horror to corporate espionage to a lame car chase in a desperate bid to distract from the faulty script.

There is a jaw dropping reveal at the end that still has me wondering what I watched.

“Derivatives” would be a better title for this movie as it derivative of many previous movies. Too bad it didn’t pick better parts to copy.

I give it 4 bags of popcorn out of 10

 

Christmas traditions

Image result for free christmas tree on top of car

I have written about family traditions before, this time I would like to share a few Christmas traditions from my past and a few that my children, grandchildren and I practice today.

My memories of Christmas as a young boy took place at 496 Berkshire Avenue, Buffalo. About a week before Christmas, we would go shopping for a tree. It had to be a long needle fir tree and it had to be symmetrical without any bare spots, nothing else would do. We would sometimes have to go to several Christmas tree lots that popped up on every vacant piece of land in the city. We would then tie it on the roof of our car and take it home like some kind of hunting trophy and I guess it was. It would spend a few days trussed up like a bird being prepared for cooking by on our front porch awaiting it’s role in our house.

The dining room table was disassembled and put in my sister’s room to make room for the Christmas tree. Once the Christmas tree lights were untangled, which sometimes took quite a bit of time, they had to be tested. My father was the only person allowed to put these on the tree. My mother would supervise and my father would have to swap bulbs until no two adjacent bulbs were the same color. We would then decorate the tree with all kinds of ornaments, both store bought and homemade. The final decoration would be “icicles” made of thin ribbons of lead.

On Christmas Eve my brother and I would retire to our bedroom on the second floor where we would have a hard time falling asleep in anticipation of Santa Claus paying us a visit. For some reason or other Santa would wrap our presents in the Sunday comic pages. I always thought he had run out of wrapping paper and was surprised that he got the Buffalo Courier Express. I think my favorite toy that Santa ever brought me was a battery operated, walking robot with flashing lights and “sound effects” that I received one year.

Many years later, after I got married, Donna and I moved to Massachusetts while I was in the Navy. We had a small tree but we couldn’t afford many ornaments. We made do with what we had and what people gave us. One thing I did was affix a starfish to the top of our tree that a buddy Ed and I collected from a local beach and had dried in the basement of my apartment.

That was fifty years ago. We still have that starfish adorning our tree. This has developed into a family tradition. All of my children have a starfish of their own now that sit atop their tree. A few years ago I gave all of our grandchildren a starfish so when they are on their own they will remember us with this tradition.

According to an old German legend, if you find a bird’s nest in your Christmas tree you and your family will experience health, wealth and happiness in the coming year. Who can’t use some good luck like this?  We always have a bird’s nest in our tree and my daughter Liz has one in her tree also.

Other Christmas traditions our family has involve food. Every grandchildren gets to select, as part of their present a “Christmas” food from Nana and Papa. They have picked things like Ramen noodles, potato chips and whipped cream as some of their choices.

My son, Erik and his wife, Heidi also host a Christmas Eve dinner that starts with snacks during the afternoon, Olives and Pickles, Chips and dip, Buffalo chicken wing dip etc. Actually you could graze your way thru the afternoon and not need anything more.  But then they have a full blown meal in the evening. We can choose from a cold cut platter and rolls, Beef on weck, Beans, macaroni and pasta salads, regular salad and many other dishes. They also set out Christmas cookies and various other sweets. One year they offered us homemade marshmallows.

Just in case you didn’t have enough to eat, the following morning my oldest daughter, Liz had a Christmas day brunch at her house. We have Stuffed French toast, Breakfast sausage links, Potatoes, Muffins, Eggs, and many more things to eat. With all this food, I was ready for a nap.

After Brunch we would all settle into the living room with me in a recliner in front of her roaring fireplace to open presents. I love watching the eyes of Ian and Kaelen, the younger grandchildren, light up as they rip open the colorful wrapping paper and see what gifts they have received. What starts as a controlled afternoon quickly turns into chaos. It is wonderful having all our children and grandchildren under one roof on this day.

This year unfortunately, her house has been sold and she is temporarily staying with us. My youngest daughter, Dawn has offered up her house for Christmas brunch as long as in her words “I don’t have to cook”. Dawn serves a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner so I don’t blame her not wanting to also do Christmas, so I guess Liz will be spending time at her house cooking our meal.

It really doesn’t matter where we hold our holiday celebrations though, they could be held in my garage or a storage shed on Transit Road. It’s the people and the food, the conversation and the laughter that make this season important to me.

Norb is a writer from Lockport that has also lived in Buffalo and Massachusetts.

“As close to home as your VCR”:  Remote Control (Movie) (1988).

grayscale photo of remote control near eyeglasses
Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

As I sit here typing I look over at my end table and see four remotes. I also have a cordless phone there. It is not unusual for me to grab the wrong remote to try to change the station or even to grab a remote when the phone is ringing and try to answer it.  I have on occasion pushed the buttons on the phone when I wanted to change channels, wondering why the damn thing isn’t working. This happens occasionally when I’m “resting my eyes” after lunch or dinner. Donna, my wife would frequently ask to go out to dinner right after I woke up. She knew I would agree to anything then and not remember it later.

There are two remotes for the television. One for me and one for Donna. (Don’t ask). There is one remote for my Roku device. Roku allows me to access thousands of sites including television programs, movie, music and social media sites. The fourth remote on my end table is for my Amazon Fire Stick. Again this device allows me to access thousands of television programs, movie and music sites. But these aren’t the only remotes in the living room.

I have one remote for my VCR so I can play all our children’s wedding videos and several old movies we have. There is one last remote that controls our DVD player. I don’t remember just why we got this because our VCR is a combination VCR- DVD player. They sit in the cabinet under the TV.

My children and grandchildren would make a game of trying to take a remote from my end table when I was in my recliner “resting my eyes” after lunch or, as my grandson calls it, my “napatizer” after dinner. That’s the nap I take before going to bed. They would wait until I was snoring like a lumberjack and then try to pick up the remote without waking me. This never worked out for them. They would inevitably be caught red handed before they even got it off the table. Just the action of their touching it was met with a stern “I’m watching that”.

If it is summer we also have a remote for the air conditioner in the dining room that I have never figured out how to use yet. It has only been five years so give me some time. I just press buttons until it seems to be doing what I want it to do.

Next we go into the recently built, first floor master bedroom suite. There we have another TV and another Roku. Both of these remotes work differently than the ones in the living room.

If you go to our second floor, there is a television and a third Roku device in our old master bedroom. In the summer there is also an air conditioner with a remote in this room. This is one of the three guest bedrooms we now have. On the third floor, the man cave, the walk up attic, there is an older analog TV and a digital to analog converter both controlled by their own remotes.

None of these remotes are alike except for the fact that they are black and have buttons. They don’t even work alike with some of them having the volume controls on the left and the channel selector on the right and some are the other way around. This isn’t very helpful late at night when you are tired and the lights are off.

I know there are “universal” remotes but believe me I have used a few of these and they aren’t universal. They have hundreds maybe thousands of codes you can punch in to try to program them for your device but if you find a code that does work, at best, you will be able to turn your set on and off, change the channel and adjust the volume.

Remotes worked better when I was a child. My father would say, “Norb turn the channel” or “adjust the volume” or “turn the antenna.” This worked 100% of the time and the batteries never died. That’s what kids were for.

This is the other thing. Every one of these remotes has two batteries in them. My best count is we have over 20 batteries running these remotes. Most of them are either AA or AAA. We go thru them so fast that we buy them in the large economy, family size packages. I believe the battery manufacturers and the television makers are in cahoots. I think the TV people get a royalty for every battery of these sizes that are sold.

Not to worry though. I see there is a smart phone APP you can use to control your electronic gadgets. That way when your phone dies, you have to get up and figure out how to use the buttons on your devices. According to WebMD Instead of using the remote, you have to get walking to the television to change the channel might give you some exercise and even help you lose weight.

We now have remote starters for cars, remote wall switches, remote thermostats even remote control bugs, (https://www.insidescience.org/news/brief-worlds-smallest-remote-controlled-cyborg-bug.)