Handicapped parking

On a Facebook group I am in, “Buffalo & WNY seniors group 55 and older” there was a debate going on about Handicapped parking places.The story started with a post by someone that said “I went shopping yesterday at a local produce market. I witnessed a SUV parked on the diagonal lines between the handicapped spaces. There was a sign stating No Parking Anytime. No sticker in the window either. I asked in the store if I could speak to a manager. The cashier asked if she could help so I indicated that maybe they should phone the police. The poor girl gave me a sheepish grin & confessed that the vehicle belonged to her manager…  I was so stunned I just left.”

The post garnered 215 comments in the first 24 hours. One of the first comments was by someone named Rocky who said  ”Nevermind , it’s not your business !!” and somebody else said “I think your a busy body who is just itching for trouble. I agree with Rocky mind your business. Most who have legal handicap stickers do not really need them. This is one of the most abused privileges ever.” (Misspelling is the way they were posted)

I take offense to this. In the interest of transparency, I have a handicapped parking tag due to multiple health problems. Two of which are COPD and Peripheral Neropathy. I am mostly limited to the first floor of my house and rarely get to go out, usually only going out to doctor’s appointments. If it is too hot or too humid, I normally don’t leave the safety of my home that has the air conditioner running because I can’t breathe. If it is snowy or icy I stay home for fear I am going to fall down breaking something. I have fallen or slipped on several occasions, one time breaking my leg.

Someone stated “(This) Frustrates me, too, when someone sits in the car in a handicap spot!! Very inconsiderate of those of us who truly need the handicap spot and one isn’t available.” A person who responded wrote “I’m sure it was only for a very brief time. Maybe (they were) making a bank run or whatever.”

This is frustrating for me also. One of the times I collapsed, I was going to a medical appointment in a building on a main street. All the street parking, handicapped spots in front of the building were taken so I went to the side parking lot.

All the handicapped spots were taken there also, some of them by handicapped mini busses. They were there because the company that owns them was also in the same building. That is where the busses are parked when they were not in use. Because of this I had to park at one of the farthest spots in the lot.

After I had parked, I had to take a long walk across the sun baked, blacktop parking lot causing me to overheat. I had walked within 10 feet of my destination when my body gave out and I collapsed. This necessitated a call for a very expensive ambulance trip to the hospital.  If I was able to get a handicapped spot, I would have made it to my destination without a problem.

For some of us it is the whole difference between being able to shop and not being able to shop. I head out on a “good” day at a time the stores are less likely to be busy, only to find someone parking in the diagonal line area. This prevents me from getting in and out of my car because I need to be able to open the car door wide.

And yes, sometimes it is necessary for me to be out even on a bad day. People only see the cane I use. I see people thinking as I walk by, that I don’t look like I need a handicapped parking permit. But handicapped people are not all in wheelchairs.

According to the ADA, private businesses and public agencies must make available a stipulated number of handicapped parking spaces. They must be a minimum size and have the proper signs. The specified spaces can be used only by people with a handicap windshield placard or license plate that was issued by the state. Handicapped spaces must be located at a location that affords the shortest and most trouble-free route to an entrance of the building that is handicap-accessible.

I had discussions with my doctor about getting a handicapped hang tag for over a year.  He felt I should have one but I saw it as giving in so I told him I didn’t want one. I knew in my heart I needed one but my mind was just not ready to accept that. Finally I broke down and had him fill out the paper work. I then took it to the city clerk who issued a permit.

By the way, if a doctor signs those forms without a viable medical diagnosis to back it up or just to collect payments from Medicare or Medicaid, it is called fraud. A doctor who commits fraud can lose his or her license.

Norb is an independent journalist and blogger from Lockport, New York.

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Celebrating a half century of true love

As appearing in the Niagara Gazette and the Lockport Union Sun and Journal

8/11/2019

Last Friday, my wife Donna and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.

A half-century ago, we were a pair of young, clueless kids. We went out into the world with everything we owned in the back of a Volkswagon “beetle” and drove 500 miles from home to establish a life of our own in Newport, Rhode Island. If it weren’t for wedding presents, we wouldn’t have had enough money for gas to get to Newport, which was my ship’s home port while I was in the Navy.

We first moved into a fleabag motel. Living there depleted our funds quickly so we scoured want ads in the local papers, looking for a cheap apartment. We didn’t have much money but we had our love to keep us going.

Then a shipboard buddy told us about some inexpensive apartments in Fall River, Massachusetts, just across the state line. We moved into this welfare development where your rent was based on your income. I was earning $64 a month back then. Our rent was $32 a month. Fortunately our rent included the heat and electricity. After I paid the rent, I had $8 a week left over for our phone bill, food, gasoline and auto insurance. Heaven forbid my car would break down. All the money we had left from our wedding went into cheap, pressed wood furniture. We still have some of that furniture today.

We were living without the benefit of family nearby so we had no safety net and we had to do whatever it took on our own to survive. We learned more about self-dependence than we had ever known. It made us reliant on each other.

I was proud of Donna the first time I went to sea. She didn’t go home to her parents. The apartment we shared was now home to her, and with the help of a few friends who were close to us, she was able to stay in our place. I am thankful to our next door neighbors, Millie and her family, for helping Donna out. Tony, Millie’s youngest, would spend more time at our house than his own keeping Donna company.

One of my friends, Cole, a bosun’s mate and mountain of a man, would check in on her to see if she was OK during my absences and if she needed anything.

The neighbors would share their food with us and showed us how to apply for a monthly allotment of surplus food that the state gave to low income people. Every month we would have a food exchange in the common area of the complex. We would meet up with whatever free food we didn’t want and swap it for food we did.

It was during this time we had two of our children. How crazy were we to do this? I don’t know. We figured, “How expensive would it be to have children?” Of course, this was in the days of cloth diapers, rubber pants and diaper pails.

As I look back on those times, I have to wonder just how we made it. Foolish as we were, we managed to survive. We were from the generation that believed when you made a promise, you kept it.

I think often about how much in love we were. How our marriage was made stronger by having to make it on our own in the early years. How we couldn’t run home to our parents when we had differences of opinion. How I learned the four phrases that helped keep us together: “Yes dear,” “You are right,” “I understand,” and most importantly, “I love you.”

Now, 50 years later, I think about all the problems we overcame together, standing back to back with our guns drawn, ready to take on whatever came at us.

I now send my wife a cheesy text every morning, professing my love for her to make her smile and to let her know that I am thinking about her. I also try to keep fresh flowers in the house just because. She is the best thing that ever happened to me and I love her with all my soul.

The first time I saw her, my heart whispered “That’s the one.” Imagining my life without her is impossible and I am so lucky to be able to spend my life with her.

Norb Rug is a writer from Lockport. His email is nrug@juno.com where he welcomes comments

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.

Reading to your child

There are many reasons to read to your child. Reading to your child, shows them that they are important to you and can open their eyes to the wonders of the world without them having to leave the comfort of your home. When you read to your child, your child learns how those letters on the pages stand for specific sounds and form words.

Reading has always been one of my favorite things, so I am not surprised that I enjoyed reading with my children. When I was in High School, I didn’t work very hard. I was a solid C student. In History class they made a mistake seating me next to a bookshelf filled with old Readers Digests. I spent all class reading them, cover to cover.

My wife is also a reader.  Every week she would trudge to the library with a tote bag full of books that she had read. She would then spend an hour or more refilling her bag and walk home. I decided to make her love of reading easier on her so I bought a Kindle for her. I was able to find a few sources for free books online. I have managed to get her hundreds of books, enough to fill her needs. When her first Kindle wore out, I had to go get her another one.  Some people have their cell phone by their side at all times. My wife is like this with her Kindle. 

When my son was very young, I would read to him regularly. Before he even went to kindergarten he would read the newspaper to me while I had my morning coffee. We would discuss words he didn’t know so he would understand what he was reading. I also helped him with annunciation. By the time he was five years old, he was an excellent reader.  I attributed this to the reading we did together.

Reading to your children is a worth your time. Snuggling up with them and a book is valuable quality time. Every parent is thier child’s first teacher. There are things you end up teaching your children without knowing such as how to hold a book, which direction to turn the pages and how the letters on the pages combine to form words.

If children want to jump ahead or simply hear the plot line when you are reading with them, that’s fine with me. They are learning, even if you’re not trying to teach them something. Let your kids take the lead and guide you through the tempo of the story sometimes. There is also room for kids to multitask. Let your kids color, play with Legos or action figures, while you read to them. You may be pleasingly surprised by how much they are listening to you.

We have always read to the children in our care. When my son was in elementary school, I was working second shift and didn’t see much of my children. I always encouraged them to read though. I used to let my son pick a book and I dictated it into a cassette recorder as a bedtime story. I would even tell him when it was time to turn the page. This never worked though. He and one of his buddies would rush home from school throw their jackets and back packs on the floor and rush upstairs to his bedroom to listen/read the day’s story. He is now an avid reader and has instilled this in his eight year old twin sons.

We have a great problem with the twins reading when they have to do something. They will have their noses buried in books and sometimes I don’t even think they hear us call them the first three times. Most parents would kill for such a problem.

We have to save the Sunday funnies for them every week end and they read them on Monday when they see us. Each week during the summer, Donna would take them to the library and check out a bag of books. They would pore over the books throughout the week, and I loved all the different places I would find them reading, draped over the recliner, under the dining room table or lying on one of the beds in the spare bedrooms.

My eight year old grandsons like reading manga. From what I understand, when reading manga, the pages are turned in the opposite direction than you would reading a novel. The front of manga is the back cover. Dialogue, sound effects and narration, are likewise read backwards. You read the narration from the top right corner, moving down the left side. Panels in manga may seem to flow awkwardly. It is often left to the reader to decipher the order, as there is really no set way that the panels flow. Now they are teaching me how to read.

Having the ability to read helps students in school. Our children all went on to further their education and have good jobs. Now my grandchildren are attending college. I know we helped foster in them a love of reading. I hope they also pass it on to their children one day. I hope you read to your child too. Everyone benefits when you do.

Norb is an independent journalist and blogger from Lockport. He also blogs at WhyWNY.home.blog

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.

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.

Hugs, they’re not for everyone.

There’s currently a Puritanical idea that has pervaded our culture in which touch and sex are inherently linked and it is doing us a great disservice. I think that people are afraid to touch each other no matter how platonic.

I will admit it, I’m a tactile person. I give and receive hugs every day. Touch is one of the ways I communicate. I’m also a shoulder patter, and a hand holder. Hugs are free and there is no purchase required.

We Americans are often “touch starved” because the casual, nonsexual contact that happens between friends in other cultures just doesn’t happen here. I think we were never meant to hold each other at arm’s length.

 According to Readers Digest, hugs are more than just a friendly greeting, they’re a surprisingly powerful health booster you’ll want to take greater advantage of every single day. From the time we’re born our family’s touch shows us that we’re loved and special. The connections of self-worth and tactile sensations we received in our early years are still implanted in our mind as adults. Hugs affect our ability to love ourselves.

Hugs are much more than a friendly greeting. Holding a hug for an extended time is said to lift one’s serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness. Hugs supposedly strengthen the immune system. Hugging is reported to boost self-esteem.

Touch is incredibly important for us as human beings. Studies have shown that hugs can reduce blood pressure and release oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone that has been associated with empathy, trust, and relationship-building among other things.

A good hug relaxes muscles and releases tension. Hugs can help ease pain and soothe aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues.  Hugs teach the importance of giving and receiving. There is an equal value in receiving a hug as there is to giving one. Hugs show us how love goes both ways. As a loving person, I get an abundance of hugs from my family. I find that hugs are like a miracle drug.

A Swedish study of 172 nursing home residents found that those who received hugs and physical touch, connected more with family, friends and visitors, were more socially active and had a tendency to thrive better than the residents who didn’t receive the physical contact.

When you are in a relationship, it is too easy to take the other person for granted. A benefit of hugging that is frequently overlooked is that a hug can reaffirm your love. I think it’s valuable to know that something as simple as time spent touching or hugging has been shown to have measurable benefits.

I had a doctor who was very professional but unemotional. He was an excellent doctor that in my mind saved my life on more than one occasion. The first time he proclaimed that I was “In remission” I jumped up and gave him a big hug, I was so elated. It was like hugging a tree.

 In his culture, men did not hug. Over the course of several years and 2 remissions, I hugged him many times. Our relationship warmed so much that the last time I saw him, he initiated the hug. He also had a student with him on this particular day. He said to the student that he might as well hug me because I was going to hug him too.

A few years ago, I had a person report me to HR that I had hugged her. She was telling me about her horrible battle with cancer when I said “sounds like you need a hug”. I did not approach her or grab her, just stood and opened my arms. She then stepped forward to get her hug. She didn’t protest at the time or say “No thanks.” but seeing as I was in a position of superiority over her she didn’t think she could refuse.

 She taught me to always ask if people are comfortable with a hug or possibly even a warm handshake before assuming that they were. It was a boundary I needed to understand and something I needed to learn.

I now recognize that for lots of people, touch can be not only be something unfamiliar but has the ability to transmit aggression or dehumanizing and scary messages.  I mean nothing more by it when I offer you a hug other than make an effort to connect with you or to offer comfort to you, not to invade your space or make you feel uncomfortable.

So while I will continue to offer hugs to people who seem to welcome them. I will never foist them upon anyone. I will say though that if I see you crying, eating cold pizza and you explain your troubles to me and ask for advice, offering a hug to you seems as reasonable to me as offering you a tissue.

Hugging might also be a wonderful way to resolve a disagreement. I think that giving each other the touch they need may have the ability to reverse the damages.

To me, there doesn’t seem to be a downside to consensual hugging, I just have to ask first. Norb is a loving husband, father and grandfather who doles out hugs in Lockport.