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.


Young Man Adjusting Hair BunGetty Images

You’ve most likely noticed that beards are in and the plaid shirted, beard wearing male is now fashionable. I have sported a variety of beards, side burns and mustaches over the years and I am now finally in style. Woo hoo!  I have had my current beard for over 10 years. These days, the unshaven look once saved for mountain men and lumberjacks is seen everywhere from boardrooms to billboards to fashion magazines. I have lived through several cycles of beards and can tell you beards are not going to dissapear soon.

Growing a beard will transform the way you look. Just like dying your hair purple and yellow might raise a few eyebrows, having a beard also defines people’s impression of you. People will look at you differently and you will also feel different. When I met my wife I sported a counter culture, bad boy, Hippy Dippy goatee. That was a part of my look, a part that would soon change. She asked me to shave before I met her parents. What we do for love.

Just like the hair on your head protects your scalp from getting sunburn (ask any bald guy), facial hair provides protection for your chin, cheeks, and upper lip. If you get a tan and then shave you could have a paler “beard shadow” which is the reverse of a five o’clock shadow. This shows that your beard protects your skin from sun damage and could protect you from skin cancer.

A study by researchers at the University of Queensland shows that having a beard reduces your facial UV exposure by about one-third, compared to a clean-shaven face, and the ultraviolet protection factor ranged from 2 to 21. This means that a beard protects you from ultraviolet rays that would hit your face. Free sunscreen!

I now am back to the goatee I wore as a teenager when I met my wife. It’s white now without any red in it and it is a little less thick. I call it my “cancer beard” and vowed to not shave it off until I was pronounced cured of cancer. Trim it, sure but not shave it off.

The average male spends 3,350 hours standing in front of a mirror, scraping a sharp, metal blade across his face during their lifetime according to the New York Times. No matter how close or how often, you shave, your beard grows back a little bit every day.

When it comes to tracking trends, research has shown that a good, healthy beard makes a guy seem more attractive to the majority of women right now. According to Psychology Today, studies have shown that men with beards are generally regarded as more masculine, dominant, and socially mature. They are also usually regarded as more responsible, older, fatherly figures.

The next time I grew a beard was when I was in the navy. We were on a Mediterranean/North Atlantic cruise. We were allowed to grow beards on this 6 month cruise. As I think back on it, it probably was a morale builder. We would hold “Longest beard” contests and “Ugliest Beard” contests. We would also hold a “Best Moustache” contest.

Men who live and work in cold environments like Western New Yorkers do, frequently seem to grow big, bushy beards. That’s because having the extra layer of insulation that a beard provides helps keep our face warm. I appreciated that extra layer of insulation while my ship was in the North Atlantic.

If you are terrified of making it through your next Western New York winter without freezing your face off, then fall and winter is probably a good time to grow a beard. The best time to sport a bushy beard would seem to be in November. Sprouting a beard at this time will help promote cancer awareness and will support all your “No Shave November” friends.

Unfortunately, researchers have discovered that beard growth tended to hit the highest point in the late summer, predominantly in August and September, by November it is decreasing, reaching its slowest speed in January and February. Even your beard doesn’t like to go out in the winter

Beards might make you look all rugged and rough, but under their crude surface there is frequently a smooth, silky baby face. This occurs because growing a beard can actually protect the skin underneath from aging, according to the tabloid Metro. A beard, by blocking sun exposure, results in fewer wrinkles, fewer liver spots, and so on.

The other thing that keeps your face so smooth under your beard is your sebaceous glands, which are always at work keeping your skin moisturized and oiled up, according to Business Insider. People touch their face a lot, so you’d normally be rubbing this oil off pretty regularly, but not if you have a thick beard protecting your face and thus preserving your skin’s oils. So having a beard today might make you look older, it could also make your skin look younger in the future.

I now am back to wearing my teenage goatee. However it is white now, not red and a little sparser. I call it my “cancer beard”. I vowed not to shave it off until I was pronounced cured of cancer. I will trim it, sure, but not shave it off.

Norb is a freelance journalist from Western New York.

Growing up in the 50’s.


We had the junkman who would drive down the street in his beat up truck. He would collect your scrap metal to sell at the junk yard. The local cobbler would repair your shoes if the soles wore out or heel broke off. On garbage day, they would send a man ahead of the truck to bring our can to the curb. Then after it was emptied another man would take it back into the yard.

The milk man used to deliver to your house. I can still remember the rattle of the empty bottles in the wire carrier that he used. We had a wooden door in the side of the house by the back door for the milkman to deliver our milk and dairy products. This was called a milk box. If you didn’t have a milk box, your items were left on your porch in an insulated metal box. The milk would have a layer of cream on top that you would pour off to make whipped cream or to use in cooking. I loved the milk in glass bottles. A fixture back then was the “knifeman”, who would drive up and down the street and sharpen your knives, scissors, hedge sheers and the blades of the old reel type, hand pushed lawnmowers.

We had bread delivered to the house and had the rag man as well. Let’s not forget the fruit wagon. He would yell “Apples, peaches, strawberriessssssssssssssssssss.” I recall the popcorn man pushing his cart down our street with that steam powered whistle summoning us to come running. We would bring our precious coins that we had earned by returning bottles to the corner store and get this hot, salty snack. That is, if we had any left after buying our stash of penny candy, ice cream treats, & comic books. My Grandfather was a Fuller Brush man and he used to sell aprons and Fuller Brush products.

Around Christmas, the post office used to deliver a twice a day. We walked to school, coming home for lunch, and played outside till dark, only going home when the street lights came on. We were always playing in the street, roller skating, playing baseball or tag. In the fall, we played football. We used to call “Heads up!” whenever a car was coming.

My father worked every day and drove the only family car. This caused us to walk everywhere, parents just didn’t drive their kids around and you walked if you wanted to go anywhere.

We had a few chores, but then it was outdoors in the summer. In the winter we would go to a friends’ house or they would come to mine to play board games. You would walk to a friend’s house and see if they could play. Calling our friends by their name to come out to play didn’t involve texting. We would walk over to a friend’s house and yell “Oh (insert friend’s name here) can you come out to play?” We never rang a bell. If somebody was calling you, you would ask permission from your mother to go outside. It was a simple yes or no and no one got angry if the answer was no. Neighbors got along better than today.

Women were outside & visible around their houses hanging wash or doing yard work, watching their kids in the yards. Our basement contained a wringer washing machine for washing our clothes, our dryer was a clothes line in the back yard and our dishwasher was my mother. When I got older, the kids were in charge of washing and drying the dishes, setting and clearing the table.

The doctors made house calls if you were too sick to come in, or very contagious. Our family doctor visited me when I had the Chicken Pox and the Measles.

We would go home for lunch from school every day and we had a bank day at school on Mondays where we would take our money and get it posted to our bank book.

Every Wednesday we would get out of school early so we could walk to church for religious instructions. I used to stop at the local five and dime and get a small bag of Spanish peanuts for the trip. Speaking of school, there were air raid drills in school. We crouched on our hands & knees, in the hall ways, up against the wall, or under our desks, hoping the Russians didn’t bomb us.

We played with homemade toys such as kites, scooters made out of fruit crates decorated with pop bottle caps, scrap 2x4s, pieces of scrap wood for handle bars and discarded metal roller skates. I made a car out of a large crate and the wheels from an old wagon. You steered using a rope that was attached to the front axle.

There was also the “rubber band” gun. A long narrow piece of wood used as a rifle that we would put a notch at the top of to hold a rubber band made out of a used tire tube cut into 1/2 inch wide trips. You knew when someone shot you because of the sting that you felt.

I have memories of Fel’s Naptha soap that was used for anything from washing clothes, floors and taking baths. Sponge baths all week were the norm then when Saturday night was the night for a real bath in a claw foot, cast iron bathtub.

It was good being a kid in the 50s.

What’s the point of teaching English if it ain’t going to be spoken good?

black and white book business close up
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“Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?” asked Professor Henry Higgins in the musical “My Fair Lady.” It’s a very good question for Americans now days.

I recently was in a movie theater and two young women sat behind me. They were talking rather loudly. In just a few minutes I counted 16 “likes” and “you knows” from just one of them. It went this way: “And then she was like blah, blah, blah and then he was like blah, blah, blah, and I was like blah, blah, blah, you know.”

As an adverb, “like” means nearly, closely or approximately, as in the experience was like jumping off a high diving board. This is perhaps the most familiar use of the word like but there are others.

The NBC News Correspondent Edwin Newman penned two books concerning the mistreatment of English. Some of his least desired words are heard inside airports. Newman grew irritated when airline employees spoke of a “podium“. This is defined by Merriam-Webster as a low wall, serving as a foundation or terrace wall or a dais especially for an orchestral conductor, and not a desk. He was also confused when they invited certain passengers to “pre-board” the airplane, which he noted was impossible. One can board early, or board ahead of other passengers, but to “pre-board” is a contradiction.

When I was in school, English grammar was required, not an optional. We would diagram sentences and learned the proper use of words. We were taught when to say “me” and “I,” and the difference between there, their and they’re.
Clichés were once mostly used by young people and inexperienced writers. Today, clichés have crept into the language of people who should know better. These clichés include “needless to say” (then why bother to say it?), and “cautiously optimistic.” The Washington Post compiled a list of “200 journalism clichés … and counting” and these are only two of them.

Don’t get me started on TV hosts and reporters. They say, “As you can see……” Yes, we can. That’s because it’s called television. It’s not radio, it has pictures. “Shot in the encounter” was a favorite of a former news director at a TV station that I watched. I often wondered where the encounter was on your body.

Good English skills are vital to succeeding in life, in terms of career, and personal relationships. There are three main areas that have to be worked on, vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar.

Then we have the word axe. What does it mean when you axe someone a question? Do you chop if into little pieces? I was walking to my car at Walmart when I overheard a woman on her cell phone (it wasn’t too difficult). It went. “I was literally in Walmart when she literally walked up to me and literally started an argument with me. I told her she had better literally get her act together or she was going to literally lose her kids.” Really? (pun intended)

The point is to learn English as a means of expressing ourselves that shows we didn’t just fall off a turnip truck (deliberate use of a cliché). What’s the point of teaching English if nobody learns it and it can’t be properly spoken or understood?

Speaking English lets you to truly broaden your world, including job opportunities and the ability to relate to people from every country.
Knowing proper English makes it much more interesting when traveling. Wherever you want go in the world, you will probably find someone who speaks English. If we count only the countries where the English language is the official language, the United Kingdom, U.S.A., Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the Caribbean countries, there are more than 400 million native English speakers.

The statistics reveal that more than a quarter of the world’s population speaks English that means that about 1.6 billion people understand and relate with the help of the language of Shakespeare. To not mention that most of the films are in English, the largest film industry, Hollywood, is produced in English.

English also improves the quality of life. You have access to jobs that you could not even take into consideration, you can evaluate an international career and you can live in many countries with the ease of being able to go shopping or negotiate a rent for the house.

Simply put, we must recognize that English is an international language, the main language of this planet.

Over Christmas, I listened to a reading of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’s brilliant “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” The delight of words, well-chosen and beautifully spoken, was thrilling and captivating. He makes you want to listen, as opposed to wishing to plug your ears.

The benefits speaking properly can bring in to life of a person is countless. It is important to know that the English language is able to knock down a lot of barriers, including cultural ones.

The English language allows us to relate to and therefore understand each other.
Could one of our Resolutions for 2019 be to speak better English?