Quincineara beat down

In this generation of #MeToo, I’m watching all the quincineara preparations of the young ladies around me (similar to the debutante ball my Nana tried to get me to desire and agree to have, just before I graduated high school), and it’s just exhausting.

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I am well beyond the age of getting married and having kids, but I’m at the other end of the age scale where an unmarried older woman has no one obliged to take care of her thru means or family or birth, so the focus on a woman’s day as a married princess or object of desire is beating me down and exhausting my psyche.

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My decision was made long ago, in terms of hope, my reality, and knowledge of what I would and would NOT tacitly agree to endure, in order to “hope” for security in my old age.

I say “hope” for security, because the reality that I’ve experienced is that the woman is sold a bill of goods about her value as an untainted virgin, and her family rushes her into marriage (either approving or disapproving of the male) in the hope that any pregnancies happen within the confines of marriage, so that the grand children are someone else’s responsibility to raise.

For all intents and purposes, they bless the union hoping 2 unfinished but physically mature children  will grow old together, learning to cleave to each other, despite life’s storms.

The family hopes for prosperity and joy for the young couple, and they pile on the pressure (with Mother Nature’s full backing and manipulation of the hormones) to hurry up and add kids into the mix.  All while raising the next generation of girls to desire a fantasy as they mature,

While I have no hands-on experience of the debutante ball or quincineara party, having chosen a solo path for myself, I do have opinions on the outcome.  But, there’s no surprise in that, is there ?!???!

We are programmed at a young age to think of things life and our corner of the village or society “owes” us.  Birthday parties.  Christmas presents.  Weddings.  Showers (bridal, birth, new home, etc.).  We are taught (at least in my culture) that life events are a series of routines and obligations.  That you show up for someone, and they show up for someone, and then a combination of friends and family show up for you, “when it’s your turn”.

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(See the people peeking out of the shack in the background?  That may be her reality for living conditions once the sweet 16 ceremony announcing her availability for marriage and motherhood is over).

For some of us, the rules have changed or evolved when we weren’t looking, and we never get “our turn”.  In my case, it was embracing Women’s Lib as a way to have it all and be beholden to none.  After all, I reasoned, my Mom did everything right and still ended up working all hours of the day and night (with the help of her wonderful girlfriends) to keep a roof over our heads, and the plumbing working, and the bills paid.  Mom broke the cycle of silence by opting for divorce vs. accepting disrespect and abuse from her spouse,  and it was her choice to walk away from the insanity of her marriage that was the saving of her and all of our lives.

In my case, the passing of my Mom and Brother informed me over time that my choice to move away from my family, to break with tradition, has left me without a home port.  I became an adult orphan when I moved 3,000 miles away from my home port, and I never knew it because I made a conscious choice to build a husband and child-free life, and I moved into a youth-oriented area full of single people who appeared to have made similar choices.  Plus, my ability to hide from my family’s censure or expectations (if ever necessary) was strengthened by weekly or as necessary phone calls between myself and family and friends, so the bonds stood firm.

It is only when the fabric of our support circle is ripped through the passing of another that we realize how truly connected we were to each other, and how important it is to mend the fabric of our bonds to ensure continuity.  It is only when we see who among our family or childhood friends refuse to meet us half way in rebuilding a bond that we realize what we’ve lost with the passing of a matriarch or sibling.

So, we build again and we hope again, and time passes.  Now, we are the older, single person in a space that appears to only value youth and malleability.

Married friends launch their kids into the world, building the next generation, and the topic of Sweet 16’s, Debutante Balls, or Quincinearas become important to the next generation of Grannies and Nanas and Moms, who see the changes in the world and want to pass on “protection” to the next generation of women by ensuring the girls go down a path of set expectations for “princesses” or “queens” about how a ‘real’ woman lives, the matriarchal center of her family through the ages.

As I get ready to welcome a long term guest into my home, a women with an ex husband, grown children, and few places to turn, I wonder at that mythical young woman making her quincineara.

She’s surrounded by family, friends, momentary party excitement, and a “village” trying to direct her choices.  Trying to ensure that she is married young, before she knows who she is and what she wants from life.  Trying to ensure that she gets pregnant quickly to continue her species, as well as plant the seeds with those much hoped for children for anticipating that they, in turn, will be the extra hands of caring and support that her parents and grandparents may need as the circle of life continues and those hoped-for babies grow to adulthood, and pick up the mantle of caregiving aspirations.

I, meanwhile, deal every day with how best to retain my independence, afford to age in place, and stay as healthy as I can despite my medical issues.  Child free, and without anyone emotionally and biologically programmed to care for me as my body continues to age and my birth defects continue to evolve and plague me.

As I visit “F”, who is coping with dementia, and try and share companionship and adventures, I reflect on her 3 marriages, divorces, and childless state.

As I visit “F”, whose affairs are supposed to be monitored long distance, from Canada, while her mind and personality slowly slips away, I wonder at all the thousands of choices that had to fail to bear fruit for her to be here, at this moment in time, independence gone, and depending on the kindness of strangers as caregivers in her assisted living facility.

I am thankful “F” made good choices that lucked out to her having financial independence until her money runs out (which will hopefully not happen until after her mind is fully gone), and I’m grateful that she has some connections to family in Canada who will handle her affairs to the best of their ability, even though they won’t get on a plane or drive down from Canada to see for themselves that she’s doing ok.

Meanwhile, I’m also opening my home to “CM” who did everything society and her family expected, but..

– who ended up divorced and raising her kids solo

– who had a husband who refused to pay child support

– who now has grown children struggling to build their own lives

– who is now 64, never really worked (beyond raising kids), struggling financially, and

– who has been couch surfing since at least 2009, trying to survive.

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”CM”, if the Park managers agree, will move in with me as we try and get her back on her feet, financially, by helping her qualify for subsidized housing so that her broken and no-longer-able-to-work body can have a place to call her own in order to age in place.

At some point, if she cannot get the help she needs any other way, we may have to force her into a woman’s shelter to allow her to jump the line for necessary housing assistance.  “CM” was supposed to get on various waiting lists way back in 2009, but I suspect that pride and hiding from her reality stopped her from following thru on those recommendations to get what she needed.  At any rate, I’ve agreed to give her 6 months or so in my spare room at Old People’s “Camp”, and we’ll see what’s possible for helping her avoid homelessness.

She’s a far cry from the unknown road ahead for that quincineara girl, but in the belief that it truly takes a village to help each other get thru each stage of their lives,    I’ll try my best to help her get on her feet and stay independent for as long as possible.

It what the village is supposed to do, when one of their own needs help.

 

 

Elder Abuse

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Today, I was supposed to go help my friend, F, reorganize her single large closet in her assisted living apartment.

We were going to sort through all the clothes she moved from her home, weeding out the ones she no longer wears or needs, and organizing her travel photo albums so that they would be on bookcases at floor level, instead of higher up on shelves in the closet where she can’t access their contents.

We were going to move the chest taking up space in her bedroom, blocking easy access to the closet, and we were going to find a way to store her granny cart and her vacuum so that they weren’t taking up valuable floor space outside her closet.

Instead, I’m going to be dealing with a panic attack over finances and trying to calm her down.

P, the controlling friend that has made all the decisions regarding F’s finances, is harping on the fact that F is spending “too much”, all while knowing she just sold her fully paid for home for $789k, and that the place F has chosen to live should run her about $70k to $80k per year.

Instead of treating F like an impaired but reasonable adult, P is refusing to answer F’s questions (regardless of how many times the questions are repeated), leaving F to play a tit-for-tat game of hiding her money (and pulling out a lot of cash so that she feels she has control of her money, since she’s no longer seeing monthly statements).

F’s determination to wrest control from the largely silent Canadian relatives who have all her money and power of attorney (now that she’s been declared in need of guardianship / conservatorship) is a drama that didn’t need to be.

But, I blame P as the instigator.

P is a control freak, in my humble opinion, and her unwillingness to answer F’s reasonable questions has lead directly to this crisis.

(Calling me last night about 8:30pm to cancel our get together today, and then calling me at 6:02am in a panic to discuss things, shows what stress F is being put under by receiving mixed messages and different answers from everyone in her life).

So, I’ll go see F later today as originally agreed.  We’ll work out a strategy for her to stay calm and – possibly? – get some answers.  And, I’ll give her some suggestions about how to stay calm and create a workable budget for weekly cash so that she has a negotiation strategy for dealing with the drama that I otherwise consider elder abuse.

Please, if you have an elderly friend whose elevator no longer goes consistently to the top floor…  just be kind.  Be patient.  Answer all their questions even if they’ve asked them 1,000 times.  Don’t bully them.  Don’t boss them.  Try to listen and be supportive without badmouthing anyone else trying to help them.  Just care enough to show up.

We’re all going to be in a vulnerable point at some stage of our life due to age, infirmity or financial vulnerability.  Just be patient.  Try your best to be kind and not make the situation worse.

 

 

Hello. I’m still here.

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Still struggling with my attitude problem, my money being drained five minutes after I get paid, and my 2012 Kia Soul not selling.

So, there’s been a lot of me and the fur-coated diva on the couch, napping, in between lots of driving back and forth to the heart of Silicon Valley (about a 60 to 100 mile round trip, depending on where we end up walking, and whatever errands need to be run).

I think the money is disappearing so fast because of my poor money management, and all the gas for the extra trips, but I’m not sure if I’m lying to myself or not.  We’ll see how this next paycheck goes.

I’m also doing a lot of thinking about how to fix a running toilet:

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…and trying not to let my success with fixing the washing machine earlier this year go to my head !  To fix the toilet I must first take apart the bathroom cabinet / towel storage system (yet another daunting distraction), and with the house in various states of projects, I’m just overwhelmed with the clutter.

Did I ever tell you how much I hate home ownership and its related maintenance duties?

I first grew up in a 200 year old farm house constantly in a state of repair and strip-the-walls-down-to-the-studs “improvements”.  After my parents divorce, I finished growing up in a cottage style house that was always being renovated and reinforced against the always-pending storms.  Rain, Snow, Hurricanes, Nor’easters…

The cottage had an incredible mold / mildew problem due to it being a 1950’s era tract box, with very little insulation  – at least due to then-modern standards.

So, to find myself living in a mobile home built in 1976 with zip for insulation, doing my own repairs while short of breath and exhausted from lack of decent sleep is not ever an adventure I foresaw in my life.

But, it’s better than being homeless or having someone tell me I (temporarily) make too much money to be able to qualify for the construction aid programs meant to aid seniors and disabled people.

Back to today’s story, though…

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Would you believe that some former owner spackeled the toilet tank lid in place??!!??

It’s moves like that which make home ownership and repairs such an adventure.

It’s still been cold or chilly a lot more than normal, which is making me wonder if I’m being lazy for getting things done or if it’s just not hot enough for me, but that’s an every day kind of musing that helps me waste time and avoid getting much of anything done between naps, LOL.

Between running my friend around doing her errands, I’m arguing with the endocrinologist.  My A1C has been in the 7.5 range for most of the Winter (bad fudge !  Bad !), but since I sent her a chart of my A1C over the last 2.5 years showing weight and medication points and sleep patterns, plus proof that I walked at least 830 miles last year and an average 80 miles a month in good weather, she’s agreed to calm down and breathe.  She’s expensive, so I didn’t want to move my appointment closer than July 9th, and she’s finally agreed to see me after some arm twisting.

I also found a Harvard Health study which wonders if tight control of the A1C in someone who has other co-morbidities is worth it, and which posits the idea that an A1C between 7 and 8 might not be unreasonable for those with chronic health issues.

Rethinking A1c goals for type 2 diabetes

In particular, I’m cherry picking this part of their conclusions:

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I think I have invested enough effort in staying as well as I can, and I am not going to make myself crazy trying to regulate my blood sugars when all it does is leave me tired and short of energy.

Since I’ve stopped taking the Januvia my blood sugar has risen, but I feel better and my finances thank me for not paying $525 each month for a medicine that causes constipation and hemorrhoids, without really addressing the underlying problem.

It’s funny, though.  I started this blog about friendships and home repairs, and it digressed into another rant about health.  Go figure !

Needless to say, I’m fine and still putting one foot in front of the other.  Time to get my butt in gear and start my day.

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The Buddy System

 

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Since I’ve been back from vacation, Herself has taking to cuddling more than ever with me.

While she was grooming me and patting my hair before I left, now she’s cuddling up with me and laying her paws along my neck, which turns out to be a very comforting gesture for both of us.

 

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My very good friend and former boss, F, lost her mind in the 3 weeks or so that we were out of contact.  I came home from vacation to find her phone disconnected, and a variety of packing boxes and kitty litter boxes on the patio when I stopped by to see what was happening.  Very disturbing.

Since then, I’ve found that she was conserved against her will and for her own safety due to increased dementia or Alzheimers issues.

While this is good in many ways, ending the whole, “How do you know?” debate over when to act and when someone is safe to leave alone, I’m really struggling with the fact that F, my former boss and mentor and friend since 1988 is being disrespected as part of being conserved.

Having tried unsuccessfully to get Las Vegas Auntie the help she needs while working through the system, I can’t say what’s being done to aid F is the best way to handle things, but I can also say that she does need assistance (and supervision, when she’s hit a dead zone in her brain and is speaking nonsense), but that I’m frustrated on her behalf because she’s not being included (no matter how frustrating it may be) on things which will impact her quality of life.

In my oh-so-humble opinion.

F picked the Memory Care / Senior Assisted Living Center where she’s been moved.  The problem is that she picked it across the street from her senior center so that she could continue to go to classes and events there, and she is now no longer able to go without company or supervision.  She’s been artificially restrained to the grounds of her care home unless someone signs her out, and that seems too harsh to me.

Don’t get me wrong – her private, 1 bedroom apartment is very spacious, and sunny, and they permitted her to bring her 3 cats, so her personal comfort has been given a great deal of thought:

 

 

So, things are not as dire as they could be, and she seems relatively happy.

F has always been a walker and a biker, and at 82 was still driving well despite her memory issues.

Now, all of that is gone.

So, I stopped by again yesterday to take her to breakfast – we were walking the .08 miles each way – both to give her an outlet, as well as give me some much needed exercise.

The day went well, and she asked me if I’d drive her to Costco to pick up her contact lenses after breakfast (she hasn’t had any in almost 2 weeks, making it hard for her to see in detail), and also asked if I’d stop by her home to see what’s happening since P, the friend who is handling most details, isn’t keeping her informed.

Not a problem, as long as my energy lasts.  NOTE:  I live in the boonies, so every day in life now involves counting my spoons of energy, and making sure that I stop before I’m tired so that I have enough energy left to make the 45 minutes (or longer) drive home.

Second side note:  F was an incredible boss and mentor.  Always polished.  Always organized.  We used to have an ongoing joke among her direct reports that we’d get “frantic-grams” during any involved project that wasn‘t moving fast enough for her sense of necessary timing for accomplishing or completing a task.

F was worried about her stuff – (even though she’d agreed that the stuff left behind was to be sold to help her raise some much needed money) – and she was frustrated about how slowly the workers were moving, dragging out the time involved in getting her home ready for sale.

So, I agreed to take her on both errands, knowing that I had signed her out until Noon and had to have her checked back in by that time, or I’d be getting a call.

Upon arrival, F was concerned her patio gate wasn’t locked.  She was upset that she found a box of Fenton  glass collectible shoes outside.  Ditto her doll chairs, where her teddy bears used to reside.

 

 

[P, the person stepping up to handle F’s affairs, is excluding Fran from progress updates, leading to F’s level of upset from not being kept in the loop].

So, we went through the house and she found all of her dirty laundry had been left behind, along with a few family pictures that would be of interest to no one else.

We also found 12 pair of contact lenses left behind, so that eliminated our need to go to Costco, as my energy was running down.

After packing F, the laundry and the family pictures up, we left her condo and returned to the care home.  No fuss.  No arguing.  Just very matter of fact.

Yes, F was using the wrong words to describe things (I’m in trouble and kept locked up because I “wander”, not because she is a champion “walker”).  Similar words, but with very different impact when used improperly.

Also:  Her doctor is an evil man who ordered her confined to her new care home.

Plus:  The police won’t let her leave her care home.

There is nothing keeping F in her new care home beyond the prison of her own mind, and her law-abiding personality for trusting those in authority.  She has a natural respect of those in charge.

F is confused, which is normal for people with dementia, but she’s also cowed (not her original personality), and not at all combative.

IMHO, F should be involved more in having her questions answered and her mind put at ease, but P does not appear to feel that’s reasonable to do.  P does not see the disrespect with which she’s treating F, making her frustration with the process worse.

I have no answers, as I know what happens when one can barely function (like Las Vegas Auntie), and is left alone to play in traffic without consistent adult supervision.

For now, I’m just concentrating on the buddy system for ensuring F gets out and about to enjoy life while leaving the heavier burdens in others hands to address.

Hopefully, things will level out given time.

 

 

Tarpon and breathing

During our snorkel tour in Belize, our tour guide, Omar, took us on a side trip to see and feed the tarpon.

Unfortunately, I found that I was no longer able to breathe and lay on my stomach AT ALL.  I’m sad to say that I couldn’t last more than 30-45 seconds on my stomach, so my attempt at feeding the tarpon was wasted, but it was still great to see them swimming and see others try.

So much of our lives with COPD is spent on the sidelines that it’s important to not forget to TRY.  There is joy in the trying, even if one fails.

Being competitive, though, I was relieved to note that I wasn’t the only one who could not feed the tarpon.

They were beautiful to see, though.  What a great adventure !

Do they know?

 

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I’ve been trying to figure out a way to say all that’s on my mind, and I’m stumped.  No one wants to be a Debbie Downer, but the passing of others from our lives, regardless of how on the periphery they may have been, is something that should be dignified by others notice.  Others consideration.  Others contemplation of what awaits us all when we finally retire from this mortal plain.

I started the day with a reference to “Cadence” in a beautiful story about Sam in a coffee shop named Cadence.

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Silly me, I had hoped it was about my former employer, a software manufacturer named “Cadence”, and I eagerly looked into the story about Sam, envisioning someone talented working  as part of the kitchen staff of my old employer, now relocated to somewhere in Utah.

Instead, I found some old writings about a coffee shop, located I know not where (yet), and in reading other blogs by the author, Shannon, I read about “George”, a seemingly homeless or very much marginalized man who was struggling with stomache cancer and no meds to help him eat, way back in 2016.

I know it’s silly to want to know what happened to George, as the odds are against him still being around, but these are the things I wonder about.

Yesterday, I went to my Better Breathers Class, and I found that a woman I’d enjoyed meeting with once a month for the last 2-3 years had also passed.  Linda Sloan was quite a character, determined to enjoy life despite her situation, and I heard about her two cats every month.

Now having it confirmed that she had passed, I wondered about the two cats and how they were doing.  I tried to track down her obituary and that of Hiroko, who passed at the end of February.

While Hiroko’s husband and she were mentioned in a Florida obituary from 2006, upon the passing of her father-in-law, there was still no obit for Hiroko.  Her husband had stopped by to let her respiratory specialists know of her passing, but there’s still nothing in the newspapers to alert the wider world of her former chiropractic patients and friends about her passing.

Linda’s obit, unfortunately, was even sadder after I’d found it.

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No mention of friends, family or cats.

I don’t know which is sadder – the news blackout with no obit, or the very plain notice of Linda’s passing, without regard to her origins or any loved ones left behind.

Just a bit melancholy today, despite smiling at George’s dire circumstances and his upbeat outlook on life way back in 2016, “Oh I’ll be alright now!!  Got me some medicine to help me keep my food down!”

Our world is a snapshot of us convincing ourselves everything will be ok.  Regardless of the realities we face, we are resilient in our stubbornness.

 

Bette

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I’ve been going to game night the last few Friday nights, and with every blessing, I truly feel one also receives a few slaps.

Mine is a very trying woman I’ve written about before, who has decided she likes me, but who drives me up the wall due to her narcissistic tendencies.

Let’s call her “Bette” in recognition of my particular favorite crazy, Bette Davis, in “Who’s Afraid of Baby Jane?”

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Bette is the 82 year old mother of 9 who has the will to be friendly, but has an overtly narcissistic personality which makes any attempt at friendship reciprocation challenging if not exhausting.

I get it.  Making friends is hard.  She’s trying.  We’re all trying.  But Bette is an emotional succubus that leaves you feeling exhausted and running for the hills.  Then, she gets her feelings hurt because she’s truly clueless about how to interact with people.

(Been there.  Done that.  I think I feel her pain).

Anyway, we have a Saint in our park who looks just like Katheryn Grayson, the 1950’s songstress in some of my favorite musicals.  Kathryn is Bette’s chief enabler.

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I say “enabler” because Bette wasn’t leaving her house without help and prodding, and Kathryn has now decided that she’s bringing Bette to Game Night on Fridays.

Now, I have nothing against anyone coming to game night, if they are going to GAME !

My manifesto:  I’m not here to be your personal servant (more about that later), I’m not here to look at 102 pictures of your life when we’re supposed to be playing, and I’m not here to wait on you while you wander off in the middle of a game.

In particular (my pet peeve), I don’t want you putting tiles down on the word game board unless you’re ready to play.

None of this putting various tiles in various spots, deciding you need popcorn refilled, wandering off to find your rosewood cane (that you don’t need right that minute!), and leaving the other 3 players in the game waiting for you to finish taking your turn and clueless about where you left off.

No !

One of our newer Park residents wanted to play “upwords”, which is a variation on Scrabble, and which I’d agreed to play the week before.

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I’d managed to avoid Bette and her killer perfume by changing tables the prior week, so our Kathryn kept her busy at the Yahtzee table while I slid away from her clouds of scent by moving to the Ski-Bo card table.

This time, I wasn’t so lucky.  I had to hear (again) about the husband who has been dead two (2) years as of Valentines Day.  (I swear, Bette can turn any topic into a reason why you should feel pity for Bette or feel you must rescue her).  I had to hear about yet another bipolar episode which left her stuck in the house for the last 3 months.  I had to hear how her kids never visit.  And, did I know she’s a mother of 9???  Her manipulative, self-centered focus is truly an art form.

I had to listen to Bette yelling for Kathryn Grayson to wait on her (Kathryn, by the way, has her own walker and mobility issues and was sitting 2 tables away), I had to switch seats with Bette as she claimed to have hearing only in her right ear, I had to jump up and get her food (anything to stop the yelling), and then I had to listen to muttered accusations against Kathryn for stealing her husbands “very valuable” 100 year old rosewood cane. The cane which was later found resting on a table top.

Drama, drama, drama !

I know we’re supposed to be kind to each other and help everyone from feeling ignored, but I’m putting my foot down over “upwards” or any slow-moving game at these kinds of evenings when I’m there.

The Bette’s of the world have no mute switch, and can’t tolerate a slow-moving game.  I’m trying to be reasonable, but I have my limits, too.  We’ve got to make sure that Bette sticks to fast moving games, or make sure that she sits at other tables where such games are being played as it’s just too frustrating for the rest of us to be stuck waiting on her.

Yes, my living situation is just like high school or Summer camp.  Games night is about all of us finding fun and friendship, and no one person derailing the intent of the gathering.  I do feel a private speech coming on, aimed squarely at Bette, again, and am glad I could control myself for this round.

Getting old isn’t for sissies !