Dead Mentors

Kirkus Review of Dead Mentors

 

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They Must Have Changed Babies in the Nursery

Is It Your Birthday

My 65th birthday is coming up. I’ve scheduled my appointment at the local Social Security office to apply for retirement benefits. I had to. The on line application didn’t go through because the information I provided didn’t jive with what the US Social Security Administration had on file for me. I wonder what that means. Whatever it is, I’m not at all surprised that there’s a mix-up. My identity has always been spurious. That’s because I’m not sure when I was born.

You see, when I applied for my green card back in the 70’s, I obtained my original birth certificate. The date was incorrect. As far as I knew, I had been born on October 15, in 1953. (Yes, I’m as old as the coronation of Elizabeth II, the end of the North Korean war, and the discovery of the polio vaccine. As a side note, 1953 was also the year in which the DNA double helix was discovered, actually by Rosalind Franklin, not Crick and Watson, but that’s another story.) October 15 is when I’ve always celebrated my birthday. However, the birth certificate I sent for stated the 14th. When I brought the error to the attention of the Canadian Vital Statistics office, they politely told me, no problem. Just send us your medical record of birth and we’ll make the correction. This is when all the trouble began.

The hospital where I was supposed to have been born had no record of my birth. Nothing. I tried several times, but there was no account of me or my mother having been to the place. For a while, I began to worry that I may have been adopted, but I had four siblings, none of whom remembered an adoption taking place. I also bear a pretty close resemblance to one of my two sisters and have some genetic traits of both parents as well. Mom thought I was in the clouds most of the time, which was true, and probably thought I was a bit too, dare I say, alienated. In fact, when I used to relate stories of my nursing duties to my mother, she often said, “They must have changed babies in the nursery” because I was the only one in the family able to stomach nursing. Her expression kind of haunted me.

Anyway, I came up with a potential solution to correct my birth certificate. Back in the fifties, the local paper published birth announcements. I asked my sister up in Peterborough, Ontario to visit the library for me and see if they can dust off a digitized copy of mine. Sure enough, she found it! There it was. The announcement of my birth in the Peterborough Examiner! She said, there’s a problem, though. Although the birth announcement indicated I was born on Wednesday, October 15, just as I had hoped, October 15, 1953 was actually a Thursday. I was back to square one. What the hell happened?

I am quite familiar with hospital records, having had healthcare-related jobs in hospitals from the 70’s to just last year when I was laid off by my employer of 25 years and entered the land of freedom as a late bloomer. I have even worked at St. Joseph’s, the hospital in Peterborough where I was purportedly born. I’m keenly aware of the potential for the duplication of medical records, unauthorized access to records, errors and omission in records and the potential for breaches of the integrity of records. I taught electronic patient documentation systems to clinical staff when they came out. But completely losing a medical record both of a mother and her newborn? In a hospital records department, that is rare.

I had to find out my date of birth. Our birthdays were not so special growing up, as I recall. We joke about it now. When we were kids, we’d have to tell our parents it was our birthday, even though my mother claimed to have given us parties every year up until the age of 12. I don’t remember any of them. When it was my birthday, I’d have to tell my mother. She would always respond in the same manner: “Is it your birthday, Sandy? Happy Birthday!” When I asked my mother the time of my birth, she responded with: “You kids were all born in the wee hours of the morning”.

I don’t like not knowing the exact date, or time, of my birth. It was just another day, granted, but it matters to me. I was somewhat relieved by a psychic who once concurred that celebrating my birthday for years on October 15 was correct. I also explored my astrological birth chart, plugging in all possible times for both dates and there was no variation on the reports. That was a relief. I’m not sure what I would have done had there been two different life paths predicted  for me in the stars.

My family can’t get my birthday straight. They never know whether it’s the 14th or 15th  now that all this confusion has occurred. I can’t blame them. Neither can I. For all official business, I have to use the date on my birth certificate, of course, but I continue to celebrate my birthday on the other date, although I don’t really celebrate birthdays anymore.

I hope to God this problem of my date of birth isn’t the issue at the Social Security office when I go for my appointment next week. I don’t want to go through this monotony again. In fact, I totally understand if any readers out there are bored to tears with the calamity of my chronology. If you are, I apologize.

I’m pretty sure they didn’t change babies in the nursery, as my mother said. I’m not all that different from my family. I may have started out my career as a bedside hospital nurse, but it didn’t last. For a while, I was doing and seeing things the rest of the family considered pretty creepy and, as it turns out, so did I.

Never Change Your Name

Names

A piece of advice here from an old lady on the 4th of July—never change your name. Today, I changed the name of my blog from Sandra Nichols Rogers (which isn’t really my legal name anyway), to “The Late Bloomer”. I did this because I’m just learning about blogging (late bloomers are like that) and noticed that other bloggers use more clever titles than I do. I also changed my blog name again because I’m not sure what to call myself. I’ve had so many names, I can’t decide.

Naming babies, blogs and books should be given careful consideration. Changing names should be given even greater consideration.

In my experience, changing a name creates chaos. Unless someone hates their name, they should never change it, especially not just because they’re getting married. I wish I had always kept my maiden name. It’s a simple matter of identity, individuality, and clarity. When I was married for the first time, I changed my name. When I got divorced, I kept my married name and that always felt weird. When I remarried, I changed my name yet again. When I wrote my first novel, I used my maiden name. I have now acquired three surnames and four separate names—Nichols, Elgert, Rogers, and back to Nichols. I even started combining them like other people do on Facebook so old friends from Canada could find me. Hence, I am Sandy Nichols Rogers. That’s just crazy.

Nicknames screw up the naming convention problem even further. My mother thought the name Sandra was lovely. So do I. However, most people call me “Sandy”, a name popular among Labrador Retrievers. Yes, my maiden name is Sandy Nichols, don’t laugh. It could have been worse. If last names were assigned to first names back in the 50’s like they are now, I might have been Silver Nichols.

When you’re young, you don’t realize what’s involved when you change your name. But you learn when you need travel or immigration documents. It can be overwhelming. Procuring and paying for the original birth certificates, marriage certificates, and divorce decrees required to prove who you were before you became who you are now, makes the process complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. Changing your name just makes it all worse.

I get why people don’t like their name and they really should change it, in that case. I certainly wouldn’t live with the first name “Oranjello”, for example. My husband, Alan, and I recently ran into an old friend who told us she had changed her first name from Helen to Charlie. She explained that “Helen” is an old name from the 20’s. I thought perhaps Charlie was just as old, but I didn’t say so. She may regret her decision, I think.

r&J

Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet Film 1968

What’s in a name, Juliet asks Romeo. That which we call a rose/by any other name would smell as sweet. She was in love with one of the wretched Montagues, enemies of the Capulet family to which she belonged. Of course, Shakespeare was correct. It’s not the name, it’s the person and all that. But still, Fred and Juliet just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Happy July Fourth everybody!

Strange Bedfellows

Strange Bedfellows

Alan and me on our first date.

Now that I’ve been released from the throes of the day job, I see much more of my husband, Alan. Even though he’s at the poker room in Fort Pierce or West Palm Beach most days, we have much more time together. This can be a problem for some people I know. Recently, a friend, now in his seventies, told me it isn’t always easy for him to be home with his wife. In fact, he was truly worried about having to retire soon, telling his friends that when he dies, his nose should be checked for feathers in case she suffocated him with a pillow.

I don’t worry about being murdered by Alan. In fact, I think we picked the perfect marital partner, because opposites attract and we couldn’t be more different from one another. Alan and I have opposite political views, spiritual beliefs, sleeping schedules, food choices, and interests in films, to name a few of our diametrically opposing preferences. I like to keep things fairly well organized; Alan likes things messy. I like a landscaped property; Alan prefers a “natural” yard. He watches the news, mostly but also enjoys reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond. I watch only internet TV and like foreign films. He is a light sleeper and remains motionless during the night. I sleep deeply and wildly. He is an early riser; I love to sleep in. I’m an introverted person; Alan, of course, is extroverted.

We’ve been strange bedfellows for 17 glorious years. We have our own sets of friends and acquaintances. We do share some interests together, though. We love beer, watching tennis, and listening to jazz. Now that we’re old though, the frequency of our shared activities is diminishing, like everything else. We didn’t even watch the Australian Open this year. Either we forgot it was on or just didn’t care, I can’t remember. But we laugh and we marvel at the same things.

Obviously, we have a pretty darn good thing going, here.

Living with an opposite balances the scales. It’s like the adventures of Yin and Yang, really.  Opposites complement one another, providing strengths when the weakness of the other becomes a problem. It’s the concept of symbiosis at work. For example, Alan explains to me what’s going on in the world of politics and current events because I pretty much avoid them. He makes sure I’m aware, just in case there’s a nuclear war or something I need to know about. Similarly, I help Alan with his computer apps and similar technology that he didn’t care to learn about so that he may continue to share his views on the Tommy Robinson protests or World Cup soccer matches on line.

I’m a pretty big fan of the Law of Attraction (LOA) idea. Alan thinks it’s a load of garbage. We had an argument on Sunday while having some beers. I told Alan the reason he wasn’t winning at poker lately was because he needed to be more positive. My intention was to help him out. In an effort to help him understand, I explained that the only reason Trump is now president is because the man knew, without a single doubt, that he would be, thereby easily manifesting the dream. (Frankly, I think Trump’s election to the presidency is one of the best examples of the LOA at work by default). Anyway, Alan was pretty pissed off at me. Not for my beliefs or insights, or for saying that “thoughts are things” so much as for pointing out his losses at poker. The very next day, (No Lie!) he had a royal flush. “There’s your law of attraction,” he said to me as he handed me some cash. I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean touché Sandy, you were so right about that Law of Attraction stuff. I think he meant he won the hand without the help of the universe.

Despite our differences, or maybe because of them, our marriage, like all marriages, was made in heaven, or via the Law of Attraction, however you envision synchronicity happening. I think we’re matched by the ether with the good, the bad, and the ugly others out there. But, the best and lasting matches made are not so much about shared goals, traits, or ambitions. Alan and I are the perfect example. Good relationships are about mutual respect, love, and compassion. I like that Alan and I have separate televisions and different hobbies. It gives me the freedom I want, especially since I was released from the day job and can finally enjoy myself. The last place I want to be, though, especially on a daily basis, is in a casino playing Texas Hold’em and Alan couldn’t stand to “read” a foreign movie with me for more than five minutes. But as unalike as we are, I know he loves me. He makes me feel safe and secure. Alan is there when I need him and he takes care of me. That’s how I want to feel–loved. I think we all do.

 

 

Laid Off Luxury

Free stock photo of hotel, bed, house, luxury

Since I’ve been laid off from the position of wage slave, my sleep pattern has been disrupted. Never an early riser, I was at least reluctantly accustomed to getting up for work and showing up for work, esteemed traits of the boomer generation. Since I can live by my own schedule now, I enjoy late night binging on Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos or listening to music. With my alarm silenced, mornings are later than usual and sometimes occur at lunchtime. In fact, you might say my schedule is more like mayhem. It’s great.

Regarding the scheduled life, there are two personality types—structured or non-structured. I am the non-structured type who goes with the flow, unlike my husband, Alan, who prefers planning and detail.  I think our opposite circadian rhythms contribute to the success of our marriage.

Some nights, I can’t get to sleep at all without Benadryl and/or Ibuprofen. Lately, I’ve been tossing and turning until around 4 and 5 am, despite listening to Beethoven and infusing the room with eucalyptus oil. My sister, Anita, tells me she doesn’t know a woman over 60 who doesn’t have insomnia. I told her Alan has it too. He says he gets up every morning at 3 am and has a hard time getting back to sleep. It’s true. I can hear him foraging in the kitchen while I’m watching T.V.

Because of our erratic schedules, there is no telling who’s up or down in our house at any time of day or night. There may be a body napping on the couch or guest room bed during the day or someone wandering in search of Tums at night in the kitchen. Alan is an extremely light sleeper. Since our kitchen is adjacent to the master bedroom, I dare not do dishes or noisily close the microwave door while popping corn in the middle of the night because he’s a bear when a person disturbs his sleep. The courtesy of not disturbing Alan’s sleep has become a good excuse for not working around the house.

The medical experts don’t seem to know why we can’t sleep very well as we age. It probably has to do with changes in the brain, but I like to think I’m returning more to my natural, biological self—eating when hungry and sleeping when tired, which is as it should be. I’ve been one of those who needs lots of sleep all my life and have loved every minute of it. Now that I don’t engage in the drudgery of work, I have no problem with staying up late, rising late, eating at odd hours and napping. In fact, napping is a laid off luxury.

I took two Benadryls and two Ibuprofens last night. That’s 50 mg and 400 mg respectively. They worked well with the 3 beers I had had earlier in the evening. I barely got through one episode of Monroe before I dozed off. It was a night of light comedy and deep sleep. There’s no telling what tonight might bring, though. The second series of Goliath airs today on Amazon and I’ll definitely be watching it. Sweet dreams everyone!

It’s Getting Better All the Time

JohnLennon

John and Me

It’s been a year since the Beatles channel started on Sirius XM Radio and six months since my surprise layoff from the drudgery of the day job. It’s getting better all the time.

The Beatles radio channel is my constant companion in the car and on my Amazon Music playlist. Beatles songs are sacred to me. They evoke feelings of youthfulness and of hope. Even though I’m now 64, getting older and literally losing my hair, I still love them and their incredible music every bit as much as I did when I was a kid.

But, I’m not the only one. There’s a lot of gray-haired Beatles groupies out there. At the Publix check-out last month, the cashier commented on my John Lennon t-shirt. (It’s the only printed t-shirt I own). It’s the iconic one pictured above with the black and white photo of John with folded arms, wearing the “New York City” sleeveless shirt and dark, round shades.  The Publix man said he had a shirt like it, but that his had the “Imagine” lyrics on it. He told me he recently wore the shirt to a “March for Our Lives” demonstration. I turned around to show him the same lyrics printed in red on the back of my top. When I faced him again, I saw his eyes filling up. He said something about how they were the best of times. I agreed. I ended our brief conversation by saying maybe “these kids” will turn things around like we did and he nodded.

My encounter with a fellow hippie may seem trite to some, but the fact that we shared a nostalgic sense of hope for future generations was important for me. I believe the millennials are trying to get us back to where we once belonged, just like my generation did. Although they have better technology and superior weed, there is ample evidence of the same free spirit, social engagement, and intolerance for conformity. They want the personal freedom we craved, a healthier planet, and a better world.

People my age who complain about the lax work ethic of kids in their twenties, could just admit that the millennial message is like that of our generation. However, we ended up working way too hard and often reluctantly. Many of us, like me, with “jobs” had to bow  to the very establishments we protested against in the 60’s.

In the seventies, that establishment strengthened. Noam Chompsky, the greatest intellectual of our time, calls it the age of neoliberalism and it is a powerful force of control in our world. It assures that we remain in our social place. It was what weakened our sense of solidarity and our power.

I never liked a single job I had for four decades and I don’t want that scenario for my grandchildren.  I hope that millennial self-respecting intolerance for corporate control helps turn it around and that they do build a better world. It’s their turn and I stand with them.

Power to the People!

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Yippie! I’m Laid Off!

I was laid off after 25 years of employment in November, 2017 and became officially redundant. Yippee! The Law of Attraction is working. I was a little shaken at first, but this push is just what I needed. What writer at 64 would say anything different? Yes, I wasn’t ready to retire and yes, I may have to struggle financially for a while, but this was the best thing that could have happened to me.

I have young friends who were laid off and forced to change careers, locations, and life plans. Many were devastated. Not me. I’m old. I paid my dues as a wage slave. I’m done! I had only one and a half years to go before retirement. I even had a countdown app on my phone. But wishing your life away, as my husband, Alan, said, is no way to go through life. He was so right.

I’m working part time to help make ends meet, but the good thing is that my stress level and blood pressure are both normal. I get to nap whenever I want to. I’m a teaching assistant at a local school, part time, so I get colds more often, but that’s when I get to stay home and write, two of my favorite things. I make my own bread and have a constant supply of home-made muffins in the fridge. My garden is looking better and I’m losing weight. Last week, I took my grandson to the beach and actually had some fun!

And, to top things off, we had a flood in our house! This little nudge from the universe has resulted in a new set of kitchen cabinets, a new floor in the bedroom, and, this summer, almost the entire house will be painted. It doesn’t get any better than this.