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This was not the first time I had roamed a parking lot seized with fear that my missing car was stolen, but not for over half an hour. I called my son Jason.

“Why are you calling me? If your car is stolen you should be calling the police. WAIT! Are you sure where you left it?”

“Yes, in front of World Market, pulled all the way through so I wouldn’t have to back out—just as AARP Safety Course teaches. After I left there I walked to Marshall’s, Ross, Sally’s, and SteinMart.”

“Are you sure it’s not there? Go look again and call me back. I’m on my way.”

I had scanned every car in front of World Market twice and none were mine, but I looked again. My stomach growled. Nothing since a 250 calorie breakfast and it was going on six o’clock. I gnawed open the pack of cheese sticks from SteinMart as I made the rounds again. My fingers turned yellow.

I went back in the store and asked for the manager. He had heard of no car thefts in that shopping center, but he called Sanford P.O.’s non-emergency line for me. Handed me his phone. They want a description, make, color etc. I relayed all that, telling them to look for the big “Who are you calling a Sea Cow?” manatee sticker on the back windshield. There are scads of gold Hyundai Santa Fe SUVs in the area. She wanted to know if I’m behind on my payments. Told me it may have been repossessed. No! Paid for long ago. Then she asks for my license number. I dug it out knowing I’m in trouble. In normal circumstances I get Alphabet Tourette’s Syndrome, but with my car being in who knows what chop shop the affliction threatened to hit double time. Thank God I had no Fs, Ps or Ss in my tag number.

“We are sending a patrol car over.”

The next call is from a male officer. “What are you wearing?” In my agitated state, it took a minute to realize he only wanted to recognize me.

“ORANGE, a bright orange sweater!” There must have been a reason I pulled out a top I haven’t worn in a year from of a drawer this afternoon. Maybe I was grasping for comfort, but maybe someone was looking out for me. It gets a little woo woo here, but I swear I thought of how perfect orange would be to identify me that morning while slipping it on, but flicked that thought aside.

I stood out front with the setting sun angled right in my face. Sweat beaded on my upper lip. A patrol car pulled in front—and whizzed right by me! Then another pulled to the curb, stopped, and rolled his window down a tad, teasing me with a small stream of cool air while he asked all the same questions. He said they had four patrol cars looking for my car. FOUR! That must mean there had been problems around there. He finally offered to let me get in and ride around with him to look for it. I slid onto the cool, vinyl seat and directed the cold air vent to my face.

“Where did you go first after leaving World Market?”

“Marshall’s.”

“And you didn’t drive down there?”

“No,” I pointed to my fitness band, “I was trying to get steps in for today.”

We had driven down only two rows when his police radio crackled. A woman’s voice said, “I found it.”

“She found it? And the thief? Where?” I hoped it hadn’t been wrecked or used in a crime and impounded. He cut his eyes at me.

He drove a little farther and stopped in front of Marshall’s near another patrol car. To our left was my stolen car.

“I’m so embarrassed—but happy—but embarrassed.” I stammered as I got jumped out of his car clutching my keys.

What was I to do but play the elderly card? I was so certain I hadn’t moved my car hoping to get in more steps today. Well, I did get a mile and a half in at that shopping center. He and the lady cop were very gracious, but were definitely stiffling a snicker.

A big shoutout to Sanford, Florida’s courteous, helpful police force, but I hope to never see them again. There is something to be said for traveling by Uber.

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Should I go or should I stay? Powerful Cat 5 Hurricane Irma was headed for Florida. All of Florida. No small one was this. If I stayed, the fifty year old Laurel oak might fall across the house, crushing my bed first and then the central bathroom where my son Jason and I would hunker down. If I chose go it would be to my son’s gun shop. Sturdy block building with no large trees as far as the eye could see, only acres of field across the street. It had a sturdy, enclosed stairwell and interior rooms under the stairs and was pet friendly. As much as I hated to pack up and leave, the choice was clear.

 

Curfew was Sunday, September 10, 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday. Twenty-three hours. My son said the shop’s power had never gone out in a storm, so we would have small fridge, air conditioning, microwave, lights, TV and room for his Bichon Frise Bolt and my Persian mix Emma to roam. What a set up.

 

Emma immediately found a hiding spot. She would find two more before the ordeal was over, each more difficult to find than the last, each taking a toll on my knees. Bolt was used to hanging out at the shop, so was right at home.

 

We realized one negative to our safe spot going in; thieves frequently braved hurricanes to rob one type business—gun shops. But we had a good security system, electricity to power it, with battery backup.  Also, more than a few guns. As a matter of fact, I even brought my personal S&W. I never sleep without it. Coals to Newcastle, you might think, but safety depends on being comfortable with your weapon in an emergency. Let’s just say, my son was well armed, too.

 

Without the usual sound of exploding transformer or flicker warning, the power went out like fingers dousing a candle wick about 10:00 p.m. Irma continued her wobbly two-step across the state, defying predictions and veering east, with the dirty side of the eye now headed for Orlando. We had plenty of flashlights, battery radios and continued following the approaching storm until the wee hours, Jason in his recliner, me on the leather love seat.

 

“What’s that red light on the box on the wall?” It was straight above my toes.

 

Jason didn’t have to turn around. “It tells me the backup battery is not working on the security system.”

 

“A gang of six have broken into Academy Sports and stole guns,” the radio’s timing was uncanny. Shortly they reported an independent gun shop in Daytona was robbed. All six thugs at Academy had been arrested, but not the latest bunch.

 

Wait a minute! Why did I turn down an offer from a dear Facebook friend to be picked up the day before the storm and whisked out of Florida in a Phenom 300 private jet? I don’t remember ever being as touched by a genuine gesture. With wind whistling outside, shaking the building, and water creeping in at the edges of the carpet, I wondered if I was also touched in the head. No. Decision made. Live with it, the operative word being live.

 

Out front the field looked like blowing ocean waves, an ocean that came right up to our front door. Jason tried to open the back, steel door at one point to check on the storm. With video I recorded his struggle to open it a foot and hold it open a few minutes. If you’ve seen weather guys taking a beating in the storm you know what it looked and sounded like. Wind showing its power against the door, rain pellets spraying his face. Grunting. Sorry, I had to laugh.

 

We weren’t very sleepy, though it was after midnight. As a matter of fact, we slept only one hour that night, from about 2:30 to 3:30 a.m. We woke to more banging outside as wind whipped small twigs and branches against the building, and vibrated it more than a few times. The radio hosts were sounding jovial and relaxed as if the worst of the storm had passed. It had where they were, and was exiting our area. We had slept through it.

 

Energy levels shot up and hunger chimed in. At 4:00 in the morning I peeled and ate a boiled egg and had a smoothie. Most delicious dinner/breakfast combination ever.

 

Jason fell back asleep near dawn and I tried, but all I wanted to do was check on my home. No way were we waiting until 6:00 p.m. We didn’t have to, the curfew was lifted at 11:00 a.m. A few more winks for Jason and too much time packing up and finding Emma and we pulled out onto a clear, wind dried road about 2:00 p.m. Grass in the field across the street blew in waves.

 

In the fourth grade, I rounded the corner after school to find my house burned to the ground. The feeling I got then returned as we crept into the neighborhood. No damage from the front. A quick survey showed none from the back. We’d have to run the generator for five days, but our window AC would cool us, and food would be safe in the fridge. We could even run the TV and a few lights. The air smelled of fresh cut wood and the earth after a summer shower. Neighbors all down the streets were already stacking mounds of limbs and sawn logs along the curb. In a few days our lawn boy would have ours cleared and mowed. Like it never even happened. But it had, and like all the other storms we survived in 41 years, we learned more lessons, sharpened our survival skills and would be even more ready for the next one. And there would be a next one. It’s the price of living in paradise.

 

 

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I rub the sleepy out of my eyes and stop making the bed. It’s wash day! I can skip this chore. After breakfast I turn on my favorite radio talk show to listen to while putting on my face. Ummm, he must not come on this early.

I can’t believe it! I missed both my pills yesterday, morning and evening! Better wash one down right now and how did they get in the wrong slot?

I get a better look at that object by my mailbox when I open the windows. It surely looks like a newspaper, but I don’t get the paper on Monday or Tuesday. Too bad the delivery guy made a mistake. That means I’ll have a slim Monday paper to read on this rainy day.

The drizzle is kind of pleasant, the air a little cool as I retrieve my illicit newspaper. Darn it’s heavy for a Monday. Ummmm I don’t remember getting the fat Sunday paper yesterday. Plop, it goes on the table. Darned if it isn’t Sunday’s edition. That guy must have forgotten and dropped it a day late.

What’s the date on that paper? Twenty-fourth. Let me check the wall calendar.

Uh oh! Sunday? Today is Sunday? Let me turn on CBS. There is that big yellow sun and the Sunday Morning show. You mean I don’t have to wash clothes, gather and take garbage, clean litter? Then I glance in the bedroom. There’s that unmade bed, just as rumpled as my mind.

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It’s a double edged sword you soon find out, helping your granddaughter set up a Facebook page. We’ve both waited for this day and like all things having to do with technology, we aren’t quite sure why. We can’t know what the experience will bring, so I haven’t thought beyond seeing her cute little avatar right there on my page of friends. And there it is this morning. I check to see how her page is going.

In a few hours she has half as many “friends” as I’ve gathered in over a year. The following day that count surpasses me. So I make a comment to her and she answers me. “kk” What the H— oh, I mean heck does that mean? Conversations between her and friends are even more cryptic. So much for my solemn promise to her mother to be a watchdog. I don’t know what the * uh, heck they are saying. I have to confess here that I even looked up one word in Google dictionary. They had never heard of it either. And they are techies, so that made me feel as little less like a nodding lady in a rocking chair.

The other thing I didn’t foresee was my own words on my Facebook page. Suddenly I begin to go over in my mind what I might have uttered that I wouldn’t in my granddaughter’s presence. Do you know how long it takes to scroll back to older and older posts? At one point I said, “Wait a minute! You talk pretty much to your grands as you do anyone else.” In fact, some of my little stories and opinions in their presence have evoked a cringe factor from adults. Not “OMG Get her out of here before she sends them down the road to ruin” cringe, just a momentary catching of the breath. That will probably be the worst that will happen with my new “friends.” At least I hope so.

There is another thing on my side. With her friends count approaching Justin Bieber audience size, I really don’t think I’ll have to worry about her reading my posts. kk?

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I know there are shallow, silly women, but I often  meet  another kind, such as two ladies from the aptly-named waiting room of the eye clinic.

 

Lady No. 1: Who knows who spoke first or what was said. We are women. We talk. After the usual medical exchanges she mentioned she worked at the police department.

 

“What do you do?” I asked.

 

“Work cold cases.”

 

“Are you a detective?” Somehow it didn’t seem a strange question to be asking a woman in her sixties or seventies.

 

“No, I volunteer.”

 

“It must be very interesting,” I said, truly intrigued.

 

“Gory,” she corrected.

 

I’m sure her work could be gory, but I felt her one-word answer masked considerable satisfaction, especially when she contributes to solving a case, bringing answers to a family waiting for years. So if you are a senior volunteer, obviously there is more to do out there than stuffing envelopes. Who knew? Assignments such as hers are probably rare, so “gory” might be as good as porcupine quills in protecting your turf.

 

Lady No. 2:  She balanced a laptop on her knees, and  turned to ask me which kind of diabetes she must have. After a few questions, I told her Type 2. Then she remembered. She had brought her own laptop, but was apparently filling out forms for the clinic. Five minutes later I knew she was having lasik surgery and throwing away her glasses, that she had lost forty pounds with a trainer and sheer will power to bring her diabetes and cholesterol in line. And by the way, that she was diagnosed with MS as a teen. She knew little about the disease, even at what I would guess was age forty. Her doctor said she was so high strung she was better off not thinking about that, but taking things as they come. She was bubbly and cheerful and had obviously taken his advice.

 

She checked her emails, then smiles at the man walking to sit beside her.

 

“You just texted me!” He was communicating from another place in the building.

 

A few minutes later she squealed, showed something on her laptop screen to an office worker.

 

“Not bad,” she said as she sat back down. “I went on the clinic website and found a $200 discount!”

 

That is a woman who knows how to live!

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MARTIN CRUTSINGER, AP Economics writer says Social Security checks are going up $63 a month for the typical retiree — the largest increase in more than a quarter century but likely to seem puny to the millions who have been watching in horror as Wall Street lays waste to their retirement nest eggs.

 

He goes on to say the Senior Citizens League said (doesn’t he believe them?) it did a study that indicated people 65 and over have lost 51 percent of their buying power since 2000, with the price of home heating oil and gasoline more than doubling since the beginning of the decade and such food staples as eggs and potatoes showing big increases as well.

 

Well, I guess seniors were the only consumers to face these increases for eggs and potatoes, heating oil and gasoline. How does that work? You’re under 65, you get a discount? Oh, I forgot. You get a discount all over the place if you are AARP age. Don’t forget 10% off Mondays at TJ Maxx, Tuesdays at Marshalls (or vice versa).

 

If Crutsinger has really taken the pulse of seniors, what a bunch of whiny, ungrateful, wrinkled old buzzards there are out there. We are talking 5.8% increase. How many younger workers do you know who got that kind of raise this year? (Excluding CEO’s of failed, bankrupt and bankrupting companies)

 

Yes, those felonious Wall Street crooks laid waste to retirement eggs, including ours, but who are we to expect hard working, young wage-earners to make up the difference? Their 401-K’s got battered, too.

 

So if you are a senior, stop your sissy, pathetic whining and enjoy your 5.8% raise by spending it where young workers who are contributing to the Social Security fund every working day will get a little benefit back. Maybe with the new money circulating around next year a few of their tedious, grinding jobs will be saved. It’s the least you can do.

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I hope Jerry and I are good grandparents. It surely didn’t start out that way. stjohns3-2-8-032-1.jpgThe first time her parents trusted us alone with our year-old granddaughter we took her to Birds of Prey. It sounded like a good idea at the time. Audubon Birds of Prey in Maitland, FL rescues injured birds and releases them back into the wild when possible.

Haley smiled at the white-faced, barn owl as we entered. That may have been her last smile. We pushed the stroller to the bald eagle cage. There poor, injured, no-longer-majestic eagles loped around an enclosure, some dragging a wing. Haley’s face began to screw into a tortured mask. We quickly turned the stroller toward the cage behind her. On every crooked limb sat an injured vulture. Their bald, blood-red heads popped from fluffy white feathers above their scruffy black bodies. Wings drooped on some, claws or feet were missing on others. The scene we had always looked on with pity we now saw with a toddler’s eyes. Before Haley lay a Tim Burton horror scene of deformed, hissing, grunting vultures. She screamed to the top of her lungs. We calmed her down and cut our trip short, feeling like failures as grandparents. We thought we would be better at it.

Haley is ten years old now and thankfully doesn’t remember our first little foray. Perhaps it had no lasting impact on her little psyche. When we are out in nature now my camera cannot rest in my lap. She shouts incessantly “Ahmaw, take a picture! An anhinga! A gator! An eagle! An osprey!” Is it just possible that we didn’t scar her permanently?

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70sdress-001.jpg70sdress-0061.jpg(Click to enlarge)

Have you ever got that woozy feeling like Whoa! I’ve done this before, said the same thing before, and he’s going to say “———-” next,  and he does?  Then you know the feeling when I bumped into this dress in today’s paper. I carried the paper to a 70’s family collage hanging in the den and held them side by side. No sleeves in the ad dress, but otherwise the feel is exactly the same. I could wear that old dress out on the street tomorrow. Well, if I still had it and if it still fit. Save anything long enough it will come by again on the carousel of fashion — whether you want it to or not.

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Multi-generational epics bore me. Just give me a good read about an important slice in someone’s life and I can be swept away. So I find myself verging on vertigo in my real life. Epics are difficult to avoid when you have lived through a few decades. You can’t say, “No, just highlight this part or that.” The parts string along like toilet paper on your shoe until you find yourself tangled in a true-life multi-generational epic. Well, if not epic then situation.

This is what brought that on. We are planning a few upgrades on the home we have lived in for almost thirty-two years. One son re-roofed for us a few years ago, his friend installed new windows, and another re-habbed the master bath. Our son-in-law (an electrician) upgraded the power box. Strangers installed carpet. How did that happen? Now for a second stage the same friend will tile the other bath, the neighbor kid, now all grown up, will do the plumbing. The son of our son’s best man will do exterior painting.

In that mix of characters are a father fighting for custody of a child, another denying his child until DNA evidence turned him into a real father. That son is being a real father to his new child. A couple of young fathers being fathers with or without marriage, a worker with great promise ending back in jail.

Do you need a scorecard? The point is almost all these very competent workers we knew as children or knew their parents before they were born (except the jailed one). We are aware of many of their most private struggles and successes, many poignant slices of their lives. Those slices now strung together form the ingredients of an epic.

Okay, it’s just a house that needs work and has no other significance. I’ll just curl up with a book of short stories until it is finished. Sometimes I think too much.

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beda70thbd-0051.jpgbeda70thbd-0041.jpgJack Jack LaLanne, my role model, on his 70th birthday swam 1.5 miles handcuffed and shackled while towing 70 boats with 70 people from Queen’s Way Bridge in the Long Beach Harbor to the Queen Mary.

I think I’ll pass, but on my 70th there should be something I can do to honor his influence in my life. So check out these pictures taken today of the pose I held for 70 seconds. It’s the best I could do, Jack.

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