I don't expect to be reincarnated,
so I'll blog about dying and death (with appropriate irreverence) while I'm still alive.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter shminter!

Today is the winter soltstice. It's said to be "the shortest day of the year." Actually, today is just as long as other days -- but there is less daylight time.
Starting tomorrow, we get about a minute or two more sunlight each day. It can be confusing, because we're just starting winter, but the extra sunlight will be warming up the planet.

Before long, the crocuses will be popping up, and then the '78 Fiat comes out of the garage and the cover comes off the pool.

As I kid, I hated November, because there was so little daylight for playing after school. That didn't matter in December, because of the focus on holidays.

This morning the temperature reached 57 here in Connecticut. I drove with my sun roof and windows open. I'm focusing on spring. Winter hasn't been much fun since around 1966.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

The ultimate indignity

Years ago, when young nieces and nephews wanted to stay at our house, Marilyn and I established a simple rule: "If you want to sleep here, you have to learn how to wipe your own ass. We don't change diapers." (We have no children to practice on.)

The kids learned fast.

I am now nearly halfway into into my 66th year. Lately, as I've visited elderly friends and relatives who are on the downward slope of the bell curve, and are in nursing homes and wear diapers, I've contemplated my own inevitable decline.

If I ever become unable to wipe my own ass, and must display my private parts to strangers in order to obtain assistance for a very basic human function, will I have lost my humanity as well as my dignity? Will I be willing to go on? Is there living without wiping? I don't know.

(photo from  

Friday, September 16, 2011


I'm awake. I'd like to go the office early. I can’t find my main set of keys. The keys may be locked in the office. I also lost a card from my camera yesterday. I think my car is still in the driveway. I think the driveway is still in front of the house. I think my brain is still in my head.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

When silly words die

Languages change. New words, like "texting," frequently appear. Old words, like "austerulous," fade away.

For a while, Time magazine and Bill Buckley made an effort to popularize ancient words (or maybe it was just intellectual snobism), and is devoted to keeping old words alive.

But SaveTheWords is devoted to real words -- words that appeared in newspapers, magazines, TV shows and dictionaries.

I recently wondered what happens to the wonderful silly words that are used within families, often for generations, but die when there is no next generation.

When I was a kid, we said "boompsie" for fart. Does anyone else still use the word? Urban Dictionary says it means a behind, but that's not what it meant in my family.

Sometimes these family words evolve from baby talk. When I was young, apple juice was called "fibbling juice." My little sister, Meryl, and I used to blow air through a straw in the juice glass to make bubbles at the bottom, and the sound of the bubbles seemed like "fibble." Urban Dictionary has a much naughtier definition of "fibbling."

When I was at Lehigh University in the mid-60s, one of the engineers from the student radio station built a primitive wired remote muting control that could be used to silence the commercials on the geek lounge TV. It was called the "scrovney."
The kid in the room with the lowest status was put on scrovney duty, and it was his job to anticipate the onset of a commercial during "Batman" or "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea." (We said, "bottom of the sink to acknowledge the cheesy, unconvincing special effects and monsters.) Scrovney Boy was supposed to press the scrovney button just-in-time to avoid the ads. If he was late -- or early -- by even a fraction of a second, the others in the room would harass him with loud shouts of "SCROVNEY!" and pelt him with wads of paper saved for the purpose.

For nearly 40 years, my wife and I have always referred to our TV remote controls as "scrovneys." Our scrovneys are now wireless and they control fast-forwarding on our TiVos, but the term and the purpose have survived.

Before this blog post, "scrovney" has not been on Google. I thought Marilyn and I would be the last people to ever shout "SCROVNEY!" But, thanks to search engines, maybe the silly word will survive on the web.

That's nice.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I became 65 on April 15th. That's still middle-aged. I was thinking of getting a tattoo to assert something. But I don't like pain or infections -- and it would really piss off my wife. Marilyn was sure I would get AIDs, toxic shock or typhoid.

I made an appointment with a local tattooista. I planned on something subtle: "TA-2." The tattoo guy didn't get it.

On the morning of my birthday, wife thought I was going to the urologist ("dick doc"), but I actually went to a hair salon for a cranial redecoration.

In lieu of tattoo, I settled for a shaven head and a trimmed beard.
I've been married since 1971, but my wife had never seen my cheeks before. Not those, cheeks, anyway. I'm not sure if I'll keep the new look, but I do like it. (DAMN -- my nose looks huge and I never realized my head was so thick.)

Shortly after my trim, I was due to rendezvous with my bride at the snack bar at Costco. She was already on the line. I got behind her. I bumped my cart into her cart. She turned around and SCREAMED.

UPDATE: A few weeks later, I temporarily dyed the beard dark brown, like it was years earlier. This time Marilyn screamed again -- and ran away. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

OLD joke

(from Harry Newton, slightly modified).

An 86-year-old man goes for a physical. All of his test results come back normal.

The doctor says, “George. everything looks great. How are you doing mentally and emotionally? Are you at peace with God?”

George replies, “God and I are tight. He knows I have poor eyesight, so he’s fixed it so when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, *poof* the light goes on. When I’m done, *poof* the light goes off.”

“Wow, that’s great,” the doctor says.

A little later in the day, the doctor calls George's wife. “Marianne," he says, "George is doing fine but I had to call you because I’m in awe of his relationship with God. Is it true that he gets up during the night and *poof * the light goes on in the bathroom, and when he’s done, *poof* the light goes off?”

“OH NO!” Marianne exclaims. “He’s peeing in the refrigerator again!!!!”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

When is it time to move into a nursing home?

During a visit to my doctor, I asked him, “How do you determine whether or not an older person should be put in a nursinge home?”

“Well,” he said, “we fill up a bathtub. Then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the person to empty the bathtub.”

“Oh, I understand,” I said. “A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”

“No” he said. “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?”

Is 90 the new 50?

(By Susan Jacoby -- Reposted with appreciation but without permissaon from the New York Daily News.)

A surprise appearance at this year's Academy Awards ceremony by the frail 94-year-old actor Kirk Douglas, his speech slurred by the effects of a stroke, offered a rare revelation about the American public's real attitude about advanced old age. A contributor to a movie blog could not decide whether the appearance was "classy or crass." The word "embarrassing" was most frequently used in living rooms.

Indeed, Americans should be embarrassed on their own behalf for being disturbed by a glimpse of what embattled "old old" age really looks like - a sharp contrast to the relentless propaganda of longevity hucksters who claim that we can all enjoy an "ageless" life well into our 90s. If we are unsettled by the sight of a valiant old man with the will to regain his speech after a catastrophic stroke, that only underscores our denial about the challenges associated with an aging population.

In just 20 years, the sprightly baby boomers now turning 65 to the tune of "Forever Young" will be leaving the relatively hardy country of what sociologists call the "young old" - those under 85 - for the much harsher terrain of the "old old."

The boomer fantasy is that we will die of a heart attack in our ninth or tenth decade, without ever having been sick a day, and while blissfully engaged in love making, skydiving or paragliding.
Now, the truth: Most Americans who live beyond 85 - there will be 8.5 million by 2030 - will die after a period of extended mental or physical disability. Nearly half of those now over 85 suffer from dementia, of which Alzheimer's is the leading cause. Half will spend some time in a long-term care institution before they die.

And yet anyone who has not been confined to a cave without Internet access is surely aware of the media blitz touting the "new old age" as a phenomenon that will let boomers enjoy the kind of healthy, sexy, adventurous old age that their ancestors could never have imagined.

The myth of a radically new old age is based partly on faith in imminent medical miracles. At a panel titled "90 is the New 50," held at the World Science Festival in New York several years ago, an audience with the fervor of an old-time religious revival meeting was told that advances to conquer the most feared age-related diseases - and even to reverse aging itself! - would arrive in time for this generation.

No one has more confidence than I do in science, especially in the promise of embryonic stem cells and other cutting-edge biomedical research. But it is clear that the more scientists learn about genetically complicated, age-linked diseases like Alzheimer's, the more they realize that the quest for effective treatment, much less a cure, is likely to be a long-term effort. The dreaded brain disease progresses inexorably for years or decades before most people experience symptoms. And it is hardly the only illness that afflicts the elderly.

The second element in the myth of agelessness is the belief that the aging process can be "defied" by habits such as exercise, eating right, not smoking and drinking moderately. Such behaviors do promote healthier lives at any age and enable people to cope more successfully with diseases, like diabetes, that can be treated but not cured. But good health habits are no magic shield against the worst vicissitudes of age. To think that jogging and orange juice will stave off the corrosion of time is a pleasant belief - but ultimately a false one.

Finally, a major obstacle to a satisfying old age is money - or, rather, the lack of it. According to the most recent figures supplied by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, three-quarters of households with a head over 65 live on less than $34,0000 annually. Half of such households get by on less than $19,000 a year - and Social Security accounts for 80% of that depressing figure. Income drops precipitously with every decade, because the vast majority of the oldest survivors are women. Most widows become poorer when their husbands die, and women generally retire with lower pensions and Social Security benefits. Douglas offers an excellent example of what money means in old age. As one of the leading actors of his generation, he had the resources to pay for expensive rehabilitation needed to make the most of life after a stroke. Medicare pays only a fraction of the cost. If he were poor, such care would have been out of his reach.

Amid talk about cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, no one is talking realistically about how to pay for the much longer lives that the generation now blowing out 65 birthday candles can expect.
The fantasy of a new old age - which denies the physical degeneration that eventually overtakes everyone and the cost of real old age - is a dangerous and seductive delusion. If 90 really were the new 50, (or even the new 70), society could rest easy as baby boomers worked, played and shopped into eternity. But that's just a fairy tale.

Susan Jacoby is the author of the recently published "Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'm getting old. HOORAY!

Getting old sure beats dying young.

Two months from today is April 15th. That's Income Tax Day, the deadline for lots of people to send checks to the Feds.

It's also my 65th birthday.

If the Feds and I are still functioning at the beginning of the month, on 4/1/2011 (APRIL FOOL'S DAY!!!), Medicare will pay my doctors and pharmacists, and my company will reduce its medical insurance bill by over a thousand bucks each month!

I used to say that "we are middle-aged until they start shoveling dirt on us." But, if admitting that I am old means that I get money from Washington, I'll admit it.

This is the year that the first Baby Boomers -- including me, Donny Trump, Billy Clinton, Georgie Bush, Dolly Parton and Candy Bergen -- hit 65.

Maybe over the hill isn't such a bad place to be. I wonder if I'll run into Trump in the Medicare office.

(A warning for you 20-somethings who won't hit 65 until mid-century: By then Medicare and Social Security may be a distant memory, like prohibition and marriage. NYAH-NYAH, NYAH-NYAH-NYAH.)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 65th birthday to the first baby of the baby boom

Happy 65th birthday to the very first baby boomer, Al Nachreiner. Starting today, about 10,000 boomers will reach 65 each day.

When you're 16, 65 seems disgusting and depressing.

When you're 64, 65 means Medicare, and 66 means Social Security.

Surviving is the best revenge. This is the year we boomers start cashing in -- unless Congress screws it up.