I decided to go to the gym yesterday at a time that the March for our Lives was taking place in Washington and elsewhere across the country. I was on the treadmill when the young people were taking the stage. I read their words on closed captioning. It was an amazing sight. My generation sought tremendous social change and I am proud to see a new generation dissatisfied with the status quo. During the 50s and 60s I never feared for my life in school. No one came our schools with guns and opened fire. I never thought that those I disagreed with would try to kill me. But now with Facebook, computers, social media, all kinds of new technology, come higher tech weapons and more people with anger and vengeance on their minds. We need news media to report truthfully what is happening or get out of the way. We need to keep changing the times. It is once again a time for hope and change.
The third phase of life begins just before retirement and includes the lose of one’s siblings, the death of your spouse and the separation from one’s work colleagues. That is where I am at now. I discovered, much to my surprise, that I am at the age where I can collect full social security benefits. I was also told that I may be losing one of my siblings sooner than I had expected. And I cried off and on. It is difficult to have someone as your main support over almost 70 years and then face the possibility that person may no longer be around. In pre-retirement, collecting social security while still working seemed appropriate. Paying off bills and creating new investments while paying off debts seems like a realistic plan. I expect to live well into my 80s so I need a means of making money that won’t involve working all those years. I don’t intend to be anyone’s Walmart greeter. I will be working on the computer and talking with retirement experts to make this happen.
I am struggling. I thought I had found some answers for my foot problems by getting new orthopedic shoes from the VA on Friday. But today my feet were as painful as ever and I did not put on the shoes. I also was hit with some potentially devastating personal news that may or may not be true. I will have to wait for about a month to find out. I have cried a few times and tried listening to music. Joan Baez and Simon and Garfunkel mostly. Meanwhile I received confirmation that a fitbit is on the way as a reward from my insurance app. I have been earning points for exercise and the new shoes were going to help me. I made 11,000 steps Friday. I had noticed that my pattern had been to go all out for a few days and then be practically inert. I am hoping to become more consistent. But the wild card is what will happen with this personal news.
Sometimes I regret not playing more of a role in my nephews’ lives. My oldest nephew, John, was born the year I graduated from high school. When I was graduating from high school, I was experiencing deep depression. I felt loss from a woman I loved. I was protesting the war in Vietnam. I wanted to be a part of history. I was a horny male teenager. The depression was the most difficult of those things to understand. I remember writing letters back home in lower case to try to make them understand I was not doing well. Depression was a family characteristic. My mother and older sister have also lived with it. When you are 17 or 18 everything seems so overwhelming. The depression was about what my mind was saying about feeling empty and lonely.
Nobody who is that age is old enough to understand. If there is one thing I regret I wish I had learned to understand myself sooner. My younger brother also lived with a mental illness triggered by use of hallucinogens. I believe that I survived because of a combination of nature and nurture. James left home as a teenager and went west at a time many people were feeling alienated and wanting to get away from home. I was old enough to go to Howard University and be a part of history and the largest anti-war demonstrations in American history.
When you are young and you are struggling you have more options than I saw as a teenager. For me, the best choice after dropping out of college was the military. But when I returned to civilian life, I struggled with economic security. I heard the voices of my nephews but I was in no shape to be able to help them. Now that things seem to be different and I have gotten help I am no longer being driven by depression or mania. I am doing well. I was part of my niece’s life at an event to retire the flags last week. I cannot go back into the 1970s but I am proud to part of the present.
A friend is feeling sad these days because of the loss of her long time companions. People who know you from 30 or more years ago are really special. The people who were there through different hair colors, relationships, songs, concerts, having children and having grandchildren and stuff in between. The ones who you could tell anything. People who know what to bring and what not to say.
We meet these people at a certain stage, maybe when we have just arrived in the city and are wondering what will happen. Or maybe we meet them when they move into our neighborhood at a potluck and ask, who made that dish. And before weknow it we are sitting down and talking together.
A lot of this is theory for me because I have difficulty maintaining close friendships. I remember an old girl friend asking me about who were my close friends and not being able to figure that out. But for people who do remain close over a long time, letting go is so painful. But at some point our bodies give way. It can be sudden, in an accident or it could be the gradual wearing away due to diseases. And then there is sadness.
You will always have those many years of memories but you won’t always have those friends. This is the circle of life. Farewell, old friends. Know that you are loved and will be in one another’s dreams.
by Simon and Garfunkel, who ironically, were not friends
Old friends, old friends,
Sat on their parkbench like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
of the high shoes of the old friends
Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settles like dust on the shoulders of the old friends
Can you imagine us years from today,
Sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy
Old friends, memory brushes the same years,
Silently sharing the same fears
I just realized that I was still thinking about the story of the young man who committed suicide in a New York State prison. So many things in the system failed leading up to that tragedy. How did Lonnie Hamilton III, end up in the Marcy Correctional Facility and what stories had been written before I found the article in the New Yorker. If you google Lonnie Hamilton death, these are the stories you will find
We have traveled the road from the usual tragic story of a young man’s death to the possibility that the corrections officers played a role in worsening his mental health issues. The failure of the officials to disclose his worsening condition to his family is inexcusable. If my son was breaking down I would sure as hell want to know. And there was contact between Lonnie and father for some time while he was in prison, so I would think it would have been easy to find him and arrange a visit. Separating a person from their family and then not providing the proper mental health treatment is surely a way to kill our young incarcerated people.
America,we have a problem here. We have the problem of removing people from our community to be sent away in white rural communities fr extended periods of time. We have the problem of inadequate treatment in these facilities. We have the problem of the discretion parole and probation officers use to re-incarcerate people who don’t re-offend. And we have a problem of preventable deaths. This is the issue. Although the original focus of this blog s mental health I find that I am missing the big picture if I don’t look at how mental health intersects with criminal justice. You can expect more stories such as these.
Well I just could not resist going back to see what the Unitarians were doing and I must say they have become a little more diverse. I took a picture. Not, not really, but you know this group picture might fit in. I had posted something last year about meeting Mary Devitt and John Hagendorn at Colectivo Coffeehouse. They are relatively new members of the First Unitarian Society and active in Black Lives Matter. They are community activists and raising children who present challenges. When I met Mary she was recovering from an injury that did not seem to slow her down. However, John had an accident on his bike resulting in a brain injury and other difficulties. He is a researcher who has worked on issues related to gave violence and prevention. One of his books is on sale at the church.
People of a certain age will recognize the title of this blog from the Simon and Garfunkel song A Hazy Shade of Winter. I heard the song booming at me as I came down from listening to a forum speaker from Lutheran Social Services tell about her work with refugees and asylum seekers. Indeed, it was a hazy shade of winter with barely a patch of snow on the ground. But the music was quite a bit different from the old days of hearing the choir most weeks several years ago.
It is sad that some things had not changed. It seems that our government policies are creating more and more refugees. The new administration has responded to the crisis by issuing an executive order imposing a ban on travel from seven mostly Muslim countries. Fortunately, our heroes from the ACLU sprang into action and a 3 judge panel of the federal court has blocked the implementation of this unconstitutional mess.
I have all kinds of different emotions about what is happening as time passes. A woman I knew, Molly Cisco, died recently from a brain aneurysm. She was an activist for the rights of people with mental illness, a small business owner and an avid dog lover. She was only 59. People are sharing their thoughts of her on Facebook. I am quietly looking to find a way to become more involved with real life activism and tear myself away from social media. I am meeting new friends and trying to keep up with the old ones. I was very excited to see a picture from my old high school which is putting the finishing touches on a weight room. It is encouraging to learn that one of the oldest high schools in the country is making a comeback.
The sky may be a hazy shade of winter but sometimes you can rock to the beat.