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MY SUPERHERO by Katherine Wangh

MY SUPERHERO

By Katherine Wangh

            I have a superhero in my life who wears superhero shirts, reads superhero books, loves superhero stories, draws superhero figures, and talks about all things superhero things.

I don’t know how it happened exactly that my adorable four-year old grandson has turned into a superhero in the last few months, but he has. Whenever we go to the library now, he knows just where to find the superhero books in the superhero section. It seems like picture books won’t do anymore, until he scares himself with all the superhero pictures and decides to curl up in my lap with a picture book we can enjoy together. Today, he told me he likes robots. I said I prefer people because they have feelings and are not machines. Then he wanted to know “Why do machines break down?” and I got to explain about mechanical parts wearing out and hoped he wouldn’t draw any connections to old knees and old hips wearing out too. As my dentist said last week, when he fixed a tooth I’d chipped crunching on an almond, “The whole business is wearing out, not just your teeth!”

In any case, my grandson is full of questions and looks to me for answers which I try to supply. Today, he wanted to know what came before houses? I said people began by living in caves. “You mean like the ones with bats in them?” (We had just seen a nature film with a huge cave filled with thousands of bats!) I assured him that not all caves have bats in them, and if they do, they do not have that many. I detected a sense of relief. I told him, too, that some people also lived in tents, especially in warm weather. And, I added, some people made houses out of mud and sticks or out of wood. As for bricks, they were made of baked clay stacked on top of each other. He was quiet, absorbing all of this. When we got home, I took out a book on the Lascaux caves that I haven’t looked at in over 50 years, and he got to see some of the cave drawings, immediately recognizing the bulls, deer, and horses!

Later on, he did some drawings of his own. He drew some of the letters of the alphabet which he transformed into people. We stapled these pages together and made a book he could take home with him. No superheroes on these pages, just big smiling faces with blob bodies and stick arms and legs–my grandson’s early drawings of recognizable humans, not machines or robots.

When I took him home, he handed me a gift and said, “It’s Batman!” In my hand, I found a tangerine peel in the shape of the Batman sign with the word “Batman” written inside in magic marker! I smiled and thanked my superhero for this special gift.

Writers Guild member Kathy Wangh

My interests?  Music. Art, language, psychology, nature, science, travel.  My professions?  Teaching preschool and working with children/young adults as a psycho-analytically trained therapist. Married to scientist Larry for over 50 years and now enjoying grandchildren, curating my father’s artistic legacy, writing, and gardening!

AGING WITH RESILIENCE SIG: READING & VIEWING RECOMMENDATIONS

AGING WITH RESILIENCE SIG

READING & VIEWING RECOMMENDATIONS

From  Lydia Bogar:  Books–Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett Greff, The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery.   TV–NCIS,  M*A*S*H*  Series (Netflix, Amazon)–Grace & Frankie.  Movies–Same Time Next Year, Out of Africa, Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind.

From Bonnie Seider:  Books–Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens; The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides; Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriority.  TV–This is Us; A Million Little Stars;  Dancing with the Stars.  Series (Netflix, Amazon)–Modern Love;  The Kominsky Method;  Poldark;  Dead Again.  Movies–After the Wedding;  The Good Liar

From Sandy Miller-Jacobs: BooksWhen by Daniel Pink;  A Bend in the Stars by Rachel Barenbaum;  All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr;  21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari;  Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips.  TVThis is Us; The Good Doctor;    HGTV – Property Brothers;  60 Minutes;  Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates.  Series (e.g., Netflix, Amaon)–The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; The Baker & The Beast (in Hebrew with English subtitles); The Kominsky Method;  Grace & Frankie;  The Crown.  MoviesMy Cousin Vinny;   Judy;   Annie Hall;  Gigi.

From Kathy Wangh:  BooksThe Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal;  The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason.

From Helen Abrams:  BooksOlive, Again by Elizabeth Strout.Series (e.g., Netflix, Amazon):  A French Village.

From Sophie Freud:  BooksSapiens by Yuval Noah Harari; 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari;  The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission that Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Calhalan.  Series (e.g., Netflix, Amazon)–The Crown.

From Guest Bill Gates: Books— An American Marriage by Tayari Jones;  These Truths by Jill Lepore;  Growth by Vaclav Smil;   Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker; Prepared by Diane Tavenner.

Aging with Resilient SIG Leader Sandy Miller-Jacobs

Sandy created and has been leading BOLLI’s “Aging with Resilience” SIG for over a year now.  She–and the group as a whole–welcome all  interested BOLLI members to join.  Remote access to the group’s discussions and activities will soon be provided.

 

 

 

TECH TALK: with John Rudy–Courses, Tours, and Books Online

Courses, Tours, and Books Online–Many Free

by John Rudy

For the next couple of months,  we will all be spending a lot more time at home which gives us an opportunity to do things you might have thought about but not tried.  This post is certainly not complete, but it provides some thoughts.

Courses: About 10 years ago, I heard that there was going to be an online course on artificial intelligence taught by two Stanford Professors.   Course “chapters” would come out weekly, and the entire course would stay up for some number of months.  It was free, and you could watch at any time or even multiple times.  There were quizzes (computer graded) and, as I recall, a test at the end.  My memory is foggy, but something like 100,000 people signed up to take the course.  It was very difficult and heavily mathematical and wasn’t really what I wanted, so I skimmed the last half.  About 5000 people finished.  Some viewed that as a failure; I thought that 5000 finishing a course was fantastic.

At about the same time, MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley formed a company called EDX and started producing online courseware.  https://www.edx.org/   There are now something like 2500 courses available from EDX generated by around 140 universities.  Quality varies considerably as does technical depth.  Coursera https://www.coursera.org/  is a competitor with, I think, a similarly sized catalog.  UDEMY is another competitor.  Here is an article that contrasts all three.   https://medium.com/@EADCourses/udemy-vs-coursera-vs-udacity-vs-edx-online-courses-176b13f4bb68

In the last few years, some MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have a charging option where a professor grades papers, and some places (I think Carnegie Mellon is one) even use them within a degree program.

I have taken maybe 20 MOOC courses.  Among them, I’ve taken The Science of Cooking from Harvard; Basic Genetics from MIT; Michael Sandel’s Harvard course on Justice;  three courses on the Civil War. One nice feature is that you can take just as much as you want.  If you know nothing about a subject, you might do the first half a dozen lectures and decide that the itch has been scratched.

TED Talks. www.Ted.com  I have listened to dozens of TED talks.  They are generally about 15 minutes long and you can easily look for those in a specific category, those put up most recently, or those that are the most popular.  The most popular ones have had millions of views.  I won’t list my favorites.

MUSEUM Tours.  Most museums and other cultural attractions are closed, but a phenomenon of the last few years has been the development of virtual tours.  They vary greatly in quality and in the amount of verbiage provided (written or aural).  Just start poking around.  Travel and Leisure has identified a dozen at https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours

Books.  There are lots of ways to get books as all of you know, and virtually everything is available through Kindle or a similar system.  There are many books that are available free, particularly those who have outlived the copyright.  That, of course, includes the “classics”.  My friend Steve Isenberg has compiled a rather long list of sites through which one can obtain free on-line books.  He has agreed to let me share it: https://wiki.toku.us/doku.php?id=free_ebooks

Let’s keep each other posted on good online activities for us to consider during these days at home.

BOLLI “Matters” feature writer John Rudy

A long-time technology expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide him with questions,  comments, or suggestions about future tech items to cover. 

SO, WHAT’RE YA DOIN?

SO, WHAT’RE YA DOIN?

from Sue Wurster

I can’t even imagine how we would have managed to keep ourselves sane during this kind of situation in the days before the internet and social media–all of that technology is certainly proving to be invaluable at the moment!

So, what can we share about how we’re spending our time these days?  Here are some thoughts and suggestions from some BOLLI members–and we’d all appreciate more!

First, for those of us who love theatre, I did a little “arts and entertainment” culling of The New York Times and found a couple of gems.  I have two young high school friends who, last week, were bemoaning the fact that Newton North had just completed their tech/dress rehearsal, opening and closing of Hello, Dolly!–all in one night.  They had some good pictures to share, which certainly showed off their tech work, but, of course, the pictures couldn’t really provide the essence of the musical–the music!  NYT’s theatre editor Scott Heller says that many are taking kids like Jayce and Dylan to heart and are finding ways to share their work.  (Click on this link for an uplifting article:  NYT article about school musicals)

And here’s a piece about other ways to view theatre these days:  (Click here for another NYT article:  other ways to see theatre)

Click here to see this array of new work–one added every 15 minutes!

 

A variety of Writers Guild, Photo Group, and other BOLLI members share their recommendations:  

Lois Sockol says that, “Now that I have some at-home time on my hands, here’s a couple of rewarding things I’ve done. I made the decision (for the 100th time) to sort through and organize a collection of family pictures. After an hour or so, nothing was organized, but I had such a happy time rummaging through years of delightful memories! I have also discovered that some museums have virtual tours, and although the experience doesn’t provide quite the same thrill as my original visits, what a delight to roam the corridors of the Louvre and the British Museum! There are other virtual tour museums as well.  I just haven’t as yet made the journey, but I will.

“Part of me says get into bed,” Maxine Weintraub recommends,  “turn on old movies, and eat coffee ice cream.”  She adds that she’s taken to dancing to country music on channel 534.  (“Or maybe it is 538.”) in her nightgown for fifteen to thirty minutes every morning.  She promises to leave her building once a day to either take a walk or a drive–windows open, good music playing loudly on the car radio.   She says she’s been doing some harder stuff–“working on the collection of short stories I have been fiddling with for years.”  Staying in touch with good friends who are also incarcerated is key–  as is trying not to get annoyed at being labeled “the elderly.”

Max seems to have inspired Larry Schwirian who has taken to long walks with others (but finds it hard to communicate with fellow walkers when trying to maintain 6 foot distances between them) and suggests that “We could have a pajama fashion show.”

Lydia Bogar, too, echoes Max’s promise to get out of the house.  “The sun is shining.  Take a walk,” she says.  “Walk a long loop around your neighborhood and then drive it to measure the distance.  Tomorrow, walk a longer loop and measure that.  By the time you are ready to walk the Turnpike in the breakdown lane, the panic will have passed.

For those who need new viewing options, Kathy Wangh shares a link to free streaming sources.  Click here ,

Of course, we’re all reading.  BOLLI Matters  technology writer and resident chef John Rudy offers a link about free e-books.

Mel Markowitz suggests trying ham radio! “I’ve been a ham since 1958 and just spoke with Damian, 3000 feet above sea level on the side of a volcano, in the Canary Islands 🇮🇨!”

Donna Johns, who says her tub has never been so clean, is a fan of the online MasterClass program.

(I am a Khan Academy fan.)

Edie Aldort is also a walker–she’s appreciating the fact that the drone of traffic has lessened a bit, but she’s wondering if her dog needs to maintain a 6 foot social distance from other canines…

“This morning I am feeling grateful to be retired, in a warm, cozy house, with plenty of food and entertainment opportunities,” says Linda Braun.  She adds that her book group met online via Zoom.  “We all saw and heard one another very well;  I hope some of our classes will resume using that resource.”  (Stay tuned, Linda!)

My 9 month-old grandbaby provides lots of ideas:  play with the wastebaskets, dump all the bins of videos on the floor and then try to get out of the pile, pull the whole basket of old Plays magazines off the shelf and watch them slide everwhere–then try eating the covers; empty the family room toy bin, rolling everything that is round or has wheels.  If it doesn’t roll, just try to eat it instead. The 19 and 21 year-olds provide their share as well:  raid the fridge, cupboards, and pantry–leave empty bags, boxes, and bottles on the kitchen counters…or the floor.  Cook stuff, using as many pots and pans as possible–leave them on the stove or, occasionally, in the sink but certainly don’t rinse them.  Or just order in and charge it to Mum…

The hoarding of toilet paper, paper towels, wipes, and, worst of all, the baby formula my grandboy needs is so demoralizing…

BUT yesterday, on our neighborhood online message board, people were posting things like, “Am going to CVS at about 3:15—need anything?” and “My 8th grade son is volunteering to take out your trash, rake your yard, clean out your garage, or whatever.”  Seeing the neighborhood functioning like a true neighborhood is a pretty uplifting thing.

As is Gene Kupferschmid‘s view of “Two mourning doves making love on my little balcony.  A glimpse of Spring.”

Don’t lose heart–our BOLLI courses will start going online in the coming week!

“This is a time to appreciate and share gratitude for all the positive things we have in our lives. Family, friends, neighborhood, access to food. We have each other for support. I am sending an email embrace to all of you. No risk of infection! Hugs and Health,”  Marty Kafka

So, in the comment box below, tell us what you’re doing to keep alert and busy!  Share books, movies, and tv shows of interest.  Send other ideas to BOLLI Matters’s blogmaster:  susanlwurster@gmail.com.

 

 

 

A LIGHT-HEARTED MOMENT WITH LARRY: DEATH OF AN ICON

THE DEATH OF AN ICON

By L. Schwirian

Prompt: “Chopped” Writing – as in the Food Channel show of the same name; writers use a set of unusual ingredients to create a piece of writing.

In this case, the ingredients were:

3 Objects: a bugle, a pair of scissors, a dying plant                                                2 People: a police officer and a fairly deaf patron                                                1 Place: the library

*

Alice Whitehead was a librarian for over 50 years. She started when still in high school, then went to college to earn a degree in Library Science, and was anointed chief librarian after graduation. Married to her high school sweetheart Rolf, a police officer, she raised three sons…all of whom spent time with her in the library after school. By the time they graduated, each had read practically every book the library had to offer.

She loved her books and her work, and she always looked forward to meeting and helping new families in the community. Over the years, she helped to teach many young lads and lassies how to do research and find references. Teaching youngsters how to read between the lines was one of her specialties. Alice was one of the most widely read and respected people in the county when it came to understanding and promoting Shakespeare and other classic literature.

Now in her mid-70s, Alice knew that her time at the library was nearing an end, and she wanted to show her appreciation to the community by planning a celebration. As a very humble person, she didn’t want to make the party about herself or her retirement. There was one living thing in the library that was even older than Alice and clearly was now slowly dying.  Mama Jade, a potted plant, deserved to be celebrated. This icon of resilience had occupied the same spot in the reading room since before anyone could remember. Alice had watered and diligently nurtured Mama Jade since she was a teenager, and both grew up and aged together gracefully.

Over the decades, hundreds of clippings had been entrusted to families throughout the county, and Alice, being a librarian, kept copious records of every family or individual recipient. She contacted those who had received original clippings and asked these people to contact others who had received second, third, or fourth generation clippings to become part of the celebration.

On the appointed day, close to two hundred people, including the chief of police, showed up to celebrate both Mama Jade and Alice. There was food and drink for everyone, but the highlight of the celebration was Alice, with her sparkly silver scissors, standing next to Mama Jade. It was Alice’s intent to help give Mama Jade a glorious ending by systematically clipping her remaining appendages and ceremoniously offering them to onlookers. To add to the solemnity of the final act, Alice’s grandson, a twelve-year-old Boy Scout, raised his bugle and began playing Taps. Nearly everyone in the audience was deeply moved, and 98-year-old Matilda Higgins, a near deaf library patron, was in tears even though she could hardly hear the bugle.

BOLLI “Matters” feature writer and co-chair of the Writers Guild Larry Schwirian

Architect Larry and his fellow architect wife Caroline live in an historic preservation home in Newton and have led BOLLI courses on architecture.  Larry has been an active participant in and leader of the Writers Guild special interest group as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff. 

WHAT’S MY STORY? THIS ONE’S FOR MARTY KAFKA

MIGHTY MALCOLM MEETS HIS MATCH

by Sue Wurster

The saucepan I hurled across the slight expanse of my efficiency apartment clattered against the radiator and rolled up against the bathroom door.  The mouse didn’t even blink.  I swear it just shrugged its shoulders and yawned.  Totally blasé.  “Geez!”  I thought.  “Even the mice  in New York are tough.” 

Keeping  my eye on the creature, I managed to back across the room to the safety of the sofa where I tucked my feet up under the pillows, pulled out my phone, and dialed.  Oh, pick up, Deb.  Pleeeeease, pick up, I breathed as the phone rang across the hall.

“Oh, thank God you’re home!” I shouted as my neighbor and best friend answered.

“If you’re going to shout, why bother with the phone?  It’s not like this is long distance–”

“Deb, listen!  This is important.  I need to borrow Cleo.  There’s a mouse in here!”

Within minutes, Deb—with Cleo in hand—cautiously opened my door.  “Is it still here?” she asked, hoping, of course, that the rodent had left the premises.

I nodded toward the radiator where he was maintaining his totally unconcerned cool.  If he had been wearing a t-shirt, a pack of Camels would have rested under one sleeve.

“Oh, my God—it’s a mouse all right.”

“Ya think?”

Deb set her large black and white lap cat down on the braided rug, directly in its adversary’s line of sight, and hopped onto the couch with me to witness what was sure to be a dramatic stand-off.

Cleo pawed the rug, stretched, circled, and laid down for a nap.

“Kill!” Deb urged, extending her long right leg and nudging her recalcitrant feline with her size 11 foot.

The mouse sauntered back to his hole under the radiator pipes.

“What’s with your cat?  Hasn’t she ever seen a mouse before?”

“Quite possibly not,” Deb mused.  “But, anyway, he’s gone—probably scared off by the threat of Cleo’s mere presence.”

“Oh, right,” I responded snidely.  “Did you see the look on his face?  He smirked at us.”

“I think he rolled his eyes first,” Deb added.

“What if he comes back?  Like, when I’m trying to sleep? What if he–”

“Want Cleo to sleep over?”  Deb offered.

“Will you stay too?”

*

Five hours later, I hissed at my friend who was asleep on the couch.  “Deb!  He’s on the dresser!”

The clear sound of tiny feet scrabbling across the wood surface was followed by a  deep and resonant Clunk!

 “What was that?”  Deb whispered.

“The wastebasket!” I realized.  “He must have gone over the edge and landed in the bin!  Quick! Get that cookie sheet from the counter.”

“Uh, this is hardly the time to be thinking about cookies–”

“To put on top of the basket, dimwit!”

“Oh, yeah—that makes sense.”  Deb hopped to the kitchenette while I grabbed the basket and braved a glance inside.  The mouse was there all right.  And at this point, he was not rolling his eyes or smirking at us, but he was also clearly not in the least bit pleased.

Cleo snored.

“Now what?”  Deb asked.

 “Malcolm will know what to do.”

*

In the lobby, Malcolm—our totally intimidating, brawny, former Green Bay Packer doorman and the toughest guy in all of New York’s five boroughs—quivered.  He actually trembled when we proffered the basket.

“A mouse?”  he shuddered.  “…in there?”   After we nodded, Malcolm the Giant took an extremely deep breath and, still clearly unnerved,  reached gingerly for the bin.  Holding it stiffly, arms fully extended, he carried it, like an unexploded bomb, across the lobby to the rear hallway.  “Come on,” he directed.  We followed.

“Okay.  It’s gonna go like this,” he said in the back hall as the theme from Mission Impossible pulsed in my head.  “We’re gonna use the alley door–and we’ve gotta be quick.”

When our little parade reached the huge and heavy service entrance door, Malcolm handed me the bin and turned the huge crank to unbolt the old metal portal.  “You don’t care about the wastebasket do you?” he asked cautiously.

“Hardly!” I blurted.  “And it’s not like I’ll ever use the cookie sheet again either.”

“Okay,” Malcolm breathed.  And then, like a massive Scotsman winding up for the hammer throw of a lifetime, he reared back, lunged forward, and let the bin rip into the back alley.  By the echoing sounds  of metal whacking against cement block and brick, it must have landed nearly a block away.  Nonetheless, Malcolm instantly pulled the ponderous door shut, threw the bolt back in place, and crumpled against the jamb, panting like he had just escaped a bloodthirsty, invading Mongol horde pounding down the alley with battering rams.

Once his breathing slowed to almost normal, Malcolm mustered an awkward, even apologetic grin.  “Um…” he finally managed, “can we, like, just keep this just between the three of us?  I mean, it’s kind of…”

“Don’t say another word,” Deb soothed.

“It’s our secret,” I assured him, crossing my heart.

We beamed in admiration as we led our hesitant hero back to the safety of his front lobby desk.

BOLLI member and BOLLI “Matters” blogmaster Sue Wurster

Marty Kafka’s obsessive deep concern over his apparent muricidal nature brought to mind my own memorable moment with a mouse.   Recently, I had to have my house de-squirrel-ized with a trap door under the eaves similar to what Marty describes.  That night, I  dreamed that, in the morning, I  found hundreds of indignant squirrels standing on my back porch, their arms crossed in defiance, staring murderously at me…

A CAUTIONARY TALE FROM DONNA–IN FABLE FORM

A FABLE

Big Brother Bob Emery and Friends

By Donna Johns

Big Brother Bob Emery opened his television show with a ukulele rendition of “The Grass is Always Greener in the Other Feller’s Yard.”  Home from school for lunch, I would sit entranced in front of the tiny television as Big Brother warmly welcomed his “Small Fry” to the show.  I was a card-carrying member of the Small Fry Club, as were all my friends.

Big Brother led us in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a Hail to the Chief toast to the portrait of Dwight Eisenhower.  Of course, we all toasted with milk.  Then, he would show a Popeye cartoon, have a little puppet show, and teach us about manners like saying “please” and “thank you.”  He signed off with another ukulele song: “So Long, Small Fry.  It’s Time to Say Goodbye.”

I envied the children spread out on the carpet around Big Brother.  I wanted nothing more than to meet him and hear his kindly voice praise me for one thing or another.  Then, he began collecting money for good causes in the community, starting with relief money for the Worcester Tornado victims.

When I was a Brownie, I suggested that we help raise money for the Jimmy Fund and take it to Big Brother.  Everyone was excited, and we begged for money from every relative.  With a tidy sum collected, we got our invitation to attend the show.  I was in heaven.

We arrived at the studio, and one of Big Brother’s “helpers” whipped us into shape.  We were on the right side of his chair.  Cub Scouts sat to his left.  We waited for Big Brother to arrive.  And waited.  And waited some more.   Suddenly, there was a flurry of activity and my hero walked right past us, said not a word, sat down with a sigh, and began strumming.  We were on television.

The man never acknowledged us.  No compliment for our much practices, crisp salute to the flag.  No pat on the head.  He never even took our envelope of money.  He thanks the Cub Scouts instead.  When the show was finished, he walked briskly out of the studio.

I went home and threw my Small Fry Club membership card away. I never watched Big Brother again.

MORAL:  It’s fine to have heroes.  Just don’t meet them.

BOLLI member and BOLLI “Matters” feature writer Donna Johns

Donna is a teacher/librarian, writer of unpublished romance novels, sometime director of community theater and BOLLI member. She has two fantastic faux knees which set off the metal detectors at Fenway Park.

 

MEMOIR WRITING WITH MARTY: OF MICE AND MAN

Of Mice and Man

By Marty Kafka

The recent winter weather was particularly harsh when Adam heard them scamper behind the walls of his bedroom. He reported the noises as a matter of fact the next morning while we savored Scottish lox and fresh bagels, a brunch indulgence that commemorates his visits from the West Coast.

This was not the first time we had been afflicted by mice, but it had been many years since their last visitation. I quietly ventured up into our attic, the repository of our family papers, tax returns, old furniture, and pictures. If we couldn’t part with a belonging, it resided in our attic. With lots of open space and a slanting low ceiling, we rarely visited this no-man’s land of exiled possessions.

I could have let the matter drop, but about a decade ago, we found a dead mouse on our upstairs steps–inside our living space. I’m an upper-middle class liberal by nature, but my big tent doesn’t include house mice. Something had to be done.

From our last encounter with these shy rodents, I had purchased two mouse traps. Not the kind that loudly cracks the neck of the victim when they are inexorably drawn by winter’s cold and hunger to the irresistible bait. Rather, I had two mouse traps that were advertised as “humane–no chemicals, no glue, no electricity, no poison.” Stick the bait in the back of the five-inch long, hollow cylindrical trap, and when the mouse visits at night, a one-way trap door closes behind them. There are a few breathing holes so that, while contained, in theory, the mouse is supposed to remain alive, but it literally can’t move.  It can’t turn around–it is immobilized. Carefully, I cut out home-made cardboard feeding squares, smeared Whole Foods organic peanut butter on the squares, placed them at the back of the traps, and waited patiently.

For a couple of days, there was no action at the traps so I stopped my daily checking. After a few more days passed, however, Karen reminded me to check the traps—so, on the next morning, I did. Two immobilized  mice–both dead, were just starting to decay. I carefully carried the traps and their prey outside with gloved hands, spilled their contents in a remote section of our back yard, cleaned the traps scrupulously in our basement utility sink, and let the seasoned mousetraps rest.

Like the nocturnal activity of the meek mice, it was during my bedtime hour that insidious thoughts of my callous disregard of innocent life came back to taunt me, reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. I was a cold-blooded muricidal killer. I was merciless. I let those helpless rodents suffer. Did they die from brute starvation, from asphyxiation, from hypothermia?

I had dehumanized these innocent creatures. I trapped them effectively, but now I was also trapped–by the obsession of my own remorse. Maybe I should have just let the mice set up a home base in our attic? Live and let live!  But what if they mated in the coming spring? Would we have a rodent family surviving by nibbling away at our old tax returns?  Or worse, a family of varmints crawling down to our family living space again, this time spreading some vicious infectious disease, like vampire mice seeking bloody vengeance?

Fortunately, as time has passed, I have been able to dismiss these lurid guilty thoughts, but is that really a good thing for my mental health? Has my conscience become irrevocably hardened as an unintended consequence of capturing and killing undocumented immigrant mice seeking any available shelter? Am I a cold-blooded muricidal maniac?

In penance, I vow to purchase new, larger traps so mice can be apprehended but not immobilized. I sincerely hope that I have murdered my last mouse–may those I did dispatch rest in peace in a fabled, far-away land of plenty.

BOLLI Member and memoir writer Marty Kafka
Marty Kafka is a retired psychiatrist whose passions include his wife Karen and their family, international travel, and jazz piano. 
In addition, Marty has found a retirement career taking BOLLI classes, writing memoir, and being active in the Photography special interest group.

ON THE LIGHTER SIDE? WITH LARRY: BE CAREFUL…

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

By Larry Schwirian

Prompt: What kind of problems would Superman have in old age?

When I was a young kid growing-up, I had fantasies of being a super hero; Superman seemed to me to have all the physical qualities that I aspired to have as an adult. But I never thought about some of the problems he might encounter as time passed and he aged, especially what his life might be like as an octogenarian or nonagenarian. In particular, I never thought about what would happen if his secret identity was ever discovered.

One of the things that Clark Kent had to do in order to keep his secret identity was to allow himself to age like a normal human. This was not really much of a problem when he was in his 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, but by the time he reached retirement age, his physical appearance was anything but super. He was practically bald, had sagging chins, was developing age spots, and was more than a little overweight.  He was so overweight, in fact, that he had to use his X-ray vision to be able to see his feet. Also, since he was never able to go to an earthly dentist, many of his teeth were rotted or missing.

Metropolis had grown substantially over the years since it was considered one of the safest cities in the world, and Clark Kent was getting tired of being constantly called upon by the mayor to solve the city’s problems. He badly needed some rest, so he grabbed Lois, left his home town, and flew south to Miami Beach.

He and Lois Lane had finally become a couple some thirty years earlier when Lois figured out his real identity when she caught him taking off his Clark Kent clothes in a phone booth. She just couldn’t believe that the eternally wimpy Clark could actually be her dream lover.  As it turned out he was never able to fulfill her dream anyway since his public moniker “man of steel” turned out to be a double entendre; Lois took one look and nixed the whole idea.  They never bothered to marry either, since Clark didn’t have a birth certificate, at least from any Earthly place, and being such a Boy Scout, he refused to forge a fake certificate.

By the time he became an octogenarian, all he wanted to do was sit back and enjoy his retirement. However, Russian agents had hacked into his Facebook and Twitter accounts some years earlier and outed him to the American public. Now everywhere he went, no matter his aged appearance, he was asked to perform tricks like jumping over tall buildings or stopping speeding trains. Occasionally, some jerk even took a pot shot at him to see if he would survive.  What a pain in the butt these guys were since he would then have to call the authorities.  He really missed his anonymity.

One of the most excruciatingly difficult things about being an aging super-person was the public embarrassment of having to apologize for things he could no longer control. Especially when it came to bodily functions.  Every time he farted in a theatre, the place would quickly empty of patrons; the smell was just disgustingly unworldly. When he belched, it could be heard everywhere within a half mile radius and would set off car alarms.  When he sneezed, anyone within one-hundred yards would typically be blown away, and trees and bushes would be defoliated. No one except Lois wanted to be around him anymore. He frequently wanted to die but didn’t know how or even if it was even possible for him to do so on planet Earth.

Finally, one fine morning he donned his old ill-fitting Superman outfit, threw on his cape, kissed Lois goodbye and set of for the ninety-three million mile journey to the center of the sun where he hoped to end it all.

BOLLI Matters feature writer and co-chair of the Writers Guild, Larry Schwirian

Architect Larry and his fellow architect wife Caroline live in an historic preservation home in Newton and, together, have led BOLLI courses on architecture.  Larry has been an active participant in  and leader of the Writers Guild special interest group as well as serving on the BOLLI Journal staff.  

WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND? FRIENDSHIP

FRIENDSHIP

By Sandy Miller-Jacobs

Friends play such an important role in our lives. When we were young, we played with our friends, whether it was games of pretend or riding bikes or playing sports.  Often, the time we spent with our friends enabled us to do something we couldn’t do alone. You might play Solitaire by yourself, but you couldn’t play Go Fish alone. Nor could you play any of your board games alone. Monopoly and Scrabble definitely needed at least one friend, if not two or three. A bike ride was always more fun when friends joined you to ride through the neighborhood. Sports, from “Hit the Penny” to tennis, always needed friends not only in order to play but also to cheer us on.

As we got older, our friends were there to spend time with, whether to talk, reminisce, or think up new adventures. A friend was there to help sort out our ideas, to dream with, to share our ups and downs, especially during our teen years. Through high school and college, we spent hours talking about people we dated, teachers who frustrated or challenged us, songs and singers we liked, our future lives.

While our friendship groups changed as some married, moved away, or ventured in directions we wouldn’t follow, there were always some who remained in our lives. These are the friends who knew us when we were young,  knew our homes, our parents, siblings, and even our cousins. They have served as reminders, knowing who we were and who we still are.  We have been there for each other as we have aged, and we still remember the younger versions of ourselves. They have seen us in the best and worst of times – through the joys of marriage and the pain of divorce, sharing the joys and difficulties of children and grandchildren, and supporting us through the deaths of loved ones.

It’s the friendships that last over time that remain the most important to us.  In many ways, they keep us centered. They know what upsets us and what brings us joy.  They know just what to say to raise or keep our spirits us.  They recognize the parts of us that have grown with us, and they reflect how we have matured over time.   Only our siblings and cousins may have the same sense of who we have been and who we have become.

So, make time to be with your friends as well as relatives whom you consider friends.  It’s reminiscent of a song from Girl Scouts: “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.”

Sandy Miller-Jacobs

Sandy finally retired after nearly 50 years in Special Education.  Along the way, she married, completed her doctorate, raised two daughters, married them off, and became a grandmother.  She says that BOLLI is the key to maintaining brain function through teaching and learning while meeting new friends. Her hobbies now include photography, memoir writing, and aging.  (She was instrumental in creating the SIG on Aging with Enthusiasm and Resilience.) Sometimes she takes the risk and shares her hobbies and ideas with BOLLI members!