Funny Old Valentines

Whenever I’m reminded of My Funny Valentine I sing it to my dog. Sometimes he sings back. I’ve always had funny dogs, especially when I forget to take them to the dog parlor il_570xN.1179210609_jgjt
and they can’t see through their neglected haircuts.

The truth is, My Funny Valentine is comforting, not just for singing to dogs. The lyrics make me feel lovable. According to the song writers, the more time goes on, the more lovable I might be getting. I’m less photographable, my figure is less and less Greek, my mouth is getting weaker and what comes out of it is less smart. Perhaps Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart actually wrote the song with their grandmothers in mind. After all, haven’t most of us laughed at our quirky old grandmothers? Like the time she put the turkey in the oven upside down? Or bought a dry-clean-only shirt on sale at Bloomingdales for a 10-year-old boy?

Those laughs may be in short supply if Michael Bloomberg becomes president. He says that healthcare will bankrupt us unless we deny care to the elderly.

“If you show up with cancer and you’re ninety-five years old, we should say, ‘there’s no cure, we can’t do anything’. A young person? We should do something. Society’s not willing to do that, yet.” Bloomberg said.

Yet? Society’s not willing to pull the plug on its grandparents? Yet?

Why can’t policy changes allow me more time in the cost-effective doctor’s office, instead of withholding costly medical treatment as I get older? Words from my weakening lips have become slower and less smart. Because office visits are limited to twenty minutes, the doctor may not hear that this grandmother requires nothing more than a prescription drug change. Inattention to my symptoms in the doctor’s office could lead to a later trip to the costly emergency room, admittance to the costly hospital and visitations by costly specialists who in the end announce a diagnosis of nothing more than easy-to-treat high blood pressure.

There’s nothing new about politicians proclaiming the elderly are not worth the medical expense or care we give them. In 1984, Governor Dick Lamm of Colorado said, ”We’ve got a duty to die and…let the other society, our kids, build a reasonable life.” The duty-to-die statement ruined his opportunity to run for president. When Obama officials tried to add simple advance-care consultations to the Affordable Care Act, Sarah Palin denounced it as the creation of “death panels.” How do you think Bloomberg’s statement will be used?

We’ve gotten the same messages from the right-to-die movement for years—as if our right to die must be supported by cost effectiveness rather than a policy of choice. Don’t get me wrong. I have no intention of living past my expiration date. I’ve made my own choice in my end-of-life papers.

Bloomberg’s “yet” is a bothersome dated idea—killing off our funny old valentines to save the country from healthcare bankruptcy. 

Surely we’ve progressed farther than this.

Magazine Man by Annette Bacon

When I was six years old I remember watching my Dad go around the back of our house to a small brown shed, more like a small barn, on the side of our property.  I was cautioned not to go into this space as it might have a hitchhiker or a kidnapper in there waiting to grab someone.

One day, after my dad went to work and my mom left to go to the grocery store, I took our small kitchen stepladder to the shed and set it against the south window.  Looking in, th-4.jpegI saw old tires, a broken lawnmower, lots of papers and magazines on a wooden counter along with old tools and flashlights.  Since there was no stranger in there, I reasoned that I could go inside.  I slid the door open and went over to the bench, hopped up and that is when I saw the pile of colorful magazines in a box on the floor.

I jumped down and picked up several of them.  Turning the pages, I saw they were all pictures of naked women. I saw tall, short, blonde, and brunette women in various poses, some with fur coats and some with animals, like camels and horses.  I was shocked.  Since my dad was the only person who came out to the shed, he must know about this.  How could I ask him about the magazines, if I wasn’t allowed to go into this forbidden space?

Suddenly I remembered that mom would be returning from the store.  I carefully placed the magazines back on the pile in the box, picked up the stepladder, and hurried around the back of the house.  Imagine my surprise to hear my mom talking on the phone.  Her back was turned to me so I put the ladder down quietly and went out again.  I knew the berries in the raspberry patch were getting ripe, so I grabbed the container on the side of the garage and went to pick some.

I heard my mom calling me, so I went inside trying to be nonchalant and careful.  She hadn’t noticed that the ladder had been missing. “Hi Mom, I picked some berries for breakfast.” “Wonderful,” she answered.  My heart was racing as I made small talk with her as we ate together.

All morning I tried to think of someone I could talk to about the magazines, but I couldn’t think of a single soul whom I thought would keep my secret.  Then I thought of my grandmother.  Maybe she would be quiet, but I wasn’t sure.  And I couldn’t figure out why there were magazines of nude women who didn’t look anything like the women in my family or me.  I decided at the next chance that was possible, I would look in the box in the shed again, to see what else was in that box.  Since my parents usually slept later than I did on Sundays, I thought this would be a good opportunity to explore further.

In the meantime, I had cocoa with my grandmother on Saturday morning as usual.  I walked the four blocks to her house, thinking about my discovery and whether or not I should tell her.  After I made our cinnamon toast, I mentioned that I had done something that I had been told not to, but I could only tell her if she promised not to tell anyone.  She looked sternly at me and said she couldn’t do that if it involved my safety.  I said it didn’t and launched into the story of my adventure.  She thought for a minute before thsaying, “Lots of people keep old magazines.”  “But Gram,” I persisted, “Why were all the women naked?”  She said she didn’t know, but that my dad loved to read and was called “the magazine man” in our family. This was puzzling to me, but I was resolved to look again.

The next Sunday I woke up very early and snuck out to the shed, hoping to discover that my dad kept other things in the box like comics.  But when I reached up to slide the door open, it wouldn’t move. There was a padlock on it.