So What’s New?

The biggest news is that I finally have a home health aide. She is five feet tall, top-heavy, and 58 years old. She has eight children, 24 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren, and there’s no nonsense about her. She knows what needs to be done, how to do it, and does it. Her theory on young black girls and old white women is that today’s young girls, regardless of color, have no desire to work and do everything they can to avoid it. I have no regular contact with young girls so I can’t assess whether or not this is true but after waiting eight months and going through four girls who didn’t work, I am almighty glad to have this lady. She snarks around my kitchen muttering, “Didn’t any of them ever clean anything?” My apartment is slowly getting really cleaned, and the pressure is off me. I no longer wake up thinking, “What do I HAVE to do.” Actually, I woke up from a nap this afternoon thinking, “I want to write something!” Except I don’t actually want to. Mostly, I want to HAVE WRITTEN something.

There’s the piece about “Wheeling the Westcott,” a piece about depression, one about Centro, and another on how bad Upstate Medical Center is. I have a 74-year-old friend who is underweight and has a colonostomy. Upstate made her put on a paper gown and sit on a metal folding chair in a back hallway during the winter for over an hour. That’s my enduring image of Upstate: cold, heartless and unsympathetic. But I’m not much in the mood to discuss it.

Mostly, I regret the passing of summer. Today is cold, gray, overcast and the first day of fall—equal parts darkness and light. It is about time to get out my lightbox. N.B. Readers: if you start to sleep a lot, can’t wake up in the morning, have changes in your bowel habits and feel irritable then you’ve got seasonal affective disorder (SAD). If you do nothing about it now then in a couple months you will feel depressed. Your doctor will prescribe antidepressants, which probably won’t do much good. The fact is, you are suffering from SAD. Syracuse has as little sunlight as Nome, Alaska, in the winter. Check out the statistics: we have, like, no sunlight. Get a lightbox with full spectrum light and reintroduce sunlight into your life. All living things need sunlight to grow. (At this point I would go on the Internet and give you some facts about lightboxes but a friend helped me fix my computer and now I can’t get on the Internet at all. Does anybody know a computer guy who works cheap?)

I’m seriously considering getting out of bed and cooking. Tuna macaroni salad? Tossed salad? Brownies? All of the preceding? Despite the horrific turnover of aides who can’t cook, I have managed to stay off Meals on Wheels. The MoW people are, by and large, very nice and they provide good meals for Food Stamps. Not great meals, but good enough. Problem is, after while I got to craving the old family recipes. Aides would advise me of different/better/healthier ways to cook; they just didn’t get it that at 67 and after a year of nursing home/hospital/Meals on Wheels, I just wanted things to taste like my mom cooked them.

MY chili con carne is Old WASP Chili and has one pound of hamburger, two cans of diced tomatoes, two cans of light red kidney beans, one onion, some salt and some chili powder. Period, end of discussion. That’s the way I want my chili. And vegetables! Do you know that the Iroquois Nursing Home, Crouse Hospital and Meals on Wheels think that one-quarter cup of canned or frozen vegetables is appropriate? Me, I think two-thirds of a cup of fresh vegetables twice a day is proper. Once I stopped eating junk food back around 2001, my palate cleared up and fresh vegetables without additives became tasty. Carrots, green beans, beets—do you that no home health aide has ever seen or heard of a fresh cooked beet? Canned beets are only good for pickling—fresh beets are the bomb.

So here’s the deal: I’m muddling along just fine. Emotions are stable; cognition is fine; tiredness is usual. I met with the homeopaths today and they advised one dose of remedy and report in two or three days. I have been adequately taking care of business—buy new bras, go to the Westcott Festival, call the cops on the Syracuse University kids. S.U.’s the No. 1 party school? Not on my watch. Saturday while we were losing to Maryland about two hundred kids congregated behind and between apartment buildings and in a vacant lot next to the Temple across the street from me. Two hundred kids are a pretty noisy mob and they were trashing the vacant lot. That just ain’t right.

Now here’s a really good thing: at the Westcott Festival the library had a used book sale and I got ten murder mysteries for $6.50. That’s righteous.

I think I will go integrate the new books with the old books. I, being reasonably peculiar, like to read my books according to publication dates so I will go organize them so I have a good winter’s read ahead. It is not unlike a squirrel stashing nuts. And, by the way, yesterday I discovered that a squirrel can out-run a power wheelchair. I was coming home through the park and the squirrel was on the top edge of a fence. Instead of breaking to the left or right, it stayed on the fence-top and ran like heck. The only other thing that can outrun a power wheelchair is a young man on a bicycle. Old guys can’t do it.

So I wish all the best to you—a warm bed, fresh brownies and a good murder mystery. Winter is icumen in.


About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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