Author Topic: Number Our Days  (Read 4530 times)

hongfan

  • Posts: 328
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #80 on: June 16, 2017, 06:03:56 PM »
The Book Club Online is the oldest  book club on the Internet, begun in 1996, open to everyone.  We offer cordial discussions of one book a month,  24/7 and  enjoy the company of readers from all over the world.  Everyone is welcome.



They say that growing old is not for sissies. Are they right? When Anthropologist Dr. Barbara Myerhoff received a grant to study aging she decided to do it on subjects in the USA, and let them speak for themselves.

The result is an "often funny, deeply moving narrative of human dignity and courage."

 "One of those rare books that leave the reader somehow changed."-- Bel Kaufman.

Join us June 15! 


Questions to Ponder on  Chapter 1

Chapter 1 is a scholarly defense of the subject matter....hard to read... if you don't like these questions, add your own:


1.   a. Who is this a study of?  b. What makes it a unique sample?

2.   How  would you characterize the elders in this study?  Are they high-functioning?  Well-off?

3.   What does the Center fulfill for the men and women on the Boardwalk?

4.   What made for successful aging among the elders?

5.   How does the Jewish faith affect the men and women's approach to aging?  How do they envision old age?

6.   What do you think the psalm "So teach us to number our days, that we may get us a heart of wisdom" mean to you?

7.   What do you think of these elders?  Do they impress you, annoy you?  Do they remind you of relatives?



I'm going to add some non stock questions  I think are important, too, in fact they are what jumped out at me, what jumped out at YOU?


1. What seems to be the most important thing to the people she is writing about? What do you think the most important thing to YOU would be?

2. What function does the "Center" have for the community of elders that use it?

These two questions, in my mind, are not related, but they may be, in yours.







"upbeat pictures and quotes"

The peak time of our vital force is when we are 6 years old (for girls) and 7 years (for boys), the time when we change to our permanent teeth. So to think about as we are that age again, what we look like, what state of mind we are in, what make us most happy at that time - that can help, too.

Meditation technique.

hongfan

  • Posts: 328
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #81 on: June 16, 2017, 07:06:23 PM »
"I've lately gotten kind of stooped, too much hunching over this computer..."

Ginny, in my workplace, we are moving to those height adjustable desks, so that we can change our position in front of our computer, alternating between standing and sitting.

If you like the idea, you can do similar things at home - for example, say you have an iPad and a desktop computer, you may use your iPad put on a higher surface area to stand and read, and then switch to your desktop computer when you need to sit and type. You get the idea, basically try to force yourself to change positions more often, and while you change between your iPad and desktop computer, you need to walk, which provides additional benefit?

BarbStAubrey

  • BooksDL
  • Posts: 8682
  • Life is finding the magic that makes our soul soar
    • Two Sisters and a Hound!
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #82 on: June 16, 2017, 10:37:24 PM »
Ouch for some of us age 6 was not the best time of our lives - think I will focus on age 13 which was far far much better and the best in my late 20s

hmm I'm finding the Blake quote - "Labor well the Minute Particulars. And every Particulare is a Man," along with Myerhoff's perceptivenes, fidelity, and compassion rather boring - I really want someone who can view the live of seniors through the eye's of celebration, beauty, love, nature, sensuality, drinking, good fellowship, honor, and social life - the photo on the front of my book suggests that kind of perception but now after starting to read I am apprehensive.

Sure, when I get up in the morning I wonder if my knee will ratchet into the right socket but I want that to be a secondary thought that with a bit of tapping I will make the best of thing and get on to making the day beautiful - are the fawns still in the backyard - ah a good cup of black coffee after a tall glass of water while I take a look at the yard and ask what I can do to bring the guy next door, who just had surgery again for his cancer a bit of change from his pain, better take my walk before it gets too hot, don't forget my walking stick in case I fall or my phone that needs to be inside my shirt so that if I do fall it will not fly away from my reach, do my eye drops and drink the coffee and out the door - oh look at the red hawk perched on the school yard fence etc. etc. etc.

Do not want to think of a bunch of seniors bemoaning to each other their aging bodies and limited circumstance or their not-for-the-better changed neighborhood - it is what it is now, let's get on with celebrating fun, learning, caring and the beauty of it all rather than fighting for better conditions. No one is going to give anyone what they think is their right - the same with the idea anyone is gong to make power and justice common - all nice platitudes but my take is you do what you can because, you cannot change others. Even shaming them does not make a change in your favor - so all those placards and signs were to me a wasted effort that could have been used to make life for yourself and your other bench sitters a celebration of good fellowship.

I just do not understand this dreading of age - now dreading illness or disabilities I understand but even that - why dread it - if is not so, to dread is to put energy into something that may never be a problem and if it becomes a problem then you do what you can with what you have left. And what is this suggesting empathy - sheesh - I do not want empathy from the younger folks - I want to be engaged and have a place around the fire so to speak. 

Now if all these folks are in the nineties that is a different story but then - no - it isn't a different story - why waste the life you have bemoaning your circumstances this is silly - sorry I may be a stick in the mud to this book if it keeps on in this vain.

BarbStAubrey

  • BooksDL
  • Posts: 8682
  • Life is finding the magic that makes our soul soar
    • Two Sisters and a Hound!
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #83 on: June 16, 2017, 10:55:38 PM »
I guess bottom line I think it is a waste of time to look for wisdom - look for ways to express life and in the doing you will experience all that will lead to wisdom - wisdom is defined as - the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; a body of knowledge and principles that develops within a specified society or period - you need to experience variety in life to know quality - a neighborhood that has deteriorated does not mean there is only negative experiences - it can be an opportunity - I think out of living is how we acquire wisdom - not this going on the trail looking for it.

I also think if we have expectations for our children or any other human to listen to our stories, we are measuring out life as dependent on the attention or appreciation of others - forget it - go do - if the past is what you want to pass along then write it down but get on with adding to your life - we are not frozen in the past even if they were great years - so you cannot walk as well or have the energy to walk a mile any longer or see the menu or even enjoy a movie and you cannot be too far from a bathroom but then there are fewer obligations so that you can do things with your time to satisfy your own liking not the requirement of others.

I am getting annoyed with this talk of survival - sheesh I think i better just be quiet - this is not going well as I read this stuff...

ginny

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 53512
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #84 on: June 17, 2017, 08:12:13 AM »
Barbara!! Is that really YOU? What a happy present to look in and see this morning. And hongfan, welcome back as well!! You can fill us in on how the Chinese see elders, what a wonderful boon this discussion is turning out to be.

I'm not seeing any kvetching, yet, Barbara.  Perhaps you're ahead of me in the book. .

But I have to say that I think to kvetch is part of the package here, it's part of the culture, the  way these folks on the bench may make sense of life, but I have NOT read Chapter 2, just from personal experience. Let's all proceed to Chapter 2 for Monday?  I'm talking out of my hat because I have NOT read Chapter 2, and I may change that.

 I always found it sort of refreshing, this kvetching, however. Shocking at first, but refreshing.  Reassuring, to everybody involved. It's part of what I thought was the Up Front Culture of the NE. Apparently it's the Up Front Culture of the  Ashkenazi.  If you address the Demon in the Room, whatever he is,  you conquer him, I think that's the thinking, but again, I'm talking way out of my hat.   I know I feel comfortable with it as a way of coping and turning things positive. Again perhaps we need to look at that question in the heading about how does being of the Askenazi Jewish Community influence their attitudes toward ageing?

Don't go anywhere, we need your perspectives on our Virtual Bench here, so we can have a real conversation.

You know when we started these book clubs, we did it TO provide what Myerhoff sees as important, a Virtual Center, a Virtual Bench.

The people on these benches are all of one ethnic derivation. One faith, one background, one area of Europe. Migration,  one commonality, they feel at home with each other. They understand each other, and the way they express themselves. It's part of the whole. WE may not be part of that, is that one way it IS a stand alone culture?

Don't we all feel more comfortable around people who are like us or who possibly grew up in the area we did or with whom we share a like history or catastrophe? Or even if we don't feel comfortable with them, or even like them,  we "understand" where they are coming from.

My DIL and grandson and I a couple of years ago went to NYC. He loved it, she loved it, but in one of the museums, I think it was the Natural History Museum, one of the guards was unexpectedly rude, and unhelpful. For no reason.  VERY. Nasty even. He was an old man, pure NYC as it used to be.  My DIL who lives in a small town in the south and who is a very considerate person with beautiful manners was shocked. She really was.

But I instantly understood  him, and where he was coming from and what he meant.  He was like a snatch of my own childhood, I have known many like him in Philadelphia. He was the norm where I grew up.

  We here on our Bench are not all going to have that feeling of recognition with these subjects, but I hope we can come to understand them and why they talk as they do, and I know you all are going to find something wonderful in this...and I'm so glad to see YOU, Barbara! Hope your eyes are  better? You're using drops?

 I just told her that's "old NYC," before they exhorted NYC to be friendly. I'm not sure she bought it but that IS  what it was: a slice of the 40's and it's dying out.

I loved all your posts and want to address them but let me talk about the topic du jour some of us have mentioned first:






ginny

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 53512
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #85 on: June 17, 2017, 08:46:11 AM »
As we are leaving Chapter 1, I continue to be  very impressed with some of the concepts she brought up, and I think we need to refer back to them as we go. On page 6 of the paperback, for instance, she speaks of Howe's characterization of this generation  as the  "ragged kingdom of the spirit."

"They had strong early training in resourcefulness, and opportunities to develop sound survival strategies. Then, as now, they had been poor, politically impotent, and physically insecure. Then, as now, they turned to each other and their shared Yiddishkeit for sustenance."

That whole paragraph, outlining how difficult life was for the Jewish community in Eastern Europe and their will to survive, is beautifully written. We remark on the fall of Grossingers, but when I looked at that photo,  I also thought, some of that graffiti I am willing to bet is Anti-Semitic. That is what I thought. Even after all these years. And that's the saddest part of it all.

 We, most of us, certainly not I, have never experienced that, but it lives. Today.  You've got to be very strong and defiant to overcome it. We have not come personally, most of us, through the Holocaust. How did anybody ever survive that or get over it?  As  Shumell says, on page 26,

"You don't  understand. How could you expect to understand? You ask me all those things but you know nothing....How can you expect to understand?"

That's a good point in a very good book and I hope to understand SOMETHING when it's over because I AM trying.  Can we ever really understand, tho?

Where is it where she talks about what an amazing thing they did, in coming to this country,  skipping what normally takes three  generations to accomplish? I can't find it and I just read it!! OH I found it, it's on page 17: "these people achieved in one [generation] , as a result they were dubbed, 'The one generation proletariat.'"  But if you read on there, you can see the cost: the Old World Parents and the New World Children split. What a book this is.

 Page  7, "Their Yiddish world, built up over a thirty year period, is dying and complete extinction is imminent. Perhaps it will last another five or at the  most,  ten years.. Whenever a Center member leaves, everyone is acutely aware that there will be no replacements."

So that makes what happens at the end of Chapter 1 even more difficult for me to read because what they WANT, as I think bellamarie pointed out, is to be remembered. To make a mark.  There is no next generation to carry it on, they have only themselves as "witness."


And then there are the Three Invisible Protagonists, page 22, let's not forget them, either. The more I read her introduction the more impressed I am with it.

But at the end she says "Everyone wanted to leave a personal statement."

That's why it's really hard for me to realize that "Basha," is not "Basha," but someone else entirely. Would it have been so wrong to put her real name there?

And let her stand as she wanted to, to leave something of herself  behind  in a culture that fears "oblivion" more than pain or death?

Or is that "selfish" of me to want for her?

bellamarie

  • Posts: 3007
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #86 on: June 17, 2017, 09:10:05 AM »
Hongfan,  I love the analogy you used with the computer battery showing the dim screen alerting us to the battery running low.  Oh how I hate it when I get that alert and I am in the middle of something important, so is the same with life as I am aging.  I find I get myself all psyched up to go out gardening, I have planted a flat of annuals and look back to see I have a flat left to plant and the energy level is on low.  I have gotten so much more accepting of when my battery is running down and I simply tell myself and most importantly my hubby....Time to stop, tomorrow's another day. 

PatH.,  Reading your post about the three lives for some reason made me think of the Blessed Trinity.  I saw me accepting God first, then the Son and then the Holy Spirit as my journey in life which brings me through my spiritual journey.  I like this even though I know your post had nothing to do with my insight.

Barb St.Aubrey.,  Welcome!!!   I am so excited to see you made it here.  I get my days mixed up all the time since I retired and more so now that school is out and I don't have my same schedule for Bible Study on Tues., teaching CCD on Wed., volunteering at Heartbeat on Fri., and having the grandkids spend the night on Saturday.  I wake up each morning and ask myself....What day is today?  I like your quote from Calvin and Hobbs - "Change is invigorating! If we don't accept new challenges, you become complacent and lazy!  Your life atrophies!" So very true and in the spirit of his quote I am helping my son and his family move 20 minutes further away from us to a small quaint town of Perrysburg.  I may find myself needing the assistance of a realtor in the next year or so since my hubby and I are considering moving to this same town to be closer and settle into a less hectic town for our final home.  Change is good!!!  Just not now!!

Jonathan,  I may learn to get more selfish in a few more years.  I first have to learn not to feel guilty for wanting to do the things I want to do.  Maybe you all and Basha, and the rest of the characters can help me get there.
"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time." quote Amelia says to A.J.,  from the book A Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

bellamarie

  • Posts: 3007
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #87 on: June 17, 2017, 09:34:37 AM »
Ginny,  Once again we were posting at the very same time.... we are people of habit.  I felt the same as you, why not put their names to their stories?  I do feel they wanted their names attached and said so.  These letters, stories, poems, experiences belonged to each of them, and to give a fictitious name seems a bit unfair.

She states on pg. 30  Nevertheless, privacy for individuals could be preserved, so I have changed all the names of people and groups mentioned here, this to allow myself freedom to record some of the unflattering thing I saw there, as much as possible to prevent the elderly from recognizing themselves and each other, to save them and their children any embarrassment that might accrue.  Certainly, I did not want to cause the old people pain that could be avoided, nor did I wish to jeopardize my welcome among them.

I suppose we may better understand her decision once we get further into the book, and then maybe we will agree with it.  As of now, I do wish the names could have remained with their stories so in fact they would see and know it was them.
"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time." quote Amelia says to A.J.,  from the book A Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

PatH

  • BooksDL
  • Posts: 9545
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #88 on: June 17, 2017, 09:55:29 AM »
Bellamarie, I suspect the ethics of anthropology forbid using the subjects' real names.  And doing so could have unforeseen bad consequences.  But no fear about the members of the center recognizing themselves.  I bet they instantly identified everyone described.

bellamarie

  • Posts: 3007
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #89 on: June 17, 2017, 10:04:46 AM »
PatH.,  I was thinking the same thoughts.  They know their stories, letters, poems etc.  Myerhoff made it sound as if it were her own decision to not use their names, not so much an ethical forbidden rule in anthropology.  That's interesting, if so it would not be her choice at all to use fictitious names. 
"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time." quote Amelia says to A.J.,  from the book A Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

ginny

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 53512
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #90 on: June 17, 2017, 10:14:33 AM »
Pat, :) I'm glad you enjoyed the Tennannah Lake House Adventures. hahaha It WAS a learning curve.

I loved your the three lives of an anthropologist, and the inevitable paradox of the profession.

Then he goes back to his original place.  It no longer seems the same to him, because he is different and sees it through new eyes.  So now he’s a third person, not quite back to where he started.

That part is what I'm hoping for us, the readers of this book,  as a consequence of this book and of this discussion.  That part is what happens to me every time I travel: this: This changes him; he’s no longer the same person; he’s absorbed new attitudes and ideals, and even if he doesn’t believe them he’s changed.

And I also think, in a slightly different way that the more cultures and things you are exposed to as a child or as an adult, is beneficial to you. College is supposed to do that, I am not sure it does.  Living in a big city you just have to accept that everybody is not like you and doesn't want to be, some are better, some are worse, and you have to find and create your own identity there. Somewhere.





ginny

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 53512
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #91 on: June 17, 2017, 10:52:23 AM »
Bellamarie, that was a good post about the commonality in faith you share with those you also are on benches with, wherever you are.

On the "selfish," I wonder what Drabble means by "selfish." Jonathan, your mother said it too. I am pretty sure she meant she is thinking of herself to survive, and it worried her not to be thinking always of you children. Bless her heart.  I looked up "selfish" in Websters, I don't trust any of the others except Collins, and found:


1,  :  concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself :  seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others

2
:  arising from concern with one's own welfare or advantage in disregard of others a selfish act


So here the definition seems to say in disregard of, or without regard for,  others, but old age brings with it a lot of self concerns. Maybe we need a new word for "selfish." Look at how Basha wakes up. Does this move today? Does that hurt today? She has to go to the store, can she make it? Can she eat?  She needs this to survive, it's not an idle thought. Now we have Uber, could she afford it? What did they have in the '70's?

And then there's the Guilt factor, which we haven't mentioned, either.

It seems almost a survivalist thing. Children are said to be selfish. In the 3rd (or 4th) Age do we revert, then? The child is father of the man?

How much of what we say and do, especially as we age, is a direct throwback to or survival result of  our childhoods, do you think? Is that too loaded a question?

Hongfan, love that battery analogy, you're right on with that. And old age, again,  brings other drains on the battery. There ARE BP drugs and others for other conditions  which produce such lethargy you feel you need a train just to get out of bed or lift a hand.  What is saving us might be killing us, too, and many of us don't realize what's happening.

Oh and on the standing computer desk things? YES! I saw no end of ads for them overseas and some of them are very fine and cleverly done. Am definitely going to get one and stand as long as I can, standing uses calories and helps everything. I'm looking forward to it.

Pat and Bellamarie on the names, good points. But don't you see the irony in this?

But no fear about the members of the center recognizing themselves.  I bet they instantly identified everyone described.

And so...how many of them do you think are around today? Does passing it down as "Basha" achieve the same goal? Kind of makes it...a general trait or something?  I read once that the reason people write books (which I don't think is true) is to make a perpetual mark on history.

 The Romans were kind of obsessed with that, actually, Cicero wondered endlessly about his effect on history, how he would be perceived.  Atticus removed every single one of his own letters when he published Cicero's letters to him.  Augustus deleted every single word Caesar wrote that Augustus felt did not reflect well on Caesar, even his  books of jokes. (Apparently he had a sardonic sense of humor)...

Nothing gold can stay.  (Except gold of course, real gold never tarnishes, the Illuminated manuscripts glow today just as they did hundreds of years ago). That's a startling thing Christopher de Hamel once wrote and he's right....so....what is our hope of perpetuity?

Barbara, as always making great points:  I guess bottom line I think it is a waste of time to look for wisdom - look for ways to express life and in the doing you will experience all that will lead to wisdom - wisdom is defined as - the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; a body of knowledge and principles that develops within a specified society or period - you need to experience variety in life to know quality - a neighborhood that has deteriorated does not mean there is only negative experiences - it can be an opportunity - I think out of living is how we acquire wisdom - not this going on the trail looking for i

Love it!

The 3 email thing you describe was eye opening, wasn't it? I admire the way you're seeking new outlets and avenues.  One things is  for sure, if you don't try, it can't happen. 


Now if all these folks are in the nineties that is a different story but then - no - it isn't a different story - why waste the life you have bemoaning your circumstances this is silly - sorry I may be a stick in the mud to this book if it keeps on in this vain.

That's OK, you can be a stick in the mud, (you aren't).  I am thinking perhaps your reactions will help us get to the truth actually of what's happening. It's just so interesting because we all bring here different backgrounds and personalities, ages and stages, religious beliefs (which I do think make a difference)   and ideals, and theories about how life should be lived,   and really that's what you NEED for a really good book discussion. 

And I hate to say this but I'm not so sure that the kvetching is not bringing comfort and doing good  to the others on the bench. Let's read on and see.

It's interesting. When my husband and I were in our late 30's we took two cruises.  He hated it and said never again. One of them was on the QEII. One day I went up to one of the lounges to read a book and just sit and enjoy the ambiance and as such I was privy to a million conversations (I had to go back down to the room to read). Know what they all were about?

XXX's operation. YYY's procedure. ZZZ's reports....you don't know anything, why,  they said his XXX was the most...... that is ALL I heard sitting there for at least an hour and the people were relishing every detail. EVERY detail was of the greatest interest. What do I hear today in the grocery store? Same thing.  Exactly same thing.  What does that say about us?



On the college dorm idea,  I sure hope not!  What do we fear most about aging?

Really? What DO we fear the most?





PatH

  • BooksDL
  • Posts: 9545
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #92 on: June 17, 2017, 12:09:31 PM »
Ginny:
Quote
And I hate to say this but I'm not so sure that the kvetching is not bringing comfort and doing good  to the others on the bench. Let's read on and see.
Certainly it is.  For many people kvetching is a highly refined art form, enjoyed by both speaker and listener (unless the listener is the subject of the complaint).

PatH

  • BooksDL
  • Posts: 9545
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #93 on: June 17, 2017, 12:17:15 PM »
Ginny:
Quote
And I also think, in a slightly different way that the more cultures and things you are exposed to as a child or as an adult, is beneficial to you.
Definitely.  I've lived abroad twice, and both times I experienced a mild version of the changes the anthropologists see.  And I've benefitted immensely by having friends from different cultures.

BarbStAubrey

  • BooksDL
  • Posts: 8682
  • Life is finding the magic that makes our soul soar
    • Two Sisters and a Hound!
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #94 on: June 17, 2017, 01:51:04 PM »
I need to get the book and find the sentences but in the middle of too much just now for me to take that step - however, when I wrote I thought enough was enough and to go on with my thinking - from what i have been reading in chapter one is the one interviewing - the one describing is who I have a problem accepting as assisting the elders - it is her attitude that seems to be noticing and unearthing and even encouraging the ;) love it, the word 'kvetching' -

These folks are not alone - as you noticed Ginny on board the QEII a group who had nothing in common and who did not know each other intimately and who did not want to get into the emotional life of those they were socializing, so as you noticed their conversation was all about facts and factors. It is also a game I see many retired 'company' men play - they have lost their power as heads of companies or departments and so they regain some of that power by quoting facts and in monthly group meetings you'll notice they are the ones that 'must' arrange the chairs.

My gripe that I see so far in this book is the younger generation - with all good intentions want to use their opinion to explain and in some cases control elders - when folks are taking care of others, the 'cared for' cannot be of equal or higher status... it becomes a challenge if you are less physically capable, as Hungfan reminds us, to keep ourselves thinking of anything but ourselves and then, on top, it will be a challenge beyond easy to keep relevant in society - for many to stay relevant to who you are and not a stereo type elder within the family - one more excuse to have family members take over or talk the elder into their taking over, not just help but make the decisions. These decisions are seldom made with the elder's best interest the first and highest priority - entering in the decision is the convince, but far more, the emotional security of the helper.

Even last night watching the Tavis Smiley show interview Tony Bennett about his new CD with focus on the TV special for Tony Bennett's 90th Birthday - Tavis could not accept the comment Tony Bennett made about so much he has to learn in music - after some conversation he could accept that Tony Bennett did have a point that he had so much to learn in Art that has been a daily part of the life of Tony Bennett since his childhood. He is a very accomplished artist. Elders are stereotyped as having limited curiosity, capable of limited activity or adventures - there are so many platitudes - few community organizations encourage the ideas of elders whose ideas are not better or worse than someone in the forties and fifties, who many are not near as educated as the elder nor have the experience or know the history - I am not suggesting that the elder is more suited - I am suggesting they need an equal place at the table.

I recently came across a blog that out and out said elders cannot earn an income - phewy - lots of ways elders can earn extra and feel empowered to know they can contribute so they are still a valuable asset - but there are few who encourage work or show and list the ways that elders can earn an income - e.g. blogging with contact to a product or company that will give a small sum for each blogger or a blogger who will order a product - some cities have shops with hand made items made by seniors - those with good mobility can dog walk - I've seen some who put on puppet shows at the library and as a result they are hired for children's birthday parties - I've seen many a guy who knows how to fix things be in great demand - there are so many singles now that have no training how to do simple tasks as the upkeep of a house - just starting a few trays of seeds that are sold from your driveway or the assistant living location could allow an annual sale day of products made by the elders - there are those who were accountants and can from their bed if need be get on the computer and keep the accounts for a small group - I know a lot of Real Estate agents who would love to pay for just that assistance that the bookkeeping assistance make into a bigger and more comprehensive job that is less affordable - elders can develop writing skills to write reseme's - on and on - that is the kind of brainstorming that to me benefits the elders rather than documenting their 'kvetching' over their current circumstances and how it relates to their past trauma. 

Just look at the housing that is available for seniors that are downsizing - the living room, kitchen with dining area included, bathroom and one or two bedrooms - where is the 'doing' room - sure in the living room or dining area you can read and knit but any project has to be pushed aside in order to eat a meal - why do we just eat and not dine - oh it is too much work - or is it because we do not think of ourselves as worthy - If society is by passing us our own thinking becomes, we are sidelined - well if we do not take ourselves in hand and treat ourselves as special no one else will and no one will get the impression they should. Many of us get rid of all our good china, crystal and silver - phewy - use it daily - so it breaks - and where today can you sell it for any decent amount of money - oh yes, the grandkids - no they won't - once dead they will 'simplify' and get rid of it - so enjoy the beauty you saw when you picked your pattern and relish the joy of dining - another quote -  "What you allow is what continues"

But back to the 'doing' room - where does a guy pull out his tools or make his model planes or the doll house for his grandniece - where do women sew or make a quilt or spread out all the photos and start the research to create a family book with pictures and background - where are packages beautifully wrapped or art boxes made or holiday decorations created - all on that one dining table in the middle of everything so that there is no place to dine or for company to sit over some coffee or a glass of wine - where does the piano go or the cello - where is the space for a small group to gather and have a sing-a-long - even retirement communities that do have a large 'doing'/activity room there are no individual lockers for each to store their material for their doing. It is as if elders are supposed to only sit on benches out-of-doors, eat and watch TV or read a book - heck there is no place unless, you incorporate a desk in the living room to even layout your finances and where oh where is the computer to be set up - usually a little corner or a converted closet - nice - said with all the sarcasm you can muster  - so we are supposed to feel uplifted by being in some tight corner that is not even decorated in an uplifting way just to communicate that each year there are fewer and fewer with which to communicate - yep, I'm kvetching

Yes they are right, no one understands the horror and trauma of Holocaust survivors - just as no one who has not been raped or persecuted, or tortured or seen children blown up or their bus full of fellow classmates buried for days till they were found - there are many traumatic experiences that to each has their special pain - to place in an order of experience is only done by those who hear of the trauma's and try to imagine - but as elders are we identified by our past or is it a day to experience life rather than react to the day as if we are stuck in the camp, place of rape, cell or torture room or in a buried bus or watching our child swept away in a tsunami or by disease.

The wisdom of many elders is because of those traumatic life experiences but to weed through and find uplifting books and examples of living a full life is not easy - it reminds me of how everyone used to run, bike ride as fast as you could to watch the disaster and the traumatic past of elders is now the stuff of wanting to either acknowledge or even comfort but not lift into today.

Oh if you have money all is possible - but how to live a full life without others vying for control over your life while on a reduced income - that is the stories I like along with, the untold stories of those who still accomplish like Tony Bennet and Audrey Evans age 92 a doctor who specialized in children with Cancer and started the Ronald McDonald house - even the interview of Audrey Evans included a question why she should have been upset if not angry that she was the only female among her fellow doctors - the interviewer was not prepared for her to simply say, she thought it was amusing - Yes, they are big name folks however, they get the press and always have - that does not mean there are lots of average elders, who can be encouraged to be relevant as a contributing part of their community.         

Jonathan

  • Posts: 1395
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #95 on: June 17, 2017, 04:45:53 PM »
Wonderful to have you back, Barb. What fun to read your posts. "A waste of time to look for wisdom." I've come to that conclusion myself, and was saving it for later in the discussion. A new generation is not interested in the wisdom, that we spent such a long lifetime gathering.

And such an honest confession on your part in an earlier post: - "sheesh I think i better just be quiet - this is not going well as I read this stuff..." Don't be modest. As I read, I suddenly realized, this is the greatest kvetch I've heard in a long time. Wonderful.

Just like I sense the high drama the author is promising us with her three 'protagonists': death, the ocean, and guilt. This is going to be awesome. Who would have guessed there could be so much to cope with at the end our days.

PatH

  • BooksDL
  • Posts: 9545
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #96 on: June 17, 2017, 09:14:27 PM »
Two cultures saying similar things:


In the evening he is cut down and withers.

   So teach us to number our days,
   That we may get us a heart of wisdom.


Fiftieth birthday:

        From now on,
  it's all clear profit,
       every sky.

               Issa  (1763-1827)

BarbStAubrey

  • BooksDL
  • Posts: 8682
  • Life is finding the magic that makes our soul soar
    • Two Sisters and a Hound!
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #97 on: June 17, 2017, 09:21:42 PM »
 :) thanks Jonathan - as I read further the story becomes what i hope - rah rah Basha and your linen handkerchief - and great to read how Joscle handled the crazy lady - people after my own heart and I am neither a Jew or living in NY - I am thinking, this attitude about handling life is not necessarily Jewish in origin but rather from those who lived through the depression - I notice my younger sister, who is 15 years younger does not share these values. The book is redeeming itself so that we are not reading about helpless, dependent elders who can only, as was said a thousand times to me and not the most polite expression, "stop your bitching and do something about it!"

I am still annoyed with the interviewer scientist, who is now brining in the holocaust - sheesh - I bet the folks in the Center are NOT asking "Why me Lord? How do I deserve this?' - my thoughts are not kind but there are those who take satisfaction by living vicariously through the pain and suffering experienced by others. Thank goodness they proved her wrong and did not have crippling survivor's guilt. Her effort to justify a search for meaning as the result of the holocaust is minimizing any search for meaning among this group of elders - it is simply a part of life for many - it sounds more like she is wanting to prove a thesis learned during her formal education.

I still do not understand why study folks rather than, enjoy a lifestyle that is different than your own - page 31/32 hints at things to come and yes, I agree we see all that is included through the eye of this woman. 

aha Pat you posted while I was writing...

hongfan

  • Posts: 328
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #98 on: June 17, 2017, 09:58:46 PM »
the younger generation - with all good intentions want to use their opinion to explain and in some cases control elders

haha, is this a "revenge" - when we are parents and raise our children, do we have those moment "with all good intentions want to use their opinion to explain and in some cases control" the children?

I think this is a situation that we all know where it comes from, there is a social norm and then there is a individual preference, some times, they don't go along with each other, what do you do?

A year or two ago, one of my closest friends called me, her my was diagnosed with cancer and had to start chemo immediately. Her mom didn't want to do it, she felt life was good, she was content, she felt that it was the time to just let her go. My friend, her sibling and their father were trying to convince her to go through the chemo. When she told me this, I had to work hard to swallow down what I really wanted to say - why not let her go, if THAT is what makes her happy? But I knew I couldn't say those, because I am not SUPPOSED to say this, and I guess my friend, no matter what she thought privately, she felt she should do everything to 'save" her mom.

Was her mom selfish wanting to go, "leaving" her family behind? Was my friend selfish "choosing" to let her mom go through the ordeal against her will? I don't know, selfish is rarely that clearly defined when each other are so deeply connected. If our beloved one's "selfish" actions make her/him happy, aren't we supposed to be happy too? And if we are happy, too, then those actions are not "selfish", aren't they? I don't know. I think the selfish concept is problematic, it is based on the notion that there is a clear cut of "self" vs. "other", do we really have such a clear cut? Where is the line between "self" and "other"?

when folks are taking care of others, the 'cared for' cannot be of equal or higher status

Kings and queens are "cared for" and they have higher status, aren't they? :)

Ginny asked how Chinese see their elders. In China, the culture is more of a hierarchical one compared to western culture, so traditionally seniority is a huge asset. In old days, Chinese all lived together - four generations in the same house was a typical scene, and the eldest had the highest social status in the house - it goes the same whether you were a commoner or you were the emperor. Chinese culture deems filial piety as the foundation of all virtues, so whatever the elders wish is the order to follow.

Having said that, China has lost it tradition in a big way, sadly. So today maybe in rural area, you can still see a good portion of the traditions have been kept (I hope), but in big cities, you don't see much of that retained any more. It is still hierarchical, but it's more likely completely upside down, the spoiled one child is the head of the family and whatever he/she wishes is the order to follow.

Jonathan

  • Posts: 1395
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #99 on: June 18, 2017, 12:14:59 PM »
Aren't we all caught in the web of time. Life can be wonderful at any age - or it can be a worrisome thing. To predict from your posts, this is going to be a lively discussion.

So let the play begin. I think the author saw it as such, with Chapter I serving as prologue. She certainly tells us what to look for, doesnt' she? Even sets the stage - on the boardwalk, beside the ocean, one of the three protagonists. The other two being death and guilt. This sounds epic. And the cast? Our Moms and Dads.

Many years ago I found myself on Fifth Aveue, NYC, on ST. Patrick's Day, with many others. Among us was a man peddling shamrocks and buttons with an Irish motif, himself covered with them. 'But you're not Irish', someone said to him. 'Today, we're all Irish.' was his reply.

Are you perturbed at the prospect of the Angel of Death appearing on the stage? Well--offstage, to be correct - don't be. I have it, on good evidence that he's a very kind and helpful being.

I have in my possession a small book, with hard covers, designed to fit into a breast pocket - A Book of Jewish Toughts, issued to Jewish servicemen, fighting in WWI and II. Mine was issued to F/L I...M... What caught my imagination was I M's own inscribed thought on the inside front cover:

'From  her eyes shines the stillness of the woods as the sun sets behind the trees.'

BarbStAubrey

  • BooksDL
  • Posts: 8682
  • Life is finding the magic that makes our soul soar
    • Two Sisters and a Hound!
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #100 on: June 18, 2017, 12:21:27 PM »
Not sure hongfan if revenge so much as fear of what is to come and the need to take control but then for each instance it is probably different and personal - but perfect - you nailed it!

Here we are as parents, when our kids are little and not capable of expressing their opinion so that, we at least attempt to explain for them and teach them how to control their behavior followed so quickly, we helped them learn how to offer their opinions and have a say in their choices so that if nothing else, at least by the time they are age 16 and 17 they can write all those collage entry essays where they have to explain 'who they are' and 'what are their goals in life' and 'why they would like to attend that particular collage/university' as well as many of our children during High School marched and protested based on their opinions that sometimes did not agree with our own - then these very children, grown into their 40s and 50s treat those aging caring parents as if they were pre-schoolers, whose choices are questioned or at times even ignored - shameful isn't it...

That was one of the things I admired about the children of my best friend of 45 years who died 2 years ago at age 96 - she wanted to live out her life and die at home and they supported her wish - so that yes, there was the tragedy of a fall that had her unconscious on the floor for nearly a full day and only discovered by her daughter, who called everyday and with no answer after repeated calls finally called a neighbor - but then, just as the last 3 years we, her three children, myself and two other friends, were there taking turns visiting, bringing meals, taking her to church etc. we also gathered to care for her those last 6 weeks of her life, 2 of which were in the hospital. But her wishes were honored That to me is loving someone - I still have the sharp memory of her 2 girls bending over their Mom to care of her body so that their hair met and then her son, who did have a rocky relationship with his mom, flew in from New Mexico and had the sweetest visit with her just 2 days before she passed.

Your close friend with the mom who has Cancer is a difficult situation isn't it - we each handle this dreadful disease differently - not sure it is so much about providing 'happiness' as a quality of life - here is one way this women chose to live with the diagnoses - I found her facebook account after she was on the road for about 4 months just about when they hit Texas and then over to Florida and up the east coast, across to Pittsburgh where they spent more time than usual - they then went back home to recoup before they started the western side of their trip - so many including myself followed it daily - it was such an uplifting story and she had the time of her life - I plan on getting the book next month...

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/91-year-old-inspired-thousands-skipping-chemotherapy-to-go-on-end-of-life-road-trip-dies-a7345951.html  

Here is the Amazon link to the book - Driving Miss Norma: One Family's Journey Saying "Yes" to Living
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062664328/ref=ox_sc_sfl_title_8?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER

A diagnosis of cancer is a difficult choice isn't it because there is no guarantee with treatment and then if you accept treatment you end up spending months in misery being so ill and weak from the treatment - then if it does not work there were months of anything but quality for your life - I remember my Mom who had serious heart issues spending 6 months in the hospital and finally getting a few week reprieve that she could not even go home but a good friend took her in and then she had a freak accident less then a week later, fell and died - so different then my good friend.

BarbStAubrey

  • BooksDL
  • Posts: 8682
  • Life is finding the magic that makes our soul soar
    • Two Sisters and a Hound!
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #101 on: June 18, 2017, 12:31:00 PM »
Oh Jonathan just saw, we were posting at the same time - the quote inside the book is lovely - calming and full of love for the world we live in isn't it - 'From  her eyes shines the stillness of the woods as the sun sets behind the trees.'

As to this concept of the Angle of Death - not so sure but then I quit thinking about what is next and decided it will be whatever it is - maybe nothing and maybe an adventure but since I have no memory of myself before birth I suspect I will have no memory or active consciousness after death.

PatH

  • BooksDL
  • Posts: 9545
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #102 on: June 18, 2017, 08:29:45 PM »
What some of you are saying leads neatly into Ginny's question: what do older people fear the most?  I think it's loss of control: not being to make your own decisions, or do things the way you want, whether it makes sense to anyone else or not.  The people in this book have mastered this; they are faced with cruel decisions because of finances or frailty, but all their decisions are theirs.  They have managed to carve out a life that suits them, keeps them interested, and doesn't put them somewhere stuck with nowhere to go and nothing useful to do, tiptoeing around needs of another household's routine, or worse, stuck in the routine and cuisine of some institution.  Myerhoff sees this clearly, and in chapter 1 you can see her admiration and respect for them.

bellamarie

  • Posts: 3007
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #103 on: June 18, 2017, 11:19:25 PM »
WOW!  Some very good posts here and even though I am exhausted and every inch of my body is aching from helping my son and his family move into their new home yesterday, and painting my three granddaughter's bedrooms, I will try to get a few thoughts in before falling off to sleep. 

Barb,
Quote
But back to the 'doing' room - where does a guy pull out his tools or make his model planes or the doll house for his grandniece - where do women sew or make a quilt or spread out all the photos and start the research to create a family book with pictures and background - where are packages beautifully wrapped or art boxes made or holiday decorations created - all on that one dining table in the middle of everything so that there is no place to dine or for company to sit over some coffee or a glass of wine - where does the piano go or the cello - where is the space for a small group to gather and have a sing-a-long - even retirement communities that do have a large 'doing'/activity room there are no individual lockers for each to store their material for their doing.

I personally created a "doing room" for myself so I can do things such as exercise, sort pictures, sew, or work on the book I am writing, and leave it right there to return to at a later date.  I am fortunate to still have our three bedroom home with a finished basement as a family room and a computer/library which my hubby enjoys to hang out since he has a big screen tv to watch all his sports and shows on, so I converted one of the spare bedrooms into my personal "doing room" or meditation room because I put all my favorite things in there such as music, book shelves, doll collection, treadmill, and rocking chair etc. I think everyone should have a "doing room."

Kvetching.... now isn't that a fun word!  When I read that it made me think of the saying, "shooting the breeze", but then when I looked it up according to the Merriam Webster dictionary it means: to complain habitually.  Now that is NOT fun at all.  But for some reason I just like the way the word sounds.  I have a friend who constantly complains, she has a good life, a wonderful husband, three sons and an adoptive daughter, nice home, she never had to work outside the home because her husband made a good income, yet she complains incessantly.  I told a mutual friend that it got on my nerves, because she should be so much more grateful for all she has.  Do you think some elderly people fall into the habit of complaining, and don't even realize they are doing it?

Ginny asks what to we fear the most about aging.  I fear not being able to take care of myself and get around.  I am not a confident driver and over the past couple of years I have developed anxiety driving on the expressway.  I don't drive very often at all since the hubby always does, but I still don't like the expressway, and wouldn't you know it, all three of my adult children and their family now live a distance away that requires us to drive the expressway to visit them.  I simply hate it!   
"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time." quote Amelia says to A.J.,  from the book A Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

ginny

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 53512
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #104 on: June 19, 2017, 08:38:55 AM »
I am absolutely loving all the posts here and the points made, such a rich panoply (I can't think of another word this morning) of topics and ideas, and thank goodness we're talking TO each other, that's an art in itself.

Where to START?

Barbara's dorm room idea and the "doing room," also struck me, Bellamarie, and those are serious considerations, too.

If we all think of our own lives and spaces...are we saying our "doings" have to be out of sight because they are all over the place and more comfortable to us hidden?  What an interesting topic that is, alone.  There was a movie/ documentary a while back and I can't remember but one thing about it: when the police went to interview a renowned scholar, and were cordially received, they had to move stacks of books and reviews and journals off seats just to sit down and one of them opined later to the camera, "I've never seen anything like it."  If any of you have been in the Carl Sandburg home which is maintained just as he left it you will have the idea.

But why wouldn't a scholar be surrounded by his books and why would his wife who received the detectives be embarrassed about it? To some people books are riches.

And then what do we fear, that was super, Pat. Are there any other fears you all can think of that might be influencing some of the people in the book? (As well as us?)

What about the fear of being forgotten? Of having even existed at all? Is that real for these folks in CA? They have children.

There's complaining and then there's kvetching. As Pat said, I agree it's an art form, but I feel comfortable around it, that is, listening to it. It's a method of communication, it's an established bond from the very first sentence.... It's hard to describe how it's different.  When WE hear complaining  we want to remonstrate, oh look on the bright side, always on the sunny side, keep on the sunny side of life..... like the song says, oh count your blessings, for heaven's  sake.  But THIS type of thing is, to me,  different.  I am not sure how, but it is.

Just looking back over the posts, they do say that losing your license, the ability to drive, is BIG. I can see how it would be, especially if you live out a ways and have to take the pike or expressway or interstate to go anywhere.  Those Interstates you have to keep driving on,  they, as Bellamarie expressed, scare you to death. I hadn't driven on one for a month, after making several trips a week during the year,  and the infamous I-85 corridor last Thursday nearly scared me to death. I had to force self continually to stay ON the thing, ran below the speed limit which everybody else was exceeding by at least 10 mph, way up in the 70's  and not take the side roads which would have added an hour to the trip.   And the kids are out of school and it's like a raceway, literally, like Formula One racing cars.  Accidents everywhere. I had the wheel gripped with white fingers which I had to pry off when I got there, no joke. But this morning I'm doing it again at 11:00, and I bet the feeling is different tho those much younger than I am who take it every day shake their heads over it, it's the most traveled stretch of road anywhere or so they claim. At least in LA they are moving 10 mph! hahaha

All of a sudden? Everybody is too fast for me. Moving too fast, walking too fast. Too fast.

Perhaps Uber and the driverless cars will offer US a solution before it's over.

And I did like Barbara's story of her friend who did stay home with the help of others who formed it seemed to me their own little  "community" until she died.

And I appreciated hongfan's look at the Chinese way of life and how the elderly are treated, at first the same as Pearl Buck so memorably portrayed in The Good Earth and then different. I wonder how much the one child per family decree has  changed that?

So even ancient cultures can change and some patterns wear out, as we can see happening in our group here on the beach.

I do like Jonathan's keeping the other protagonists in mind as Myerhoff calls them, it will be interesting to see they part they play in this. They must play some part or she would not have named them such.


The cancer situation is quite difficult, isn't it? It needs the wisdom of Solomon, particularly in the light of the recent report by the BBC on the reason doctors can't give prognoses about the efficacy of chemotherapy in such cases.

I think maybe what Barbara is reacting to about the narrator is something I also thought initially, about the clinical sort of dissection of these folks, the role  of the 4th Protagonist, the anthropologist herself.  I had an initial like reaction.

It's hard to say why, for me. All I can think of is the old Walter Winchell show in which they would show a person going about their day and then this voice over would begin solemnly intoning  "XXX doesn't know it but today will change her life forever."

I absolutely HATED that show.  Just let me live out my own life without analyzing me. There's something about that analyzing and psychoanalyzing  which drives me wild.

However I do acknowledge the beauty here of the writing, and that I know nothing of anthropology,  (is it judgmental? Somebody somewhere has to come to some conclusions), or that the anthropologist apparently has to get close to and life with or like the subjects to do a good job. Will we agree this time with those conclusions? Is Myerhoff too close despite the disclaimers, to be objective?

So  I agree with Jonathan that we all are in for a real treat if we can stick it out.


so P bubble

  • Posts: 98
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #105 on: June 19, 2017, 08:49:18 AM »
Sorry to arrive so late, I had to cope with a "family emergency".  I finally made it.
I don't have the book yet, so it is harder to comment on the content. 
I read the comments up to now and one stuck me as being so actual here in Israel.

"on page 17: "these people achieved in one [generation] , as a result they were dubbed, 'The one generation proletariat.'"  But if you read on there, you can see the cost: the Old World Parents and the New World Children split. "

That is exactly what happened with the new immigrants from Ethiopia.  In their home country, the father or grand pa was the authority of the family and was receiving the highest respect from all (as in Chinese culture) and was the one advising wisely about anything concerning the family.
When they came to Israel, the children were enrolled in school with the Israeli kids who are the less disciplined on earth: familiarity with teachers, elders, even disrespect is the rule.  As a result the elders felt useless, had nothing to offer in this new culture they knew nothing about.  So they walk aimlessly around or sit passive and morose in a corner.  They are not used to "benches" and the females members are busy with running the household, running errands, cooking etc.  They at least have something to do.

The bench meetings for elderly  is still a reality for the Ashkenazi men, who also bring chess games with them.  The Sephardi prefer to meet on cafe terraces with their backgammon sets and they discuss about the daily news and politics in general.  On those terraces women also meet, on different tables and comment on their life or their visits to the doctor.

So, not much difference even if it is across the ocean.

ginny

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 53512
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #106 on: June 19, 2017, 08:59:01 AM »
But today we move on to Chapter 2, Shmuel, "Needle and Thread: The Life and Death of a  Tailor."

The Jewish Tailor, how symbolic of her to start with a tailor.  I don't have any ready made questions specific on this chapter, and I'm leaving up the general ones in the heading as they may inform us yet, I hope but I have some about this chapter, myself.

1. What did  you think of Shmuel (Samuel) in Hebrew: strong. Did he live up to that name? What one thing in his story stood out for you? Once you read his story do you feel you understand the culture better?

2. I don't personally understand the attitude of the Center Folks to Shmuel. Especially after his death. Even the Romans held to the concept of De mortuis nihil nisi bonum. Perhaps out of superstition, perhaps not.

He wasn't a Zionist, was that the cause? They called him a "linkie." I may not have the true definition of that word but if they were using it for what I think it means, it's a fool who thinks he's special, is that right?

Was that your impression of him?

 I spent a lot of time yesterday looking up some of the things alluded to here. Zionism. The Six Day War.  What was it they used to say when I was a child, "next year in Israel?" Do I have that right? Planting a tree? Those are old old memories which may in fact have no meaning here,  and I hadn't thought of them in years.

3. What seems to be the one most important thing to those folks in the Center? What did Shumel provide for them and what was their reaction to it? He would laugh, his wife was outraged and didn't understand why he went. What would you have said to your own spouse if this were happening it him/ her?

Why DID he go, do you think?

And what beautiful thoughts he had about his childhood town and the importance of that experience.

4. It seems he died shortly after his interview with Myerhoff.  This is a very dramatic chapter, what was your reaction to it?

5. What did you think of his philosophy of life which we would call, "What Goes Around Comes Around?" Do you agree with it or not? (page 65). "This is my incurable wound with me all of my life since then."

6. Which, in all the poignant stories he told, did you find the most memorable and why?

7. Even tho Shmuel said he perfected the word "Jewish" instead of "Yiddish," were you confused at the end by the use of the term?


so P bubble

  • Posts: 98
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #107 on: June 19, 2017, 09:01:00 AM »
What some of you are saying leads neatly into Ginny's question: what do older people fear the most?  I think it's loss of control: not being to make your own decisions, or do things the way you want, whether it makes sense to anyone else or not.   

You are so right Pat!  That and the loss of independence.  I hate it when the children think they know best what I should do or what would be  the best for me. I tell them I still have a sane head on my shoulders and my thinking faculties are still intact. :)  But of course body reactions are slower, the strength for doing things is ebbing. Still, our preferences and choices should remain ours to decide.

 

ginny

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 53512
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #108 on: June 19, 2017, 09:08:28 AM »
SOAP!! You're HERE, from Israel, yet, we were posting together! Welcome, welcome!!!! Welcome!

And how interesting on the Ethiopian immigrants and how their move to a new country changed their own way of life.  Shmuel says in this chapter the rabbi told his father, "to move is to change your luck." His father apparently  had an awful time leaving the place of his father and his father before him.

"The bench meetings for elderly  is still a reality for the Ashkenazi men, who also bring chess games with them.  The Sephardi prefer to meet on cafe terraces with their backgammon sets and they discuss about the daily news and politics in general.  On those terraces women also meet, on different tables and comment on their life or their visits to the doctor."

Now here you mention Ashkenazi men and Sephardi, and I guess I am wondering how they are different? Is it country of origin or beliefs, and would I know in looking at these benches other than the cafe terraces and backgammon sets (my father played a lot of backgammon, I have never tried), them apart? From looking, or perhaps talking to?

I hope your book comes, I really want to hear your impression of Shmuel.

Welcome!

so P bubble

  • Posts: 98
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #109 on: June 19, 2017, 09:58:41 AM »
Ashkenazi    and Sephardi differs not only from the country of origin, but also in the language they speak.  Yiddish is exclusively spoken by  Ashkenazi  while Sephardi speak Ladino, which apparently is the medieval Castilian spoken then in Spain. Some religious traditions are different and the synagogue   tunes for  prayers not the same.

 You could recognize the difference in the way they used to dress, Ashkenazi  men with dark caftan and felt or fur hats and their woman folks with sober long dresses,  opaque stockings, hats or wigs.
 Sephardi men do not limit themselves to dark suits, they often have just their white shirt, often with turned up sleeves.  The woman have long skirts of any color that cover their legs and most don't bother with stockings. Head cover would be a bright kerchief.  I am sure the differences are influence with the climate of origin.
Sephardi are usually louder too and most jolly :)

so P bubble

  • Posts: 98
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #110 on: June 19, 2017, 10:07:28 AM »
Shmuel would fit very well in Israel even though he is not a Zionist.  Many here share his ideas, so he is not atypical.

I have read this chapter only from the extracts on the net and I have nothing for the rest of the book, so I hope the book will arrive by the end of the month.

What Shmuel said about speaking Jewish versus Hebrew is what some orthodox Jews believe to this day: Hebrew is for the sacred content only and Yiddish is for every day use.  When I first came to Israel, people asked if I talked Yiddish and when I admitted my ignorance they replied: Then you are not Jewish!  Until the mid 60s, Sephardis were very much the underdog of the society.

Shmuel comes from two Hebrew words, listening or hearing and God. So the meaning would be God-heard.

hongfan

  • Posts: 328
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #111 on: June 19, 2017, 11:40:05 AM »
Barbara, thank you for the links, I have not checked into them yet but will do later. To complete on my friend 's story, her mom went through chemo twice I think and seems she has been reacting well. My friend and I will both fly to Shanghai in July and I plan to see her mom then.

Back to the book, I read through the chapter quickly yesterday and haven't got a feeling that I have absorbed them yet. So ignorant I am on Jewish culture, I have more questions in my mind than answers.

I like Shmuel a lot, particularly his attitude towards not harming ANY life. But I don't know where had he drawn from. Isn't there an element of holy war in the old bible? Wasn't Abraham asked to sacrifice his only son? Wasn't Mosis punished by death because he did not follow the instructions to talk to the rock but instead he stoke the rock? My memories are wrong? How to see those and Shmuel's attitude together side by side?

I don't understand why Shmuel or maybe the author thought the Center people needed Shmuel? It didn't strike that, on the contrary, it seems to me they would have been happier without him being among them. Was there a self-assured importance to "teach" those "uneducated" Center people although he knew what he said hadn't made an impact in them. Was he treating his people like pre-schoolers?

And why he thinks wrong or sad if the son gives the father money? What was behind this attitude?

I am so ignorant on the culture and that's why I am here!

bellamarie

  • Posts: 3007
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #112 on: June 19, 2017, 12:16:04 PM »
Welcome so P Bubble!!!   I am so excited to have you here with us to help us have a better understanding of the Ashkenazi and Shephardi, and having you living in Israel is such an added gift for us here in the discussion.  This part of your post really got my attention:

Quote
That is exactly what happened with the new immigrants from Ethiopia.  In their home country, the father or grand pa was the authority of the family and was receiving the highest respect from all (as in Chinese culture) and was the one advising wisely about anything concerning the family.
When they came to Israel, the children were enrolled in school with the Israeli kids who are the less disciplined on earth: familiarity with teachers, elders, even disrespect is the rule.  As a result the elders felt useless, had nothing to offer in this new culture they knew nothing about.  So they walk aimlessly around or sit passive and morose in a corner.  They are not used to "benches" and the females members are busy with running the household, running errands, cooking etc.  They at least have something to do.

I love diversity, that is what makes America such a great country, but with diversity/immigration we must accept other cultures coming into our schools and teaching our children new ways, and vice versa.  In saying this, I feel that the lack of respect for elderly, rules and authority is becoming, or shall I say, has already become, a way in the U.S. as well. I taught in a Catholic school from 1984 - 1998 and there was still the respect for teachers, principal, and rules in general.  Today I am shocked at how the laws have changed giving children/students more control in a classroom than the teacher his/herself.  There have been many changes to accommodate immigrated students and families which is good, yet also it has taken away some rights of others which has caused conflict in the school systems.  My granddaughter will graduate in Early Childhood Education next Spring and I fear for what reality she will find when she goes to teach in the public school system.  She did some student teaching in a public High School for a few weeks and told me she was scared to death because of the vulgar language and the undisciplined behavior of the students.  Her being so young and beautiful the boys did not hesitate to intimidate her.  I am so glad she intends to stay with K-2nd grades.

It is sad to imagine the elders feeling left out and useless.  I do think this is yet another of our fears of aging..... being left out, not seen, not needed, not feeling like there is a place you fit into the every day life.  This makes me extremely sad to imagine it happening to me or any of my family or friends.

I am on to read chapter 2 today, since my week end was full of helping my son and his family move into their new home.  NO fear of me not being needed just yet! 
"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time." quote Amelia says to A.J.,  from the book A Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

bellamarie

  • Posts: 3007
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #113 on: June 19, 2017, 12:20:20 PM »
hongfan,
Quote
I am so ignorant on the culture and that's why I am here!

You are NOT alone!  I have no knowledge of the Jewish culture other than what we discuss in my Bible study group which took place thousands of years ago, and I am sure has changed greatly by the time this book was written with them being here in America rather than their birthplace/homeland.  We can muddle through and learn together.
"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time." quote Amelia says to A.J.,  from the book A Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Jonathan

  • Posts: 1395
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #114 on: June 19, 2017, 04:18:25 PM »


'Sephardi are usually louder too and most jolly.'

Bubble!! Are you, who I think you are? Are you the regular of the WREX group on the early SeniorNet? What a lot of fun that was. All my Jewish friends are or have an Ashkenazi background, and I can't imagine anyone louder or jollier. Are the Sephardi such a mishmash of ideology and religiositey as our friends in the book?

Bellamarie, I envy you and your small town driving pleasures. I'm much more comfortable on the expressway. In fact, it gets the adrenaline going. In the city here I'd rather take a cab and let someone else do the driving.

hongfan, you're really missing something if you don't have some Jewish friends.







hongfan

  • Posts: 328
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #115 on: June 19, 2017, 06:49:18 PM »
I hope this book is my first Jewish friend😀

hongfan

  • Posts: 328
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #116 on: June 19, 2017, 11:38:08 PM »
"but since I have no memory of myself before birth I suspect I will have no memory or active consciousness after death"

The memory might be in all the choices you have made in this life - love this person but not that one, be drawn to this thing but not that thing?

If we subscribe to the view of Buddhism, life is all about "balancing the account", isn't it? What we owed in the last life, we came to repay in this life - seems accounting is a very useful skill  :)

If we subscribe to the view of the Ancient Greek philosophers, the body is the tomb of the soul, hence the true birth is the death of the body?

"Who knows whether life is death, and death life? So in reality , perhaps, we are in a state of death. I myself once heard one of the wise men say that in the present life we are dead, and the body is our tomb." - Plato's Gorgias

bellamarie

  • Posts: 3007
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #117 on: June 20, 2017, 01:03:56 AM »
I have to share this wonderful story with you all that happened today at my granddaughter's basketball game.  I was sitting in the stands with my oldest granddaughter Kenzie, who is the one I mentioned in my last post, who will graduate with an Early Education degree next Spring.  As she and I were sitting together watching her younger high school sister Avery play varsity summer basketball, an elderly man walked by us.  He stopped and said, "Hi I know you are Avery's older sister I just don't know your name."  Kenzie responded,  "I am Kenzie."  He said, "Well I come to all the basketball games and I have gotten to know Avery, she is a very good basketball player."  Kenzie responded, "Thank you, that is so nice of you to say.  I see you at all of the basketball games all the time, you are always so nice and Avery really likes you."  He blushed a shade of red, had a twinkle in his eyes and smiled from ear to ear, then said,  "Why thank you for saying that."  After he left I told Kenzie that was such a sweet thing for her to say to him it truly made him feel so special.  I told Kenzie I am reading this book with my online book club, and how the elderly people express how they want to be seen, heard, and needed, and how they feel like the younger generation of children don't really hear or see them.  Kenzie and I always share the books we read, and talk about movies we watch, even though she is only twenty-one years old we have so much in common.  I told her about how I mentioned to the book c about how the high school student teaching was a bit rough and an eye opener for her and she said,  "Oh Nonnie I was shocked at how disrespectful the students were, it was really hard for me, and yes, I only want to teach the little ones who are still so innocent."  It truly made me my heart happy to see her engage in conversation with that elderly man and go out of her way to make him feel important.  I know my granddaughter is special, kind, sweet, caring and loving, but just watching her with that total stranger gave me hope for this upcoming generation. 

"Sometimes books don't find us until the right time." quote Amelia says to A.J.,  from the book A Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

so P bubble

  • Posts: 98
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #118 on: June 20, 2017, 09:00:05 AM »
Yes Jonathan, I am the same Bubble :)  writing less these days.  Where you Jonathan then?

I believe all Jews are  a mishmash of ideology and religion even when not proper-religious.  For most, like myself, it is more traditions that bound ourselves together.  These traditions differ between the two groups.  I favor the Sephardi way as being less austere, maybe closer to the people in general.  This is particularly true in the education of children. I was shocked here when I heard that Ashkenazi fathers would not touch or hug their daughters once they reached age 10.

Anyway, for more on Ashkenazi religious family lives, please read any of the novels by Naomi Ragen https://www.overdrive.com/creators/441299/naomi-ragen

About Sephardi Jews 'The Ghost of Hannah Mendes' is a historical tale of the time Jews were banish from Spain and Portugal.
All that is background of course, very different from the book we are reading.
Sorry about the digressions: without the book It is hard to follow.

Bellamarie: Bravo for Kenzie.  I wish the younger generation would be so considerate of us in our "golden" years.

"Who knows whether life is death, and death life?"
hongfan - For me this doesn't matter one bit. I am what I am and I live day to day.  As I age I also  become more forgiving for the others around me.  I am not trying to leave a mark of my passage in this life, but try to enjoy/remember the marks left by those crossing my path.  That is because I have been displaced so many times I suppose: I feel without deep personal roots- except for those roots from tradition.  Life is like a tapestry, each one of us a thread of different color or texture, some long, some shorter, some bold, other more mute.

ginny

  • Administrator
  • Posts: 53512
Re: Number Our Days
« Reply #119 on: June 20, 2017, 09:13:14 AM »
Once again, Bubble and I were posting together but boy howdy, the profundity there is kind of a hard act to follow.

I want to think about some of that, especially: That is because I have been displaced so many times I suppose: I feel without deep personal roots- except for those roots from tradition.  Life is like a tapestry, each one of us a thread of different color or texture, some long, some shorter, some bold, other more mute.

That's beautiful.

I wish I could type better, just about everything Shmuel  says is quotable. Maybe tomorrow. Here's one on page 74:

"The wise man searches, but not to find. He searches because even though there is nothing to find, it is necessary to search."

So not to search and question makes one not a wise man, perhaps that's what he's trying to do in the Center, do you agree with this philosophy?

 "Ashkenazi    and Sephardi differs not only from the country of origin, but also in the language they speak.  Yiddish is exclusively spoken by  Ashkenazi  while Sephardi speak Ladino, which apparently is the medieval Castilian spoken then in Spain. Some religious traditions are different and the synagogue   tunes for  prayers not the same."


Thank you for that! When I asked  that question about the Askenazi and Sephardi, did they look different, did they speak differently, I went away and thought what an ignorant question, you idiot, go back in there and say so but by the time I got back IN, look at the result!! Now I never would have known that, not any of it, without asking, and when I read that a lot of old memories clicked into place.  Thank you!

On this one: Shmuel comes from two Hebrew words, listening or hearing and God. So the meaning would be God-heard.

Love it. How is Shmuel pronounced?

I had a feeling looking in yesterday that the reason more of us were not commenting on Shmuel is because we have not all yet read his story.  Bubble has extracts and hongfan has read it but is not sure, and I think that's a great jumping off place for our discussion today, while we wait for everybody to read it. It's not something one reads and says ok on to the next chapter. I think we can wait a bit for everybody to catch up because I REALLY want to hear your opinions.

Bubble (is that better than Soap?) hahaha, when you say he'd fit right in, in Israel, what did you mean?   He's not a Zionist but he likes to prod and argue, he likes to make people think by stirring them up provocatively. Does that happen a lot?

 His wife wonders why he keeps trying while the Center folks are quite angry, after all he's attacking their religious beliefs and trying to say that his understanding is better. Some of them call him names, like "linkie." I had never heard that before, does that mean anything other than a deluded fool to you? Or a fool who thinks he's special?

What a cruel epithet to use. It seems at the same time derisory and also defensive.  It indicates to me a lack of wanting to even consider his views.

Of course in any religion we have people who speak the mantra but who can't quote the source, whose understanding of religion or anything else is shallow but that seems to really irritate him. His entire education seems to have been only the Torah, but he knows it.  He can quote it.  But is he right?

He says, "How could they understand? They haven't got the view, so uneducated.  The weight of Jewish history,  Jewish thought, is to heavy for these people. They are too small to bear the Covenant. ...What could I expect them to say? Should they thank me? My presence pierces them like a polished arrow....At least I have the satisfaction of knowing I am in good company." (With the prophets, especially citing Jeremiah.)

Why does he do this, do you think?

Is he trying to do pilpul with people who have no interest or the ability to do that? Do you agree with his wife or him in this?

Hongfan said, "I don't understand why Shmuel or maybe the author thought the Center people needed Shmuel? It didn't strike that, on the contrary, it seems to me they would have been happier without him being among them. Was there a self-assured importance to "teach" those "uneducated" Center people although he knew what he said hadn't made an impact in them. Was he treating his people like pre-schoolers?"

That's an excellent question. What do the rest of you think? What do you think he wants?

What did you personally (those of you who have read the chapter so far, I know it's not many, that's OK) take from the Shmuel chapter?

How do YOU feel about him? To me, confronted with so many images, his father talking to the graves, the way he found God in a needle, his dedication to the trade he was given to do, every stitch, the entire life in a stitch, that ethic, his entire story, is unforgettable.