56 to 60: The road reveals itself

Four weeks into the slog Lifelongnewyorker is realizing … well, a bunch of things that don’t have a lot to do with this 60 to 60 initiative.  But they have to do with life, and figuring out what we’re about, and so I’ll report them here.

It’s been a hard week. 

But there’s been some progress to report:


Objective 1: Do at least one new thing every week.

Mr. NYer loves music.  Last week I proposed that we start something new: the Lockwood Boogie (Lockwood is the name of our street).  The principle was simple: Mr. NYer would create a playlist of dance music.  After dinner every night, he would play one song from the queue and we would dance in the living room.  Exercise and bonding.  What could be better.  On Wednesday, we began with The Locomotion.  Thursday brought Aretha and Respect.  Anyone spying us through the French doors would think we were slightly insane, but the three minutes or so of post-dinner dance brought a little exercise, and a lot of joy, into our lives.  Can’t wait to see what’s next.

Objective 2: Exercise. Regularly.

Got to the gym three times and stayed with the planking.  Think love handles are diminishing but probably should have a caliper.

Objective 3: Confront the negative.

Yikes!  A tough week at work had me in full immersion mode, and sometimes that meant waking with what can only be described as an anger hangover.  But it’s a soul suck, really, really, really.  One of my colleagues, Big Wig Lawyer, told me today about her own decision to “live in the good.”  I won’t go into the whole explanation, but the general idea is that we can choose to live according to our values and ideals and not play in the dark lands of our souls — or those of our colleagues and bosses. 

Objective 4: Cook at least one meal each week.

Pizza last week.  Off at a work retreat this weekend, but will cook soon.  Asking a colleague for some authentic southern recipes.

As for the hard week, well, the message is that growing old is not the same as growing wise.  Or maybe it’s that growing old does not guarantee that you won’t have the self-doubt, conflict and soul-searching that you had as a younger person.  Being a certain age doesn’t guarantee you know all the answers or that you have resolved all the issues you seem to have been born with.  What gives?  I did a Myers Briggs self-assessment and, not surprisingly, don’t entirely like the results.  I’m the type that “exudes confidence,” and I’ve learned, from college to this very day, that “exuding confidence” is a distinct turn off for some folks. 

I learned this today while at a company retreat.  Because of this retreat, I missed going to my newest grand-nephew’s Christening, which also happened to be my sister’s wedding anniversary.  I have seven grand nieces and nephews, and have not been to all of their baptisms … after all, I’m in Alabama and they are over a thousand miles away.  My son attended this one, and we joked that he had our proxy and represented Mr. NYer and myself.

But I woke up this morning acutely aware that I was not with the people whom I care most about in this world.  Mr. NYer was home in Alabama while I was at a hotel in Georgia.  Our son, who lives in Brooklyn, NY, was staying with my sister in New Jersey.  Both sisters, together with their husbands, children, and grandchildren, were assembling in New Jersey for the event.  And I missed them all, terribly.

At the same time I thought about the friendships I’d built over 50 years growing up in New York. Some of them dated back as far as 5th grade.  I’d gathered others up over the years teaching, working at the local newspaper, participating in community theater.  They are, literally, irreplaceable. And I’m feeling even more tender about them because of news that one of them has died.  I read it on Facebook, and will hear about the wake and funeral there as well.

I’ve been in Alabama for four years and have a nice circle of acquaintances, but few close friends.  And today, perhaps for the first time in four years — don’t ask why — I realize how much I miss my friends and my family.  They are not fungible, or easy to replace. 

And so, the road to 60 seems different this week.  Maybe it’s less about who I am, and more about who I value. 





When Lifelongnewyer and Mr. NYer moved to Alabama, we brought two cats with us.  Like us, they were ex-pat cats.


It took only a few weeks before these guys became buddies.

One of them, Harpo, aka, “The Mush,” has passed on and is buried next to a pond in our development.  He loved to munch on tulips, so Mr. NYer planted a clutch of them atop his grave.  Rather than make his steady companion, Simon, an only cat, we adopted a new guy, an Alabama native named Stan.  The two of them get along better than any cats we’ve ever had.  Our household was complete.

In the last few weeks, however, we’ve become a three-cat family, having added a female tortie to the mix.  The adoption was entirely predictable as it was in the works for over a year.  How it happened tells a lot about life in Alabama, and about

Mr. NYer.  Let’s just say that retirement changes a man.

Some background:  In NY we were a one-cat household for many years.  Lifelongnewyorker lobbied for a second cat, and Mr. NYer resisted. His reasons were sound. We had a single bathroom shared by us, the Abandoned One, and the litter box.  The idea of making that a multi-cat litter box appealed to no one.  Finally, though, Lifelongnewyorker got a second cat (Harpo) as a Mother’s Day gift and we settled into life as a two-cat family.

In Alabama, we have four bathrooms. 

Our third cat appeared on our patio one warm Friday in May nearly two years ago.  She was young, probably less th

an a year old, comfortable around people, and healthy looking.  We had a cast party that weekend for a play that Mr. NYer was appearing in, and the cat schmoozed with the guests and sat contentedly on several laps. 

We had no idea whose cat this was or where she had come from.  Our corner of the development has six townhouses,

only three of which were occupied and, as far as we knew, none of our neighbors had a cat. It was hot, so we put out water.  She seemed hungry, so we put out food. 

Days passed and the cat made camp on the patio.  By day three, we began to scour the “lost pet” section of Cr

aigslist, looked for flyers on telephone poles, and called animal shelters to see if anyone was looking for a tortoiseshell cat.  Mr. NYer was hopeful when a woman whose tortie was missing called.  She and a friend came to rescue her cat, “Muffin,” but alas, patio cat was not she. 

Finally, on day five, we decided to take patio cat, who we were now calling Sunpie, inside, but not until she’d been thoroughly vetted.  Mr. NYer took her in to our vet, who shaved her belly to see whether she’d been spayed.  She had, and it had been done by the local Humane Society.  She even had an ID chip implanted, and the owner was contacted.

Imagine our surprise when we learned that the cat belonged to our newest neighbor, a judge who had moved into one of the townhouses.  He and his girlfriend had gone out of town for five days and left the cat outside without adequate food or water.  Somehow we found out that the girlfriend, who maintained her own place with its own cat also wanted a cat in the judge’s new place.  They went to the Humane Society, signed the adoption papers agreeing to keep the cat indoors, and took “Angel,” as they named her, home.  The judge, though, wasn’t really fond of cats and used one accident in the house as a reason to cast Angel from paradise.

I was furious that anyone could leave a cat for five days, but it appeared that the judge and his girlfriend now realized the cat needed to be fed and watered and that was that.  She became a fixture on the property, and spent many hours lounging on our patio, where we kept a bowl of water for her.

Just as a matter of note, Mr. NYer and I theorize that Alabama is more of a dog state than a cat state.  So many people have dogs that we wondered whether it was a legal requirement for residence.  In our neighborhood, many of these dogs spend days outside on their lawn and rush barking at you as you walk by.  Which explains why most walkers carry big sticks.  But all these properties also have “invisible fences,” so the dogs come rushing at you only to skid to a stop six inches from the street.  It’s scary. 

At some point last spring the judge moved out.  He left the cat. 

Yes, you heard that.  He left the cat.  I don’t know about you, but in my book that’s grounds for impeachment.  Certainly for a complaint to the local bar. 

Mr. NYer slid farther down the slippery slope as he put food out in addition to the water.  She was out in all kinds of weather, and the rain was particularly hard as the patio is fully exposed.  Mr. NYer would open the patio door, pick her up, carry her through the living room and place her outside the front door where a covered entry offered some shelter. 

She grew from a cuddly people-oriented cat into a savvier outdoor cat, less likely to jump on a lap and wary of being approached.  Occasionally she left gifts of mutilated birds for Mr. NYer on the doormat.  She learned what time the food came out and showed up promptly, meowing if it was late.  Often, she scooted into the house when the door was opened and had to be retrieved and brought back outside. She lounged on the windowsills with only a screen separating her from one of our cats lounging on the other side.

In short, whether Mr. NYer admitted it or not, she had become our responsibility and thus, our cat. As the weather got cold, he fretted about her being in the cold.  I pointed out that the one unoccupied townhouse was still in construction mode and the garage doors were kept open; she probably took shelter there.  Mr. NYer put out a house for her with blankets.  She was having none of it; her sights were set for indoor life.

And then the polar vortex was forecast. I knew what would happen, of course. The first night of cold weather, Mr. NYer set up a litter box and food in the garage and brought her in. I asked what would happen to our belongings if she freaked out in the middle of the night and felt trapped. He raised one door a few inches. She ate, rested, and left. 

The next day the temps were projected to fall into the teens that night.  A colleague advised me to turn on our taps and let the water run to avoid freezing pipes.  Our house is well-insulated, but it’s built on a slab and several sinks are on outside walls.  It seemed smart, but I knew Mr. NYer would object that this was over-cautious.  So I was surprised when I came home from work and told him I thought we should run the water and he said OK.  I took off my coat.  “Oh,” he said, “the cat is in the guest room bathroom.”

It was just for the bitterly cold weather of course. 

That night, I heard her bumping against the door a few times, trying to get out, but she was fine when we visited.  The next morning, I asked, “How’s the hostage doing?”

“I let her into the bedroom.  She seems happier.”

Great, the cat now had her own suite.

And so it went for a few days until one night at dinner Mr. NYer said, “We need to decide if we’re going to bring her indoors.”

And so it happened that we added Tortie to our cat house.  He took her to the vet where she got her shots and a clean bill of health.  She was introduced to the household.  The boys are not thrilled.  She has made herself at home. 

It’s been a good two weeks now, and she has never tried to go outside, even when the temp went up to 70 last weekend.  She doesn’t even look wistfully out the door. 

Clearly, this was a cat with a plan.  And patience.  And a willing accomplice.



Look What’s Cookin’

Look What's Cookin'

It’s not impossible to find passable Italian sausage in Alabama.

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