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25 July 2013
Believe it or not this is NOT about George Alexander Louis Windsor, Prince of Cambridge. Believe it or not, I have had little interest in the royal offspring, other than that he was a baby about to be born and I like babies. I was disappointed that there was no blue smoke rising from Buckingham Palace, but other than that, I'm just glad Katherine had a safe delivery, even if she wasn't quick enough to satisfy the waiting papparazi.
No. The "baby" in this entry is myself.
I was born in February, so I missed the cut-off date for entrance into St. Brigid's kindergarten. But my best friend, Stephen, who lived around the corner and was my daily playmate made the cut-off and entered kindergarten. I was apparently so disconsolate at losing Stephen that my mother convinced the nuns to let me enter Kindergarten with Stephen, on the condition that I would have to repeat Kindergarten when I got to be the right age.
Well, I apparently was so good at coloring and playing with blocks that they let me go into the first grade with the rest of my classmates and there was set the pattern for my whole life.
No matter what group I was, when I was with my peers, I was the youngest in the group. When you are in grammar school, you don't want to be the youngest in the group. When my girlfriends were starting to develop physically, I was put in a circle and everybody had to reach down my blouse to feel my flat chest and make fun of me because I had no breast buds.
I don't remember that being the youngest in class was a problem for me when I was in high school, but when I got to UC Berkeley, and especially the Newman Club, where I made all of my college friendships, my friends started turning 21 and I couldn't go drink with them. My friend Jeri (daughter Jeri's godmother) and I found someone with a temporary driver's license and when that person turned 21, Jeri and I shared that driver's license (liquor purveyors gave much less scrutiny to those things in those days). So one night Jeri could drink and the next night I could. When Jeri turned 21 three months before I did, she ceremoniously turned the temporary license over to me.
Being "the baby" had less importance once I turned 21 and could legally drink on my own. But because of entering kindergarten early, I still found myself the youngest in almost every group I joined...and the older you get, the more fun it is to be "the baby," as those around you bemoan reaching traumatic ages while you are still a year from those days.
I think that's one of the reasons why I never had a traumatic birthday. By the time I reached 30 or 40 or 50, all of my friends had reached that age so long ago and had survived, it had no real impact on me.
But a funny thing started to happen somewhere around my mid 50s and to now. I began to realize that I was no longer the baby in any group that I joined. Now it seemed that whether it was a job or an organization, suddenly I was not the youngest, but the oldest in whatever group I was a member.
Suddenly all doctors were Doogie Howser, all talking heads were young kids, the age of my own children. Suddenly I was settling into being a member of the "older generation." I still remember when Walt and I went to review that famous theatrical event, "The Puppetry of the Penis." Walt stood up before the show, looked around the 1,000+ filled theater and said "Well, I guess somebody has to be the oldest here, and it looks like it's us."
I had settled comfortably into being the old guy in the room until this morning, at the Brain Gymnasium, when Michael, the facilitator, asked me how old I was. I told him I was 70 and then added --- "the baby." He laughed and said that yes I was the baby in the group, younger even than he is, since he is 73.
So it may be "the home" (as I jokingly call it), but I have finally come back to where I was at age 4 in kindergarten. I am once again "the baby" in a group I belong to!
I met Michael in the lobby on the way to my mother's this morning and talked to him about our upcoming vacation and what could be done about my mother and the Brain Gymnasium. He says she needs me to bring her, so to just let her have a vacation herself and we'd start over again when I get home. He told me he recommends that I contact the Alzheimer's Association and get some reading material for caregivers, which I intend to do.
The Brain Gymnasium today was fascinating. I love how my mother is finally fitting in. She always drags her feet when we go, but when she gets there she seems to feel comfortable. And today, amazingly she was the first of the group to get the answer to the date question that always stumps her. Also, when looking at our "home play" (not home work, Michael stresses), there were a series of numbers and you had to find the next number in the series. It was like an SAT test and I had struggled with a couple of the patterns, especially the last one. But as Michael went through the answers and how he had come up with those answers, my mother instantly saw the solution to the problem that had nearly stumped me. Her ability to work with numbers kicked in, even if briefly.
However, when we got to the medicare/social security game that we play each week, she was keeping up and not making any more mistakes than anybody else and suddenly she got to a number and could not come up with it. It was as if the slate of her brain had suddenly been wiped clean and she couldn't get anything, nor could she remember the simple rules. She struggled and was so upset that I think Michael could see that and chose to end the game at that point.
Michael took time to ask us to write down the name of everyone in the group, starting with him. There are six of us. Some have been coming for five years and nobody got all the names except for me. Loretta, with whom my mother eats meals frequently could not remember my mother's name, nor could my mother remember hers. But I think it was good for her to see that everybody is having problems remembering names. At least one person couldn't even remember Michael's name.
The next game was the one with cards and this is always her strong suit, so she was following that just fine, so it was a good place to end the session for the day.
I am constantly both disheartened and fascinated by watching her brain at work. But the good thing is that in only six weeks, I see an improvement -- not that she is remembering things better (good Lord, no!), but when she gets into the Brain Gymnasium, she does work, even when she is embarrassed by not knowing the answer, because she see the other folks in the group forgetting just as much as she does.
Except for me, of course. 'Cause I'm the baby.
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