Category Archives: Wit & Wisdom

Wisdom – What we have learned.
Wit – What we haven’t learned because we’re too busy laughing about it.

Nine Letters to a Dead Man – By Mar Sulaika Ochs

I recently met a kindred spirit in an unlikely place. We got to talking and I discovered that aside from an interesting career as an actress and producer (for the CBC, Canada’s answer to the BBC), she was a fellow author and the title of her book ‘Nine Letters to a Dead Man’. I suggested we meet for tea (how could I not?) and subsequently purchased a hardcover copy.

‘Nine Letters’ is necessarily a slim volume and while the intent is to review it, this piece turned out to be more than that. It is also an homage to printed books.

The author pours her heart out to the husband who was her soulmate, her everything. “Dear Peter,” she opens, “I don’t know what to do. Do without you. I feel dead. I cry like my skin is on fire. A shower feels like knife blades. My skin aches for you. I can’t be touched. I need to be touched. I want to be touched. By you. Where are you?”

There are fifty eight beautiful, evocative pages of this intimate pouring out, chronicling four years of pain and love, many moments of delicious, bittersweet memories. In one wonderful passage Sulaika relates the first time she is aware she is coming back to life again. “How about that,” she marvels.

Her final goodbye to Peter is potent and circles the story back to the first hello in a mysterious, moving way. The last two letters unfold a hopeful measure of healing and renewal.

Sulaika and Peter had nine years together; he twenty four years older than she, but it wasn’t old age that took him – he was only sixty three when he died. Five years into their relationship, on Valentine’s day, Peter was diagnosed with leukemia. They planned their marriage that night anyway, eyes open to the struggles the future might hold. He lived four more years.

Peter Paul Ochs was a successful sculptor and artist. The book is interspersed with images of his powerful pieces. Indeed the cover artwork was his last piece, ‘unfinished and yet very finished’ as the author states, painted while under the agency of morphine.

The book is a work of art in itself. Tactile and rare. Wrapped around hardcover and printed on quality satin-finish paper, that cover simply begs to be caressed. The inside pages too, have a satiny finish, with a lovely ethereal border top and bottom of every page.

‘Tis a book to be treasured, to have place of pride on the coffee table. The kind of finespun book one imagines will be found in the cozy, wood-lined, vintage-scented bookstores of the future…

Don’t Show Me Your Boobs!

BoobsA copyA while back, blogger Susie Kline wrote a post about the prevalence of cleavage wherever she went. She did a really good job of describing the tight, lowcut blouses she’s been seeing and went on to say how she’s tired of being exposed to boobs everywhere she turns. After I stopped laughing at what she’d written, I bookmarked the post (*link below) and decided to share the link on Facebook.

I’ll confess that I’m part of a Facebook group called “Oak Cliff Boomers”—geezers like me who grew up in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Texas, back in the conservative 1950s and early 1960s. So I had an idea of how my peers would respond to the subject of cleavage. The feedback was immediate.

A couple of people commented about women they’d seen in church, wearing micro-miniskirts, boob-revealing tops, and flip flops. Another woman reported that nowadays some teachers dress like their students, and that includes wearing low-cut tops. She said she’d done an experiment when she was a teacher and dressed casually for several days. No surprise: she could tell a difference in the kids’ reactions to her. Less respect! She didn’t specifically address the possible reaction from the boy students if teacher had  displayed her pearly orbs. (Which reminds me. I didn’t see any comments from the male Oak Cliff Boomers.) Most everyone said  they’ve seen waaaay more cleavage than they’d like. I agree.

So, what do you think? Am I being an old fuddy-duddy? (Hmmm. I guess anyone who uses that term must be a fuddy-duddy.) Are you tired of seeing cleavage from clerks in department stores, from customers at the hardware store, and especially at that fashion mecca, Walmart? Or do you subscribe to the old saying:  If you’ve got it, flaunt it?


*Original blog post by Susie Kline that caught my attention:

Photo: By shira gal from Kfar saba, Israel  [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons:

A Word For The Ages

Hour Glass - EditWe need a good word to describe older people.  Senior used to be a good word, but it has become tainted by too many negative connotations.  Oddly enough, it’s still considered a positive adjective when applied to other situations, such as one’s school grade level or an employment position.  But when it’s used to describe the age of a person, it suddenly loses its allure.  You may eagerly embrace being a senior in high school or strive to become a senior vice president at work, but no one wants to be a senior citizen.  Besides that, senior sounds way too much like senility.

Other words are even more negative.  Have you ever heard anyone ask to be called geezer or crone?  Even if there are a few people who might actually revel in that designation, the majority won’t.  Some descriptions for an older person are more appealing and are often creative or humorous.  But anything that’s too long, like the expression “of a certain age,” or too complicated, like being “chronologically gifted,” is just not going to catch on and become common place.  Terms like second childhood and second act don’t quite make it either because of the connotations.  No one aspires to second place or to be a second-class citizen.

Boomers is a wonderfully expressive, catchy word with reasonably mixed connotations, but it describes a generation, not any specific age.  A few other possibilities connected to various age-focused organizations might also be considered by those who are still desperately searching for an appropriate word.  So I did consider them.  However, not everyone is willing to wear the required red headgear or to go around making seal noises (and I’d just as soon not get frequent reminders in the mail that I’m eligible to join).  We need a more generic word that applies to everyone.

After spending more than a decade working on this problem (older people start thinking in decades), I was almost ready to admit defeat when I heard the expression vintage.  Eureka!  This was it, I thought.  The perfect word.  Well, almost.  Vintage people will probably remind Boomers of that Seventies disco group, The Village People, but really, that’s minor compared to all the problems with other choices.  So I began using the term vintage person to describe myself, in spite of its tendency to create various earworm tunes in my head.

I thought this troublesome issue had been satisfactorily resolved until I broke my watchband.  I loved that particular watchband and intended on replacing it with the exact same kind.  Unfortunately, it was no longer available, so I began looking for one that might be similar to it.  And horror of horrors, I ran across MY watchband on eBay where it was described as vintage.  No, make that VINTAGE because in my mind I was yelling that word at my computer.  I bought this so-called VINTAGE watchband about ten years ago in a regular retail store.

Although it may be reasonable to call ten-year-old technology vintage or even obsolete, clothing and accessories surely need to be at least a generation old, maybe even two, before being described that way.  Vintage should be something that your parents wore when they were very, very young or something tucked in the back of your grandparent’s closet.  Vintage should NOT be your old clothes that are finally wearing out or a watchband you bought ten years ago.

They say that time may be speeding up.  This could be actual proof of it.  Vintage has shrunk from being one or two generations to a single decade.  Or maybe it’s just life that is speeding up.  My life does seem to be going by faster and faster, until weeks have become almost undetectable blips and months are mere blurs as the years pile up.  The speed is a bit dizzying and disconcerting, at times.

Some people would rather just ignore the age thing altogether, but that’s not easy to do because age evidence is all around you, such as when you go to a historical museum and it’s like revisiting your childhood.  Not only do you recognize all the strange “antique” implements, but you may still use some of them.  Or when you suddenly realize that almost everything you wear is considered vintage—but you’ll be danged if you’re going to replace any of it before it wears out completely because you can’t find anything in the stores nowadays that you like better.  (We vintage people still use words like danged.)

I’m willing to accept all the things that come with getting older (okay, maybe with just a few quibbles or a grumble, here and there).  All I’m asking for is a good word to describe myself that doesn’t make me feel ancient and decrepit.  So I’m not ready to give up on the word vintage.  Not unless something better comes along.  And it will have to be a strong, positive word that suggests similar desirable qualities of experience, maturity, and wisdom—without the accompanying urge to burst into a song and dance.