Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Snippet from Big Cuter

Our typical Wednesday evening call covered lots of deaths this week and Turkey is showing a lot of gumption, opening the airport so quickly and a snatch of politics before my son raised an interesting question:
Is there a button somewhere we can push and just reboot 2016?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

RIP, Pat and Buddy

Daddooooo sat in this iteration of a Windsor writing desk every morning.  We called it the Jefferson Chair, because Thomas Jefferson is said to have composed pieces of the Declaration of Independence in a similar chair and that must be true because we saw the same kind of chair at Monticello and it was something on which my parents agreed.  There was no reason to examine something that didn't cause an argument.

But, I digress.

After his breakfast of oatmeal and hot tea, he'd take the New York Times to the Jefferson Chair, open to the death notices, and begin to read.  Why?  "Just checking to be sure that most of them are older than I am," was his standard reply. "

Lately, I've begun to understand his reasoning.  He used those obituaries as a measuring stick; he was still young if the newly deceased were older than he was.  As he aged, he began "checking to see if I know anybody."  It must have been reassuring to find himself on this side of the abyss; I know it makes me happy to find myself here.

And so, when I awoke to find that Bears' defensive coach Buddy Ryan (yes, he did other things but that's how I remember him) and Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summit were dead, I had a Daddooooo moment.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Random Thoughts - Politics 2016

Is Elizabeth Warren Native American? Here's the Mass. Senator's Heritage Explained
There they were, in matching blue outfits, with matching blonde coiffures, sporting the same big grins.  Two women commanding the stage in the race for the Presidency of the United States.  Why was I so fixated on the visuals?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Rest In Peace, Mrs. K

She left us 12 days before her 102nd birthday.  She was cosseted and loved until the very end, surrounded by family, in familiar environs.  She was cogent and very much herself, reminding her daughter-in-law that reaching her next birthday "was never a goal!"

She was ready to go and she went. It was her time, and, like G'ma, it's sad rather than tragic. But there's a hole where she existed that won't be easily filled.

There are lots of holes, in fact.

She played bridge with the children of the women with whom she formed the group, decades ago. They drove her to the games and helped her fan out her cards, but she beat them all on her own.

She was Gram to two girls who doted on her... and she returned the favors, in spades.  Her pride, her joy, her love and concern were written in Sharpie boldness on her face.  Her voice took on a different cadence when she was bragging on her grandkids; had I heard about nursing school and teaching English in the Far East and the impact her girls were making in the world?  She was never without a story to prove that her grands were the grandest.

It was easy to agree; I've known them all their lives. Their fascination with others, their open acceptance, their eagerness to grow and share their new found knowledge, their interest in the world around them.... it was all there in their Gram.

I met her in graduate school, when her son took us home for a real meal.  She greeted us with cocktails and a table cloth and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.  No one had treated me that well in ages, and there she was, feeding me and wondering why I'd chosen UofChicago and what I hoped to do with my education and where I grew up and would I be willing to stay and see the pictures of their latest trip.... and I was in love.

The love never faded.

She was in charge of her own existence, widowed and alone but not diminished.  She made her presence known.  She took the condominium's shuttle to the hairdresser when she gave up her car; I can't imagine her looking anything short of elegance.

As Not-Kathy said on her Facebook post, "I wanted to be her when I grew up."

So did I.  I'm still trying.  And, in that, she will always be here.

Friday, June 24, 2016

I'm Very Happy Right Now

The conversation is changing.  There is stridency and there is resilience and there is moral outrage and then there is a sit in on the floor of the House of Representatives.  On the actual floor, denizens.
Image result for rep john lewis on floor
This makes me very happy.  I'm no longer a voice shouting into the wind.  Social media fueled the Arab Spring and it fueled the furor over the lack of action to stem the rising tide of gun violence in America.  

#NoBillNoBreak flew over the interwebs, as supporters rallied outside the Capitol for a semi-pre-planned vigil.  Something was coming, and our side was preparing the troops in advance.  Local Survivor Leaders were traveling to Washington, D.C.  My thoughts went to the Million Moms March. I imagined a candlelit row of supporters holding pictures of loved ones gunned down by weaponry which has its place in the hands of a well-regulated militia and no where else.  

I never considered that House Democrats would pull such a stunt.  Paul Ryan can complain about fundraising during the event, but that's a Campaign Finance Reform issue I'd be happy to debate with him at a later date.  I would rather not be distracted from the message that Rep. Lewis sent, loudly and clearly.  He tweeted
We got in trouble. We got in the way. Good trouble. Necessary Trouble. By sitting-in, we were really standing up.
Rep. Mark Walker said the stunt was an insult to Woolworth's.  Sure, I'll buy that.  Following his analogy, his House of Representatives runs the lunch counter at which Christina-Taylor will never get to sit.  You go right ahead, Rep. Lewis and colleagues.  Insult them all you want.  The rest of us will be watching and remembering at the ballot box come November.

You've made my day, my week, my month.  I've wanted to feel the Bern, because I missed the passion of my anti-war days.  Seeing you on the carpet, holding hands, doing what needed to be done to draw attention to what needs to be done.... I'm smiling, big time, right now.

I'm going to like going into the 4th of July with this attitude.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

There's a Lesson Here

The well dressed businessman, the one who knew it was Tuesday because he was leaving O'Hare for work, boarded with four others who looked just like him.

The rest of us, First Class and Elite and Sapphire and Gold were a motley crew. In full Summer Vacation Mode, we moved at a different pace. We were free.  He was not.  

TBG and I found ourselves seated next to him, aisle and middle to his window. He was not displeased. 

Then a mom with two pre-schoolers hoisted her roller bag into the bin above us and swiftly, cleanly, with little muss or fuss, settled herself and the kids and their snuggles blanket and backpack-cum-bear and Snow White into the row behind us. In complete sentences, the big sister was narrating the experience with the delighted excitement only a four year old feels while anticipating the Food Cart. 

The worker bee by the window sighed a sigh which could have propelled the plane on its own.

The mom was smiling and gentle and in charge so the girls were just fine. The cell phone was used to call Daddy, awaiting them in Tucson.  The little one wanted him to help her right now, and her sorrow was palpable, but the Food Cart Fan soon distracted her.

Their chatter, amusing and loud and giggly, was soothing to my just-left-FlapJilly soul. Obviously, not everyone shared my opinion.  My businessman showed his indignation by pulling down the window shade, appropriating the entire shared armrest, and falling asleep.

The girls rattled on as Mom handed out surprises, discussing their relative merits while answering their constant stream of questions.  It was delightful and distracting and they were definitely in my personal space... and then I sneezed.

I sneeze in threes.  Not earthshaking but certainly noticeable, three let's-all-turn-on-our-air-vents-at-the-same-time dust storm dry sneezes put three distinct aachhooos out there. I stopped, and then, from the row behind me, after a decent pause, came a friendly, high pitched, heartfelt "Bless You!"

I returned the favor with a "Thank You!" and then the engines started and no one could hear anything and I sat back and realized that I'd just been taught a lesson.  

In our increasing interconnected world, where we all seem to share one another's social spaces, it's easier to be friendly and polite than to tilt at windmills and pray that a mom and two kids don't sit behind you on your Tuesday morning commuter flight.  My sneeze was in her space as much as her Food Cart Obsession was in mine.  As long as we accepted that and were respectful to one another, we'd have no problem.

I think My Businessman must have felt the vibe, too.  He crossed his arms snugly around his chest, leaving some of the arm rest to me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Happy Birthday, Little Brother

Niece The Youngest is moving to Chicago, so Brother drove out to pick her up at O'Hare.  Drove out from Maryland (see below) and spent a lovely evening with FlapJilly and her parents

and Sunday after noon with TBG and me added to the mix.  He's thoughtful and funny and dropped off a 300 pound piece of machinery to people who are moving within the next month or two.  I could not leave 3 glow-in-the-dark headbands because it would be one more thing to move,  but such is the wonderfulness of Uncle Brother that SIR was thrilled.

I love these random encounters with him.  He plots his travels to buy a belt at a leather shop in Indianapolis, after visiting a fraternity brother in Southern Illinois.  He found the machinery on Angie's List in a community vaguely along the way.  He's right up there with the most interesting people I know, and his birthday post deserves a re-posting.

Pause a moment and wish my younger brother a Happy Birthday, would you?  Aim your thoughts towards Maryland, at the Metro's last stop, and lift a glass in his honor.

A nice beer or a cheap beer, whiskey or a glass of NYC water; he's easy to please.

You might mention the full facial hair experience he's been sporting for the past year or so.  We saw it first when he drove all the way to Illinois to welcome FlapJilly into the family; he drove me to the airport as he left the young family for SIR's Scout's Seats at the White Sox game.

SIR drove home in the middle of the morning to drop off the tickets.
This part of Little Cuter's family is well worth the effort.

Did you notice that he drove half way across the country, rather than hopping on a plane?  He has notions about the ability of metallic objects to remain in the air while he is encased within.  He has other notions, too.

Balance is the key, he told me.
Family, Work, School, God, Sex - each has a place and a piece.

He has consciously, thoughtfully, often (I imagine) painfully, reinvented himself.  He's created an extraordinary human being - funny, smart, purposeful, talented, giving, loving.

... a person whose footwear is never anything but sneakers.

He is himself.  He's wonderful.  He's mine.

Happy Happy Birthday, Brother!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Another Day Off... and Another

We are babysitting.  We've been to music class and carried a sleeping baby into the house afterwards. We had mac and cheese and blueberries and salami for lunch, then blew bubbles, then took naps.

There's not much to report from this end and my brain is baby mush.

I'll be back on Wednesday..... I'm having too much fun to think.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Travel Day

The Cavalier's won and the series returns to Oakland for game 7.

FlapJilly shared The Lion King with grandpa.

We're off to the shores of Lake Michigan tomorrow.

Life is good.

Politics and personal safety will be worried about anon. I'm taking this weekend off.


I feel as if I've been filibustering for five years. I've been making arguments and encouraging others to join me and I've answered questions and it's accomplished absolutely nothing.

Then, yesterday, Little Cuter called from work to tell me to get on a device and listen. The Democrats were filibustering for the right to vote on two gun safety measures.

It was stunning. It attracted attention. It brought the issue of legislative inaction to the forefront. It laid out a compelling case for passage of measures designed to keep me safe.

Republican Senators whined. "The Democrats won't let us do anything until we act on this." I swallowed my bile; they haven't done anything for so long I wondered how they noticed the difference.

And then it was over. The Republicans agreed to allow a vote.

Allow A Vote.

Look at that for a while and see if your blood pressure rises. Mine did. They were elected to work for their constituents. Making the hard decisions, going on the record, analyzing and assessing and coming to a conclusion - where is "allowing a vote" in all of that.

The talking heads say that neither measure will pass. Haters on both sides say the measures are flawed. Bad guys will still have weaponry and innocents will perish.

I don't care.

I want every one of those 100 Senators to go on the record. I want to know where they stand. I want Jeff Flake and John McCain to vote No and then try to justify it.  I want them to announce to the world that owning an assault rifle is more important than my ability to feel safe.

Then, I'll go to the polls.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sorry I'm Late

We had too much fun celebrating Flag Day for me to pause and write to you.

Look at that face. Doesn't she deserve a safe America? Unregulated access to assault weapons is not how i imagine her future.

End of lecture.

Monday, June 13, 2016

There Are No Words

Donald Trump says it's Islamic Militants.

A comment on yesterday's post besmirches Matthew Shephard's memory and blames the victims.

I think it's guns. Plain. Simple. Easy to understand.

With the Founding Father's muskets, the shooter might have killed one unfortunate soul before being pummeled to the ground by irate, mildly inebriated, patrons.

Instead, 100 families are now going through what no one should have to face.

Inaction is acquiescence.

I am a one issue voter, which is why I never felt the Bern.

If your legislators don't understand the consequences of unregulated access to high powered weaponry perhaps they should be encouraged to find another line of work.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Not Again

I refused to turn on the news today.

I hugged FlapJilly and Little Cuter and SIR and TBG just a little tighter, so glad to be vacationing with those who bring me joy.

I heard from those who love me, near and far. It's a special kind of wonderful when my son calls to offer comfort and check that I am ok.

I have no words. I have only heartbreak.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Do You Have to Be Old to Appreciate It?

I got goose bumps when she came on stage after the voting ended. 
Oh, so did I.  

When I read Maryellen Bess's comment on today's post, I realized that no one else had said that to me all day. TBG opined that Barack Obama stole some of Hillary's thunder by getting there first, but the sight of a viable female candidate for the Presidency smiling on the screen had all the little hairs on my arms standing at attention Tuesday night. 

 I was struck by the moment.  I'm not a big Hillary fan, but that didn't matter.  Watching her smile and send love and receive love and noticing that the reporters were letting the moment speak for itself all combined to fill my heart.  It was history, and I was watching it.  I found myself placing the image in my permanent memory bank.
She was so radiant.
I took that image with me as I left the house, but no one was talking about it.  Not at the Happy Ladies' Club luncheon, not at my massage, not on the phone with Seret - no one.  I didn't overhear any conversations about it while standing in line at the grocery store.  Facebook was filled with Hurray for Hillary posts, but the few comments about the historicity of the event only appeared on the pages of women of a certain age.

To the young women behind her in Brooklyn, to the young women crying for Bernie in California and on his rope line in Vermont, Hillary must seem like Mom .... and Mom can do anything.  There is nothing surprising in seeing her as powerful; Sarah Palin would have been one heart attack away from the Oval Office within their recent lifetimes, and they probably heard their mothers' terrified ravings on the subject over dinner.

Glass ceiling?  You have to be in the work force for a while before it becomes obvious, before it happens to you.  Hillary's been Secretary of State and a Senator and the Speaker of the House was a woman and what is all the excitement about, anyway?

Those young women in the audience were never refused a credit card because they weren't married, were never told that they couldn't teach kindergarten while pregnant (my Mom, carrying me), never denied a job because women didn't do that (Sandra Day O'Connor after finishing law school), never asked for a parent or as a co-signatory on a loan (buying a Sentra in Chicago in 1978).

Little Cuter told me to put a sock in it at the 1999 Women's World Cup when my Title IX rants threatened her sanity.  I kept still, but the other moms in Row 65 of the Rose Bowl smiled and nodded agreement.  We knew we were making history, even if our girls did not.  We felt it in our bones.

How many of us might have been out on the field ourselves, in our day?  How many of us chose teaching over administration, nursing over medicine, social work over psychiatry, because society wasn't ready for us?  This is a big deal for me, for my daughter and my granddaughter and my nieces (and yes, for my son, too, but not in the same way).  This is a big deal for America (finally catching up to the rest of the world), and I was beginning to feel very old, very 20th Century, very living in the past, very disconnected from everyone without grey hair and arthritis until I read a post on Facebook.

 I don't know Kiehl Sundt, but he graciously allowed me to share the opening of his post with you:
My gut, that part of me that feels but doesn't think, doesn't feel it's a very big deal that a woman is a major party's presidential nominee. My gut also feels that most women my age don't think it's a very big deal either. 
But I was listening to a bunch of older women last night, and they think this is, as Biden would say, a big f**ing deal. I think that's because they see their own struggles in her story. There's a lot of talk about breaking "glass ceilings." But Hillary's generation didn't just face ceilings that were made of glass; they faced ceilings that were concrete.
This young man restored just a little bit of my faith in those coming behind us, and I'm glad.  I want to share this moment with everyone.

(About those **'s: Mr. Sundt spelled it all out, but my ad deal with BlogHer precludes certain words.)

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Can You Be a Good Person and Support Donald Trump?

I don't like the one woman I know who supports Mr. Trump.  She's brash and thoughtless and consumed with her own self-worth.  I'm not worried about changing her mind and I'm not sure she wants me interfering, anyway.  We can easily stay out of one another's way from now until November, and probably long after that, too.  She's not the problem.

What about those I know to be both good, kind, solid, wonderful, loving people and supporters of Donald Trump... or those who I imagine are supporting Donald Trump but know enough not to mention it to me?  I get that they hate Hillary; I can't figure out how they could support Trump.

I don't know why I care.  They are not annoying me on social media.  They are not wearing buttons or hats proclaiming that they'll Make America Great Again (which I like marginally more than America First, with its not-so-very-hidden Nazi connotations).  I could ignore the whole thing... unless it comes up in conversation.

I don't think I could keep still.

I didn't have an answer until I heard P.J. O'Rourke's comment on NPR.  O'Rourke is a Conservative satirist, a great writer, a very funny man.  He gave me the perfect response:
Yes, I'm endorsing Hillary, the second worst thing that could happen to this country, but she's way behind in second place.  ...  I mean she's wrong about absolutely everything,, but she's wrong within normal parameters.
And so, still glowing, reflecting the joy on her face last night, I'll endorse her, too.  Feel free to share my hashtags.
If you want more on P.J. O'Rourke's endorsement of Hillary, click here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Susan B. Anthony is Smiling Right Now

I've tried to write this five different times.  I've had Madam President and Random Thoughts on a Tuesday and Living History and Seriously, Speaker Ryan? as titles.  I've tried to stay away from the talking heads.  I've tried sitting in front of the talking heads. My head is spinning.

I loved Shirley Chisholm's run for the Presidency.  I haven't been thrilled with Hillary Clinton's campaign.  But Ms Chisholm never got past the Convention in 1974 and Mrs. Clinton is about to take to the airwaves and talk about becoming the Democratic Candidate for President of the United States.

Somewhere, Susan B. Anthony is smiling.

My grandpa thought I would be President; I wonder what Hillary's grandfather thought about her possibilities. Being a realist, I never thought it was a possibility. I've often wondered if Hillary hitched her wagon to Bill's because she didn't think the country would accept her as The Most Powerful Person in the World.

And today she became the Democrats' candidate for the Oval Office (or so the pundits have calculated).

FlapJilly will never wonder if she could have been the one standing on the podium, accepting the nomination, because, whether she wins or loses in November, Hillary Clinton will have been a viable candidate for the Presidency and the only reason my granddaughter won't run for the same office will be because she doesn't want to, not because she doesn't think she can.

I am truly Living History. I'm saving Donald Trump and Speaker Ryan for tomorrow because I don't want to spoil today.  Susan B. Anthony and I are too busy smiling.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Ice Broke

There are many dry washes in my little corner of heaven, gullies filled with cacti and wildflowers, with coyote dens and pack rat nests.  Some of them are wide enough to be used as hiking trails; the sandy ones make 100' of elevation feel ten times as high a climb.

Trees line the edges of the washes; they rarely grow taller than bushes in the middle.  Why, you may wonder?  Every once in a while the washes fill with rain water or run off from the surrounding mountains.  Some of our roads dip down and up again out of the washes.  These roads have signs warning drivers - DO NOT ENTER WHEN FLOODED - which are regularly ignored.  The local paper delights in front page pictures of those violating the Stupid Motorist Law (yes, that is the real name).

Tucsonans really don't know what to do with water. That is why, when the temperature first breaks 100o  the local news reports that the ice in the Rillito River has broken.

No, it doesn't make any sense at all.

First, you have to get over the redundancy of the name; Little River River is ... well..... redundant.

Then there is the fact that in 11 years of living here there has never been ice in the Rillito River bed.  Maybe frost on some of the branches of the mesquite and the creosote bushes in the dead of winter (all three days of it) but the notion of standing water in the Rillito River's bed is a fantasy.  Only during the heaviest of monsoons is there any water at all, and that raging torrent dies out as quickly as it arrives.

Still, ice is a fantasy that feels pretty good right now.  I've been busy, at mah jong and lunch with Scarlett and a nice long talk with TBG following an equally lovely sojourn-by-phone with Little Cuter and now writing to you, but it's sunny and 3 o'clock in the afternoon and the removable plastic tips melted off the ends of the clothespins and that should tell you all you need to know about the feasibility of doing anything that requires intersecting with the great out doors.

I could read - but I've read a book a day since Thursday and I'm looking for something else.  I could go to the gym, but I'd have to traverse the parking lot.  Scarlett proved that she has true Tucsonan chops this afternoon; she parked far from the restaurant's entrance .... because she found a (small) patch of shade at the other end of the lot.  I'm not willing to start sweating before my workout begins.

And so, I'll find something on Netflix and try not to feel like I'm wasting the day.  It's really too hot to do anything else.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Friday, June 3, 2016

#WearOrange - The Day Before

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
I watched my anxiety grow.  I stood on the outside comfortable and secure, and I watched it flourish, all on its own.  

There was an awesome power behind it, Mike Mulligan's steam shovel digging the hole, harder and faster and deeper and with a perfectly square edge.  

There was no way out of the hole.  

I could sit there, at the bottom, with Mike Mulligan and Mary Ann.  Stuck.  A building constructed over my head, comprised of bricks named Christina-Taylor, and Alex Teves, and classes of kindergarteners, pressing on my heart as I imagined myself walking around town in an orange t-shirt.

I have orange t-shirts.  One is from a girls' trip to NASA while attending a convention of the National Charity League, an organization I'd have introduced to CTG when she entered 6th grade.  One is from the Jane Goodall lecture G'ma and I attended, sitting on folding chairs in the shade, smiling at the sea of sun umbrellas and Ms Goodall's conversation with the young man in the back row.... the conversation taking place not in English but in Chimpanzee  

My orange t-shirts say NASA and Jane Goodall but tomorrow they will represent guns and loss and political intransigence. I'm just not sure I want to make the switch.  Those shirts have happy memories embedded in their fibers.  Alex and Christina-Taylor aren't here to wear theirs; they are the reason I am wearing mine.  The sadness is really too much to bear.  

Last June I went to a synagogue to celebrate lives lost in a Charleston church.  I wore an orange dress, in solidarity.  I felt safe.  There was a security guard (to whom I introduced myself and who promised to keep me safe) and there were priests and ministers and rabbis and friends filling the pews.  There is, thankfully, no similar service required right now (though there are SWAT teams flooding UCLA, looking for a shooter or shooters as I type).  So, I am left to wear my orange shirt, without company, without an event, as part of the me I present to the world.

It's like putting a target on my chest.  

I'm terrified in a way that I was not last year, the first time Hadiya Pendleton's friends' request to wear the hunters' color of safety in honor of their shot-to-death friend came across my desk.  Shot to death friend.... why should kids have to say that?  Orange as a color of safety, representing the most unsafe of all experiences - being shot to death.

Can I walk around all day reminding myself of tragedy and loss?  Noticing my limp no longer sends me into a state of fury or sorrow.  Holding Christina's hand on the cold cement is no longer my first thought when my hip announces its presence with authority.  Instead, I curse the loss of long, steep hikes and remind myself to use all my muscles so that I can get back on the mountain again. 

I haven't forgotten.  I haven't moved on.  I have been separating the losses, keeping the saddest one locked in a box in the corner of my consciousness, not allowing it to intrude as I go about my life. 

The love is there, edging my heart but not consuming it.  How can I wear all that pain on the outside? 

A fellow survivor wondered why she was having so much trouble joining in the joyful planning for #WearOrange events.  She couldn't shake her sadness, and I was right there with her.  I could try to embrace the memories, I could try to influence decision makers, I could share the day with others who share my position on the issue, but ultimately the reason for my involvement is the loss of a 9 year old child.

There's no putting a smile on that one.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Wearing Orange Today

for Christina-Taylor,
Judge Roll, 

who were taken from us that sunny Saturday morning.

For Gabby, who continues to inspire.

For myself, looking at the world from a different perspective.

For Hadiya Pendleton, whose friends started it all.

For the schoolchildren in Connecticut and the educators who died with them.

I thought that your deaths would change the conversation.......

I'm still hopeful.

Denizens, if you can, wear something orange today and let the world know that you care.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Social Security and Me - The Saga Continues

In Parts 1 and 2 I began the story of my attempt to take my spousal benefits while leaving each of our personal retirement benefits untouched.  Alas, the saga continues.

I stewed about it all morning long, worrying about the email I'd write, feeling lazy about getting dressed and up and out, stressed about long lines and incompetence to start my day.  But TBG was at spin class and no one was around for breakfast so, one quick shower later, I was in The Uvula, driving to the no-man's land between the developed outskirts and downtown.

The Social Seurity Office is on a through-street; I've never stopped at anything along that corridor before.  But there I was, 10 people back in a line in the sunshine, 15 minutes after the doors had opened.  I had a book so I was fine, unlike the woman behind me who told everyone and anyone who would listen that "there were no such lines in Upstate New York."  I shook my head.  Who goes to a government agency without distractions?

The line moved quickly; it ended just beyond the front door at a security check point.  The guard searched my bag for weaponry, found only paperwork and credit cards, and then passed me on to the greeter.  Why was I there?  He determined that I needed to see an agent, he directed me to the computer kiosk, clicked on English (Spanish, Korean and Somali were the other choices), and turned away so that I could enter my social security number unobserved.  I took my numbered ticket and I sat.

The waiting room was, as always, a melting pot snapshot of Americana.  The overweight and the undernourished, the well-dressed and the down-at-the-heels, the mothers and babies and the elderly leaning on caregivers, we filled the surprisingly comfortable metal benches.  Three corridors of cubicles stretched before us and as tickets were called clients slowly made their way down the dimly lit hallways.

Less than a chapter into The Summer Before the War F43 showed up on the screen and blared over the intercom and I was one of those being watched as I galumphed to my helper.  Thirty-something, wearing braces on his teeth and a polo shirt and jeans on his body, he listened attentively and then began to tell me all the places I'd gone wrong.

The article itself was misleading, he said.  We both had to be 66.  TBG had to apply for and then suspend his benefits.  I couldn't do it.

Although everything he said was contradicted by the article, I had to act rather than argue.  Apparently, it is not illegal to collect benefits when one is 64.5 years old.  Who knew?  The Social Security Administration was preparing my benefit check as I sat in the chair; I had to withdraw my application if I didn't want to receive the smallest benefit possible.

Dutifully, I filled out the paperwork.

Then, he explained the best way to maximize our benefits going forward.  Though he couldn't access TBG's information "unless he is sitting right there (pointing to the chair beside me) and answering these questions himself," my agent was able to give me a timeline for us to follow.

The whole thing was strange; I couldn't argue because my facts came from the newspaper and not an official Social Security document.  There was time pressure to act, because my benefits would begin if I did nothing.  But I can't get the money I was counting on, and that has left me feeling vaguely unsettled.

I'm going to try to find the relevant regulations.  I'm going to share my story with the author of the original article and see what she has to say.  And, of course, I'll keep you all posted.