Elizabeth Willis Barrett…………..March 2014


The other day Brad and I drove separate cars to a detailing shop so Brad could leave his car there to be detailed.  There was a slight problem owing to the fact that  Brad hadn’t brought the shop’s address or phone number and thought he could just find it.  But he couldn’t.  It was sort of my fault that he couldn’t find it because there was heavy traffic on Baseline.  Because Brad knows how much I hate to turn left when there is even a moderate amount of cars whizzing and honking by, he turned right which was very thoughtful since I was following him.  But that put him in unfamiliar territory as far as the detail shop was concerned and he couldn’t remember if it was closer to Broadway or Southern.  The lack of knowing made for several turns and backtracking.

Finally I called him (thank goodness, he remembered to bring his phone which isn’t always a given) and said I would just park somewhere and he could tell me where to find him after he knew exactly where he was going.  Trying to follow him in tight circles behind the wheel of a potential weapon didn’t seem like a very safe thing in my opinion.

“No,”  he said.  “It’s here somewhere.”

Finally he did find the detailer after stopping a couple of times and squinting at the road sign to see if it said Broadway or Southern.  And, by the way, which comes first—Broadway or Southern?  It’s funny how things like that escape your mind at times.  Again, I will take some of the responsibility for getting lost.  No, I will take a whole bunch of the responsibility, since my left turn phobia made him come at the shop from a different angle.  What’s a little more guilt added to the great weight of guilt that I insist on carrying everywhere I go?

When he finally left his car with the attendant and got into mine he was very frustrated.

“I don’t want to be old,” he said.  “That’s what an old man does: wanders aimlessly and slowly and shuffle-y looking for things.   I don’t want to act like that.”

“Neither do I,”  I said as I pawed through my purse, forgetting what the object of the pawing was.

“See,” he said.  “That’s what your mother used to do.”

“What?” I asked.

“The rummaging.  The rifling through your purse. That’s what your mother used to do.”

He was right.  I felt just like her as I pawed with seemingly no purpose.  A definite sign of aging.  What a pair we are, Brad and me!


The drawbacks of the aging process  hit me once in a while and I just have to vent.  I feel like Diane Keaton’s character in the movie And So It Goes when she splays her arms and says with an emphatic grimace, “I’m sixty-five.  Uuuuuuuuuu!!!”

I do not like growing old.  There must be a better way.  I know, I should be glad to still be here on this fabulous earth and I should enjoy every minute and relish the now.  But aging is a big deterrent to relishing the now.

The other day I found a hair on my chin.  A dark hair!!! What was that doing there?  I have always been blond.  How long had it been growing?  How many people saw it before I finally did?  What would make a hair grow on a chin that has never had a hair before?  Weird things happen as you grow old.

Another sign of my own aging happened when I bent over to pick up something off the carpet.  I couldn’t tell what it was and I turned it over and over until I felt my mother slipping into me again.  She had done that action often in her old age, turning something over and over in slow motion trying to determine what treasure was indicated by a scrap found on the carpet.

Slow motion is becoming more of a companion to me and not an amiable one.  What happened to my drive, my focus, my hitting the deck running?  And weight that used to roll off without much trouble has become attached to my middle and it seems to delight in giving me a backache.  Arthritic thumbs add to my annoyance.

If age was honored and respected and not snickered at, it would help a little.  This might be a good time to move to old-people-loving China.  Hopefully, Brad will go with me.



A Basket Case
Elizabeth Willis Barrett 7-24-10

I always seem to be losing baskets—the kind with wheels at grocery stores. It is my habit to set my cart aside for a minute as I go down the soup aisle to grab a couple of cans of cream of chicken soup or something else as essential and at times I have to look for a minute before I can locate my shopping cart again. Once with great effort I filled a basket at Wal-Mart with a myriad of necessities, taking a long time to choose the exact sunscreen, B vitamins and office supplies. I was almost ready to check out when I decided to look over in the magazine section for a new Sudoku book. Not wanting to drag the cart into the cramped area, I left it against some display, looked at the puzzle magazines and then went to retrieve my basket—but it wasn’t there. Some days I can handle that kind of frustration fairly well but not that day. I was tired and had lots to get home for, so re-choosing and filling up the basket again was too daunting. Some over-achieving Wal-Mart Associate must have thought my cart was permanently abandoned and restocked the shelves with it. I went home without buying anything and left that particular shopping list for another outing.

The other day I had a similar experience but this time at Superstition Ranch Market. I was filling my basket with grapes and kiwi and strawberries and then a big seedless watermelon which I thought had a particularly nice sounding thump. Then I headed for the apples. I wanted to try some Braeburns since the Fujis seemed a little overpriced and found only three that looked acceptable. I put these in my cart along with four garlic bulbs. I parked my basket against the chilies so I could go down the onion and potato section unencumbered. Seeing a friend, I made a little small talk which really isn’t my specialty, but it was nice to catch up on her family. And after depositing four onions in a plastic bag, I went to my waiting cart. Much to my surprise, the cart that was waiting at the chilies was not my cart at all. Although the owner of the cart appeared to have part of my same shopping list—she too had chosen strawberries, garlic and apples—there were bananas and corn in this cart and there wasn’t a watermelon in it. I hadn’t even gotten to the bananas and corn in my shopping yet. It was odd that another shopper had chosen to park her basket by the chilies. Clearly this person had thought that my parked cart was hers and she had taken mine by mistake.

Not wanting to start shopping all over again, I walked through the store looking for someone who might look a little dazed and who was pushing a watermelon with the rest of her produce. No one fit that description. I was stymied. How had my cart disappeared so fast?

So I had a decision to make. Should I go home empty handed or should I start over? I didn’t come out to this market very often and nothing was too pressing at home at the moment so I made the sacrificial decision to start over.

Grabbing another basket with some indignation, I started again at the strawberries and grapes, chose another thump-worthy watermelon, ran into my friend for a second time and told her the exasperating story of how someone had stolen my cart. Then I headed toward the corn and peppers. Oddly, I saw the same cart parked by the chilies. That person must have had an emergency and had to leave the store without purchasing. Funny that the cart was in the same place I had left mine.

Dismissing any more thoughts about a wayward basket, I chose some peaches and mushrooms to put in my cart and turned the corner to the peppers and lettuce. Just as I chose a healthy head of iceberg, I looked up. There in front of the apples was a cart that held a watermelon, some grapes, some strawberries and some kiwis. It also appeared to be ownerless. Hmmmm. I walked down the aisle to the zucchini. Looking to the left I could still see the other unclaimed basket next to the chilies.

A not too pleasant realization was seeping into my previously offended brain. Could it be that it was my first basket there by the apples? Could it be that I had placed my apples into someone else’s rather full cart—full of bananas and corn and strawberries? Could it be that I had then taken that cart down an aisle or two adding tomatoes and garlic? And then could I have left that person’s cart with a few of my offerings on top in front of the chilies?

Could it be that when I grabbed the onions and went to put them in the basket that I finally noticed that the cart by the chilies didn’t have my watermelon in it but it did have the first owner’s corn and bananas?

Could it possibly be that before I was done shopping that day I had actually used three baskets? And that, in fact, I had taken some other very disgruntled shopper’s cart and used it for a few deposits of my own before parking it by the chilies?

At the check out line both stray baskets were in my line of vision. They were both definitely unspoken for. Somewhere that night would be an irritated produce customer telling her family about a crazy lady who had walked off with her cart.

What was I going to have to do from now on— carry a long piece of red yarn with me wherever I go to tie onto baskets that I might need to leave unattended for a while? Perhaps I could add a sign, too: “I’ll be right back, please don’t dis-assemble.” Besides saving me from future grief, maybe my own personal basket identification would save unsuspecting shoppers from having their well-stocked baskets taken away from them—by me, anyway.

I humbly placed my groceries on the checkout belt and paid without telling the clerk why at the end of the day Superstition Ranch Market would have two half-full grocery carts sitting there with no takers. I just didn’t feel emotionally strong enough to let her know that I was the basket case.



Elizabeth Willis Barrett

 My daughter Kelli is reading the book The House at Tyneford.  That title sounded familiar to me and I assumed that I had started to listen to it and then didn’t like it well enough to finish it.  Thinking I would give it another try, I downloaded it onto my phone from Overdrive.  I was pleased with the skill of the writer and wondered why I had discarded it the first time.  When I had listened to the book for a while without any recognition whatsoever of the plot, the characters or the location, one incident was described: a manuscript in a viola.  Aha!  That sounded very familiar.  Since I list all the books I’ve listened to on my blog, I checked my old blog on Blogspot and saw that I had listed The House at Tyneford.  That meant I had already listened to it!  The whole of it!

So where was the story that had at one time been put into my brain?  It must have been buried so deeply in a brain fold that I couldn’t drag out any of it except for a few incidental points.  I had to re-listen to the whole book just to re-find out what happened to that viola manuscript.  It was very frustrating.  Partly because I should have been putting my time into a book I hadn’t already listened to.  But mostly because I couldn’t remember.  Really, where does stuff go when it enters your brain? And why are some people, like Brad for instance, able to pull out deeply filed information so easily?  And others, like me for instance, can’t even remember that we had filed the info at all? 

 As a child of parents whose minds couldn’t pull up much of anything in their old age, it causes great concern to me.  Have my synapses already started to deteriorate?  Is my brain lacking in healthy blood flow?    Are there tangles in my brain that need to be dissolved?  I’m considering taking part in a clinical research study that is investigating a medication that may be able to slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s.  I think I would be a good candidate. 

 Although, now that I have checked it out further, I see that if I became a participant of the study, I would need a care giver to accompany me throughout the process which lasts 14 to 22 months.  

 I think I’ll skip the study because I don’t think Brad would enjoy being my care giver yet.  Better save him for the final stages.


Gliding On

rocking chair

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I watched it go gliding in its blue refinery in the back of the trailer and something happened to me.  Tears welled and my heart swelled.  That was the rocking chair Brad got me for Mothers Day in 1999–the year I became a Grandmother.  It was a gift to rock my babies in and it was used and used until the cushions were as depleted as an airless balloon, but its gentle gliding motion never gave up on me.  It was a piece of my life moving on to make room for new and more serviceable things–like two heavy duty leather swivel rockers that also recline.

I’m not sure why I got so sentimental in that moment but I just stood watching as the trailer pulled away and the feeling overwhelmed me.  I have often been attacked by that nostalgic poignant feeling that is indescribable and, thankfully, usually fleeting.

That wasn’t the only treasure being pulled away from my life.  My mom’s folding wood table that had seen dinners and lunches for decades was keeping company with the chair.  It was too rickety for daily wear and would need more TLC than I have in me.  But to see it, too, riding down the street like a sovereign going to a guillotine was a little disheartening.

Bits and pieces of our lives are represented by things–just ordinary things, but they hold such meaning and memory.  Do you think when we get to heaven and review our life’s work, that we could enjoy some of those things again?–those things that meant so much in their short allotted time? The ballerina doll that could bend at the ankles so she could dance on her toes?  The yellow metal box that I used to keep crayons (pronounced “crens”) in?  The bracelet that Mom bought me for no reason at all?

Some things seem to have spirits.  They reach out and prompt us of times long past. They pull at our heartstrings and remind us that life has had many moments of joy and glory.

When I get very, very old, please don’t take all my possessions away.  Let me hold on to them and savor their memories until I, too, glide on to other things.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Eternity

Mesa Temple 2


Elizabeth Willis Barrett

Just when I thought there was no more to write about, I did something stupendous–stupendously stupid.  I feel the capillaries in my face enlarge and a pink glow begins in my neck and travels up to my hairline when I think about it.  I’m hoping the writing of the incident will help me let it go and march forward into sanity, although that may be impossible.

Since my Dad had Alzheimer’s for seven years before it finally took him, and my mother had dementia that made her life and those who loved her miserable for a couple of rough years, keeping my mind throughout a long life doesn’t seem too probable.  However, each of my parents had siblings who lived well into their 90’s with tarp as a shack–whoops! I mean sharp as a tack–minds.  I have been counting on following those with the healthy minds since some of their DNA belongs to me.  But what I did was so crazy that the insanity road seems more likely.

Here goes:

We attended a beautiful wedding ceremony in the Mesa, Arizona, LDS Temple on Saturday.  While there we saw many friends who belong to one huge wonderful family who were attending a different wedding.  Because of the sacredness of the Temple, we are asked to take off our shoes and put on little white socks to go into the sealing rooms.  It was a crowded day and the cubbyholes that hold the set-aside shoes were quite full, but I found a place for my long black boots and a cubbyhole for my black coat.  I even put my name by each which I usually don’t take time to do.  I put on the provided socks and felt a great spirit of love and peace as I witnessed the Temple Wedding.  Had I known what I was about to do, I would have stayed in the sealing room for a long time.

After the ceremony, I needed to go to the bathroom before the ride home, so quickly went to where my boots and coat should have been.  I couldn’t see them.  Hmmmm.  I did see a black short coat in one of the cubbies and thought someone had selfishly moved my coat to make room for her things.  I grabbed it and put it on and in a bottom cubby were some black boots.

“Wow, people were being insensitive,” I thought, “moving my things around like that.”  On went the boots and into the bathroom went I.

While in the bathroom I felt a phone in a pocket of the coat and realized it was in an inside pocket.  I didn’t even know my coat had an inside pocket.  I pulled out the phone and saw that it wasn’t mine.  I had someone else’s coat!  I was mortified.

Just as I told a friend that I had taken the wrong coat, the coat’s owner–another young and beautiful friend–came toward me with my coat.  Thankfully, she was very understanding as I told her that I thought I was the only one who had worn a coat in 60 degree weather!  She showed me my name that I had placed with my coat.  That made me ponder.  If my name was with my coat, was my name also with my boots?  There in a bottom cubby were a pair of long black boots and alongside them was my name.  I was wearing someone else’s boots, too!

By this time I was surrounded by a group of laughing friends so I couldn’t nonchalantly take off the boots and replace them with my own.  They all knew that I had taken not only someone else’s coat, but someone else’s boots as well.

“Your boots are round toed and the others are square toed,” someone gently pointed out.  I have never been a stickler for detail, obviously.

The laughter continued–in a Temple-like way–but my own laughter was a bit hysterical.  Dementia?  Had it started already?

I can hardly breathe as I relate this story because that mishap took a walloping chunk of promise out of my future.  What other imbecilic things am I going to do before the last fragments of my life are over?

In one of my next essays, I am going to instruct my children on how to take care of their aging, demented mother.  They’d better read it!

Give In? Give Out? Give Up?


My Journey To “No, No, No, Not I!”

Elizabeth Willis Barrett

I jump on my bike early in the morning to beat the sun and the school kids who pointed at a friend of mine not too long ago with the exclamation, “Look at that old lady on a bike!”  Since I am at least twelve years older than that “old lady,” I am eager to be on my way and back before any school kids point at me.

Old lady.  I genuinely dislike that term.  My son-in-law used it regarding an associate who is at least three years younger than I am.

“She is not an old lady!” I protest. But in his eyes and those of many others, she’s an old lady and so am I.

“I don’t want to be old,” I think as I ride along the canal. Aging has captured my mind excessively lately.

At lunch with friends that I’ve known and loved since Kindergarten, one says that now that she is past sixty, she is going to eat whatever she wants–just give in to the cravings and quit worrying about weight and waistlines.

“Aunt Bee was plump and everyone loved her!” she says.

“Aunt Bee?” I ask.

“You know.  Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith Show.”

She has a point.

“Should I give in, too?” I wonder as I ride past two animated walkers.

The wrinkles and chicken wing arms are probably inevitable, but should I give in and let my belly become a fashion snuffing muffin top?

I feel as though no one has ever grown old before, that it is a phenomenon exclusive to me.  When I take one of my grandsons to a movie at the San Tan Mall, I whisper, “One child and one Senior.” I wait for the extremely youthful cashier to say, “Senior? You’re kidding aren’t you?”  But she never does.

At Bashas on Senior Wednesday, I say very softly, “Uh, would you give me the Senior Discount please?”  That cashier doesn’t look astonished either.

“How old are you, Marmie?” my grandkids ask.

“My spirit is thirty-five,” I answer.

“Yes, but how old are you?” they rejoin.

I can’t say, “Sixty-three.”  Sixty-three is so far beyond how I feel.  I can’t believe I am that old.  In seven years I’ll be seventy!  How can that be?  It was just a little while ago that I was crying about turning forty.

I refuse to give out early on this biking journey so I ignore the bridge that would cut my bike ride in half.   I continue peddling and pondering.

Part of my aging pensiveness is due to last night’s comment from a dear sixty-four-year-old friend.  “I’m checking out of life at sixty-five so I won’t have to go through really old age,” she says.  “I’ve put in my reservation.”

I am stunned.  Give up at sixty-five? I tell her she ought to at least change her reservation to seventy-five.

“Nope, can’t do it,” she says.  “I’ve already bought my ticket and there aren’t any refunds.”  Her eyes are twinkling but I think she’s serious.

Is it time to put in my reservation.  I know we usually don’t have control over our own deaths, but maybe Heavenly Father honors death wishes.

Is it time to reel in all my unaccomplished goals that are sitting in the Lake of Life?  What about time with my family, my beautiful family?  Aren’t they worth a few years of wrinkles, stiffness and memory slumping?

Am I ready to give in, give out, and give up?  As I cross the canal and head for home I have my answer.   No! No! No! I won’t give in!  I won’t give out!  I won’t give up!  I will accept my age enthusiastically and I will be the best I can be no matter what the numbers say.  Maybe in a decade or so I will revisit this resolve.  But for now I raise a mental fist to the air and in my mind I shout, “Here comes the old lady–the energetic, dynamic, impervious and joyful old lady!  Make room!”

Give In? Give Out? Give Up?: Audio: Read by the Author