Conscious Aging: New Shingles Vaccine

Shingles is a scourge of older people. Most of us have had chicken pox, whose virus lays dormant in our bodies until our aging immune systems begin to weaken. Then the virus can erupt into a painful red rash with blisters. Even after the acute phase of the illness, sufferers can be left with residual nerve pain that can last a long time. That happened to my mother in her very old age, and she was miserable.

There’s a new shingles vaccine, and with a lot of publicity surrounding its efficacy, the vaccine is hard to get. Manufacturers are scrambling to keep up with demand.

My health plan pushes subscribers to get vaccines at the drug store rather than in a doctor’s office or travel clinic, because the plan doesn’t want to pay an administrative cost. I ran into that when I got shots for Panama at a travel clinic here. I eventually recovered part of the cost, but it took time and paperwork.

I tried the pharmacy where I get my prescriptions, and another branch of the same pharmacy that’s nearby. One took my name for a waiting list. One said they were so deluged with requests that I should just check back.

I was in the pharmacy yesterday to pick up a few things, and decided on impulse to check — even though it hadn’t been that long since I inquired. By chance did they have any of the vaccine? By chance they had just received ten doses, and eight were already administered to other customers. If I wanted the shot — the first of two — I could get it right then, or take my chances by waiting for the next opportunity.

I wanted it right then. My arm is sore, but I’m glad to be in the process of getting the protection.

Getting to Know Seattle: Too Expensive to Live Here

A second friend has just told me that she and her longtime partner are leaving Seattle because it’s too expensive to live here. K. owns her condo and her partner contributes to expenses, but rising condo fees and unpredictable assessments have made staying there untenable. They are moving to Walla Walla, a college town about four hours southeast of Seattle. Walla Walla is much less expensive, the pace of living is slower, and as a college town, there are a lot of cultural and educational events to make life interesting.

My former hometown of Rochester, NY, was struggling to revitalize a pretty dead downtown after the demise of Kodak and the loss of most of Xerox, Gannett, Bausch and Lomb, French’s Mustard to other iconic companies. Seattle is at the opposite extreme, struggling to control the bad effects of rapid growth: constant traffic, rising prices, and a surge in homelessness.

This wonderful city can’t become a place where only the young, the rich, and the tech-savvy can afford to live.

Post Mother’s Day

I had a lovely mother’s day: Sara made brunch for Klainer West, and I got flowers from both of my kids and their families. After Matt and Amy and Heidi and kids headed out, Sara and I did some grocery shopping and then I delivered her and her bike to a local bike store for a tune-up. Her bike fits in my Forrester, but not in her Audi. While here helping me unload groceries Sara cut some fragrant lilacs to take back to her new home. She and Ben have some landscaping, but no lilacs yet. The bushes here are mature and gorgeous and fragrant; I was happy to share.

Matt and Amy opened the pool in the afternoon; it’s almost 80 degrees here already. Matt sent me a video collage of pics going back 15 years, of my being a mother and grandmother. Lovely, and so precious I want to keep the images for myself rather than sharing them.

Attention on Mother’s day is a gift, but the real ongoing gift is living close enough to my kids and their families, and having good enough relationships, that we can just do things together: great things, celebratory things, small things, necessary and utilitarian things.

I am a lucky woman.

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all who are mothers, or serve as a mothering presence, for young people.

I’m off to Sara and Ben’s on Sunday morning for brunch. This has been a whirlwind month: the move, then I had Archie for two weeks every day after school because Heidi was away, and then I went to Philadelphia. I’m just now looking to establish a new routine in my new home.

Philadelphia Day 6: The Cathedral

In matters Catholic a cathedral is the principal church of a diocese, where the highest ranking prelate lives and preaches and runs the administration of church affairs in his area. In Philadelphia, the cathedral is called The Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, and the presiding Archbishop is Charles Chaput, a Pope Benedict appointee. Chaput is very conservative, and likely at least a nominal part of the faction opposing changes in the church under Pope Francis and indeed questioning the authority and credibility of the Pope himself.

The Cathedral Basilica is on Museum Row, and I walked past it on my way back to the hotel from the Philadelphia Art Museum. The front door was open, so I popped in to take a look. The Cathedral is quite beautiful, as these great church structures often are. A docent was there, and as I was the only visitor we began to chat. I asked her what brings her to devote time to the Church as a docent, and she says that when she is in the church she feels as if her life is lit up by the presence of God. She also said that she loves the Archbishop. She finds public life and discourse so confusing these days, and Archbishop Chaput makes it simple and gives her clear direction and lays out how she should think about things.

Growing up Catholic we all memorized the Baltimore Catechism, which not only told you the answers but provided the questions legitimate to ask. I found that to be a very closed loop, even as a kid. There is a strain of Catholicism that supports individual conscience and independent thinking, but not the Chaput faction.

Philadelphia Day Two: Historic Sites

Philadelphia is ground zero in our declaration of independence from king and crown, and you can hardly visit Philly without making a tour of Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Christ Church cemetery where Benjamin Franklin is buried. We did that first thing, beating out the school groups by a hair.

Independence Hall looks a lot like Faneuil Hall in Boston. I was struck by how small it is, and how modest the chamber where the Declaration of Independence was signed actually is.

The Liberty Bell still has the crack in it — stabilized, but never fixed. From the beginning, our country has been fractured, it seems.

Our group of 14 is on that monster bus, which must seat 80 people. Clearly they expected a bigger group to sign up. The lady in blue is our tour guide; she’s from Alabama, but works east coast cities for the tour company. She’s good.


Philadelphia: Day Two

We’re a group of fourteen, mostly women — which I think is somewhat normal in our 70’s. Women do seem to outlive men. All of the people on the tour are passionate supporters of the Seattle Chamber Music Society, and this trip is a combination of music and other cultural events.

Our Tuesday morning agenda is focused on historic Philadelphia: Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell. We then go to the Avenue of the Arts, and the Italian market. Our evening is at leisure.

I think we may have come here as a family when I was a kid, or I came with a school group — I remember seeing the Liberty Bell. I was last here in 1967, when 100 of us destined for training in Puerto Rico for Peace Corps Panama gathered at some fleabag hotel. I remember thinking it was the worst place I’d ever stayed, and of course things went nothing but downhill from there. The Hotel Central where we spent our first night in Panama City was a horror: filled with cockroaches and bats flying in and out of the open windows.

The hotel where we’re staying here in Philly is quite nice. Big difference from what I remember.

Check back later for pics of our first day touring the city. 🙂