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Appreciating the long and winding road of life

NIAGARA, Wis. — Recently I had the kind of Saturday morning that only retirement allows. I had a great night’s sleep for a change — a full eight hours — and woke up feeling completely rested with nothing on my mind. I remembered I had fresh strawberries in the fridge, so I asked my husband if he felt like pancakes — which was, of course, a silly question. He is always up for pancakes. So, we made them together — I made the batter, and he fried them up. As we sat down to actually eat them, I put on my favorite Paul McCartney CD, and the memories began …

This particular CD is pretty special.Titled “Between Chaos and Creation,” all the songs were newly written and sung by Paul McCartney back in 2005 when the CD was released. It struck me that at this late stage of my life, I am still listening to Paul — after all these many years! Goodness, I was only 13 years old when I saw him on the “Ed Sullivan Show” for the first time. I was sitting on the floor in our family’s living room, watching The Beatles perform in front of an audience of screaming girls; I could feel the excitement rise inside me, and I felt like screaming along with them!

I said to my husband, “Isn’t it amazing that after all of these years — 56 to be exact, but who’s counting — we are still listening to Paul McCartney?” I asked him if he remembered seeing The Beatles’ first performance on Ed Sullivan and how it had made him feel. He certainly did remember that same program, but since he was not a teenage girl, he’d had no impulse to scream. However, he remembered being impressed with the fact that for once “our” music — the music of our generation — was creating such a reaction. He sensed a transition from the Sinatra-type crooners and the folk trios of the fifties in that moment, and it excited him. Our generation was on the verge of making a big impact through its music. Little did we realize at the time what was ahead of us and how pervasive the impact of Boomers would be!

As we all know, The Beatles travelled a “long and winding road” from that first appearance, and their songs reflected their journey. Thankfully, they quickly graduated from “she loves me yea, yea, yea” and “I wanna’ hold your hand -o-o-o-o-o.” As they matured, so did their music; their lyrics echoed the times in which they lived and were also inspired by the significant moments of their own lives. Eventually, they disbanded like so many of the groups in those days, but not before they had significantly changed the music scene and had influenced a generation of “believers.” And here we are decades later – our silver hair a telltale sign of our stage in life — still listening to Paul’s voice on a Saturday morning.

In this particular CD, there is a definite shift in the tone of Paul’s lyrics. It is obvious he is older and has experienced the challenges and wisdom that come with aging. In the track “Fine Line,” he sings “There’s a fine line between recklessness and courage; it’s about time you understood which road to take. And your decision makes a difference. Get it wrong you’ll be making a big mistake.” At this stage of life, we have the gifts of hindsight and perspective. We can look back at all we have lived through and have enough distance in the rear-view mirror to spot the dangerous curves we managed to navigate as well as those times we ended up in the ditch.

And we know that life is full of choices. As Paul sings in that same song, “There is a long way between chaos and creation, if you don’t say which one of those you’re going to choose. Whatever’s more important to you … whatever’s more important to be, well, that’s the view that you got to see.” I think we have all lived long enough to remember that times got better once we determined our priorities and values and set about building our lives around them.

In the track “At the Mercy,” he sings, “At the mercy of a busy road, who can handle such a load? At the mercy of a busy day, we can think of nothing more to say. If you show me love, I won’t refuse; I know you’d never make me choose between the love I’ve got and the love I’d lose.” Those lines brought to mind all of the struggles we have all experienced pre-retirement; all of those working years filled with juggling the balls of the workplace with the balls in the air at home. I was always so appreciative of a supportive husband who either helped me with the juggling act or did not get upset if a few of those balls came crashing out of the air. After all, neither of us could catch everything, all the time.

By this time of our lives, we have also all known loss — loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of a promise. We know how it feels, and we know that it creates a place in which it is best that we do not dwell for too long. Apparently, Paul does as well, as is evident in his track “Too Much Rain.” He sings, “Laugh when your eyes are burning, smile when your heart is filled with pain, sigh as you brush away your sorrow. Make a vow that it’s not going to happen again, it’s not right in one life, too much rain.” Those difficult times are definitely hard to experience, but we dare not linger long in the aftermath lest we lose heart and our ability to carry on.

If we are lucky, we find that one person with whom we spend our life and who is always there to guide us through whatever challenges arise. Most of us have a significant person who was there when the good times weren’t, who did not abandon us when the road got bumpy or the waters edged up to our nose. Maybe it was a parent, a good friend, a special teacher, or our spouse. Whether an individual who made a significant impact in a particular chapter of our lives or kept us company on the entire journey hoping to get to the final pages of life’s book together, we know that the journey is always easier when that special someone has been on it with us. Paul sings about such a person in his track, “Follow Me”“You lift up my spirits, you shine on my soul. Whenever I’m empty, you make me feel whole. I can rely on you to guide me through any situation. You give me direction; you show me the way. You give me a reason to face every day. I can depend on you to send me to any destination. You hold up a sign that reads, follow me.”

And, finally, we can still appreciate the years we have remaining to us. No matter the struggles, the loss, poor choices, disappointments, and fears along the way we have learned from them all. We have learned who we are and what is important. If there are some details yet to complete, some fences to mend or relationships to improve, we still have a little time to make things right. But we dare not wait too long. As Paul sings in the track “Promise to You Girl”“Looking through the backyard of my life, time to sweep the fallen leaves away. Like the sun that rises every day, we can chase the dark clouds from the sky … Every second of our lives we can use to chase the clouds away.”

On perfect Saturdays like today, I am happy to be retired. Paul McCartney speaks to me in an entirely different way. I no longer feel like screaming along with a bunch of teeny-boppers in a crowded auditorium where really all I hear are the screams of everyone else. Today, I can choose to listen to him sing the beautiful lyrics that come from the depth of his experience — experience that echoes mine in every word. And I can be especially grateful that I am listening to his songs with that one person who has been with me throughout most of my life. Whether I have followed him or he has followed me, we have journeyed together every step of the way.

——

NURSING HOMES

The usual senior living activity calendars and senior center menus will not be published this week in an effort to avoid confusion. Due to the coronavirus and the vulnerability of the elderly population, daily life in the senior living facilities and senior centers has changed dramatically.

All living facilities have closed their doors to public visitation, and the activity calendars have been modified to allow for one-to-one room visits only and individualized activities to keep residents engaged and active as much as possible while remaining within the health and safety guidelines provided by state health experts.

Group games are being substituted with individualized activities residents can do in their respective rooms. Staff are providing supplies as well as “overhead announcement bingo and trivia” games and “hallway games” that can be played in individual rooms or by sitting within individual room doorways.

YouTube and DVDs are being utilized to provide religious services. A big dose of gratitude and appreciation goes out to all senior care staff for their creativity, caring and perseverance through a difficult situation.

All senior centers have also been closed to any center-based activity. Until they re-open, no information is being published that talks about activities typically available at these centers. While some have reopened with limited seating, meals do continue to be delivered.

Some centers also are preparing meals to be picked up. Menus are printed below for those centers who are either preparing takeout or providing home delivered meals. Questions can be directed to the individual centers at the numbers all listed below.

SENIOR CENTERS

Alpha-Mastodon Center

906-875-3315

Amasa Center

906-822-7284

The Amasa Center is a curbside pick-up-only kitchen for now. Call ahead for Tuesdays through Thursdays.

Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Pepper steak, noodles, cauliflower and salad.

Wednesday: Pulled pork on a bun, baked beans and cucumber salad.

Thursday: Pasties, mixed vegetables and coleslaw.

Breen Center

906-774-5110

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday: Menu for the week:

Monday: Liver or sausage, parsley potatoes and green beans.

Tuesday: Spaghetti and meat sauce, garlic bread and mixed vegetables.

Wednesday: Hot pork sandwich, mashed potatoes and broccoli.

Thursday: Chicken Alfredo, noodles and peas.

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen

906-875-6709

Crystal Lake Center

Iron Mountain

906-239-0278

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Smothered pork chops, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots.

Tuesday: Cheeseburger, potato wedges and baked beans.

Wednesday: Chicken cordon bleu casserole and California blend vegetables.

Thursday: Chicken alfredo, noodles and Italian blend vegetables.

Friday: Baked fish, rice and green beans.

For more information, call Christine McMahon at 906-774-2256.

Felch Center

906-246-3559

Now open with limited seating from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Wraps, chips and coleslaw.

Tuesday: Omelet, potatoes and pears.

Wednesday: Chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes and broccoli.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.

715-528-4890

Director: Tiffany White

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Chicken, broccoli and rice casserole, side salad and fruit.

Tuesday: Egg salad on croissant with lettuce, vegetable soup and fruit.

Wednesday: Swiss steak, mashed potatoes, candied carrots, fruited and Jell-O.

Thursday: Waffle sticks, breakfast sausage, hash brown patty, peaches and orange juice.

Friday: Baked fish, German potato salad, peas and fruit.

Fence Center/Town Hall

715-336-2980

For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska

906-498-7735

Iron River Center

906-265-6134

Now open with limited seating 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Home-delivered and/or takeout only on Thursdays. Menu for week —

Monday: Stuffed green peppers, wax beans and breadstick.

Tuesday: Chop suey, rice, green beans, and roll.

Wednesday: Seafood salad, tomato slice and hard-boiled egg.

Thursday: Swedish meatballs, noodles, carrots and roll.

Niagara Northwoods Senior Cafe and Center

Meal site manager: Corrie Maule, 715-251-1603

Senior center director: Jill Anderson, 715-251- 4154

Norway Center

Director: Susie Slining

906-563-8716

The center will remain closed; however, takeout meals will be prepared for pick up – must call ahead and wear a mask when picking up. Menu for the week —

Monday: Spaghetti or polenta (mark your choice), broccoli, garlic bread and dessert.

Tuesday: Chicken patty on a bun with lettuce and tomato, tater tots and dessert.

Wednesday: Roast beef over bread with gravy, red potatoes, green beans and dessert.

Thursday: Taco salad over tortilla chips with vegetables, corn and salsa and dessert.

Sagola Center

906-542-3273

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Chicken enchilada, cornbread, corn and pineapple.

Wednesday: Pork roast, mashed potatoes, green beans and Mandarin oranges.

Thursday: Baked salmon, roasted potatoes, mixed vegetables and pears.

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