Saturday, November 18, 2017

Another splash of cold reality kicks in ...

... when by pre-arrangement I met with Attorney Peter Lippett yesterday -- with my Durable Power of Attorney tucked neatly into a large re-cyced manila envelope for this morning's going over of the instructions for those End of Life issues that  are so difficult to think about ... whether and if I wanted to be resuscitated, and under what conditions?  Who would be in charge of those decisions so that my instructions would be followed precisely (which Peter assured me of)?

Whatever remained in the air of strangeness was dissipated when Peter asked if I wanted to donate any organs, and I became aware of a giggle forming somewhere at the bottom of my throat as I tried to imagined why anyone would queue up to receive 96 year-old body parts or organs, anyway?  I realized in that exchange that this would not be your typical set of instructions, right? I stifled the giggle and silently reminded myself that this was serious stuff that required at least a modest amount of dignity. Besides, if these final years continue to be as productive as the first 96, there won't be anything left to bury or burn. My plan is to be all used up with no leftovers!

Peter is an estate planner, and my Will and Trust had not been emended for over ten years, and there were changes to be made now that Rick was gone, and then there were three ... .

I'm living with such contradictions these days, into a time when such planning is required in order to assure that my end may be more auspicious than (perhaps) my beginnings had been, which might indicate some generational progress.  In a way I'm so pleased that I've arrived at 96 with my independence fairly intact.  I've somehow managed to remain at the head of my family without becoming dependent upon them.  If for no other reason, that has become a point of pride at a time when my life continues to be propelled by circumstances into an unknown future where I'm still having first-time experiences, and continuing to live a contemporary life in an exciting present.

Ceremony at Mills College last spring
Peter Lippett comes highly recommended by a friend of long-standing, so -- despite the fact that we've only met socially, and fairly recently -- it was possible to transfer enough of that "Roger" friendship and trust to Peter so that there was no ice to break, or, strangeness to overcome.  From the first moments in his office I was at home with a sense of continuity.  Peter and JoEllen will now become family, as are Roger and Jean; friends of many years.

We spent a couple of hours together, ending with lunch in a seafood restaurant near his office in Lafayette, after which he drove me back along the scenic San Pablo Dam road to Richmond.  I'm almost all legally "estate-planned" and ready to go -- leaving behind no loose ends to be disputed.  I'm not at all sure I enjoyed the experience, though.  These are difficult things to contemplate.  I find myself wondering if it would be easier if I were a believer?  I suspect not, especially in these times when believing has become suspect by virtue of how far the nation and the world have strayed from the values embedded in religious orthodoxy. The somewhat formal lawyer/client conversation yesterday with Peter -- hinted at the fact that I've met another benevolent cynic -- and that is somehow comforting.

Now that those End of Life issues have been faced squarely; looked at without flinching; I'm now ready to re-start the Resuming of Life issues, and to begin still another chapter in the ongoing life of Being Betty.

This afternoon at two o'clock I will meet another inquiring group of friendly strangers in our little theater at the Visitor Center, and experience still another hour of magical Truth-Telling, and I will feel useful and worthy again -- as if this is my calling -- as well it might be ...  should there be such a thing.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

And ... our editor at Hay House emailed the Foreword by Tavis Smiley ...

... and I am now beyond speechless ...

Maybe now I'll muster enough courage to read the book, too, which is something I've not yet done -- at least not more than in fits and starts -- since none of it is new to me, and boredom sets in after a few paragraphs.

Sign my name to freedom is the combined words of many hours of oral history done years ago by the University of California's Bancroft Library, those interviews added to with selected short essays taken from this blog by Editor Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor.   The oral histories were conducted over many hours at differing times, about 12 hours in all.

Were I to attempt to try to pull a book out of those combined writings, I'm not certain that the book would be quite this one, but, since these posts have been accumulating since the year 2003, it's quite possible that there are several books embedded among them.  This, then, is one such.  But for me it would be like trying to turn long-cooled ashes into live embers again, and the aliveness in the words died long ago for me, and trying to re-read for corrections and edits wasn't as easily done as might be expected.  The temptation to just scrap the whole thing and start over would be almost irresistible.  This is probably why my songs were never published nor released for public scrutiny.  I was always into the next "Now!", and living into the next round of changes.  Problem is that were I to write from the same subject base today, it might be quite different since I've lived more of life now, and arrived at a different place in some instances ... . Crazy!

Does the book freeze me into a particular point in Time?  I truly don't know the answer to that, but Tavis Smiley's Foreword written after reviewing the book appears to skirt that possibility.  Even if one accepts the fact that what he captured in that 2-segment video interview is in any way what I most consistently am ... I'll take it, thank you, even if only as aspirational:

I had heard all about Betty Reid Soskin before we actually met on the set of my television show.
And, yet, all that I had read and heard about her prior to, still did not adequately prepare me for the conversation I was about to have with this phenomenal woman. 
It’s rare that I sit for a conversation I find so enchanting that we end up taping two shows instead of one. But it didn’t take long into night one to realize that I would need a second night to have any chance at doing justice to the remarkable life this woman has lived.
I love talking to guests who are chronologically gifted, shall we say, because they have the best stories, courtesy of lives well-lived.  I could talk to Carl Reiner, Tony Bennett, Harry Belafonte, Norman Lear, Sidney Poitier, and Dick Van Dyke, night in and night out.
Betty Soskin reminds me of another Betty ... Betty White, who's also been alive well into her 90s.  With this group, it's not just their groundbreaking past, but indeed their dynamic present that I find so arresting.  I'm intrigued by the ways in which they  have gone about leading lives of meaning and purpose even at an advanced age.                                                       
In particular, Betty’s life and legacy astounds me, given where she started. I don’t want to get ahead of the story you’re about to read, but there’s something about people who turn little into much that resonates with me. Especially folk of Betty’s generation. It says something about their constitution even when the Constitution counted them out, didn’t consider their humanity, hopes, and dreams.
After two nights of talking to Betty on national television, I set out to learn more about her. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know. The more I discovered, the more questions I had. I even traveled to Northern California to sit and listen to the standing-room-only lecture Betty gives as a park ranger about her story of growing up in America.
As I listened to her powerful presentation, it occurred to me that, in a very real way, folk like Betty have learned to love America in spite of, not because of. Especially when you consider what they did to her father. (But I won’t get ahead of the story . . . ) Staring at her, I wondered, given the way America maltreated and maligned generations of black fellow citizens, how it is that people like Betty could live lives of such dedicated service to an, at times, ungrateful nation?
After her talk that day, I went to lunch with her and peppered her with more questions. And, again, the more she shared, the more curious I became. I eventually said to her, “Betty, you have to write a book.”
Well, after much coaxing, she took my suggestion seriously, and here I am writing the foreword for Sign My Name to Freedom. Go figure.
I couldn’t be more honored, but the real gift is yours, for on the pages that follow, you are going to read the arresting story of why and how Betty came to sign her name to freedom.
Freedom, by any other definition, is truth. One isn’t truly free if one cannot speak the truth and stand on it. Betty’s life has been, and remains, a search for truth.
Truth is in rare supply these days, and when the truth gets scarce, our freedoms and civil liberties are in jeopardy.
Freedom ain’t free, it has a cost. A high cost. Betty has paid her toll, and she’s lived long enough to tell the story.
We would do well to listen, and heed her wise counsel. In so doing, we might one day achieve an America that is as good as its promise.

                                                                             Tavis Smiley