Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Few Thanksgiving Memories Across the Miles

In1968 when I was a college sophomore at Oklahoma State University I decided to go to Southern Illinois to spend Thanksgiving with my biological parents and 4 younger siblings. This was instead of going with my Grandfather Robert for the usual meal at my Aunt Boots’ home in Tulsa. My part-time clerical position at the OSU football office provided me enough spare cash to hop a Greyhound bus and travel there, some 700 miles northeast. My family lived in the remote small town of Ullin, Illinois and I had to go through Saint Louis to get there. When I got to the St. Louis, I asked the male bus station attendant what bus I needed to take next. He answered me so quickly and curtly I didn’t really understood a word he said, but I was way too shy to ask him to repeat it. I figured I could understand what was going on once I heard it on the bus depot speakers. As it turned out that didn’t work and I missed the connecting bus to rural southern Illinois for that day. That night I spent Thanksgiving Eve in the bus terminal bathroom trying to sleep in a chair.
My family was too poor for a phone, so I called my brother, Matt in sixth grade at the elementary school he attended. I told him to tell my folks, that I would be a day late arriving Thanksgiving night because I missed the bus. When I finally got to Ullin Thanksgiving night, my Dad, Bob had prepared a traditional upstate New York turkey dinner with sage dressing, pumpkin pie and the trimmings.
In 1971 I started having Thanksgivings with my first husband’s big extended family the Spesses in Cleveland, Oklahoma. Lindy‘s Grandma Ruby would prepare the turkeys, dressing and pineapple cream pies. The rest of the fixings were brought in by all the relatives. The Spesses were affluent conservative Republican oil people, but good folks, despite the flaw of having too much money, being too conservative and living and breathing sports. In Oklahoma the culture always seem to revolve around sports, family and church and the Spesses were no exception. After the big Thanksgiving meal the Spess family gathered in front of the TV to watch the big football game between Oklahoma State University Cowboys or Oklahoma University Sooners or one of the other various opposing Midwest football teams such as the Nebraska Cornhuskers, Arkansas Razorbacks or whoever. Much to their shock and dismay, I would adjourn to a bedroom for a nap with a book.

My Dad, Bob, Me-Mary &
 my Mom,  Bobbie Jean
Thanksgiving 1973,Thebes, Illinois

In 1973 Lindy and I decided to drive from Tulsa to southern Illinois to have a shot at Thanksgiving with my eccentric and economical challenged family in Thebes, Illinois. We did not drive through St. Louis however. Again my Dad had a meal prepared and the little house was decorated early for Christmas and our arrival. The daunting highlight of the trip, was surviving the drive back through Joplin at night in blinding white out snow. After 34 years in Alaska it seems like no great feat, but for us Okies then, it was a miracle we made it back to Tulsa in one piece.


Mom, Bobbie, Sister Angie, Me - Mary, Rose & Abe,
Thebes, Illinois 1973 - brother Matt was in the Navy
so not at the Thanksgiving event.


Rose & Abe Phillips, Thanksgiving 1973











1979 Thanksgiving with Okies, Ronnie & Maggie
Anchorage, Alaska
In 1978 I had my first Alaskan Thanksgiving with vegetarian friends, thus my first meatless turkey free Thanksgiving. During my early Alaskan Thanksgiving years, dinner was always with friends, many transplants from Oklahoma who have since returned.  In 1979 four of us from Oklahoma prepared a grand feast and afterwards took a drive to Palmer in my new car.
Road trip to Palmer, Alaska, Thanksgiving 1979
In 1981, my future husband, Joe fixed Turkey dinner for my sister, Angie and I. In 1982, once Joe and I married and he continued to cook the turkey on Thanksgiving with my assistance. Joe, a bachelor for some forty years, is no slouch in the kitchen. For a number of years Joe could never quite get food in particular meat as done, or “burnt“ as he would say, as I like it. Now that he is a Vegan there is no problem with undercooked meat. This year I will have my second vegetarian Thanksgiving with Joe at the Vegan Potluck which so happens to be in Palmer where I last went on Thanksgiving in 1979, a mere 33 years ago.
One year in 1992 we bought a camcorder and decided to record the entire Thanksgiving event. It was the year we made asses of ourselves drinking too much wine with several friends and decided to cut back on booze at Thanksgiving after that. There is nothing more sobering than seeing oneself three sheets to the wind on camera.
 Joe and I have only missed Thanksgiving on Wendy’s Way a few times. One year we made the decision to eat out. Eating out is always my first choice, but for some reason not at Thanksgiving. We tried the Cattle Company and it didn’t work, perhaps because turkey isn‘t their specialty.   As another Thanksgiving draws near, I say perhaps strangely to some but proudly for me I’m a month short of being 64 years old and have yet to cook a turkey and to my dying day, probably never will, especially now that my husband is full fledged Vegan Vegetarian. If cooking a turkey depended on me, there would be a turkey glut on the exchange market and everyone would be a Vegetarian without a doubt.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Few Favorite Halloween Memories in 1963 Oklahoma & Alaska from 1996 to 2002

     Halloween has been always one of my very favorite holidays. When else can one go to someone’s door that they don’t know, knock on it and hope it opens and to be given something for nothing, just to make you go away? Granted one does have the obligation to dress for the occasion, either by making an investment in time and or money to create a costume. However, if a trick or treating soul plays their cards right, the initial investment will more than pay off in pounds and pounds of candy and goodies for their efforts and the candy can last well into the Christmas season and longer.

      My first memorable Halloween was when I was 14 in 1963 in Chelsea, Oklahoma. I was living for the third extended time with my grandparents. After six years bouncing from place to place between Missouri and California with my parents and four younger siblings, two years of which were in a foster home in Artesia, a suburb of Los Angeles where I attended 7th and 8th grade, I was more than ready to be “home” again. That fall Grandma Alta who was almost 60 and myself in 9th grade decided to go “trick or treating”! I never gave a thought that perhaps we were both too old. Maybe because I always liked getting free stuff and being genetically related Grandma must of too. I dressed as a gypsy and Grandma a pirate with a black eye patch. We made our costumes and headed out, going door to door in the small NE Oklahoma town of 1,600. Most people had no idea who we were until at one house they asked if they could see Grandma Alta‘s, the pirate’s hands. Grandma had vitiligo, a common autoimmune skin disorder in which white spots appear on the skin usually occurring on both sides of the body in the same location. The disease has been around for thousands of years and occurs in 1-2% of the population. Unfortunately, for my Cherokee Grandmother with dark skin, these white patches were a dead give away who she was, once her hands and arms were revealed. Nonetheless, we had a great time, got lots of freebies, fooled many folks and I learned that one is never too old to go door to door begging on Halloween as long as you can still get up and go.

Our niece, Ariana in her witch's costume - Halloween 1996
     It would be 30 plus years before I would continue this tradition in Alaska. In 1996 my brother Abe’s children, a niece and nephew came to live with my husband Joe and I for the year so their Mother could return to school in Oklahoma to study to be a nurse. She had enough of my brother’s laziness and living off the government and divorced him a year or two earlier. Joe and I took the two, Ariana and Ben, door to door on Halloween in the old established part of Anchorage, Turnagain.. The two siblings did well and gathered about 5 pounds of candy each. That year we learned where to go for the best treats and who to avoid.

 Ariana, Ben &
Mt. Mckinley, Talkeetna, AK
October 1996
Ben, Aunt Mary & Ariana - Halloween 1996

Uncle Joe & Ariana with their carved pumpkin
     Half way through the year my poor fragile niece decided she had enough of my rules and regulations. She was depressed and although we tried to get her the psychological help she needed, it wasn’t enough. She returned half way through 7th grade to Oklahoma to live with my younger sister and that didn‘t work either. Ben, my nephew was another story. He lasted the year, made straight As in sixth grade at Turnagain Elementary and was a true joy. After Ben left in the summer of 1997 we decided to give another shot at adopting an older child. It would turn out to be pretty much a nightmare with a few good memories and consequences intermingled. It did keep the Halloween tradition of old folks trick or treating with the young alive, especially for my husband Joe that brought in 7 pounds with our adopted son John when he was in sixth grade. That was the year, 2000, when we had the “haunted bookshop” during the Turnagain School Carnival with many of the leftover books donated from our former bookstore, the Alaskan Renaissance.

     We met John in Aberdeen, Washington September 16, 1998 and within a week he returned to Anchorage with us. He was 9 years old and living in foster care for a couple of years in multiple foster homes. John was artistic but he couldn‘t read or count to more than 10 on his hands. We fixed this problem and he was on the honor roll eventually while with us, but the emotional damage he suffered we couldn‘t fix or anyone else including a multitude of psychologists and therapists.


     He, his brother and two sisters were taken away from the biological father and his girlfriend after his Mother left them with him. John came from a long line of petty criminals and was an example of ignorance breeding ignorance. His Mom decided to take back the two girls and give John and his younger brother up for adoption because she wasn‘t up to raising boys. Guess she should have thought of that before she had them, but ignorance is bliss. On the other hand I knew from the start John and I just didn‘t click. We tried and I knew what my Grandparents had done for me and I wanted to pass it on. Little did I realize that I had bonded with them as an infant living there my first two years and again in first and second grade. However, once a child is nine years old it is next to impossible to bond with them, especially if the parents are still alive as in John‘s case.

     Now if there is ever one thing that will help a person bond with a child, it is probably candy and its retrieval. John had not been here much longer than a month when Joe, John, Moonshine and I went on our first Halloween trick or treating event. John wore my nephew’s costume from 2 years earlier the first year. He collected enough candy that he was happy temporarily. The next year we continued the tradition and John entered a Monster drawing contest at Great Harvest Bread Company and won free cookies for his entire 5th grade class at Turnagain. John however wasn’t too comfortable being a success, but he was from time to time whether he liked it or not. After that, Great Harvest Bread Co. became part of our Halloween tradition up until John was in 8th grade and he outgrew it and us as well.


     These days we still frequent Great Harvest. There is a one cookie per Halloween drawing entry now, no mega winners like in 1999 when the bakery was still a newbie in Anchorage. Great Harvest is an exceptionally generous business, giving out huge slices of bread to all visitors since their inception, no purchase required. They even try to return your money and give you a new loaf of bread if you aren‘t satisfied with a selection. That is over the top for even tight wad me and where I draw the line on something for nothing.

Memoir - Mary Alta Buckingham - October 29, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Remembering My Oklahoma One Arm Great Uncle, Jack Mason

      My maternal Grandmother Alta’s younger sister, my Great Aunt Carrie was married twice before marrying my Great Uncle Jack in the 1950s. Like they say the third time is the charm. Carrie wasn’t particularly lucky in marriage until then. Jack’s marriage to my Great Aunt was his first when he was in his early forties. He was of medium height and size, always wore clean starched tan kaki shirts and pants. Jack Mason was a super nice guy, with a big heart and a generous streak to match. He was a hard worker. My Great Aunt Carrie and Uncle Jack had a nice home in Nowata plus a cabin on Grand Lake also in Northeastern Oklahoma that I visited frequently as a child and teen. It was there I would catch my first and last fish, a carp that had to be tossed back because it was uneatable. I never had the gift for fishing or the stomach, but Jack did despite just having one arm and hand.

      Uncle Jack lost most of his left arm and hand in an industrial accident early in his work life in the Oklahoma oil fields, years before I knew him in the 1950s. Jack was giving a hand signal out of a vehicle when a passing vehicle damaged it to the point amputation was necessary. The missing hand and arm was replaced with a gold hook that served as his prosthesis. Jack used that hook like it was a hand until the day he died. He continued to work in the oil fields and fish incessantly despite his loss. He and his father both worked for Phillips 66 Oil Company from the start. One of my cousins claims Jack’s father sold his share in the company early on.

      The thing I loved most about Uncle Jack as a kid was his generosity and that he always carried a big pocket of change which he shared. He liked to give the money to the youngsters to spend on goodies. Once at a family gathering at my Great Grandparents, Claude and Nancy Wilson in Chelsea, I recall hardly being able to contain myself when I saw Jack was there. I grew so impatient wanting to capitalize on his generosity that I almost jumped the gun and asked him if I could have “some money?“. Was I afraid he would forget? He must have sensed my 7 year old impatience because he passed out the coins without delay and saved me from embarrassing myself.


      Jack worked in the Oklahoma oil fields up until his death in 1966 when he died of brain cancer at the age of 63. May he rest in peace and be assured that he is truly missed by his Grandniece “Alaska“ Mary.

Memoir -
I will always enjoy the memory of my Great Uncle, Charles Esc(h)o
“Jack“ Mason
- April 13, 2009/revised & posted Oct. 30, 2012

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Survivor Day, October 4th, 1980 and a Second Chance at Life

     My life began again my third year in Alaska in 1980 when I was 31 years old. In the fall of 1979 after obtaining a job teaching Spanish and French to oversized high school classes of 40-45 students at Anchorage’s Bartlett High School, I bought my first Alaskan car.  It was  a brand new blue Honda Civic. Now it looks so plain, but then I thought it was a beauty.







My first road trip to Homer, Alaska, May 1980.
     When school let out for summer 1980 I landed a job teaching “American History to the Civil War” at Fort Richardson Army Base. The Texas college extension class was composed of all males. Now this should have made a 30 something woman joyful, but not being a great orator of American History, it simply added to my discomfort. However, the job allowed me to make additional payments on my new car and by the fall it was close to paid off in less than a year. Teachers in the Anchorage School District back then were the second highest paid in the country next to Connecticut and that suited me to a tee.


      With fall I started a new job teaching just Spanish at West High. This was quite an improvement after trying to teach French the year before with only two French classes from Tulsa Junior College. I didn’t have a clue how to speak French, not even how to say “do you speak French?” in French; but the Anchorage School District was desperate for teachers and I wanted a good paying job and that it was. I would listen to tapes each night before the next day’s teaching assignment. It was the days in Alaska when anybody with any sense and connections was working on the slope and the pipeline making the really big bucks, but I was teaching.

      Sunday October 4th, 1980, (two days after paying off my Honda at Credit Union One) and preparing my lesson plans for the coming week of teaching Spanish at West High, I was off to pick up my sometime boyfriend, Joe Smith, from McLaughlin Youth Center. Joe worked there as a counselor. Back in Oklahoma in the spring of 1978 Joe Smith convinced me that Alaska was the promise land. Since I always wanted to come here to begin with, because of the cool weather and adventure, I was easily convinced and flew into Anchorage in August 1978.
     
     On my trip to McLaughlin to pick up Joe Smith from work that fall day, October 4th, 1980 about 4 p.m. I was hit by a Gary Alberts driving with his family south on C Street. He ran a red light crossing 36th and blindsided me on the driver‘s side. Fortunately I was NOT wearing a seat belt or I would have been killed. I was thrown to the passenger side.




The most annoying thing was  I was ticketed! By the Grace of God/Creator however I had witnesses that Gary Albert had ran a red light. My witnesses were Pentecostal evangelist missionaries that drove around the country in a big bus.  They lived near Abbott Rd. and Lake Otis. Raymond House and his wife Jan believed divorce was Biblically wrong and akin to adultery. They tried unsuccessfully to convince me to reunite with my first husband in Oklahoma. We had just got divorce the summer of 1979 on my way home to Alaska after a 2 month trip to Spain.  I was "hired" by the organizer to help chaperon high schoolers and make sure they didn’t drink too much wine.   There was no age limitations there and wine was served with every meal at the school, maybe because it was safer to drink than the water.

 The reconciliation never happened and my ex husband I would not see one another until October 2011, 32 years later. Eventually I got an out of court monetary settlement from the accident and used it to pay off my two land investments. However, the unjust ticket has always been a thorn in my side. What was the cop thinking? Was he partial to the other party because they had a pack of kids? But that was just the tip of my problematic iceberg. I was severely injured eternally and lucky to be alive and suffered from PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder due to the wreck that haunts me til this day.
 
My sister flew into Alaska shortly after my accident thinking I was a goner. When I saw her standing there in my room at Providence it literally brought me back to life. Dr. Frederick Hood told Angie by phone “that my lungs had collapsed and they didn’t expect me to make it much longer.” She arranged with the bank she worked at to borrow the money she needed to come to Alaska, a $1,000! She booked a flight that night for the next day for a week vacation!” She told me she “remembered riding the bus around Anchorage for a poor women’s tour and something to do between visits to the ICU for 15 minutes ever 2 or 3 hours. Doctor Hood, a graduate of Oklahoma University Medical School, told Angie that “it was a miracle I turned around as I did. When she arrived he told her if I made it at all, I would be in hospital at least 6 - 8 weeks.” It was three and a half. She made all the difference.

I was released in late October in time to vote in the Presidential Election. I walked the 3 or 4 blocks to Northwood Elementary on my crutches. A school where I had worked 2 years earlier as a bilingual tutor. My vote didn’t do any good. Yes I voted against President Reagan and he won anyway. Never really liked Reagan knowing he was for the rich. Also I had a high school boyfriend whose stepfather was a big campaign manager of Reagan’s in California before Reagan hit the big time. My boyfriend was physically abused by his stepfather, Reagan‘s campaign manager to the point of being put in the hospital due to injuries several times in Spain. As my Grandfather Robert use to say, “birds of a feather flock together.”

After being released from Providence Hospital I was advised to wait until second semester to return to teaching. However, I was so grateful to be alive and eager to get on with my life to the fullest again that I went back to work teaching Spanish at West High in December. In retrospect it would have been best to postpone going back to work.

In December 1980 I flew my sister back from Oklahoma for my Christmas vacation. I still have the snow covered Christmas tree I brought for her visit and use it from time to time when the Spirit moves me.  My sister, Joe and I must have went to Chilkoots every night she was here to the point I ordered a cup of coffee there one evening. Of course that New Year’s Eve was the grand finale. It was my “survival revival.” Angie, Joe Smith and I went early and stayed late, and late it was. Back then the bars didn’t close until the Ungodly hour of five in the morning.
 

These days my sister has long since quite drinking, Joe Smith has returned to Oklahoma and although I still drink a bit more than I probably should, it is not usually at bars. That New Year’s Eve was probably one of my last one out on the town. After that I always considered New Year’s Eve, “amateur night” and prefer to stay home and remember when I didn‘t and was glad to just be alive.



Mary Alta Buckingham -
October 4th, 2010 - 30th Anniversary Survival
Revised October 7th 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Looking Back at My First Wedding, September 4th, 1971

Tuesday night, September 4th 2012, a Hellish unusual fall wind storm hit Anchorage and south central Alaska. It also happened to be the anniversary of my first ill begotten marriage September 4, 1971, 41 years ago that was a disaster from the get go.

We, Paul Linden Spess and I had just graduated from Oklahoma State University that May. His major was Electrical Engineering and mine was Secondary Education with a major in Social Sciences and a minor in Spanish. However, living in Oklahoma during those days’ folks did not ask a young woman when they were going to complete their college degree, but when they were going to get their MRS. and start breeding politely know as having a family. In a sense I was sucked into that time warped culture, because I too went along with the first part.

One problem was I never really wanted to be a married person or have a traditional family. As a child I always consider myself an aspiring intellectual, a wanted to be “beat” in some sort of deformed poor white trash way. At the age of ten I preferred ballet to rock and roll, loved books, knowledge acquisition and as a teen would have probably preferred death to being just a housewife. Wow, to me, to get to give birth, change diapers and cook meals was a life sentence in H E double hockey stick. But life does have a way of trapping us in to what we least expect or want at times. It seems the Creator has a sense of humor and the joke is on the human race, me in this case.

After graduation in May 1971 Lindy worked temporarily for his family’s small oil company in Cleveland, Oklahoma while looking for a job free of family ties. I moved nearby to Tulsa with a college acquaintance and got a dead end job at Oklahoma Natural Gas working in Collections. After working my butt off for four years, I was in trauma, discovering too late, while practice teaching, my degree to be a high school Spanish and Social Science teacher, was not much more than a high paid baby sister of mostly disrespectful teenagers. So I gave office work a shot desperate for a job. It was almost as bad as teaching, The real disappointment was when President Nixon froze wages in the fall of 1971 and I was due for one. Fortunately I was able to give notice after six months. Lindy and I decided to go back to Oklahoma State and work on graduate degrees in January 1972. My plan was to teach college Spanish and Lindy thought about being an environmental lawyer, neither of which ever happened.

Now back to our wedding day September 4th, 1971 at the First
Christian Church in Chelsea. It was Oklahoma; it was miserably hot, in the days before air conditioning. I wore a high school friend’s wedding dress and my maid of honor, my cousin Judy, wore a gown she had worn in another friend’s wedding. We were thrifty, as in waste not want not. We did have flowers, cake and a worthless photographer whose name I can’t remember. I can’t even remember the name of the best man. Anyway, the photographer took the pictures in black and white not color.

Dad had brought my biological family from Illinois down for the wedding. He happen to be late to our wedding saying he got ”lost“ and he‘d been a cab driver in Chicago. I don‘t think so. I figured it was because I asked Grandpa Robert, his father in law, who raised me for the most part, to do the “giving me away“ part of the ceremony. My sister Angie says it was because Dad was busy making plans to burn their house down in Southern Illinois for insurance money. Dad was pretty unhappy that I was marrying into a rich Republican oil family, being a dyed in the wool New York labor union man and Democrat. Either way Dad got there in time to eat cake and to have his picture taken, but the photographer neglected to take my Grandpa’s picture. The Great Spirit‘s sense of humor? Or the Devil at work?



Reverend Billings performed the wedding ceremony and 17 years later in February 1988 in the same church and he would perform my Grandfather Robert’s funeral. The day we married was a bit better day, but not much. We made the mistake of trying to open all the gifts we were given in the unforgiving heat. We opened gifts for two hours until we finally gave up sweating like hogs. Lindy’s folks, Paul and Wilma Spess, eventually gathered our gifts together for us. We took off for my least favorite place, Dallas, Texas and Six Flags. We spent the first night in my second least favorite place OKC. Nothing was right about our wedding, except we did care about one another. He was a good person and in a sense I loved him and always will, but we were a mismatch. He was raised as a conservative and myself a nonconformist to the core. My plans for life were to see and experience the world and it seemed to me Lindy thought Oklahoma was the world. His idea of a good time was playing basketball and watching football, the later which I detest; mine is cross country skiing, listening to music, being with my dog and anything but organized sports.

After my sister Angie, who came to live with us in 1974, completed high school in Sapulpa in 1976 we moved to Shawnee, Oklahoma. Lindy had gotten a promotion with Oklahoma Gas and Electric. Meanwhile, for a year I attended Graduate School at Oklahoma University in Norman. Not being satisfied with life there and having wander lust, I decided to pull out and headed for Niagara Falls, NY in the summer of 1977, then back to Oklahoma where I met another Joe, (not the Joe I married) and headed to Alaska, landing in Anchorage, August 19, 1978, the best day of my life!

Eventually, after a year working for the Anchorage School District bilingual education program and spending the summer of 1979 helping chaperone Anchorage Bartlett high schoolers in Valencia, Spain, I went back to Oklahoma to get officially divorced. We both cried at the hearing, but we were not cut from the same cloth. Our situation was like the movie, “The Way We Were”. I settled for a meager $5,000 divorce settlement, my sister Angies still tells me I was crazy but I felt a great sense of guilt which I no longer feel, now I just feel crazy. (The money went toward my first piece of Alaska real estate in Rabbit Creek Heights which I owned 25 years and sold and invested in a lifetime annuity in 2005.) After the hearing, my sister, Angie, Lindy and I went out for coffee and desert. We took pictures and said our goodbyes. I’ll never forget the desert menu said “happy endings”. The Creator’s sense of humor at work again?

A couple of years after our divorce Lindy’s parents would have a bitter divorce after a lifetime together and four kids. Fortunately Lindy and I didn’t breed, something his folks always were pressing us to do. Today Lindy is following in my footsteps trying to raise two older adopted boys, one of which has left and wants no part of the adoptive family. No surprise, as adoptions seldom work out unless an infant is adopted. I had hoped it would work out better for him and his wife than it did for me and my new husband of 30 years, Joe, but it didn‘t.  The Devil at work again or maybe, just maybe the Creator's sense of humor at work again?

September 9th, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

Most Likely & Graduation 1967








Graduation May 1967


Yesterday, May 26th, 2012 was the annual Chelsea, Oklahoma Alumni Celebration and Banquet and also 45 years since my class passed through those ivory green high school graduation doors.  My thoughts turn to reflections of those blissful hopeful days not so long ago.  Life was much simpler then. Boys were boys and girls were girls and opposites married, the way I feel the Creator intended. Now that being said this isn’t a sermon, but just a remembrance of the way it was and what I liked about it.

That last year of high school in the fall, our senior class elected the “Ten Most Likely”. The categories included:
“Best Athlete“: Ruth Schwaesdall & Robert Garis, deceased 2 years now after teaching Pharmacy at the University of Nebraska. Rob was short like me, about 5’4”, but a phenomenal football player in high school. We both went to college at Oklahoma State. He was a frat rat (in a fraternity) and I was a GDI, but when he needed a date that first year, he would often give me a call. After that destiny called and we went our own way.
“Best Figure & Physique”: Janice Cowan & Tom Rue, needless to say, not me.
“Most Active”: Jack Stinnett, also deceased 2 years, retired as a pipe fitter, and Barbara Axley, a nightclub singer and comedian for several years in Oklahoma so I heard.
"Most Humorous": Jack Stinnett & Barbara Axley, incidentally I was runner up in this category.
"Most Dependable": Ronda Hunt & George Baker. George also lives here in Southcentral Alaska since 1976 and has adopted several children through the state.
"Best Citizen": Ronda Hunt & Robert Garis
"Best All-Around": Ann Jennings & Mike Morrison
"Best Dressed":  Roy Best & Patty & Becky Sears, twins and daughter of our high school science teacher that my boyfriend Wayne once tried to punch in the face, another story for another memoir. In this category I again was runner up, only  because I learned to sew.
"Best Personalities":  Patsy Carmack & Leon Bible: 



Last but not least “Most Likely to Succeed“:   Mary Phillips (me) & John Hunt.  Rhonda (“best citizen and most dependable”) and John Hunt got married while still in high school but eventually divorced. John went into tribal law in Tulsa and was quite successful and approximately 10 years ago retired to Hawaii with his second wife and family of many years. I moved to Alaska in ‘78, became a a Jack of all trades, master of none and am still quite happy here since it is rarely hot. Now I know most of my classmates must think John is the greater success since he wound up living in Hawaii but I have to say living in Hawaii is my worse nightmare. I don‘t even want to visit there. The only thing of interest In Hawaii is the fond memories of my old “most likely to succeed” classmate John who help me get my high school nickname, Mickey, long before he got married. When I found out the other “most likely to succeed” John in Hawaii was going to forgo the reunion this year I decided that I would skip it too. Especially since one could not bring their spouse unless it is their 50 reunion. Fortunately this archaic rule was changed by a vote of 155 for to 58 opposed last night. Maybe now  Joe and I will go next year when my first serious ex boyfriend Wayne Treadway that happens to live in Sitka, Alaska,  (800 miles south of Anchorage) has his 45th reunion. I want to find out once and for all, why he took a swing at our Mr. Science teacher other than to get kicked out of school for a week to hunt and fish.



With graduation in 1967 came awards and accolades. I was Salutatorian, an academic title given, in the United States, Philippines, and Canada, to the second highest graduate of the entire graduating class, all 59 of us. The class started out with 69 of us, but due to unforeseen pregnancies before the days of birth control it dwindled down to 59. We were Chelsea‘s largest graduating class at that time. It was a disappointment not to be Valedictorian but I realized the person that was, took no classes that were not easy As and had moved into Chelsea during her senior year. It seemed she, as many other young women classmates, aspired to be nothing more than a secretary and housewife. This was another worse case senario, like that of living in Hawaii. Eventually I discovered not everyone wants a college education as bad as I did then; and as my Mom, Bobbie Jean use to say it, would be a boring world if we were all alike.






Me, Becky Sears & Valdictorian without her rope?

Dr.  Frank Hester presenting me my diploma.


















Wayne and my Aunt Bootsie at my graduation.

















As class Salutatorian I was requested to participate in the commencement and give a speech. The best part of my speech was that it was short, a page and a half double spaced. I still have 3 type written copies of it that traveled across country with me in 1979, 12 years later. Part of that speech from 45 years ago follows below.

“As you all know before long we shall be out of school, away from home and before a critical and appraising audience--the world. The pen still behind our ear, the ink stains on our fingers, and innocence in our eyes we shall find ourselves surrounded by a vast amount of different ideas and morals. Then will come the trial. But the goals that you hold high in your mind and the morals that you believe in--this you should build your life by, live by, and this you will become.
There is one last thing I’d like to add to my speech; it is a saying that I feel holds some excellent advice. “yesterday is already a dream, tomorrow is only a vision; but today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and tomorrow a vision of hope.” (May 1967)



 
 
 
 
 


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bucket List Updated, May 7, 2012

This week I’ve cleaned the house in preparation for our upcoming Mother of Mother’s Day Garage Sales, that in years past was an annual tradition. While doing so I discovered a wall hanging purchased in the mid 1990s. It is a framed poster of Life‘s Little Instructions. After some thought I discovered it was as good a bucket list as any, listing much of what I want to do or how I want to live my life before I die.

The poster’s title “Life‘s Little Instructions“ is from the book by H. Jackson Brown published in 1994 when I was a mere 46 years old. Today I read and typed the poster in the downstairs bathroom where I finally managed to hang it yesterday. I type at my old record typing speed, since it isn’t with one finger texting. That being said, I hope to eventually have the bathroom remodeled to be elderly friend with a walk in shower. Nevertheless, I am amazed how close the following instructions hit home and are definitely something to aspire for in life.

“-Every so often push your luck.
-Never underestimate the power of a kind word or deed.
- Never give up on anybody, miracles happen every day. (We found out recently our estranged adopted son still visits the dentist we took him to 9 years ago.)
-Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.
-Learn to listen. (My last psychology class at UAA in 2005, I asked the instructor what was the most important advice he could give future counselors and psychologists and his answer was “be a good listener”.)
-Think big thoughts, but relish small pleasures.
-Don’t expect others to listen to your advice and ignore your example.
-Opportunity sometimes knocks very softly
-Leave everything a little better than you found it. (Especially in the kitchen and bathroom.)
-Don’t forget: a person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated. (Amen!)
-Never waste an opportunity to tell someone you love them. (They may slip away before you have another chance.)
-Treat everyone you like you want to be treated. (easier said than done.)
-Make new friends but cherish the old ones.
-Don’t use time or words carelessly; neither can retrieved.
-Judge your success by the degree that you’re enjoying peace, health and love. (without one’s health we have nothing.)
-Smile a lot: Its cost nothing and is beyond price.”

This is the easy bucket list, but then there are other bucket lists like the one forwarded from a dear friend that I wish I had the skill of Will Rogers to counter, but since I don’t I’ll simply start by saying I disagree.

“Obama: Gone!” Sure if there was just somebody better to replace him. I like Obama, because he doesn‘t mess around on his wife and he seems to be raising his kids well. He’s not perfect, but who is? Not been one president yet.

“Borders: Closed!”? Way too late, should have closed the borders before Columbus, the first invader.

“Congress: Obey it's own laws“; I have no problem with this.

“Language: English only“; I think everyone should speak the Native American language for the area residents that lived in their area before the country was invaded by the Europeans. English is our country’s second language, or maybe third in the southwest after Spanish.

“Culture: Constitution, and the Bill of Rights!” That means freedom or religion, whether we like the religions or not. No state religion.

“Drug Free: Mandatory Drug Screening before Welfare!“ Mandatory drug screening for Congress first and people intending to breed as in reproduce. Licensing for reproduction to prove you have the wherewithal to care for a child, both mentally and financially. There use to be no licenses to drive and now we need one to even own a dog or catch a fish. Isn’t having a child more important?

“NO freebies to: Non-Citizens!” Let’s all try to be a little more Christian and help those who cannot help themselves. WWJD, meaning “What would Jesus do?” Say you’re a Speck, scram?

“We the people are coming!” Yes and let us pray they are Christian like and treat others as they would have done unto them.

“Only 86% will send this on. Should be a 100%. What will you do?
Please send it on if only to one person!”

Well I have done better than one person and I thank you memoir group members, face bookers and asourdoughnonconformist.blogspot.com readers for listening.

p.s. This is one good country when we can all disagree and still see our what clear to respect one another’s differences of opinions. But it is a sad day in American when this is not the case. May the Creator help us live up to our potential, despite our differences.

p.s.s. Recently I read that elite universities such as Harvard and MIT are going to offer FREE online courses. Before I kick the bucket I would like to get another Bachelor’s degree in Math and perhaps a Masters or even a Doctor’s in Psychology. Last but not least I hope to write that memoir about “Chasing the Evil Tiger.”

Mary Alta Buckingham - Memoir - Bucket List Update

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Two Proms and One Prom Dress


In 1966 and 1967 the president was Lyndon B. Johnson and the VP was Hubert Humphrey. A loaf of bread cost 22 cents, a gallon of gas 28 cents, a new auto $2,425, a new home $40,000 in New Jersey and probably $12,000 in Chelsea. The average income was $6,120. So in short the cost of a prom dress was of utmost relevance to a working class youth making 50 cents an hour plus tips. My way of cutting the cost was to wear the gown two years in a row, to both my Junior and Senior Proms. Being a thrifty skin flint I had no shame. Going with a different boyfriend each year perhaps helped make it less embarrassing, not that guys cared less about a twice worn prom dress.



My dress was bought in Tulsa a few weeks before my Junior Prom in April 1966. My Grandfather Robert took me and a couple of my friends 50 miles south for a day of shopping at Tulsa’s new Southland mall. We girls found our dresses while Grandpa waited patiently in the car smoking his Swisher Sweet cigars while we shopped the day away. On the way home we all stopped and ate our first ever pizza at Tulsa’s new Shakey Pizza Parlor. Again Grandpa opted to stay in the car and smoke and we brought him  a slice to go. Grandpa was special, a true work of art.

My first prom, the Junior Prom was held at Alvin Gledit’s Café on Highway 66 in Chelsea. As Juniors it was our mission to prepare the prom for the senior class of 1966. We earned the class money throughout the year washing cars among other typical activities to put on the prom and put on the prom we did. We decorated the event with a Roman theme in purple and gold, complete with columns and a mini fountain. Gledit’s Café was familiar stomping grounds for me. It was the home of my first job as a waitress a year before where I earned a whopping $3 plus tips for an 8 hour shift until lucking out and getting a better job of $4 plus tips for 8 hours at Marie‘s Café. At any rate the menu at our Junior Prom was fried chicken with mashed potatoes, etc. It was messy as all get out to eat, especially with all of us teens dressed in our Sunday plus best “go to meeting” type clothes, but we survived. Ironically a couple of years later the dark dreary Gledit’s Café was converted into a funeral home. What significance that has God only knows.

At our Junior prom there was a local band that played some of the popular songs of 1966 that included: “Good Lovin” performed by The Young Rascals; “Paint It Black” by the Rolling Stones; “We Can Work It Out” by The Beatles; “When a Man Loves a Woman” by P. Sledge; and the ever popular “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes. In 1967 the hot songs of the day that we would hear and dance to were “Daydream Believer” performed by The Monkeys; “Happy Together” by the Turtles; “Light My Fire” sung by The Doors; “Penny Lane” by The Beatles; “Respect” by Aretha Franklin; and the ever popular “The Letter” by The Box Tops.



 Our Senior Prom was held at the McIntosh Grade School cafeteria. It seemed to be a bit more enjoyable than the first, perhaps because we were the invitees and had nothing to do but be there, see and be seen and enjoy the party. However as Juniors it was rewarding being able to get out of class to decorate the dreary Gledit’s Café and future funeral parlor site. That preparation for the prom between buying a dress and decorating is what remains most memorable.



Memoir - Mary Alta Phillips Buckingham, 4/25/2012

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Practice Teaching Jesus Christ, Superstar, Easter 1971





In the spring of 1971 as I neared completion of my degree from Oklahoma State in Stillwater to teach secondary Social Sciences and Spanish, I began the final leg of requirements with eight weeks of practice teaching. This two month practicum began near the week of Easter in the Bible Belt and oil producing town of Cushing, Oklahoma. Having no car of my own, I rode in a car pool to the school from my Stillwater dorm room 18 miles away with 3 other practice teachers. My supervising teacher, Mr. Turner, when not employed as a high school history teacher was also a Baptist preacher. To say we were a match made in Hades is probably an understatement. For one thing at that time, I had never attended a Baptist Church. Now, this is not to say Mr. Turner was a bad person, but he was an inept teacher of teachers. He offered no guidance in the teaching profession that I recall. He just seemed happy to have a replacement in the classroom so he could escape.


During the late sixties I was schooled in the education theory of making history relevant. That is what I tried to do during that Easter season 1971 at Cushing High. My lesson plan was to ask my history classes to look at Jesus as a political radical and I introduced them to the music of Jesus Christ Superstar simultaneously. I might as well told them to get naked and roll in the snow when it fell. Everything about this approach to Jesus was foreign to them. My supervising teacher was not impressed, however the university education professor was from Slovakia was totally impressed. Nevertheless, it was the beginning of serious doubts about my chosen profession. If I’d only stuck with a major in math, at least the subject wouldn’t be controversial. In math there is just one answer and usually no one gets it right and most everybody hates math which is a comfort to one who enjoys being the “devil‘s advocate“ so to speak.


There were other problems in the spring of ’71 with teaching at Cushing High School, in particular that of classroom respect and discipline. There was none and as a rule in the many public U.S. classrooms there is none. Students are and were in school because they had to be. Many would rather be elsewhere sweeping a floor or peeling potatoes.


My history classes that spring were large with over 40 students plus there were racial problems galore between the Whites and Blacks not only in Cushing, but nationwide. The first time I had current events day, one Black gal give a 40 minute tirade on Angela Davis, the Black revolutionary of those days. The student raged on well over half the class period. Not being much older than the girl and not near as big, I was reluctant to tell her to sit down and shut up, although I clearly thought, enough already! I would eventually learn this teaching method, but not there. Also while at Cushing I had the joy of being threatened with a switchblade by another Black male student. The angry young man didn‘t bother to use it on me, but threw it at a circle he had drawn on his school desk. This knife incident occurred after I banned coin flipping in class. That taught me things can always get worse.


Upon completion of practice teaching I discovered too late that many young people could care less about getting an education to make something of themselves although there were and are exceptions (having been one). The profession frequently seemed not much more than a high paid baby sitting job that even Jesus Christ Superstar would abandon and I did eventually after working in the field ten long years.
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Anchorage Fur Rondy Flashbacks 1979-2013





Me, Mary at the 1979 Anchorage Crystal Fanstasy Sculpture,
photo take by Arthur Joe Smith, my first Fur Rondy host.
   
 
 
Now with another Fur Rondy in full swing, I think back fondly to my first Fur Rondy experiences in February 1979. That year besides the multitude of community activities and exhibitions the highlight was an elaborate ice sculptured playground downtown for young and old alike. It was located where the current Sat/Sun Market is on Third Avenue between A-C cuplet across from the Hilton. The weather as usual this time of year wasn’t particularly inviting for outdoor activities. That winter the wind was blasting 70 mph at times creating disturbing chill factors. Nevertheless cabin fever drew one and all out knowing soon, within a couple of months, winter would dissolve into spring.

The special Ice Sculpture display was constructed as a joint effort between Anchorage sister city of Shitosi, Japan and the Municipality of Anchorage. It featured the expertise of a then well known Japanese sculpture artist Toshihiro Takenaka. Doing a google search I found only one entry regarding him in NY in 1989 doing something similar. In a 1980 a $2 Fur Rondy brochure the next year, the following was written about the 1979 event, “thousands of Alaskans passed through the tunnels of ice to enjoy the wonders enclosed within the sculpture walls“. Now when my husband and I search for newspaper articles about the sculpture in the Anchorage newspaper archives scarcely anything can be found about the structures and no in depth articles or photos. But having been there and remembering seeing and visiting it with my own eyes, I know how impressed I was after to live where we had the biggest winter carnival in existence and one that attracted such artists and creations. It made me proud to be an Anchorage Alaskan and still does, just like our never ending snow last year and breaking the record for the most snow recorded for the season.


"Crystal Fancy in Anchorage"   (always sounded like a stripper club)
Toshihiro Takenaka's name for his ice palace

The Ice Palace Boat Creation by Japanese Sculptor, Toshihiro Takenaka

Popular Rondy events that year and for many more before and after included the Miner’s and Trappers Ball which I didn’t attend until 2008, some 29 years later. My husband, Joe and I dressed up as illegal emigrants and went with our young Irish friend and Canadian transplanted husband. We didn’t win a prize but we finally made it to the grand occasion which in many ways had passed its hay day.


Eskimo blanket toss 1979
 Fur Rondy


In 1979 and my first trip to the Fur Rondy, I went to the Eskimo blanket toss downtown, probably even the fur auction put on by Hess and Sons, outdoor carnival rides and of course the customary sled dog races. That year it was won by George Attla as many other times, who currently seems to still be alive at the age of 79. One thing I missed out on back in the day and they no longer have was the Backgammon Tournament with prizes as lavish as a trip to Hawaii. How I wish they had it now and I've known about then.  Not that I would have gone to Hawaii, but to play backgammon as a competive sport for prizes is a dream come true.

A dog event, better than the sled dog races for me however was in 2003 when we had gave our dog Moonshine a shot at weight pulling. Moon was powerful and could have pulled a 1,000 lbs plus and almost did. Joe got confused and stopped her too soon to win that category, but that was ok because Moon was 6 and not a spring chicken anymore. She could have injured herself and that would have not been good. We needed Moon to keep us in line and travel with us in the years to come until 2010 when she passed to the other side.


Joe encouraging Moon to pull in the 2003 Fur Rondy Weight Pulling Event
1979 was my first and last visit to many of those events, but one event that I never miss since its inception in the mid 1980s is the snow sculptures. It is a freebie and anything free always works for me. I particularly enjoyed it when the snow sculptures were held in midtown at the current location of Walmart before Walmarts came to Alaska in the mid 1990s. Those days are gone, the snow sculptures were moved but the good news are they are still free. Of course there is always the parade, the Pioneer pancake feed the Native Musicale gospel sing and the firework display at Ship Creek. Last year we had a king‘s row seat in the upstairs pub at the Snow Goose. We got there at the last minute but lucked into sitting with a family of four whose friends left early.  This year we skipped because it was snowing and we were too old and lazy to go despite it all.

Joe and I also had our fair share of selling Alaskana items during the Rondy primarily Alaska/Polar related books starting with a Fur Rondy trade show at the Sullivan in 1996 and ending with the Sr. Center Swap and Shop at the Senior Center in 2008. Our days of selling books and memorablia are history as are many old favorite Fur Rondy events that will live on only in our memories.




"Joe & Mary at the Fur Rondy Trade Show, Sullivan Arena, February 1996 -
Alaskan Renaissance Books & Booksearch"

This year we are adding a new Fur Rondy activity.  We are taking my neice's "Flat Stanley" from Oklahoma City to see it all. And if you don't know who "Flat Stanley" is, you will have to google it to find out.




Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How I Met My Husband and What Kept Us Together for Better or Worse

When my husband and I married in 1982, Joe was 42 and I, Mary was 33. We were no spring chickens. We met while both teaching at Anchorage’s West High School. Joe taught Biology and I’d started teaching Spanish there in the fall of 1980. That October I was nearly killed in a car wreck. It was late January 1981 when we first met. I was still in shock and just happy to be alive. Not that Joe wasn't, but he was the "quintessential bachelor". He spent his free time in Seldovia on the Alaska ocean building a cabin and was on his way to becoming a bit of a hermit. That January we were working at the West High’s winter registration table. Joe broke the ice by asking if I was going to do the crossword section of the newspaper and if not, he said he’d be happy to take it off my hands. That was fine with me since the only newspaper puzzle I worked then was the crypto-quote (still my favorite).

We didn’t see one another for two or three months until almost the end of the school year, when one Friday we both ended up at La Mex in Spenard. In those days, many West High teachers would meet there for margaritas on Fridays after work. That particular evening Joe and I started talking and decided to move the party on to the Midnight Express (now Organic Oasis) to shoot pool. I was never good at pool and Joe won the games hands down. However, I knew a game that I could beat Joe at. It was a video game called Missile Command at White-key's Fly By Night on Lake Spenard. We headed there, where we played game after game of Missile Command for 25 cents a shot. This was in the days before even Pac Man and I was able to out-missile Joe nicely that evening.

A day or two later, Joe called to ask if I’d like to go see "Popeye" with Robin Williams at the old Denali Theater, where the Bear Tooth is now and where we had our beloved bookstore. When we got to the ticket booth, Joe discovered he had neglected to bring cash and had to hit me up for admission, which was all of a buck each. He said, “Can I borrow a dollar?' And I thought, oh my God, I've got a hot one here. Joe likes to say he has been paying ever since, if so, it was a darn good dollar investment on my part.

Eventually our friendship grew into a marriage. We were at a little Chinese restaurant in Spenard when Joe popped the question. It closed up right after the proposal. I told him I had to think it over. I said, 'I don't know, Joe.' I was recently divorced in 1979 in Oklahoma and I wasn't certain I wanted to try marriage again. I was always a little eccentric and odd, a woman who really wasn’t the marrying kind, not into cooking and domestic life. I remember when growing up in the fifties and sixties, women were asked regularly when home from college when they were getting married, not when they were graduating. It was like women went to college to get their Mrs. So, I was hesitant, but Joe was so stable and moreover he was fun to be with. He loved the outdoors like myself and he too was a free spirit. We started hanging out together and we've been hanging out together ever since, like Siamese twins for 30 years as of Oct. 9th, 2012.
 
My grandfather approved of Joe right away. Grandpa Robert was an Oklahoma cowboy. After meeting Joe he took me aside and said, 'Now Mary, that's a good boy”. Joe was 43.   Joe’s cat, Julia was another story. She didn't think much of me moving in at first. Every night I’d find her laying on my side of the bed at bedtime. She'd see me coming and go Rrrrr and then stomp off. Julia thought she was married to Joe. Over time, we worked out our pecking order and grew fond of each other. Julia lived to be 22 and is now buried in our front flower bed in the same house we were married in on Wendy‘s Way in 1982.

After we married I quit teaching and went back to school to study business. I always wanted a bookstore. Joe taught until his retirement in 1987. In 1983, we launched a summer mobile food business called the Renaissance Cafe, We sold food at the Talkeetna Bluegrass Festival, the Girdwood Forest Fair and many other outside events and had many grand adventures. We finally opened the Alaska Renaissance Bookshop in 1988, featuring out-of-print, small press and Alaska books in the same mall as we saw “Popeye“ in 1981. Five years later we took the bookstore on the road to the Saturday Market and other venues including the Internet.

The remnants of our bookstore live on, on the shelves of our downstairs museum and home library. Our books include out of print Alaskana, such as "How to Get a Job in Government Without Really Trying; Or How to Write a 140-Page Book in Just Five Days." by Walter J. Hickel. It's a joke. Inside are pages from the subcommittee hearing regarding Hickel's nomination as secretary of the Interior during the Nixon administration. Nearby it is an out of print first edition 1973 copy of Duke Ellington’s Music Is My Mistress which I’d be happy to sell if anyone is interested.


For several years we’ve worked as tutors, adopted a puppy who wanted a boy, Moonshine and eventually adopted an older child. The adoption chapter was a nightmare but we survived with counseling, the F word, forgiveness and the help of our trusty dog Moonshine. She was the one special dog of a lifetime. Moon passed June 17, 2010 with cancer after 13 years of wandering the roads with us between Alaska, Canada, California, the Southwest and even Oklahoma. She swam in every river west of the Mississippi.

These days we've introduced a new chapter in our lives of being Vegans.  Having always been a wantabe Vegetarian, it is an easy transition for me and easier for Joe working to escape the return of stomach esophageal cancer.  We also are caring for our new pet family, Pogo (bow-wow) and Wiley (meow- meow) that give us great joy in the day to day grind of life. 


Thursday, February 9, 2012

Growing Old, Like it or Not

A couple of years ago, our home alarm system went off accidentally. Our thirty nine year old neighbor across the street immediately rushed over to check on my husband, Joe and I to see if we were ok. She said, “I was worried, because I know your guys are “old“.“ I thought to myself, is she joking or really talking about us? Well, I’ve since forgiven her, but that day started me wondering, are we indeed getting “old”? So I checked on the internet to see if we were and I discovered old age begins at different ages for different people. Some, say 60, others 68, and some 75 or even 80. It just depends on when you want to think of yourself as old I concluded. 
It wasn’t many years ago that the popular saying was “never trust anyone over 30”. I just figured that the people who felt that way were kidding too and definitely didn’t know my Granddad DeLozier who would have set them straight about that fallacy.
So much has been said about old age and growing old for so long that I’m sure there isn't much I can add, plus I‘ve can’t remember it anyway. Thus my mini essay begins and ends with some of my favorite quotes regarding aging:
Oscar Wilde said: "When I was young, I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I’m old, I know it is.”  Actually I've discovered the most important thing in life is one's health and sanity.  No amount of money can replace either.
"Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the Hell happened." Anonymous
“Growing old is compulsory; growing up is optional.” Anonymous also.
William Somerset Maugham: “What makes old age hard to bear is not the failing of one's faculties, mental and physical, but the burden of one's memories.”

“People grow old only by deserting their ideals“, Douglas MacArthur wrote. “Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul. You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope as old as your despair. In the central place of every heart there is a recording chamber. So long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer and courage, so long are you young. When your heart is covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then, and then only, are you grown old. And then, indeed as the ballad says, you just fade away.”
The quotes aside, the three primary problems I have with aging are:
1) not being able to get the hair on the right side of my head to grow and without an explanation. I do not like being lopsided but that is the way it is, so be it.
2) I do not like out living so many friends and family that I finally became accustom to.
3) Change, as soon as one gets use to something it is replaced by a new model, new word processor, new computer, new café, new car, shoes, styles, TV shows, you name it. It just doesn’t pay to be too attached to anything. But the good thing is the bad stuff fades away just as fast and often that change is for the better, even when not looked forward to.
In conclusion my two favorite old age quotes are one by the crime writer, Joe Gores (1931-2011): “Old age means realizing you will never own all the dogs you wanted to.” The last is “the older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight because by then, your body and your fat are really good friends” author unknown.
My final words and advice on aging are it is those things that one does not do, that they often live to regret. So to live without regrets, leave no stone unturned.