Things have changed around here.
Joni's daughter moved in with us. Belinda is the Mother to Jazmine and Kylie. Joni and I have been raising Belinda's children for all the usual reasons. Relations with Belinda have been rocky at times. Painful. Credit Belinda with achieving a fair amount of maturity to actually be able to show up at our doorstep, wanting to get her life together, wanting to have more contact with her children. Starting over is always tenuous with those who struggle with addictions. Fragile. I'm not much for believing in demons, but I do know that those who become enamored with addictive chemicals are truly possessed by a demon. That's about the only way to characterize the evil and pain the abuse of such substances will do to a life. Demons entice. Seduce. Kill.
Turn the page. We decided to have Kylie attend High School in Paradise, California. There is something about Paradise that both Joni and I love. We choose to buy most of our groceries there even though there are better stores in both Chico and Oroville. Paradise is a quirky place. The whole ridge is populated by a devotion to the idea that government is the problem and that the less you have of it, the better life will be. This sort of distrust has led to the communities on the ridge, Paradise and three other towns that climb up the ridge to the edge of the Sierra, 40,000 people, all of them on a septic system. There just wasn't all that support to do a major infrastructure change to design and implement a modern sewer system. The same problem developed when it came to planning the city. There is no real downtown. There are two very busy roads with businesses randomly popping up along the two major thoroughfares. These roads are dangerous because, well, people like to drive fast on these things. Pedestrians being killed crossing the street in Paradise has become common. Two in the last year. Lack of government planning has impacted Paradise greatly. Despite this mistrust in government, the school in Paradise has a decent reputation. Belinda got a job over in Paradise, so she brings Kylie to school (which is four or five miles away as the crow flies but it takes 45 minutes to get there). The plan is for Belinda to fledge from our house made of mud, to the easier life of a dry walled, thermostat heated and cooled apartment in Paradise. And the girls will move with her. Yes, that's the plan; whether it actually happens?
Kylie, on her way to her first day as a Freshman in High School.
Life is tough for a person who has wrestled with addictions. Those demons tend to take root when life has progressed and a few months of sobriety and sanity bring on the rewards of that lifestyle--that's when the Addict lets their guard down, thinking they can handle that one drink or line or bowl; relapse is always a danger. The effectiveness of Recovery Programs is mostly measured in months, not years. Spontaneous remission seems to be what finally works. The person just becomes sick of the life they are living; substance abuse no longer is an option for that person. As a nurse who has spent more than his fair share of days, detoxing people off of recreational chemicals, I look more for signs of spontaneous remission. The right honesty about the drug; the appreciation of the total devastation the using life has caused. The expression of remorse, regret and the burning desire for restitution. These things need to be there for the Addict to succeed, in my opinion.
And so we hold hope in our hearts that maybe these girls will be able to live their high school years with their mother. Close by in Paradise.
I've been home for the summer, trying to recover from an injury that was much more serious than what I expected. As I wrote before, I've been slow to heal this time. I haven't been able to work on this house due to the injury. I spent nearly two months lying mostly in a Lazyboy with only a short walk for exercise.
A few weeks ago, after getting the news that I have some major concerns with my coronary arteries, lungs and liver, I decided to up the hikes to something that actually might do me some good. On my first longer, vigorous hike, I discovered that my ribs hurt with exertion. It is like my lungs have become too big for the rib cage. When I huff and puff with exercise, my ribs ache with pain as the lungs feel like they are going around the ribs. My lungs are like a pudgy man with the waist size of 40 inches, trying to get into a pair of jeans that are only 32 inches at the waist.
Compound that with a back that experiences relief only when I'm drugged. Movement, sitting, most anything, makes this inflamed, strained and spasmic back roar to life with pain that is reminiscent of the pain one feels when you have a kidney stone. It is a gnawing pain that sits under my shoulder blade. It hurts so much, I just pine for relief---cursing and sometimes actually pounding my hands against the Lazyboy arms because the pain is so intense. I live with the permanent smell of Icy Hot, which I apply to the back a few times a day. This is all new to me. I don't like it.
So I've had the summer to do a fair amount of reading. And a fair amount of writing. Hiking takes up a few hours a day now. I'd like to start jogging at some point, but the ribs and back can't take that amount of jostling around.
Talking with Joni yesterday as we hesitantly hiked down the canyon, we were commenting on how things have run afoul with our physical health. This aging process seems to have ramped up lately and I find almost every system I have is affected. That's when Joni said: "You and I are the first guinea pigs for the Industrial, GMO lifestyle".
Pity the Latter Boomers--those born after 1956 up until 1964. Liberalism and social supports stopped when the elder Baby Boomers got out of college and traded in the VW van for the SUV. They voted for Ronald Reagan, en masse. Raised by Dr. Spock, gone were any egalitarian values. In fact, this generation was quite happy with inegalitarianism, having perfected getting out of the draft by luck, school deferments, clergy deferments and general wealth. Poor kids went to Vietnam to die. The Reagan Recession made it tough for the Latter Boomer kids to get a job: I was a college graduate with no prospects and no clue what to do. I even applied to go pick up dead bodies for a mortician. I ended up working as a janitor. For years. Every entry level positions had been filled by 1984. It was tough to be a college grad back in those days. I ended up going back to school to get a marketable job: an RN.
Joni got me to wondering how the latter Baby Boomers are doing now. Our generation experienced the transformation of the American diet to, first, the Industrial Diet: meat, saturated fats in high quantities. More fat. Margarine. Kraft Mac and cheese, Jimmy Dean sausages, Cool Whip. Miracle Whip. TV dinners. McDonald's vs. Burger King, high fructose corn syrup. To top it off, GMOs were introduce to our Industrial Diet, sneakily--when we weren't looking---sometime in the later 80's. I'm wondering how my generation is doing? Are we all overweight from our diets? Are we making as much money as our elder brothers and sisters? How's our physical health? With Type II diabetes and coronary artery disease and vulnerable nodules, pre-cancerous, sitting on our abused lungs and livers? How are our backs holding up? Did we give up alcohol, drugs, cigarettes? Marijuana smoking peaked in 1979 amongst high school students---are we still smoking the stuff? How's our emotional health? And our children, how are they doing as they attempt to find jobs in a very difficult economy? How did we cope? Did we find Jesus and move to the suburbs?
I'm the kid in gold at the back table, this is one of my first trips to McDonald's in Winona, Minnesota.
When I look at Joni and me, I'm not liking what I'm seeing. We are physical wrecks at this point. Something important happened back in 2008 that, I think, gives a bit of a glimpse into how the later Baby Boomers are faring. In 2008, the suicide rate was highest in the 45 year old to 54 year old age group. That was the first time that had changed, ever. Usually, those over 70 years of age have the highest suicide rate. No more. Since 2008, the Latter Baby Boomers have had that ignoble distinction.
Why the high suicide rate? 45 to 54 year olds are a vulnerable age group. Too young for Medicare and Social Security, too old as seen by potential employers. A change in health status at this age leads to poverty and despair much too easily. In my work life, I've seen it all too often. An injury or layoff from work forces change on the middle aged person. At this age, a body starts to show its wear and tear from unhealthy habits. It is tough to become ill or unemployed at this stage of life.
I suspect there are other statistics, besides the suicide rate, that might also demonstrate the difficult time Latter Baby Boomers are having in life. Divorce. Poverty. Unemployment.