Leaning Into the Holidays My Story

| 30 Nov 2015 | 12:36

Charlie Brown might agree that making “everydays” better is what holy/holidays like Christmas/Chanukah, are very much about. I say, ditto for birthdays and the greater the number, the greater the need for follow-up caring support. Surely related is the six-week series on the post-retirement life of now 85-year-old Upper East Sider, Hank Blum. The series, which run in this paper, is called “Exceeding Expectations,” and is produced by The Robert N.Butler Columbia Aging Center which also chronicles the lives of 20 other elder New Yorkers.

I might add that the late Dr. Robert Butler coined the term “ageism” decades ago and I was a member of his sadly last 2010 Age Boom Academy for journalists who often write about elder conditions. Now Hank Blum is one of the more advantaged elders -- financially secure, with a wife and adult children and grandchildren, emotionally and physically close. He’s still able to do subway stairs (!), but during the day he’s often on his own. and very much relies on eateries where he is known by name and you can still have just a coffee or snack.

Save the Everyday PlacesMost disastrously, such places are being killed off by skyrocketing real estate values, and my last column hoped the Blums would join the East 79th and East Sixties Neighborhood Associations’ battles to save these places which so meet everyday needs. And shop local, because even supermarkets like D’Agostino’s on York between 79th and 80th are vulnerable with the advent of Fairway, Fresh Direct and big box stores. But D’Agostio’s dedicated former manager, Joe Mojica, is back and promised the E. 79th group to make the store “better than ever.” Not only elder people need these brick and mortar markets.

Vulnerable elder walksAnd not only elder walkers need safe travel conditions either although they are the prime victims of the unsafe kind. And while actively opposed by these two civic groups, there’s a long way to go, Hank Blum.

Holiday Sing-alongOh yes, 212-713-5826 is the phone number of the East Sixties group which holds its annual Holiday Sing, December 10 at 6 p.m. on the S.E. corner of First and 67th Street. Ah, sing-a-longs in general, are so “good for what ails us,” and for those with lung problems like Hank Blum’s. And the Blums might also join the 19th Pct. Community Council. Call 212 452 0613 for information, and share concerns which need attention like unsafe traffic conditions.

Church MergersBut the Blum series didn’t mention any faith group involvement, a resource elder people especially depend upon. The recent merger of city churches has cost thousands of Catholics their home parish which were close by and also “disability accessible.” This was surely on this protestant’s mind at the St. Stephen of Hungary’s 7th Thanksgiving Dinner for the Community. Although now officially merged with St. Monica’s, it’s still able to have an 11:30 Mass for the Hearing Disabled and host this church member-produced dinner until St. Monica’s automatic outdoor lift is in place. (St. Stephen’s has an indoor lift and an indoor elevator.) Newspaper reporters from Ireland were there to cover the innovative Thanksgiving Community Dinner and the church merger effect. They also learned of meeting place losses for groups like A.A., and related to elder resources, hard to find low-cost exercise classes.

Macy’s and Charlie Brown Now elders like Blum and me grew up in the great department store era, and thank heavens for Macy’s and its wonderful “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” windows honoring this TV classic’s 50th birthday. Surely no other Minnesotan has done as much over-all good as its creator, Charles Schulz. And hurrah for a Charlie Brown Christmas Forever stamp - and for real mail all year!

Park Avenue Memorial Trees Ah, but too few know, maybe even WW II generation, Hank Blum, that the fir trees lining Park Avenue are there to honor all who made the ultimate sacrifice in this nation’s wars and that this sacred tradition was started by several bereaved mothers after Word War II. The Park Avenue Memorial Trees will be lit on December 6 (hey, that’s my birthday) – they are surely what the peace and goodwill season is about - for all ages and backgrounds. And surely more follow-up is needed on Hank Blum’s life as he grows older.