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The Newcomer

Old men, old women, weather and other odd topics

The country song says '...as long as old men sit and talk about the weather, as long as old women sit and talk about old men'.

I think I'm hanging out with the wrong old women.

During the heat wave in July that's just about the only topic of conversation that came my way.

"Boy, it's hot! How hot do you think it is?"

"Can you believe this heat?"

"Hot enough for you?"

"Still hot"

"Hot."

Each day the opening gambit got shorter as we old ladies became either bored with the subject, with each other or were just too wilted by the temperature in triple figures to talk at all. And, believe me, not one of us was thinking about old men.

I am a great believer in liking each day as it is presented to us because, after all, it's the only day we are sure of having. But the weeks of raging, desert heat just about took the starch out of me.

It made me think of the soldiers in Iraq, sweltering in temperatures equal to, or exceeding, what we were experiencing. When my grandson was over there, I sent him a couple of those cloth coolers that you douse in water and they swell up so you can wrap them around your neck to keep cool. He said they were a life-saver.

For myself, I just called the hair stylist and had her chop my hair off. With the new do, I could just dunk my head under the refreshing flow of a faucet and then shake like a dog. Hey, it didn't make me a fashion plate, but it cooled me off!

The new hair cut is not why a new picture accompanies the Newcomer column. It's because the other one was two years old and Bell's Palsy has rearranged my facial features.

I loved the old picture that topped this column, even though it was a bit fuzzy. It was taken by someone who loves me-my eldest son-at my 70th birthday party and I was exceedingly happy that day with all my children and quite a few of the grandchildren around me. For once, my face reflected exactly what I was feeling, pure joy.

I don't like the new picture.

It doesn't feel like me. It's too solemn and the right side of my face refuses to cooperate in a smile. The right eyelid droops. I don't feel warped!

Bell's Palsy isn't an old people's disease. It jumps on cranial nerves indiscriminate of age and wreaks havoc-causing eyes to gape open or droop shut and facial features to sag into a gargoyle mask. In time, the effect improves or disappears, if you're one of the lucky ones.

I'm living with some of its effects two years after the fact. I have a friend who had it years ago and he said he still has to tape his eye shut when he showers to avoid getting soap in it. The rest of the time he walks around looking as if he's ogling the world.

So, I could be worse off.

But, I'm telling you, this new picture just rubs my nose in the problem. It looks too much like me this year and not enough like me two years ago.

I may resurrect the old picture for this column and just quit looking in the mirror. That should solve my image problem.

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