Old Like Fine Wine — Or Something

Helen Baldwin avatar

by Helen Baldwin |

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My husband, Randy, and I moved into our house at the end of December 1995. The old farmhouse, situated in the mountains of North Carolina, was built in 1920, reportedly by bootleggers. Surely there must be some hidden treasure somewhere! We haven’t found it yet, but we haven’t given up, either.

It dawned on me the other day that in 2020, our house turned 100 years old.

I stopped bemoaning so loudly our one bathroom or those sundry creepy-crawlies at home. I’m no longer shocked at the discovery of trapped mice in the kitchen closet. Maybe the campers tossing daddy longlegs on one another at Girl Scout camp and watching nocturnal critters scurry around in the mess hall toughened me up. I don’t recall a badge for that.


Randy and I thought we were pretty old to be parenting a newborn again; other 40-somethings were becoming grandparents. We weren’t too old to be excited, though, and Jeffrey was a dream baby.

Having a newborn at our age was a piece of cake in comparison to receiving a diagnosis of spinal muscular atrophy. The diagnosis was quickly overshadowed by the prognosis of death within two years.

And two years seemed like an eternity, given the five and a half months we actually had with our sweet baby.

I can’t imagine tackling that assignment at a young age.


Two Toyota car salesmen left on Sept. 11, 2001, to retrieve our new 2001 Echo near Charlotte, North Carolina. They were oblivious to the surreal events that morning that promptly placed Charlotte and all other major cities under immediate alert. They had no choice but to turn around and return the following day to drive the car back.

The Echo had fewer than 300 miles on it when I picked it up. It passed 420,000 a few weeks ago. Our mechanic, in genuine awe, calls it a freak car.


I was working on the revision of my book, “The Jeffrey Journey,” when my trusty desktop Mac ruthlessly shoved out the “Closed Permanently” sign. Fighting off more than a little panic, I secured a replacement iMac. Thanks to a bounty of angel intervention, the local Mac guru salvaged everything of importance. That was 10 years ago.


If anything, 2020 has been eventful: pandemic, mask mandates, lockdowns, curfews, vaccines, elections, (continuing) scandals, and so much more. These events have sparked emotional upheavals for what seems like years.

Old, familiar routines of casual shopping, eating out, attending school and sports events, traveling, and being with friends and family have been squelched in a big way. The new routine, in essence: Stay home.

Randy and I are “retired” and self-employed, though Randy has been driving a bus in a nearby college town. My main COVID-19 adjustment has been tending to our young grandchildren, Clara and James. Sometimes I help with Clara’s prekindergarten Zoom sessions, but mostly we three just have fun.

During our son Matthew’s recent quarantine with his family, I painted the treacherous stair area in our house. I also painted the bathroom, which required some pretty impressive ladder maneuvers for this old body. Next, I’ll start some “kiddo” projects and and will continue the purge project in our house. (It helps if I’m watching “Hoarding: Buried Alive.”)

Because I’m not driving many places now, the old Echo is getting a break of sorts. Still, the driver’s window balks at being rolled up. The airflow selection knob doesn’t always budge, and there are definitely new squeaks and groans. (Oh wait, maybe that’s me.) It seems happy to be of service, though. Thank goodness for that.

What has not seemed happy to be of service is my trusty Mac. Last week, it proceeded to perform such unnerving stunts that I prayed I could save the “big stuff” before its final gasp. When opening Disk Utility set off a stream of spinning balls, I unplugged; I might have said a few words before plugging it back in. It seemed a bit more cooperative, or maybe that was merely my scrounging up optimism that it would hold out a little longer.

I investigated refurbished iMacs online and asked our daughter, Katie, for her suggestions. I should have known that once her wheels started spinning, they wouldn’t stop until she had ordered the very computer I admired. The rest of the gang eagerly jumped in to contribute.

Best family ever. No matter what’s happening in the real world.


It seems fitting to wrap up my 2020 columns on the old Mac, which, unsurprisingly, seems a mite perkier now that it’s headed to the closet.

Let’s hope that 2020 (finally) comes to a gentle close. I would like to think that 2021 will be more upbeat, but even my Pollyanna side isn’t willing to place any bets just yet — unless we find that hidden treasure.

Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy, peaceful new year to us all.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


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