Wednesday, September 4, 2013



Younger people do not think much beyond a few years ahead.  Yet we all see people who are much older when we are in the prime of our careers or lives.  I remember the first time I visited a nursing home for the elderly to visit one of Nedra’s relatives.  This was about 1970.  I was young (at least I think being 39 is young to me now).  The first response was the odor of urine that permeated the place.  The thought of incontinent old people horrified me and I can see why younger people blot out the thought of that future.  The second was the feeling of helplessness as I watched some people scooting about in wheel chairs, many leaning on canes, and lots walking corridors holding onto railing along the walls.  The thought crossed my mind that I would rather die a quick death from a heart attack than melt away cell by cell as I aged into oblivion. Today I am in the early phase of my 82rd year.  I use a cane occasionally to avoid falling if the weather is bad or if it is dark or I feel I will tire from walking too much.  I take tai chi classes with Nedra so we can exercise our arthritic joints. My brain feels like it is 30 years old and I can do lots of mental skills.  I can do Sudukos (even the hard ones and sometimes I use a pen instead of a pencil).  I still write books and have had five books published in the past ten years, the latest this year (2013).  These are not vanity press books.  They are scholarly books that must pass critical review by internal and outside referees of the publisher. I also have at least five books I wrote during the same time that have not been published.  I am a realist.  If I don’t get a book published, I try writing another book.  To me that is easier than to market myself.  That’s the same attitude I have for Sudukos.  Solve it and get an endorphin rush.  Goof it up and abandon it by trying another.  If I run out of puzzles to do, then I will erase and try again (and often succeed). So far I have not tried that with my rejected manuscripts. But unlike puzzles, writing books and articles is more fun.  I learn something every time I do the research for a book.  I still have the curiosity of a child and want to learn something new every day I waken.  I understand why many elderly people are depressed.  They have lost the capacity to do the physical things they loved. They may never have had an opportunity to develop their mental skills.  If they do not have dementia, they will see their lives fading away and lack the knowledge of how to cultivate their skills. For me retirement was never going to be shuffleboard, playing cards, and watching vintage movies.  It is the last phase of my life cycle, and as a biologist, I want to extract every moment of creativity I can summon and savor what I have wrought.

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