March 2024

Winter’s Solitude

Littleton, NH, lies on Route 302, near the Vermont State line. The blue-collar town is divided by the Ammonoosuc River, which flows from Mount Washington, some 20 miles away. In the spring, the river becomes a home to whitewater canoes and kayakers, as there are frequent rapids from Twin Mountain to Littleton. 

Seth Holcomb came to Littleton as a young physician fresh out of his Beth Israel Hospital residency in Boston, MA. He was a rising star with a bright future in research and academic medicine but chose another route. He was drawn to rural areas, which provided exciting recreation and a place to raise a family. His wife, Mary Ellen, shared his vision, and the two set off for Littleton, unsure what they would find.

For fifty years, Seth practiced medicine, and Mary Ellen worked alongside him as his office nurse. A talented man with a friendly demeanor, it was no surprise that Seth became a popular doctor in a town with few healthcare professionals. Did he make a fortune? No, he didn’t, but he loved his lifestyle. He enjoyed hiking, skiing in the White Mountains, and spending time with his children, Joshua and Kathy.

He remembered the day well. He had finished talking on the phone with his daughter, a chemistry graduate student at Duke. It was snowing lightly out, and the river had partially iced over. It was bitter cold outdoors, with the thermometer reading 8 degrees, when he walked to the kitchen to have coffee with his wife, Mary Ellen. 

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Retirement: An Underrated Challenge

Retirement is perhaps one of the most underrated of life’s passages!  For those lucky enough to reach that stage in life, it’s filled with surprises, some good and some not so good, most of which we are unprepared for.  Suppose you are leaving a very busy, successful, and beloved career. In that case, the passage needs preparation and planning…. making an inventory of who you’ve been and what has brought you the most joy will help you figure out who the person you will now become.  But how do we do that? 

It would have benefited me to have attended some seminars on transitioning from being “somebody” to suddenly becoming ” nobody.”  As a person whose identity and satisfaction were very tied up with my professional career, this change was enormous.  I had no real hobbies or pastimes, and most of my relationships (apart from those of my husband and children) were connected to my work life.  To say I felt somewhat empty would be an understatement!  And I hardly knew where to begin to build a new me, a life that would be rewarding and fun. 

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Aging Parents: A Personal Journey

Bringing your aging parents in to live with you is not an easy decision and not a choice for everyone, but let’s face it…. after 80+ years of age, some seniors need oversight. Fortunately, my husband and I had a loving relationship with my parents, and we got along well. It made sense for us to create an ADL-compliant suite for them in the home that we were building. They were happy to join our household. This living transition did take some getting used to for all of us. At the time, my husband worked more than full-time in the medical field. I worked four days a week as the Independent Living Senior Residence Director. Given my educational background in Speech Pathology and Audiology and several years of experience working with aging seniors, I was the best fit to assume the role of overseeing the care of my parents. 

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January 2024

Never Too Late!

I was 76 when I first picked up a violin.  I’d read that exploring new hobbies keeps the mind sharp and is suitable for “the aging.”  

That’s not why I started playing.  Not at all.  I started because decades ago, my Mom told me I couldn’t.  With six kids in the house, she could handle so much noise, and a screechy violin wasn’t part of it.  So, I took nine years of piano.  It was okay, but it wasn’t the violin.  I’ve always been stubborn.  And I’ve always loved the way a violin looks and sounds.  

About a year ago, I summoned all my courage and went to the local violin store.  They were used to dealing with beginners, albeit younger than me.  I left with a rented violin and the idea that watching YouTube videos was the way to go.  Turns out the violin is a challenging instrument.  After weeks of trying to hold the violin and bow without dropping it, I put it on a shelf where it languished.  

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Fall Colors Part 2

The place in Rutland was new and shiny, unlike his old house, which had been built in 1847. As they drove into the circular driveway, a woman in a plaid suit greeted him and Abagail. She was a friendly woman who said, “Good morning Mr. Stockwell.” Will was impressed by the personal touch, though he said nothing. Once inside, Louise Rowel showed Will his room before giving another tour of the entire facility.

Will’s room was tidy, with furniture that was in good shape. A nice-looking comforter was on his bed, but Will thought the place looked more like a hotel than a home. He had similar thoughts as he walked around the rest of the facility. What had he done? Had he moved from his crafted farmhouse to a cookie-cutter Marriott? 

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Letting Go

The title of this article isn’t scientific, but it captures a process that involves us all. So, what am I talking about? From the earliest time of life, the task of people is to embrace, adapt, and eventually move on. Children go to school and learn but move to the next grade. Then, they graduate. They go to a new school, and then they go to college. Each change requires a new adaptation and letting go of the past. This is not as easy as it sounds.

Certain phases of life and experiences are decisive, and there’s a temptation to hold on to them. Some holding on is adaptive. People join booster clubs and alumni organizations and attend games supporting their colleges. Other people could handle the situation better. They live in their college town, hang out with students, and don’t advance into careers and other life stages. Why is this so?

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November 2023

Fall Colors

It was quiet on the farm that night. Mary was gone now, as was his Lab, Rocket. With the Green mountains in the distance, Will looked from his back porch over acres of pasture. Will Stockwell had to admit that though he loved his place, he was lonely and couldn’t tend to things as he once had. He sold off the last of his livestock, and though his workload had lessened, there were still fences to fix, painting to do, and hay to mow. 

His daughter had talked with him several times about moving to an assisted living home in Rutland, but Will Stockwell was a proud, independent man, and he didn’t want anyone taking care of him. But on second thought, he wasn’t doing his best self-maintenance. When was the last time he had cooked himself a meal? How clean was the house? 

Maybe it was time, he thought. If anyone knew changing times, it should be he, who had lived on a farm for the last forty years. Didn’t the seasons change? People were born, grew up, and died. It seemed simple when he thought about it that way, but moving into a place with many city people seemed a bit much at this time.

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Never Been Better!

When the wind sweeps across Northern Minnesota, even the ice fisherman, snowmobile people, and cross-country skiers go indoors. From Ely to St. Paul, doors are closed tight, wood burns, and traffic is sparse. One man swore he saw a giant otter driving a van. The sad fact is that no one became alarmed.

Most hockey players at my college came from Canada, Massachusetts, or Minnesota. We all became acquainted with places like Thief River Falls, Duluth, and Mankato. The National Hockey League’s Hall of Fame is even in Minnesota.

Hugh Pates didn’t play ice hockey but scored the basket that won the State Championship for his high school fifty years ago. Even now, when he returns to St. Paul, people will approach him and talk about that game! 

One might think that Hugh went on to play college ball after high school, but no, he didn’t. He became a monk! He studied, prayed, and contemplated; he became a Catholic priest in 1963. However, his desire to serve others clashed with his wish to have more intimate and meaningful relationships, and, decisively, Hugh left the priesthood after ten years. 

In short order, Hugh departed from the land of ice, snow, and mosquitoes for graduate school in California. Hugh had classes at the United States International University with Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, Viktor Frankl, and Fritz Perls. 

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Lessons From Lucy – Book Review

Dave Barry is a best-selling author, syndicated columnist, humorist, and Pulitzer Prize winner known for his witty, insightful, and sometimes sarcastic humor. After reading Dave Turns 40 and Dave Turns 50, I was curious about his book Lessons From Lucy:  The Simple Joys of An Old, Happy Dog. When Dave turned 70, he realized that his dog, Lucy, was handling old age much better than he was. Lucy “has more friends, fewer worries, and way more fun.”  It’s a funny, easy-to-read, insightful, sensitive, and touching book about seven lessons that apply to people and pets. In his 70s, Dave has become more reflective, introspective, and philosophical, as theories of adult development inform us. The Palm Beach Post newspaper described the book as “An instruction manual on how to live happy, healthy, and heartily well into your seventies and beyond.” I’ve given the book to several people who laughed at least as much as I did and were equally inspired by its lessons. The lessons are:

  1. Make new friends (and keep the ones you have).
  2. Don’t stop having fun (and if you have stopped, start).
  3. Pay attention to the people you love (not later, right now).
  4. Let go of your anger unless it’s about something important, which it seldom is.
  5. Try not to judge people by their looks, and don’t obsess over your own.
  6. Don’t let your happiness depend on things; they don’t make you truly happy, and you’ll never have enough anyway.
  7. Don’t lie unless you have an excellent reason, which you probably don’t.
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