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.
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:
Make new friends (and keep the ones you have).
Don’t stop having fun (and if you have stopped, start).
Pay attention to the people you love (not later, right now).
Let go of your anger unless it’s about something important, which it seldom is.
Try not to judge people by their looks, and don’t obsess over your own.
Don’t let your happiness depend on things; they don’t make you truly happy, and you’ll never have enough anyway.
Don’t lie unless you have an excellent reason, which you probably don’t.
If there is one word that captures the key to successful development across all species, it is probably “adaptation.”
Life has constantly been changing from day one. Weather changes, environments change, people change, and circumstances change. Adaptability is crucial if a person is to move forward successfully.
It makes sense that a good prognosis for successful adaptation in later life is a prior history of flexibility and effective adjustment. Most people will face challenges as they age, so the ability to change direction when necessary is crucial for successful living.
So, what are some problems many will face in their senior years? Certainly, health issues must rank high on the list. Health problems are not only intrinsically difficult, but they have ramifications in many other areas. Hearing loss affects social life and can push a person toward social isolation. Joint replacements and arthritis can end an active lifestyle. What does one do, then?
That woman was my mother: the occasion, her 37th birthday.
I was 12, and my life stretched before me, just loaded with possibilities. I couldn’t imagine my mom doing anything more exciting or impactful than dishes or another load of laundry.
Decades have passed, as has my mom. My life no longer stretches before me. Indeed, I’ve started counting backward. Let’s see…I’m 76 years old and probably have another 12 “good years” left. By “good,” I’m thinking years where I hope to be free of chronic pain, be mobile, and can still remember a lot of stuff.
Cess Guzzetta is a retired attorney living in Rochester, New York
I was about 11 and on the way home from Hebrew School. I began thinking about being alive and having thoughts and feelings as a human being when it occurred to me that people only lived into their 70s. Back then, it was a problem. I could not reconcile the idea of having a living soul for a limited time. I likened it to going to a movie theater. The movie would end, and people would leave the theater except me. I would no longer exist, but the world outside of the theater would. I was incredulous!
My grandparents were alive in their 70s, but I saw them as separate from my life and very old. My self-centered thinking was becoming aware that others had thoughts in their minds as I did. Thousands, even millions, of people had inner lives as I did. I was bewildered.
This piece was written by a retired mental health worker in San Diego.
Recently I had coffee with an old friend who will be retiring soon. My friend is resourceful and has a track record of success in his profession and recreational life. I asked him how he felt about retiring, and he said he was scared. He said he was afraid he wouldn’t find meaningful ways to spend his time. I understood his anxiety and felt confident he would find purposeful ways to use his time. At the same time, I think his concerns are shared by many.
Today my wife and I devoted a morning to sorting old clothing and gear to give a lot of used stuff to Goodwill. The mission was successful, but I must say it was emotionally challenging for me. I saw my hiking, mountain climbing, and bike history go out the door in plastic bags. Of course, I no longer did those activities, but somehow the presence of the gear made me believe I might in the future and symbolically preserved my history.
Does your surgeon keep your records at home? Many psychologists store their old records in their homes or garages—a bad idea. Think about fire, robberies, and water damage. Keeping your records in a professional storage site like Iron Mountain is best. The facility catalogs your files, making them easy to retrieve if subpoenaed or requested. Don’t be professionally embarrassed.
Make sure you check your hearing and, if needed, get hearing aids. Poor hearing compromises social life and can encourage isolation. Hearing aids have improved over the years and are cosmetically unobtrusive.
The right disaster comes at the right moment to break us open to the helplessness that an opening of the heart requires. -Coleman Barks
It has been three months since I have been home to see my father. I have been busy living my own cluttered life two hours away. Thursday afternoon, when he wakes from his nap to find me there in his living room, I am familiar; there is recognition in his eyes, but also blurriness. “Who’s this?” he asks.
“Honey, it’s Mary Ann, your daughter.” This is a weird, unwelcome feeling, to be not fully known by him.
Mary Ann Stratton grew up the youngest of six children on a small farm in southern Colorado where her father was a state veterinarian. She is currently living in Denver, Colorado where she teaches middle school Language Arts.This article was originally published in the San Diego Psychologist.
Time may be endless but the piece of it a life is given, like the gift of a cherished old photograph, dims and dulls as the seasons race forward in an indifferent perpetuity. Having reached the age of 85, I have trouble remembering names, and the images of my experiences, once sharp and clear and full of color, are grey and cloudy and require hours of effort to pry them out of the disarray of detail that has now become my memory. And so, it was not surprising that I could not recognize the name, Stephan Jacobson when my caller identified himself.
It all began two weeks ago when Ellie, my young secretary, entered my study as I rested in my easy chair and handed me an envelope. “This is one,” she said in her slow, soft voice, “I think you’d best open yourself.”
Falling Leaves summer’s end, it’s the changing time, the spinning of the earth, the movement of planets: like the river, time flows on, carrying the fall leaves, shaping the crystals of winter, signaling the time for the snow to fall: days and nights, nights and days: time is a train, traveling to destinations near and far, to places unknown.