December 16, 2017

As of today I have lived xxxxx days. Wow

By John Guy LaPlante

I intend those xxxxx’s in that headline.  I ask you to figure the exact number that should replace those xxxxx’s. I’ll give you clues in a minute.

First, a fair warning. I started to write 1,500 words in this post. Hah!

I am beaming and rightfully--all thanks to Monique and David's popping in with a wonderful birthday breakfast for my 77th this morning.

I am beaming and rightfully–all thanks to Monique and David’s popping in with a wonderful birthday breakfast for my 87th this morning.

The total has shocked me. It’s 6,019 words! I felt you should know.

Yes, I have been around a long time. Nobody is more surprised than I. When I was six, our family doctor told my mother–with me standing wide-eyed by her side—that I would never reach the age of 30. Yes, I was sickly. I heard him make that colossal pronouncement.  Gosh, have I fooled him!

Today is April 26—an important date to me because I am turning 87 today. And I was born in 1929. I will leave it to you math whizzes to figure how many days I have been alive. I am mentioning the answer in the final paragraph of this post.

But please don’t go and peek. Read right down to the bottom, please. If you find your math was right, let me know and I’ll send you my personal congratulations. You would deserve that. I know nobody will cheat, of course.

So today I am starting my 88th year. Yes, that’s a strange way of thinking about it. But in some cultures, a child is called one year old the minute it is born.  I know I should say “he” or “she” or “they” and not “it,” but the first is clumsy and the second is ungrammatical. And “it” is for inanimate things. I know that. But it’s my best choice. It shows how imperfect English is. Anyway, I understand how those people can argue this point of crediting a child with one year at birth.

I have now lived longer than anybody else in my family—my siblings, my parents, my aunts and uncles, my grandparents. The one exception is my dear Aunt Bernadette, who lived to 94. Thinking more about all this, I recognize I have lived longer than most people in the world. Wow!

Now listen to this. There were 76 in my graduating class (’47) at Assumption Prep in Worcester. I have only one classmate still alive and kicking—Cam Thibault of Nashua, N.H. He is now Rev. Camillus Thibault, a priest in the religious order that founded the school. He lives at Assumption, and I visit him when I get back to Worcester, and we’re still very close.

Half of us went on to Assumption College, which was on the same campus. Cam had taken a year off to enter the Assumptionists’ novitiate program and so was a year behind when he returned.  There were 33 at our commencement (‘51).  And to the best of my knowledge, which is pretty good, I am the only one still breathing.

Another word about Cam. Early on, I discovered he and I were both born on April 26, 1929. I asked him at what time and he told me in the afternoon, he thought. Well, I told him I had been born in the early morning–my mother had told me– which made me the older, and I have been lording it over him as his senior ever since, and not to forget that, please.

So if the world had been designed logically, it would seem that I should die before him. Doesn’t that make sense? But darn little about life and living makes sense, so that may not happen.

Now I must ‘fess up. I fibbed when I told Cam that I was born earlier than he. I have no idea at what time I popped out.   (Cam, please, please forgive me!)  I suppose somebody way up high will hold me accountable for this great moral lapse. But thank goodness, I no longer believe in Hell and Purgatory. (I may be sorry someday.)

One of my themes today is nothing remains the same. Consider Assumption. The Prep School folded around 1970. The College is flourishing and is ranked as one of the best liberal colleges in the Northeast. Its enrollment is in the thousands and students get fine preparation for all kinds of careers.

But it is the same in name only. It is still Catholic and the president of its board is still an Assumptionist priest. But I believe there are only two or three such teaching at the college now.

The school was started for kids of French Canadian descent. That’s all long gone. It’s open to anybody. It was once strictly male. It went coed in 1972, I believe.

Half the instruction through all eight years was in French (incredible, don’t you think?). Now a tiny minority take French. And the school now has a flourishing graduate program.  And oh, the college is now on a completely different campus with buildings that were unimaginable in my day. Talk about changes! Hey, it could be argued Assumption should take a new name!

Now about me finally. Few people have changed as much as I have. I have changed in a dozen ways, yes, dramatic, I’d say. From the career that I planned on to the work that I did for my livelihood.  Where I live and have lived. What my interests have become. Who became my life-long companion, or so I thought. My philosophy of life. My political views. Even my name.

About that: I was born Jean-Guy LaPlante. That was my byline on my stories in my early newspaper days. Some readers didn’t understand it.  I changed it to John Guy for what I thought were sound reasons. But that was a mistake and I regret it. On my gravestone–I am not sure I want one–I would like my French name, then aka John Guy LaPlante.  Yes, despite the fact few people visit a grave after the first year.

The one thing in all that which has not changed is my interest in the French/Quebecois culture and language in which I was born. I prize that.

Oh, kids went to Assumption to become a priest, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, or a failure. I didn’t become one of those first four so now you see what I became.

To be serious, I started in the college as a pre-med but dropped out after my sophomore year.  I was in that only because my mother wanted me to be a doctor. I chose to go into journalism. Crazy, eh?  I believe I was the first Assumption grad to opt for that.

Now consider this. My Maman—my mom—gave birth to six children. (She also had a couple of misses.) I was the first born. Two died in early infancy, Rose Marie and Andrê.  Lucie, who followed me, and I are the only two still living. The two who followed her were Louise, who died at 33, and Michael—16 years younger than I and by the same father and mother—died at 55.

It seems to me that whoever way, way up there is planning and organizing all these events isn’t using all his smarts. Don’t you agree?

Anyway, what is amazing is that I am now the one at the very top of the tree. And by any common standards I have lived a very fine life. Not perfect. I have failed. I have sinned. I have made mistakes.  Of course. Because I am human just like you. But I’ve never done anything criminal, or anything to soil my reputation, though that’s a matter of opinion, I suppose. And I do have big regrets. One is that I have done okay, but not as well as I thought I would.

I have numerous things I am proud of. One I have never mentioned, and I suspect never will.  It is that I overcame a grave physical problem in my childhood that I thought, and my family thought, would curse my life.  Overcame it myself, through my efforts. Enough said.

Most people, you know, live a straight and narrow life. Well, that is my view. Most live their life where or close to where they were born, even today. Often they follow in dad’s footsteps in type of work and many habits. Die in the same religion, and even the same branch of it, in which they got launched. The same political party.  Live with the same spouse all the way, though that is changing sharply. And live in the same gender still.

And oh, keep the same name, except for the gals when they wed. I consider their giving up their family name in favor of a wedding ring tragic, by that way. Women in numerous cultures maintain their birth name.

Now consider me. I was born in Rhode Island. Lived most of my adult years—my career years—in Massachusetts. Moved to Connecticut in “retirement.”

I must mention I’ve never truly retired in the sense of giving up my work. I am still a writer and will remain one till my last breath, it seems. And now I live half-time in California, and before long, full-time. It seems the sensible thing to do.

In college I spent two years in the pre-medical program because my mother wanted to be a doctor. Then through a fluke I got interested in journalism (I had become editor of our modest little college paper) and began thinking of making journalism my career.  Which I did after three years of grad work in economics and political science and journalism at Brown University and Boston University.

And I did journalism for some 18 years, most of that on the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. For 3 or 4 years during that span I was an evening teacher at Assumption College and Quinsigamond Community College.

Then I jumped to Assumption College full-time from the T&G as director of public relations, moving up to director of public affairs. Four years later, I resigned to start my own business, John Guy LaPlante Associates, offering services in those areas that I had learned at Assumption and writing services as well.

I started the business cold.  In time developed a small staff and over the years worked for a dozen hospitals, on and off, several educational institutions, a large fraternal insurance society, a large insurance agency, and an interesting mix of others.  After 16 years, approaching retirement, I sold that business.

During all that, I started a sideline business in income real estate. All because of a book, “How to Make a Million Dollars in Real Estate in Your Spare Time.” I liked the idea of a million and I could manage a bit of spare time.

Well, in time, I owned 27 units—apartments and condos. I also took on several construction projects—quite ambitious–converting a couple of buildings into condos, for instance, which required an architect’s participation and considerable funds. I had zero experience in that.

I learned through experience. And through mistakes. But exciting work. The bottom line of all that in dollars was good but not as promising as the book said. All because I got caught in the “condo glut.”

Oh, one of my LaPlante Associates clients was Doctors Hospital in Worcester. I was its consultant for my type of services. David Hillis, its president asked me to come on board as director of marketing as the hospital re-made itself into AdCare Hospital. AdCare became the largest substance abuse hospital in a big chunk of New England.

Not to suggest that was the result of my input. No, no, though my input helped. I put in a couple of years at that, then retired definitively. Well, so it seemed.

That’s how I got to move from Massachusetts to Connecticut. I went to tiny Ivoryton, Conn. (10 miles inland part way between New London and New Haven) for a one-week program for senior citizens at the Episcopal Camp and Conference Center, which was run by the Episcopal Church.

The program was a mix of light academic classes and fun—square-dancing, canoeing and sailing and swimming in its own lake, and socializing with the other seniors. Wonderful.

Through another fluke I became a volunteer in that program, which ran in the summer months. I lived there on its woodsy campus. No salary, just room and board. But all very nice. Then I started in its Elderhostel program, which ran for seven months, April into October.

It was one of the largest Elderhostels in New England.  Again as a volunteer. But, heck, I was retired. It was ideal. After two seasons I was invited back as the Elderhostel director, now for a small salary plus room and board.

I had five months off, and I started traveling solo. Bought a used VW bus and crisscrossed the whole U.S.A., touring right to the Pacific, then around and back and weeks and months of sightseeing, all while  living in the little camper.

Yes all of it solo. Covered thousands of miles. And from the start began writing articles about all that for my old paper, The Worcester T & G’s Sunday edition.

Then in the next two seasons off from Elderhostel, I made two weeks-long tours down into Mexico. Traveled far south to fabled Acapulco on the Pacific, then across the majestic Andes all the way to Valparaiso on Mexico’s eastern coast.  Scary at first. I was so uptight, apprehensive, when I entered Mexico.

Again, solo. Many adventures, including a few tough moments. Visited most of its major cities and countless small towns. Learned street Spanish. Continued to scribble many articles about all that for the Sunday Telegram.

Oh, back in Ivoryton at the Elderhostel I began writing features on the side for the Main Street News. It was a weekly that published only “good” news, so not true journalism.

I wrote mostly personality stories.  Met interesting people, got to know that whole interesting little corner of the world well.  Some 10 years went by in this happy mix of Elderhostel and travel and free-lance writing.

In time, after retiring from the Episcopal Center at age 70, I became a citizen of tiny Deep River nearby. I was charmed by the area, so pretty, so historic. Deep River was famous at one time as the high-tech center of the piano industry. That was when every family hoped to own a piano for the living room—before electricity and radio and all that.

The big four-story red-brick factory that hummed with all that work had become Piano Works Condominiums, and I bought a unit there and eventually a second one. I sold the bigger one a year ago and then moved into the smaller one, which is very nice. I’ll be returning there in a few weeks.

Interestingly, back there I had begun writing for a newfangled online newspaper, Lymeline.com, and then for a new companion one, valleynewsnow.com. Many pieces. Enjoyable work. But that lightened up when I started living for months at a time in California.

Oh, back in Elderhostel at the Episcopal Center, I met Annabelle Williams, a Californian. She had traveled all the way across the U.S. to attend our program. She had a son, Jim, who was an M.D. in a nearby town. This was her first Elderhostel. She told me, “If I don’t like this, I’ll ask Jim to come pick me up.” Well, she liked it.

She came back, and back. We became a couple. And we were a couple for 20 years. We were both elderly. How could we pass as boyfriend and girlfriend? Crazy. I started calling her Milady Annabelle. It’s surprising how many women let me know that they liked that.

Annabelle and I became bi-coastal, living in Deep River and her home town, Newport Beach, CA. We traveled a lot.  In fact, during our Elderhostel days, we started a little sideline business, “Off We Go with John and Annabelle.” She had been a travel agent and was savvy.

We had gotten to know a lot of Elderhostel seniors and we began offering two-week tours to Europe during our off months, with us as their guides and escorts­—prepared to handle any problems and emergencies that came up. A few did pop up and we handled them.

Some people enjoyed our trips so much they signed up for another and another and we made numerous good friends.

We led them to France, Great Britain, Spain and Portugal, Greece, Turkey, Switzerland, Italy, Czechoslovakia, other countries. The big attack on the New York City World Trade Center put an end to our European packages.

People were hesitant about crossing the Atlantic so we booked a tour to the beautiful colonial cities of Mexico. We got only eight takers. People were afraid of diarrhea, getting kidnapped, and so forth. Greatly exaggerated, unrealistic fears. We decided to close shop.

Finally retired again, I settled down in Deep River. Really settled down, joining the Rotary Club and becoming involved, developing ideas that with Rotary’s strong backing, led to significant community projects. One was turning a piece of waste land into what is now small, lovely Keyboard Park, right on Keyboard Pond, with a pretty gazebo as the park’s centerpiece.

Another was purchasing a bronze statue of an elephant that I came upon in an antique shop in wealthy Newport, R.I.  It had big tusks, and its trunk was curled up majestically. The elephant was about the size of a pony.

The club did not have the ready cash.  I purchased it ($5,000 is the sum I recall) and Rotary quickly paid me back. The Town set up the elephant on a perfect granite pedestal (purchased in the same deal) on the lawn in front of our Town Hall.

Why this elephant statue, you’re wondering.

Ivory, from elephants hunted down in Africa, had become an indispensable raw material for the town’s famous piano industry.  The big factory did not make the whole piano: only the “actions” for it, all the moving parts.

These “actions” were sold to many piano manufacturers, who provided the beautiful wooden case for them and put their label on them. The piano keys were made of elephant ivory. There was nothing better.

That’s why that statue in the very heart of town became so important—truly iconic. Tourists stopped to look it over, read the historic marker on it, posed their kids on it. And it gave Deep River children an awareness of that all-important saga in the town’s history. And will do that for decades and decades to come, I assume.

Rotary was a wonderful experience. I retired from it after 10 years. Simple burn-out.

During all those years I was traveling big time. In my long winters off from the Episcopal Center, I traveled around the U.S. Started with a long Greyhound bus trip from New York City to Seattle—three and a half days on it coast to coast. Took another couple of long rides on Greyhound.

Bought a used VW camper and traveled all around the U.S. in it. Even made two long trips into Mexico—deep into Mexico– and from the Pacific across the great Andes to the eastern seaside.  Many adventures, a few scary moments. And all the while I was writing articles to be published back home. Which happened.

For my 75th birthday, I got the idea of a trip around the world.  Annabelle couldn’t come—bad hip. I got a friend to come and we started together toward Asia. After three weeks, he up and quit and flew home. How could I go on alone? Scary! Well, I decided to try. And I completed the whole daunting itinerary. That led to my book, “Around the World in 75 Days. Alone, Dammit!”

It’s too involved to explain, but that led to its publication in China, in Mandarin, the principal language.

That led to a trip around Asia. My sister Lucie came along with the understanding she’d have to quit and return home in a few weeks because of a commitment. We had a grand time together, and then I continued alone.

That led to my book, “Around Asia in 80 Days. Oops, 83.” That was a play on the famous book, fictional though, “Around the World in 80 Days.”

One result of all this was it led me to giving a lot of talks about those adventures, to libraries, clubs, and other groups. Interesting and rewarding, but not really in a dollar sense, and without a doubt it kept me busy and out of trouble.

Then I got the idea of Peace Corps.  Peace Corps had been started by President Kennedy. From the start it was a young person’s thing. One day I read a small news story saying that, in so many words, Peace Corps had smartened up and was searching for older volunteers.  Older men and women have experience, “wisdom,” and often a desire to “give back.”

Well, Peace Corps accepted me after a year of investigating me and putting me through every major medical test known to mankind.  And sent me to Ukraine.  That was a great shock. I expected to be sent to a country where French had been important—Haiti, Vietnam, Morocco, and maybe equatorial Africa (heavens forbid!). Places where my fluency in French would help.

Ukraine was difficult—the weather, the language, the food. I became a university-level teacher of English as a second language and found other important ways of serving. I lived with three Ukrainian families in all that time. I made friends, learned a lot, and completed the whole hitch (it’s surprising how many Volunteers come home early). And that led to my book, “27 Months in the Peace Corps. My story, unvarnished.”

For some 15 years I always had an ambitious trip coming up.  I made a long trip—seven weeks, as I remember it—to India with two Indian friends from there who had settled here in the U.S. I should have written a book about that!

Incidentally I returned there on my own as part of my Around the World trip. Crossed the whole country by myself, from Calcutta to Delhi to Bombay plus side trips north and south. As usual, many good times and a few tough ones.

My Around Asia books talks about travels to 10 to 12 countries over there. Starting with Japan and running on to Vietnam and Cambodia.

I have been to China four times, thanks to my book being published there, good friends there.

I have been to all 50 states, many of them quite frequently.

I have crossed four-fifths of Canada, from British Columbia all the way to New Brunswick, with numerous trips to Quebec, meaning Montreal and Québec, some 20 or 25 times.

I believe that I have been to every country in Western Europe, including Sweden and little Estonia, Latvia and Estonia. And of course France (nine or ten times) and Great Britain and Belgium, and  Poland and Germany Russia and the Czech Republic, and Hungary, and Spain and Italy, and Portugal and Egypt and Morocco , and Lebanon and Cyprus. Even Sicily.

Everywhere I’ve learned something. For instance, about Sicilians, I thought all of them were deep-rooted tomato-sauce southern Italianos. Not so. Sicily juts out into the Mediterranean. Over the years everybody sailing by south, east or west has stopped by. Many settled there. So many Sicilianos descend from wayfarers of many ethnicities, and you can see that by looking at them.

The big exceptions for me in Europe were Norway and Denmark.

That’s quite a list. That said, please remember all that is only a small part of the world. I wish I had covered more.

Over there I turned 80 and got congratulations for being the oldest Volunteer of some 7,800 in about 80 countries in the world. I would much rather have been the youngest.

Peace Corps is a fine organization.  I am proud to have served in it. But nothing is perfect. I tell that whole story, the good and the not so good, to enlighten anyone thinking of joining.

Well, in the course of those many decades and those countless and so varied experiences, I changed a lot. Who wouldn’t?

I had been born a Catholic.  I became an ex-Catholic.  I married Pauline, a beautiful, talented, very nice person, promising and fully expecting to live till death do us part. We had three super children. Pauline was a teacher. In fact, she dedicated all her working years to serving children, and later, little children. She followed a steady and unwavering and commendable course year after year, straight on, like an arrow, right to retirement.

The problem is that I changed. I saw that. She was seeing that. And she accepted all that. Never protested.  Many women would have screamed bloody murder. She went along with all those early career decisions and dramatic changes—in jobs, paychecks, risky decisions, and so on.

And I kept changing.  What it led to is “incompatibility.” That was the root problem.  It was getting wider and wider. It led to many sleepless nights and much worrying and even anguish. Divorce was unthinkable in my family and culture.

I read another book, about divorce. As you know, books have changed my life. I have forgotten its exact title, shame on me. But the theme was that divorce in the long run could be a blessing for both parties, and explained why. It convinced me and I moved out. After 26 years of marriage, I believe our span together was over.

Divorce is rarely not difficult. That’s common knowledge. It was for us. Resentment and bitterness, of course. Pauline is truly devout, in the finest meaning, and that helped her greatly. I didn’t believe in any of that. All while continuing to work hard, I floundered and searched for a new soul mate, and most of that was painful and not rewarding and not nice. Anyway somehow I got through it. Maybe Pauline’s prayers helped.

She has never hooked up with anybody else, by the way.

For many years now, our relationship has been improving. Thank God (for lack of a better expression) and thanks to Pauline’s generous nature, we survived those ugly times and we speak regularly and warmly, and share our pleasure in and thoughts about our children, and esteem one another.

Is there anything about me that hasn’t changed? Well, I am still a proud American. I’ve been a Democrat / independent since voting age, though some 30 years ago I drifted and became a Republican, but for just one four-year cycle. I’m a liberal today and I esteem Bernie Sanders and support some most of his key ideas.

But I’m sure my only choice come voting time will be Hillary, and I’ll vote for her, delighted, however, that Bernie’s pounding pressure has shoved her farther left.

And I do like the idea finally of a woman president, as I did of Barack as a black president. As a result of my involvement in diverse areas, I have developed a high regard of women’s capability in ALL career paths, have found them talented and smart and fully capable of holding their own, and recognize they have special talents in people-service occupations. In that sense, this has been a good time to have lived and witnessed this late-in-coming fulfillment.

And I believe in work. It remains a core belief.  I come from people who were workers and are workers. Hard workers. And I have never stopped, even in so-called retirement. I work five days a week for sure.  I can’t imagine my life without work.  That’s what I’m doing right now.  Working. It looks easy. That can be deceiving.

Another thing I’ve learned is that most people in the world have terrible jobs. It’s shockingly and astoundingly true in so many other countries. Even here in our good old U.S.A., many workers have awful jobs.  Would love to call in sick. Can’t because they have a record of that, fear the boss wouldn’t believe them, can’t afford to lose a day’s pay. One of the blessings that can fall on any person is finding interesting, meaningful work. I’ve had lousy work.  Again, who hasn’t? Overall, I’ve been fortunate.

So, my bottom line is that I believe firmly in the capitalist system. It’s what made our country so prosperous. It’s what makes so many other economies successful. Of course, I abhor the shocking extremes that have been part of it since it dawned and still exist, some believe worse than ever. Few will deny that we need stringent correctives and a sharp re-balancing. Social justice demands it. Not incidentally, Bernie Sanders also champions capitalism. That gets lost to many, unfortunately.

The changes go on for me.  A big one came two years ago, ignited by a family powwow. I was told I should be realistic. Hey, I’ve always been realistic. But realistic in that I am now in true old age and should live closer to one of them. Good friends in Deep River but no family. All three of my children welcomed me.

What seemed most sensible was to live close to Monique in Central California.  I had been coming here for two weeks at Christmas time, was familiar with small and attractive and comfortable Morro Bay, and liked the idea of never ice, never snow.  Palm trees here, blooming flowers all year long! And I began doing that part-time while maintaining my base in Deep River.

So, I sold my bigger condo in Deep River (“by owner,” which worked out well), downsized dramatically in my possessions, asked my tenant in my smaller condo to leave, and moved in. Which has worked out fine.

Lucky me. In Morro Bay I found the perfect home for myself, a mobile home in a retirement community of such, with high standards of everything and rigorous rules.  Few for sale. I found a dandy one and bought it. Unimaginable that I would ever do that. Truth is I looked down on mobile homes. Again, blame it on ignorance.

I began living here for four months—the winter months. Of course. I’ve taken to Morro Bay.  I continue to write, now mostly electronically through a blog. Although a print paper, the Bay News, just this week published a full-page article by me.

Most amazingly, I am the host of a regular talk show Saturdays on 97.3 FM here, “The Rock.”  So-called for the huge “rock” at the entrance to our harbor, labeled by some mariners the Gibraltar of our Pacific Coast. My show is called “Gabbing with Old Guy John,” and I am that old guy.

Every week I gab with someone who’s an expert on a topic that’s interesting but also meaningful—that listeners will learn something useful from. I am completing my second season. I was bowled over one day when one listener later called me the Charlie Rose of Morro Bay. A huge exaggeration but I admit I was tickled.

I have given a talk or two here, and I enjoy our Senior Center. Just recently I began leading a discussion on “Writing Your Memories for Your Loved Ones.” I called myself not their teacher, but their coach. But that didn’t work out. I found most of them were coming just to have something to do,  hoping for fun and entertainment, which I like to provide to some extent, and not to do real work.

I have been making friends here, getting more involved, learning to appreciate Morro Bay more and more.

Rather than returning to Deep River this month, I am staying into June. All because of a family reunion planned then. Everyone will me here, my former spouse Pauline, my sister Lucie all the way from Hartford, our son Arthur and his wife Marita from Florida, our son Mark and his wife Stacie from Wisconsin, our five grandchildren. Arthur and Mark got the ball rolling, with Monique and her husband David helping to arrange things at this end. The day after, I’ll fly home with my sister Lucie.

Pauline and I have been most fortunate in our children.  All three are good people, all successful, all have doctorates, all are standing strong on their own two legs, and not one of them has been a problem. And we’ve been most fortunate in our children’s spouses as well. All outstanding in their own right.

I must mention my tricycle (trike).  It has become so important to me. Far more than a toy. I was a bike rider for years and years, quitting after a fall in my early seventies. I discovered the trike here. An old man had one, but with a motor on it. I got a true trike. No motor. Three-speeds, a double braking system. What a difference it has made in my everyday life

I use it every day, to get to the supermarket, the bank, library, all kinds of shops.  Sometimes I use my van only twice a week. Pedaling it is perfect exercise for my legs, my heart, my lungs, every part of me, and the trike is so much fun. I have one just like it back in Deep River.

Some of you old-timers reading this should look into a trike. Email me for details about mine–johnguylaplante@yahoo.com.

Now the big question. How am I doing? I am declining. No doubt about it.  I am losing my life-long stamina. It’s hard for me to walk 200 feet, for instance.  On such, I use a walking stick. That’s why my trike is so important.

  I suffered a total loss of hearing in my right ear four years ago, never to come back. That’s bad. What’s also bad is that it has thrown off my natural balance. I didn’t know this, but our ears are also the gyroscope that controls our balance. Lose one ear and you will have a severe balance problem. I haven’t fallen yet. But I won’t be surprised when it happens.

I have good doctors and they tell me that overall I’m in fine healthy.   Small issues, yes, of course. Part of my good fortune is luck, part the result of my own efforts. I’ve been doing physical exercises for years, and I still do them.

And I’ve become a vegetarian. (Not a vegan.) That’s been a long time in coming. I am a vegetarian for two reasons. I don’t like the idea of killing animals to eat them. And the vegetarian diet is such a nutritionally smart diet.

In this vein, I believe it’s possible to live too long. At a certain point a good, swift, final heart attack can be a blessing.

Now please don’t be shocked. I also believe that at a certain point, when things really become tough and painful, it’s all right to take your own life. We make hundreds of decisions every day of our life. Big ones…what to study in school, whom to marry, where to live, on and on. And trivial ones….what to wear, what book to read, when to call someone. Why can’t we make the most important one of all…when to die?

I’m not sure I’m capable of that. I hope I never have to make that decision.

I have looked forward to this birthday. How that old doctor who gave my Maman that bad news about my not making it to 30 would be astounded!

For my birthday, Monique and her hubby David gave me a wonderful early gift—a chauffeured round-trip to visit Annabelle for five days. Chauffeured by them! That’s a 600-mile round trip. How’s that for a birthday present? An early present because it required planning. We’re leaving tomorrow morning. It’s all so wonderful.

Annabelle still lives in Newport Beach. She is a year younger. I am declining and so is she. We both acknowledge that. As my children have preached to me, it makes sense for me to live here in Morro Bay close to my daughter Monique. And here I am. Lucky me.

 Now how many days have I lived? My careful arithmetic reveals it is 31,408 days. If that’s your answer, let me know with an email to johnguylapante@yahoo.com. And I’ll send you a nice certificate proclaiming you a true math whiz.  Worth showing to your friends!

Here is my calculation from April 26, 1929 to yesterday:

Days through the rest of 1929         247

85 years at 365 days                   31,025

21 leap years                                        21

Days in 2016                                        115

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TOTAL                                               31,408

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