March 2, 2021

Yep, I make New Year’s resolutions!

By John Guy LaPlante

Right now I am sitting here scribbling. Carrying on a ritual of many years– decades! A ritual that many folks go through but stop doing. No need, they say. They snicker when the topic comes up.

I disagree. I do it and for a simple reason. It works. The word  “resolutions” sounds too serious — too daunting a commitment. So I call it my to-do list for the New Year.

I believe that thanking ahead, anticipating, planning, is the way to go. Much better than doing things hit or miss.

It’s not that difficult. I do give it thought in the week before New Year’s. Right now, as a matter of fact.

Then I pick up my pen and get started.

Know what? I’ve found the first to-do that comes to mind is probably the most important. So I jot it down as No.1 on my list. And the second is probably the second most important. That’s No. 2. And so on.

I have learned that this quick instinctive recollecting is a marvelous way to go about the task.

And what’s interesting is the first ones on my list turn out to be the ones that I’ll follow through on. These resolutions become realities. And how satisfying that is. And the bottom ones I’ll get started on, sure, but may give up on before they lock in.

This year I’m giving my list more thought than usual. Why? Because in 2019– in fact on April 26th — I will be returning 90!!! ! All these apostrophes show you how huge an event this looms in my psyche

For one thing, I’m quite confident this will be my final decade on this earth. The probability of this seems to be guaranteed.

In fact, this piqued my curiosity. And I went to Google and asked.

Google, I said, what are the chances of a man turning 90 of reaching 100?

And Google had the answer for me in just a few seconds. Well, not quite. The best it could do was to give me the answer for a man of 80. Here’s what Google came up with.

A man of 80 has less than a 30 percent chance of making it to his 90th. And only 3 or 4 of those who get to 90 will make it to 100.

Gosh, that doesn’t sound too good, does it? But it bears out what I suspected.

But ladies, are you listening? Well. I have good news for you. Your odds are a teeny bit better.

But unfortunately there are other things we must consider in these calculations.

How many men reaching 100, women also, will be able to get out of bed? Be able to do the things that gerontologists call “the activities of daily living”?

Such things as being able to bathe? Dress themselves? Make their meals? Use the john? Handle a knife and fork? Make a phone call?  On and on. Most important of all, will still have their mind? The answer seems to be miniscule.

Which convinces me — in fact, has convinced me for some years now — that it is possible to live too long.

Think I’m crazy? Think I should make an appointment with a psychiatrist? No, no, no. I have made this very point to a friend or two or three by telling them a fictional story. Yes, it’s a story I made up. Here it is.

I run into an old friend and he says to me, “John, did you hear the awful news about what happened to Everett?”

“Everett?! What happened to Everett?”

“Awful! He had a heart attack! Didn’t even make it to the hospital!”

“Oh my God! How awful!”

But, dear readers, how do you think I feel about that? Really feel?

I feel that Everett may be a very lucky fellow. May have been blessed to die so fast and so suddenly. Because getting old can be such a bad and terrible experience. Better skipped. For the person, man or woman. And for the family that has to see him or her through it.

I’m not making this up. I have seen it close up, and more than once. In fact, I have a very close friend who’s going through it right now. Is in hospice. So sad.

Know what? Just a few days ago I went in to see Dr. Schingler for a routine physical. Excellent doctor. Knows me well. And again gave me the good news that I expected. He saw no need to see me for another three months – March 23 is my next appointment.

This when I know some patients go in to see him every week or two. That’s quite typical. How lucky I am.

But at this latest appointment I had something new to spring on him. When he was just about finished, I handed him a document. A legal paper called My Advance Health Care Directive. Prepared by my lawyer.

Familiar with it? In lawyer’s language it says that if I get very sick and I’m hurting and my prospects are very poor and I have to be kept alive by being connected to machines and they’re taking desperate measures to keep me breathing, I want to have all that turned off. Enough is enough.

Notice? I used the word if. A better word would be ”when.” It might really happen.

Dr. Schingler questioned me carefully. Wanted me to explain in my own words.

And I told him what I just  told you.  “If I get very sick and I’m miserable and may be in pain and I can’t do anything to help myself, and I’m losing my mind, and I’m going to have to be force-fed and kept wired and connected to machines to be kept alive, I do not want any of this stuff to be done. I want all that to be disconnected. Just pull the plug!”

Satisfied that I was serious and understood, he said, “John, I’m with you on this. I will make sure this is in your file here.”

He looked at it again. Noticed my lawyer’s name. “Good man,” he said. “He does my work, too.”

By the way, I also gave signed copies to my daughter Monique and my son Arthur and my son Mark. I wanted them to know. They were not surprised.

I have signed many important documents in my long years. This was one of the most important. I felt good about having gone through with it.

But know what? As I drove home, a little voice inside me said, “When that moment comes, will I say, ‘No, no! Please, doctor, please! Do everything you can to keep me alive. Please!’”

Life is so precious. Dying is s, so scary. We’ll see.

Anyway, as my great 90th birthday approaches, I’ll give you further thoughts about all this.

Of course I’m confident there will be a party for me. That will be great.

But I’m saying, ”Don’t get carried away. Don’t have a cake with  90 candles on it. Gosh, no! Just nine. I want to make sure I can blow them all out!”

Meanwhile I’ll keep working on my to-do list. I haven’t failed in years. I’ll have it done by New Year’s Eve. I want to step into my Ninth Decade ready and running. Not stumbling into it just hoping for the best. Hit or miss..

If you’ve never prepared a list to motivate you and make the year better for you, or gave up doing it, why not give it a go? You still have time. It will pay off.

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“Go West, young man!” Well, at 85 finally I’m going.

Hi, Friends,

Better late than never, they say. Off to Morro Bay, California, I’m heading, and that’s as far west as you can go without tumbling into the Pacific.

My nice, little new home! I never, never th0ught I'd live in a mobile home. Life is strange, isn't it? Now I thank my lucky star. And that's my trike!

My nice little new home! I never, never th0ught I’d live in a mobile home. Life is strange, isn’t it? Now I thank my lucky star. And that’s my new trike! What you don’t see are the palms. And our community center. And get to meet my neighbors.

Why, oh why, you ask. “You, John, the born and bred New Englander?” The reason is simple and startlingly obvious to anybody who has seen me of late. Because I’ve hit real old age and am beginning to show i!. Gotta be prudent! In Morro Bay I’ll be under the loving eye of my daughter, Monique. Lucky me.

So I’m selling my beautiful condo at Piano Works here in Deep River and getting rid of 95 percent of my earthly possessions. No room for all that stuff there. Here’s the story.

For 15 years–which is a big chunk of my retirement years–my condo at Piano Works has been my most happy home. Buying it was a darn smart move indeed. It’s as painful as heck to give it up. Giving up Deep River, too, and saying goodbye to this gorgeous corner of the world.

And here’s how I’m going about this stressful and exhausting business. For one thing, I am selling my condo by myself, without a realtor. “By owner,” as it’s called in the business. I’ll bet you’re surprised.

I’m no stranger to California. I’ve been wintering there for 20 years. Did that for good reasons. Not the least was no cold, no ice, no snow. I’m so glad I was there last winter, in the short-sleeves sunshine, under the palm trees, with the smell of the sea in my nostrils, while most of you poor folks were suffering through the worst winter in centuries. Well, that’s the way some of you spoke of it to me.

In California except for one month. That’s when I  made that long, exhausting flight across the Pacific to visit China again. My fourth time over there. Fine trip despite a couple of difficult moments. Then I flew back in time to spend Christmas and New Year’s with Monique and her hubby David. I think the world of him, too.

And as you know, I took the decisive step of buying a place for myself there. A nice mobile home in a nice mobile home park convenient to everything that interests me. Even lived in it for two weeks. That way I’d be smarter about what to take with me when I left Deep River.

So, I came home from California in May to work 30 h0urs  a day to make all this happen. Well, you know what I mean. First, I had to find a buyer to take over my condo. Second, I had to unload, unload, unload. No room back there.

On my first morning back, I got up early, strengthened myself with a big working man’s breakfast, and got right to it.

This is it. Just for the 55 and older. High standards! Close to Monique and David's. Convenient to everything. I can smell the sea air!

This is it. Just for the 55 and older. High standards! Close to Monique and David’s. Convenient to everything. I can smell the sea air! Already I have friends here. Ice and snow are unknown here.

And then POW! In just a couple of days I became so, so, so sick. I got slowed to a crawl. So weak. Too exhausted even to write at my computer. Some of you wondered why you weren’t getting my blog.  That’s why.

But now, why was I selling my condo by myself?  Well, I’ve had real estate experience and felt I could handle the job.

Until 20 years ago, I ran a side-line business buying and managing income real estate. My main bread and butter was being a consultant in public relations and development to a variety of clients, non profit and for profit. This was after my years as a journalist and also my college work.

In this second business I got to own 26 condos and apartments. So, you see,  I bought and sold. Even got into  a few big construction projects. Well, big for me.

Now I counted on that experience to help me sell my home, sweet home. Make that my home, sweet condo.

Of course, I developed a sales plan to find a good buyer. And in the process I had the good fortune to make two fine contacts.

I met Lyanne Sanford, a mortgage specialist at my bank. I needed to update myself about mortgages. Most likely, a buyer would need a mortgage. She sat  me down and gave me a good briefing. Plus, she told me she would qualify any potential buyers for me and recommend a mortgage best fitted to their needs. Great.

Sitting across from her at her desk, I got an idea and said to her, “As I go along, Lyanne, I may need a good realtor as a backup. Can you recommend somebody who is really terrific?”

“Yes!’ She said it instantly. “There is one! Mick Marsden. As you may know, the real estate market has been soft lately. This despite the low mortgage rates we have. But Mick has had an incredible sales run–this when a lot of real estate people have been complaining how slow business is. Talk to Mick Marsden!”

I wasted no time. He came. Middle-aged. Very articulate, as I expected. With a surprisingly diversified background–as an engineer, then a graphic design artist and ad director, and now, year in and year out, a remarkable results-focused realtor.

He came and saw my condo for himself. I threw a lot of questions at him. And yes, I told him right up front that I would be selling my condo myself.

“I understand why,” he told me. “To save the commission, of course, But you know, John, selling ‘by owner’ can be very disappointing. And I’ll tell you why. Just so you’ll know.”

He did that. You could fail, he explained. It could take forever. The worrying could keep you awake nights. You could wind up with less money than selling through a sharp realtor.You could spend all that time and energy more profitably. Then he went on to explain his services and approach to the challenge. No way could I have gotten a better briefing. He really impressed me. I could see why he was so successful. I came close to giving him my listing.

But I felt I had to give it a good try. Bracing myself, I told him, “Well, Mick, I’m going to tackle it myself. But I’d feel awfully good if you’d be available if I decide I need a big helping hand. Or if I run out of time. It could happen.”

“Yes, I’ll do that.” He showed no disappointment, What a nice surprise that was. I was so pleased, and so relieved. I’m sure some realtors would have given me a curt “No, sorry,” hopped up and taken off.

But what astonished me is that, knowing that I was moving forward on my own, he nevertheless sat there and gave me valuable background info.

“Nowadays most real estate sells online,” he told me. “We still use print advertising, but much less so. It’s important to know this and act accordingly.”

Plis  advice from his own experience. “First,” he said. “You have much too much stuff in here. You have to give your condo a more open look. Not only that. Everything here in the condo is all about you. People will be fascinated…will forget why they’re here!”

Mick wanted me to make a great big sweep. “Get rid of that!” He’d point to something. And pointing to something else, “And that!”

I planned to do much of that anyway. As I said, no room in California for it. Finally he said he had to leave for another appointment. And off he went, very pleasantly. And wishing me well. It was all so remarkable.

Taking his advice and getting rid of stuff became a huge job.It went on for days. And was so painful emotionally.

I would pack a box of books to donate to the library. I would pick up a book from the box, look at it , and put it back on the shelf. Same thing with other possessions. So it went.

But! And I said it to Mick. This was my home. After all, I had to live here until my condo sold. I felt it was important for it to look like my comfortable, much-enjoyed home. I’m sure I retained more stuff than he would have favored.

But, thanks to him, I did thin out much more than I intended. I am amazed by how much stuff I did give away–books, clothing, housewares, tools, furniture, things of all sorts. Of course, I considered using yard sales, consignment shops, flea markets. Not practical.

I contributed a lot to the Congregational Church, and to our Estuary Senior Center, and to Goodwill. And I gave stuff to neighbors at Piano Works. I am still considering possibilities.

Mick astounded me by offering to do another thing that was very important. Something I had never thought of. You’re wondering, I’m sure.  What was that? He offered to create what he called a Gallery of Photos for me.

He is a gifted photographer. He creates a Gallery of Photos for any property that he sells. He showed me a couple. It’s a series of photos of the property. They show off the place in brilliant detail and color, and suggest the lifestyle possible in that property. He posts the Gallery online, as part of his normal marketing. He considers it a basic and essential step.

He showed me a couple that he had created. Immediately I saw how valuable such a Gallery is.

And I saw how he is an artist at heart, An artist who uses a camera instead of a paintbrush.

He came back on another day with his camera and started shooting. His results were terrific. They showed my condo in its full potential.

And I quickly put my marketing plan into action. Yes, I have gotten some serious lookers. Each time I thought, This is the perfect buyer! But so far, nobody has committed. But it takes only one buyer, right?

Piano Works has 70 condos. Truly mine is one of the two best  in the building. I say that with solid reasons. I could argue it is the very best, but I don’t want to get into any shouting match with any other owner.

I see this enormous move of mine as another adventure. My life has been rich with adventures. Lucky me. I wouldn’t want a life without adventures.

By definition, of course, an adventure is an enterprise with a high chance of success, but also a chance of failure. Right? My scorecard over the yearshas not been perfect. But my hits have enriched my life. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. I’ll let you know.

But know what? My condo may be perfect for you. Yes, you!  I invite you to come and look at it. No obligation. I won’t twist your arm.I will also give you a good tour through Piano Works. After all, that would be important for you. I am pleased to tell you Piano Works  is a good condo association. Some are not.

Or it may be perfect for someone you know. Please pass on the word. And I make a promise to you.  If someone comes  and buys who was referred by you, I will give you a nice reward. Count on it. So spread the word.

That’s enough about all this. Now, as my time permits,  I intend to get back to blogging. As usual, I have no idea what I’ll be writing about. For sure it will be something that interests me. And I hope interests you.

Of course, I’m aware many of you live far from here. You may think my selling my condo is interesting. But you find little practical value in it for yourself. But hold on, please.  Remember—Deep River is in a very beautiful and interesting part of this world, of course! A very nice place in many ways to live in. You might get the idea of moving here. Just as I did. Lucky me. It could be a very smart move for you, too!  Give it some  thought.

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