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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Well, I got it done again.

 

By John Guy LaPlante

I made my New Year’s resolutions.  And I wrote them down.  And I made my review of the year just past.  Which had hits and misses, of course. I felt good getting the annual job done.

I’m sure some of you are saying, “New Year’s resolutions!  Hey, that’s crazy, John!”

I respect your right to say that.  But I think you’re dead wrong.  I’m sure that you belong to the “One Day at a Time” school of thinking.  What a pity.

Travel through the year one day at a time and for sure you’ll be short-changing yourself. My opinion.

When I was 12, we rented a cottage at Gaspee Point for two weeks “Don’t scoff at New Year’s Resolutions. You’ll be short-changing yourself! on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.  It came with a rowboat.  I loved rowing it, but just, just offshore, or Maman would scream at me.

One day, family friends visited us. With their son, Armand, unfortunately.  He was two years older and I didn’t like him.  But to be nice I invited him out for a row in the little boat.  As a passenger, I mean. Besides, Maman had ordered me to. [Read more…]

Off to Germany at 68 with great hopes

 

He's garaging his beloved bike. But he He's garaging his beloved trike. But he may be getting a second one when he returns.

He’s garaging his beloved bike. But I’ll bet he has his heart set on getting a second one when he returns.

Morro Bay, CA—My new friend Don is rushing to meet his new love.

I’m visiting my daughter Monique here. We say New Year’s Day is the golden opportunity to turn a new page and start a bright new life. Well,  Don is really resolved!

I met him because of the bike he was riding. I love bikes. Rode actively for decades.

But his wasn’t a bicycle. It was a tricycle. A recumbent—he sat low on a seat, not a saddle, leaned way back, and worked pedals not under him, but straight ahead. He seemed as comfortable as in a TV chair. He was towing  a neat little trailer.

Don was an unlikely rider– 65 or so. Six-four. Rumpled. Twenty pounds overweight. A mustache a bit out of control. Very sharp  eyes.

He was sitting with two friends outside Spencer’s, the local supermarket. It offers free coffee. They were sipping coffee out front in the sunshine. So, it attracts a lot of seniors. It attracts me. I like to take a walk and run into people. And I like a free coffee.

I paused. All strangers. I broke into their talk. Focused on him. “Quite a bike!|” I said. He nodded. But he was  busy talking with his buddies. I went on for my coffee and a bit of shopping. When I came out, they were gone. I was disappointed. This was two days before New Year’s.

I ran into him again three day after New Year’s. Downtown, a mile away. I was on a walk.  He was parked on the sidewalk, lounging on his trike in front of a store. He recognized me. But no smile. I began talking bikes again. Now he began talking. But in clipped sentences. Offered nothing more.

Said he had owned the trike five years. No longer had a car—didn’t need one—especially with the trailer. He could carry groceries, books, lots of stuff. He had a balance problem and the trike was much more stable than a bike.  And it had 27 gear possibilities—“I could climb a wall if I had to!”

I tried to guess his occupation. Not easy. He was big and muscular. But his hands didn’t show hard work. He was smart, but he spoke too few words to tip me off about his education. He had a friendly face but seemed determined not to smile.

“Got to go!” he said finally and pedaled away. Down a slope. Coasting, not pedaling.So nice and easy. I wished I could see him come UP the hill. How easy would that be?

My third encounter was again at Spencer’s. This time he hailed me! “Ah, the newspaperman!” What a change! And we had coffee together out front. He smiled a bit. I talked bikes again. And now he opened up.

“This is my all-around vehicle. Haven’t had a car in 20 years. I just don’t like cars. I like bikes. Good exercise. Cheap to own and use. Especially in this nice weather year-round here.”

I tried broadening my questions. “Don’t interrupt me!” he said. “I’ll fill you in. But let me tell it my way! I grew up in Kansas. Graduated from the University of Kansas. Moved out here. Went to grad school at Berkeley.”
Graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley–that impressed me. “For a master’s?”

He shook his head. “No, a doctorate.”

I pressed him.

“Yes, I have a Ph.D. In classical languages.”

“Oh? Latin and Greek?” He nodded.

I couldn’t resist. I began conjugating the Latin word for “love” in the present tense: “Amo…amas…amat…amamus….”  And I added, “I studied Greek, too.”

He put up his hand to stop me. “Yeah! Yeah! I became a teacher of Latin and Greek. Taught in quite a few places. Was fired at half of them…but I won’t go into that. I loved Latin and Greek. I was hooked as a kid! Am still fascinated.”

I jumped in. “Don, you’re smiling! You said you don’t smile. You’re smiling!!!”

He stopped me again. ”I don’t smile!”

But he was wrong. He had been smiling. He went on. “I’ve done other things. Picked olives in Greece for more than a year. Knocked around. I’m retired now. But!” Suddenly he was excited. “In four days I’m going to Germany!”

“Germany?”

“Yes, Leipzig. Yes, my first time to Gernany. All because of a website. It’s called Libri Vox—www.librivox.com.  It offers free audio books. You know, books you listen to. Volunteers read them and record them. Many languages. Including Greek and Latin. I’ve been listening to readings of old Latin writers on Libri Vox. Virgil. And Lucretius. And others.”

He told me that through Libri Vox, he had met a woman reader of Latin texts.  She lives in Leipzig, They have talked and talked.  Not only about the ancient authors. About all kinds of things.

“How old is she?” I asked.

“Half my age. Not a problem! We’ve discussed all that. And I am going to Germany to meet her!.”

He didn’t have to say any more. He had a dream. And his dream was to bring her back to California. And he was  determined. At 68!

“God bless you, Don!  And God bless her! I hope, hope it works out!”

He smiled. Broadly! Wow!

We shook hands.  I couldn’t stay longer. My daughter was waiting for me.

Now Don is over there. What a great New Year’s story. The rare opportunity for a fresh start. And he grabbed it. It’s inspiring, really. Don’t you agree?

Don said he’d e-mail me. I can’t wait. I’m praying for a happy ending. I’ll let you know. I hope she’ll take to a trike like his, too.

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