Saturday, October 1, 2016


She said, “You may never see him again.”

It’s like this: We had this trip planned to visit an old high school buddy and I fell down the stairs. Trip canceled, or at best, postponed. As it turns out we missed seeing them at all this year. As it turns out #2, they may not be coming back to their retreat in Pennsylvania. CA then said those words: “You may never see them again”.

This is not fortune cookie stuff. It’s real life. As it turns out, we pass many doorways that we shall never open again - - all the time. That’s the way it is.

But this is a guy I palled around with in the 1940s. Do the numbers. That’s a while ago and there is a lot of that in-between history we did not share. You know how it usually goes. High school graduation scatters people like a whirlwind. Many times this commencement scattering is permanent and irrevocable. I went into a marriage and then into an educational journey no one would have expected and he went into the Air Force and flew nuclear armed bombers for twenty years, and after that had a successful business career.

Then late one night about ten years ago I got this phone call and I knew immediately who it was even after all those years of not being in touch. That voice - you just can’t make that up. To cut to the chase, we began seeing each other almost every year since. Sometimes here in Maine and sometimes in Pennsylvania at their family retreat.

As time moves on and without much fanfare, we both find that we are in our mid-eighties and suffering from multiple age related problems, a mutual dislike for air travel and almost 3000 road miles between us. Odds are that we are not going to see much of each other from now on.

But, isn’t that the way it is? Several of my closest and dearest friends have died tragically or of natural causes before their “normal” times. Isn’t that the way it is? Why should we think there is some sort of special roll for us to play in this drama? What’s special about you or me that we should be spared the usual terminal scenario of the human condition. Well, I’m sure you don’t pander to such foolishness.

I say there is an upside to all this and this is it: get all the hugs and kisses you can while you can. Nurture your friendships and keep them well. Write letters, send emails, make phone calls, send cards and gifts. Do the maintenance. The best gift life ever gave to you was a friend - no matter how far away they are.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


For some reason, there is a lot on my mind tonight.

Not much of it is connected, but it is, nevertheless, on my mind.

I had a conversation with an old high school buddy this afternoon. He is a couple of years older than I am and he is feeling his age even more than I am - and that’s a lot.

Every couple of years or so, we would meet up with him at a place he had in the Pennsylvania woods and enjoy possibly one of the most wonderful cocktail venues on the planet. Yet, as things go, even that runs it’s course. He declares that this was his last year. It’s just getting too hard to make the drive. Over 2000 miles. That’s a lot for even a healthy younger man.

He was talking about needing a week to recover from the drive back to Arizona. What’s hard to understand about that? There’s a time to cut your options and it seems that this is the time. It’s no fun compiling a list of the things you can no longer do.

I realized that he was talking about me. You can tell when someone is connecting to you at an intimate level. You say things like: “I could have said that”.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


It goes without saying - but we say it anyway: the longer you carry a load the heavier it gets. Big revelation, huh?

I think that’s the best definition I can come up with for aging. One day, you just won’t be able to pick it up and that will be the end of the road. You probably get tired of me saying this but it’s the truest of truisms. CS Lewis once said that when the ability goes so does the desire. One day you come to the place that you can’t go on and voila - you don’t want to go on. I’ll be sure to let you know if that works out. If you are sound of mind, you’ll find it out for yourself.

I’ll not forget that time that Tinkie, J-Boy, Tyrus and I were finishing off a couple of bottles of Delaware Punch and Tinkie proposed that he could hold a Delaware punch bottle out at arms length longer than any of us. Guess what? He could. I think he had been practicing. I gave it a try, While I’m talking, why don’t you try. It ain’t easy. One minute. Two minutes. Three. Five? Feel it yet? After a while your arms just get lower and lower. Nothing you can do about it. You still want to but that doesn’t seem to count anymore. I guess practice would help but how would you know?

Growing older is sort of like that, but without the Delaware Punch bottles. As time goes on you just can’t do some things you always did without thinking.

This week on Monhegan Island is, for me, a Delaware Punch bottle event. The trails that crisscross an circle this little paradise are in places very rocky and steep. Once I could hop from rock to rock with ease and sureness of foot. A few years ago I began using one of those adjustable hiking sticks with a carbide tip that will stick on a rock like a third leg. This week I have been experimenting with a second stick and it truly helps going down steep rocky pitches.  I's the balance.  It's just not there anymore.  And all it takes is one little misstep - additional walking sticks notwithstanding.

It’s all about accommodation. The happiest old people I have ever known are those who were smart enough to adjust to their diminishing abilities. Growing old is not an option, if one is lucky. Not being able to hold that Delaware Punch bottle out at arm’s length as long as you once could is one of the more normal things you will ever run into. There is no rule that says you have to be able to keep up with people twenty or thirty years younger than you. Do I hear, “Act your age?”

This could be our last week on this wonderful piece of paradise. I’ve held this bottle out about as long as I am able to. Doing many of the things that bring us back year after year have now become too dangerous to do. There are easier trails. I know that, but I am soon to be 85 and hopefully counting. A trip and a fall could be disastrous. I recently had such a fall in my home and it took me a month to recover. It was very painful but I didn’t break anything. I was very lucky - that time.

I do still have the desire. And there is a lot of walking I can still do. That I will do. Incidentally, I am comfortable giving up the Delaware Punch bottle test for manliness. It never proved anything anyway.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016



As brothers go, we were not that close. The four years that separated us seemed to place us in different worlds. Grades apart in school - different sets of friends . I was told by my parents that I seemed to resent his coming into the family and actually took a toy rubber hatchet to him as he lay in his crib. Of course, I would rather think that is part of the apocryphal family lore, always good for a laugh at gatherings.

We did not share friends. When he did tag along with me and my friends - which as I recall was something he loved to do - (Isn’t that something common among younger brothers?) we didn’t make him feel particularly comfortable. We were never cruel but we did not encourage him either. I find it interesting that we never spoke of those years. Our lives were parallel, not intertwined.

Except for the four years that Ken spent in the Air Force, he never left Baton Rouge. He worked at various things, among which were managing one of those large merchandise outlets, being a butcher and driving a route truck - which he seemed to like. He used to talk fondly of the people he met as he traveled around the countryside
He married Audrey Bourg and that proved to be the best thing he ever did. They always seemed to me to be terminally happy together. In later years they both suffered from multiple physical problems. He had by-pass heart surgery and back issues while Audrey was a long time diabetic. This resulted in her becoming a double amputee in her last years. In a freakish accident she fell from her power chair and within a short time died. From that point on Ken became depressed and disoriented. When we talked, he could not hide his sadness and sense of loss. I asked him to come and stay with me for a while to get a break from what seemed to me to be a bleak self imposed existence, but he would not.
Recently he began to exhibit signs of dementia. He fell and broke his arm and became unable to care for himself completely.

His passing leaves me as the lone survivor of our immediate family. Our points of contact were few and at times far between but were, nevertheless, essential. I will miss him sorely.

Epilogue :

The last time I visited the old country, it felt like I had never been there before. How can this be, I wondered. But that’s as it should be, isn’t it? Time changes everything - and time will be served. If we are wise, we will move on with time. This is the hard work of aging.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


There was a time when I thought it funny, quaint and even interesting how old people talked about being old more than, say, how I talked about being young or middle aged. Hang out with some old people and before long being old and all that means becomes the subject of conversation.

But it’s not all talk. If you grow old, and I hope you do, it’s very likely that you will encounter one or more of the degenerative disorders that plague he aging: arthritis, joint failures, cataracts, Alzheimer’s, glaucoma, diabetes, stroke, Parkinson’s, coronary issues, shingles and the all time favorite - the many faces of cancer. If I have left out your preferred disease, please let me know and I will happily add it in a later update.

My point is that all that talk among old people is about something real and usually something shared. I mean, what do you expect? If you have lived long enough you have had to give up mountain climbing, surfboarding, motorcycle racing - to mention a few. What’s left? You become expert survivors. Then you fall.

I live in a house with three and a half sets of stairs. The half is one of those death traps you pull down to reach the attic. I am up and down these stairs many times a day and have done so for nearly 20 years - without incident - until about a week ago. I successfully descended the stairs leading to the garage with a huge bag of recycling and after all these years, I thought I had one more step before the step down to the garage level and I was woefully mistaken. I ended up on my back, quite surprised with recycling all about me and CA calling out, “Are you alright?”

Well, no, I wasn’t alright and I needed a bit of assistance to get to my feet. It wasn’t long until I became aware of pain in my back and neck. These were old wounds now reactivated. Luckily there are no broken bones or even visible bruises, just an acute sense of stupidity.

So here I am again, nursing pain, taking pain medication and scheduling PT and acupuncture treatments. It gets old. But it’s life, and it’s my life. And I’m thankful for it. Now, where did I put that Tylenol?

Monday, April 4, 2016





Monday, March 7, 2016


It seems to keep on going. It has a life of it’s own. First there is a statement to which I completely agree and then just as I am getting all excited over the woderful points someone has mede the bite comes in. There’s a deadline in six minutes and if we can raise $20,000,000 in the next six minutes we can get matching contributions consisting of 20 cases of light beer at headquarters. WILL YOU MAKE A CONTRIBUTION OF $2.78 IN THE NEXT SIX MINUTES?

I suppose this is what participitory democracy has come to mean in the 21st century. Even if you send a gift of much more than $2.78, in the thankyou note you are still asked for the $2.78.

Of course, it’s psychology. If you can become “involved” at any level it will be easier to get you involved again at an even more involved level. There is a fix, of course. And I know it. I am willing to share it with you, my friends, for the low, low cost of $4.95. To order, send your credit card number and that strange 3 digit number on the back, along with your social security number and the location of your spare house key that is kept outside.

Don’t delay. Order today. It is a known fact that if you delay sending the $4.95, you’ll probably figure this out on your own but you won’t have received my famous thank you note that has become a collector’s item on Ebay.

I look forward to hearing from you soon. Otherwise, just hit the delete key.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


One of my favorite bloggers is Shari Eberts who writes <http://www.LivingWith>. In her last post, she talks about embarrassment due to hearing loss. And as usual she nails it.
I hardly ever think of it in terms of embarrassment, but it is. I realize that I quickly convert embarrassment into anger and frustration – for me the real bad boys of hearing loss.
I have found that no matter how often you remind someone, including those most intimate, it’s a continuing effort. It is never done. I think that’s the part that is most tiring for me. I want to stomp and yell – HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU THAT I AM DEAF? That’s when I re-visit my childhood fantasies of becoming a hermit. And, we all know how unhealthy that is.
The problem is that hearing loss is totally invisible to others. That it is unseen does not diminish the disability. Therefore the one suffering the disability sees all too clearly while others simply don’t know what to do. There’s enough discomfort to go around.
To hie unto your private hermitage is not the answer. The only effective solution (until, that is, another better solution comes along) is to provide information that is factual and easy to understand for someone who is not as close to the problem as you are. insist upon any accommodation rightfully yours in any social, work or play situation. Insist gently, with real information ready at hand and with your best smile.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


THOMAS WOLFE CLASSICALLY REMINDS US THAT WE CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN. He’s right, of course, specially in the sense that time changes everything. You can go to the place, but it, like you has changed. Nobody and nothing escapes the ravages of time.

Even though I was thoroughly aware of this, I brought up Google Earth this afternoon and looked up my old childhood neighborhood. I did this several years ago and was shocked to see how the devastation of a lifetime has changed what was - that same lifetime ago - an almost idyllic experience. Today’s “trip down Memory Lane” was much the same with one difference: Just about every house in my old immediate neighborhood was gone and there were trees randomly spaced and neatly groomed grass. It was a park-like setting with only the occasional piece of ancient sidewalk showing through to belie a former civilization.

Rather than shutting down the computer I wadded on through the craggy sloughs of lost youth and the old streets that show signs of giving up to the inevitably encroaching verge.

The oak tree was there. The one I retreated to for dreaming. I had a few boards in the crown. Hardly a real platform, but sufficient for me to hide and see without being seen. It seems twice the tree now than it was then. I wished for it to be alone in a remote field where it was likely never to be cut down. But it has existed for a hundred years or more on that corner. If the community was still “alive” it surely would have been removed in the name of progress and street widening. I remember listening to freight trains trying to gain purchase on the rails in the Standard Oil Refinery two blocks away and thinking how I’d like to be on it going to my future. I always wanted to be somewhere else. I probably climbed down and rode my bicycle somewhere else - free as a bird. It was a wonderful life.

In Street View, I drove down the street where I lived passed empty lots where everyone lived. I drove to the “T:” intersection of Weller Ave. and Scenic Highway, which then was the center of what was known as Dixie, the years really caught up with me. Nothing was left of the thriving center where my father’s barber shop lived along with a hotel, two saloons, a variety store, hardware store and drug store on the west side

On the South East corner was the kingdom of Mr, Charlie Hebert (A-Bear). A huge (as I remember it) sign toward above the corner saloon. A large letter A and a brown bear constituted his “logo”. Next door was a large grocery store and next to that was a hardware store and next to that was a dry goods store. they were all connected so that you could walk inside from one to the other. Excepting the saloon, of course. Decades before anyone conceived of a Mall, we had one in Dixie. Not a single brick or board remains.

Suddenly a wave of sadness washed over me. I realized that I had stirred up a little leftover grief for a memorable childhood. Then I wondered if my sadness was about the childhood past or that it probably could not exist today.

Saturday, February 20, 2016


I sometimes think that loosing the ability to hear music is the most devastating result of hearing loss.  I have tried many of the remedies that have been suggested by many people to no avail.  My profound asymmetrical loss qualifies for a cochlear implant which is in the approval phase now.  I am told this will help.  There comes a time when understanding is the primary focus for one's life.  In much the same way that I simply avoid musical venues and situations I find that I avoid situations where I am supposed to understand what others are saying.  This is not healthy.

Withdrawal is a debilitating action in and of itself.  I know that.  For me, music has become a distraction, an irritant rather than a balm.  Communication with another human being, however, is essential to wellbeing and happiness.  If life would present me with conversations with one person at a time who, incidentally, sounded like Walter Cronkite, I would score 100% in understanding.  Alas, life is not that accommodating and, by the way, is becoming noisier every day.  

Whatever the outcome of my quest for more effective hearing "hardware", the most significant challenge for me is not whether I can once again appreciate music but whether I can participate fully in a conversation with friends and attend gatherings as a participant who understands the words.  That would be music to my ears, indeed!

Thursday, January 28, 2016



I think: this would never be tolerated in our beloved country. Until I hear our own governor talk about beheading drug dealers in the public square. Until I hear the Republican front runner advocating the exclusion of an entire people because of their religion. Until I see people forcibly ejected from political gatherings because of their dress or silent protest. Until I see intolerance becoming the mainstay of a political movement - IN - THIS - COUNTRY.

Alas, Maine is no different than other rural states. It’s not hard to go remote in Maine. Many who feel disenfranchised and who feel separated by wealth, education, lineage or clan can find places to live without being challenged to rise to their potential. Of course, it’s not clear cut. The Governor seems to appeal to that person, wherever they live - backwoods or town - who sees little value to decorum and order in the public discourse, whose pep rally mentality is as short sighted as almost any adolescent in the grip of ignorance and ambition. Let us hope that we will see an American conscience arise and bring common sense to the political platform.  At the very least, civil discourse.

Do I believe this? Of course not. But I can dream. There is no power or force that can deny my dreams. And there is no history that can forestall my dreams.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


I just got an email from a dear friend who was just boarding a plane in DC headed to San Diego for a professional meeting. Her return is scheduled for Friday. Also scheduled for a Friday arrival in DC is what is termed a “Doozy” of a storm with a major snowfall and possible blizzard force winds. I mean, how “lucky” can you get? She said she has a loaded Kindle and a phone to stay in touch when needed. So she could be stuck in Southern California or New Orleans until DC clears up? Worse places to hold up.

We were scheduled to have dinner gusts last weekend when a storm moved in and caused a rescheduled time for this weekend. Now that seems to be in jeopardy as well. We’ll see.

Just the next weekend we’re scheduled to drive up the coast to overnight with other friends and the long range forecast shows another storm coming our way. Welcome to Maine: THE WAY LIFE SHOULD BE!

Well it’s Maine - it’s winter. You got to roll with the punches. Reschedule. Grin and bare it. Take the alternate route. Don’t go. Drive slow. Stock up on food, booze and keep your batteries charged. Keep thinking how lucky you are.

Be well and stay tuned.

Saturday, January 2, 2016


The first of a new year is a great time to think of change. It seems like a good place to start over and create a different reality - to resolve to be better somehow. I have never actually made this work, but at least I think about it. Yes, I know that doesn’t count for much. No, seriously, I do think about it. For instance I think about dusting. I think about getting rid of piles of stuff and making this space neater. You see, for me to do these things would require a major personality change. I’m just not interested in such a monumental undertaking.

The thing is, i’m pretty much OK with who I am - even the way that I am. That’s not to say that there is no room for improvement, but I don’t sweat it. I am sure any ad hoc committee of my friends and acquaintances could come up with a list as long as your arm about how I could improve, but to tell you the truth I don’t care. And besides, what do they truly know? And besides #2 - I doubt you could find two people anywhere who would have the least interest in whether or not I “improve”.

I read a line in a Louise Penny novel last week that went something like this: …It’s unfortunate that on the surface, sloth and creativity appear much the same. Anyway, that’s how I justify stacks of this or piles of that and all of it covered in what seems to be an indelible layer of dust. It’s a creative space, I say.

Here’s the thing: I am not going to even attempt or even think of changing a thing in the new year. So now, you don’t have to worry about getting used to loving someone “new”. I promise to be the same opinionated, moderately happy and cautiously optimistic old guy you have always known.

2016, here we come!