Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Geezer Tribute - Wilson Greatbatch

Wilson Greatbatch 1919-2011
     Toady marks the passing of a great person and extraordinary inventor Wilson Greatbatch at age 92..  In my book he deserves recognition as one who lived a magnificent geezerhood.   He continued to be an active inventor throughout his entire life with over 350 patents.   But perhaps more important than his specific inventive successes was his zest for life.   His curiosity and generosity of spirit made him a most delightful person to encounter.    I was fortunate during my years at Cornell to enjoy some time in his presence in personal conversation as well as listening to him lecture on his development of the heart pacemaker and associated long life batteries.  At that time he had also become interested in developing a cure for AIDS and was putting his inventive and innovative genius to work in exploring new ways to deal with this disease.  Although he was world re known at the time I met him, he was unusually humble and genuine in his demeanor.   There was not a pretentious bone in his body.    I am saddened by his death but at the same time rejoice in his contributions to humankind and his example of appreciating the gifts God had bestowed on him.    I would hope that all of us in geezerhood would be as kind and generous as Wilson Greatbatch.  
       Condolences to the Greatbatch family as they both celebrate and mourn the passing of a father, grandfather and great-grandfather who lived an exemplary life for all of us.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Life as Story

An Aboriginal Storyteller
      Sunday night we were treated to an evening with Garrison Keillor at the State Theater in Ithaca, New York.   Keillor is a master story teller whose Lake Wobegon tales and Minnesota based commentary entertain and inform all of us.   Many of the tales he told on Sunday evening I had heard before.   However, they were just as entertaining and humorous as the first time I heard them.    There are recurring themes in his stories.   In his new presentations he often weaves the themes into his monologue in new ways.   It is intriguing to try to separate fact from fiction.   Even though it is mostly fiction, he paints such vivid pictures of the events that it all seems very real.   Sunday evening he said,  "Fiction enables one to live a variety of lives".     What a wonderful concept that one can enter into any number of life fantasies through fictional characters and events.   In aboriginal cultures, the stories of the people are handed down through the storytellers.    And those stories get told again and again.   Certainly Keillor has mastered the technique of passing on a fictional lore through repetitions and embellishments in much the same way of the aboriginal storytellers.
      Keillor is on the way to geezerhood.    I believe he is either 70 or close to that age.   He clearly is aging well and continues to be highly productive.   A new book is about to be finished, he continues to do solo touring on his schedule and the radio show A Prairie Home Companion remains highly popular.   When asked on Sunday night whether and when he plans to retire his reply was convoluted.   Clearly he recognizes his mortality but since he so much enjoys what he is doing he will continue his writing and performing for an indefinite time.     He claims to truly enjoy being in the company of young people and why not since he has a thirteen year old daughter.    So best wishes Garrison for continue success in your life story.    And maybe you will find peace with geezerhood in the future.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Geezer Oak Trees

North Tower Road Oaks

   When I arrived at Cornell University in 1953 to continue my undergraduate studies I walked up Tower Road almost daily to attend classes in buildings on the upper campus.   Each side of Tower Road was lined with relatively young oak trees perhaps six to eight inches in diameter.    Over the last 58 years since I have observed their growth into magnificent giant oaks.   A few days ago during a walk up Tower Road I became acutely aware of how these oak trees had survived the onslaught of weather, road salt and other abuses of their environment.    These trees have become geezer oaks in a wide range of health and condition.    And some have not survived at all.  
    Perhaps these oaks are metaphorically like men moving through geezerhood.   The oaks on the north side of Tower Road are sturdy, large and quite healthy.   They are planted in good soil and are  well pruned and still producing many acorns for the squirrels.   The oaks on the south side of Tower Road have not fared so well.   Auto parking under these trees on the south side has compacted the soil and contaminated it with road salt.   These trees have stunted growth and often poor leaf and acorn production.
South Tower Road Oaks
     Humans moving through geezerhood also exhibit differences in their quality of survival as a function of of the quality of their past and present environment.    Geezers of the magnificent oak variety have had the good fortune of the environment of loving and supportive relationships, healthy habits and satisfying careers.   Unfortunately some geezers have suffered both self inflicted bad choices and random misfortunes that have produced limited growth and abilities.   The tattered oaks are their symbols.    Just like the oaks on either side of Tower Road, we geezers are all survivors even if we might show differing appearance due to the ravages of time and life difficulties.