Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Becoming a Super Ager

     A New York Times article today noted the passing of Morrie Markoff, a supercentenarian at age 110.  He  was believed to be the oldest man in the United States!  From this article I learned he is designated as a super-ager and scientists will be studying his brain for information on what influences the ability to age well.   I also learned that anyone being mentally alert  into their eighties are super-agers!  Wow!  What an interesting thing to know since a whole cadre of my geezer skier friends are in their eighties and even beyond.  The good news about some who become super-agers is they still maintain alert and lucid mental faculties.   Morrie for instance was still blogging past the century mark even beyond!  A stroke finally did him in, but he had a great life to the very end. 

    I guess we all want to be super-agers in some way or another, even if we can never match Morrie's success.   It is evident to me there are some important things to learn from Morrie.   He wasn't a big drinker or overeater and he engaged in regular walking with his wife up to three miles with his wife eventually of 81 years while holding hands.   Keep moving folks it will serve you well.  While there was no mention of this in the article, I am sure that super aging is markedly enhanced with engagement in a variety of activities as well as having a devoted spouse or companion.   Love has a way of conquering many things.   On a personal note, I am sure my survival into my late eighties in enhanced by having on ongoing extraordinary relationship with my wife.  

    As I complete this blog today and leave soon for a volunteer stint at our Living History Museum in Homer, New York I am reflecting on how fortunate I am.  May all of you readers find inspiration for good living that makes you a super-ager today or some day in the future.  

    

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Skill and Luck

     I am a daily Wordle solver.  Each day I get a rating for skill and luck.  What an interesting combination.  Getting Wordle in one try is a miracle and in two tries is extraordinary.   Today I made it in two!  Surprisingly my skill rating was greater than luck!   Actually I think it was divine intervention.  Each day I read an Upper Room Devotional and from that reading I pick a word to start  the solution of Wordle.  Today the word adult jumped out at me and sure enough it was a dandy.  It set up the solution immediately.  Normally I have to puzzle and sort letters until I get a reasonable second try and so on.   I guess all this is to make up for the disappointment of failing in six tries a few days ago.  Alas I now have a long way to go to complete more that the longest streak I had of 110 days in a row.

    As an end note I would like tie this discussion to longevity.  I recently listened to a seminar on living well in an extended life.  That is to live beyond 75 or so.   There we lots of interesting tips on living a good life in geezer-hood.  A social network and a number of mental and physical exercises contribute to quality of life.    I would vote that skiing with a community of friends is an excellent activity that checks all those boxes.  Skiing always demands honing your skills in one way or another.  

    Last of all I must say that while we can all hone our skills, there is a bit of luck in having a satisfying senior life.  Good genes, good fortunes in the work place and other random factors do also contribute to what happens.  However, perhaps paying attention to skills may give us an edge on the luck side.   So today I will socialize at my volunteering assignment, take an e-bike ride and work on more puzzles.  Looking forward to enjoying the day!

Thursday, May 9, 2024

What Would People Think?

     Today I was reminded by something I read that the idea of what people will think has had a dramatic effect on some of our behavior.  Probably a check of rashness in both behavior and commentary!  The author of the piece that sparked my thinking on  this topic has decided he is done with that curb on his behavior.   He is ready to move ahead as inspired to act and say as he wishes regardless of the impact on the observer.  I guess as octogenarian,  that I am moving on into that camp.  However, my mother was quite controlled by the elements of what people would think and her words still ring in my head.  If one is convinced that an action or comment is best for them,  and actually is not meant to harm anyone, I think it is refreshing to move boldly ahead.  Too often we hold back from being our true self because we would not fit in or be welcomed by our current social circle or the world.   One should not have regrets that they did not do some satisfying activity just because of "what would people think".


    

Monday, May 6, 2024

Shovel Leaning

     I read that today is the date of the creation of the Works Progress Administration in 1935.   Notably it is a date just a few weeks past my birth day in April.  So 89 years later, why am I taken by this event?  For one thing, I have benefitted from the good works on infrastructure that it produced.   Improved roads, parks, bridges and other public works was the result.   One can go to state parks and forests and see the handiwork of those employed in those projects.  In the midst of the depression, unemployed people were put to work by the thousands and acted as a backstop to the rampant poverty.   I had a World War II Cornell colleague who benefitted from that program before he went to fight in Europe.  He told me some fascinating stories of his adventures.  It was stop gap employment until he went into the Army after Pearl Harbor.  

    Like all government programs, there was frequent criticism of make work programs.  Some are quite critical of those employed in these programs as a give away for the lazy and indigent.  I am not in that camp.  What was the beef about this program?   One that was often heard came from watching a work party on site.   By some appearances, the individuals were not particularly vigorous about their tasks.  Critics would say they spent more time leaning on their shovels than working!  So out of this came the expression "shovel leaning" on the job.   I'll admit that surely there were some slackers.  However, I am confident that for the main, most gave an honest day's work for a day's wage.

    Let me explain my reasoning for my last statement above.   Casual observers who just stop by a site, only see a snapshot of the day.  As a college student I worked construction.   I had a job building the New York State Thruway over the Montezuma swamp.   I helped build a water line in Fairport, New York and an electric utility building in Sodus, New York.  On these jobs, I was doing grunt work!  Many were long days, up to 14 hours on theThruway from sunup to sundown.   If you had observed me in those work days, there would be times I was leaning on my shovel.  Even in the prime of my youth, there is a limit to the length of time you can shovel, lift etc.  Let me close with an anecdote of how cruel a superintendent of a work party can be in preventing "shovel leaning".   On my electric utility job one day I was assigned the task of manually tamping the fill around the duct installed within the foundation.   The tamper probably weighed twenty pounds.   Since I was probably going to be at the task for the entire day.  I was doing it in a rhythm that I knew I could sustain.  My boss from his comfortable hut was observing me.  It wasn't long before he came out of his hut and chastised me for my slow progress.  I guess he thought I was a slacker.  So he grabs the tamper and proceeded to do a few seconds of rapid tamping and said that is the way you should be doing it.  He was a wisp of a man and he really angered me!  He could walk away and sit.   No way could he  have kept that up.  So in conclusion,  I think it behooves every one of us to be careful of our criticism of others in whatever task they are doing.   They say when you are pointing a finger at someone, three other fingers are pointing back at you.


Saturday, April 27, 2024

Awareness

     This morning I came across  a post on Facebook about a 1942 Model 12A John Deere Combine used this past fall to harvest some grain.  This antique jogged my memory of a 1950's summer job with a farm equipment dealer.  At the time I was a student of agricultural engineering at Cornell  University.  I proved myself with the veteran mechanics on that job when I was able to field service that particular model of combine and get it working properly when others had been baffled about how to fix it.  So why is it that I can remember the name of my employer from fifty years ago,  but have a huge deficiency in remembering names in other contexts.   To be honest, I have always had a weak spot about remembering names. That leads me to pondering about being aware of our weaknesses and whether we will do something about that weakness.   In the past I did try some things to improve my deficiency with a set of audio tapes.  

    Continuing with another thought I would like to comment about awareness--  especially awareness of ones impact on others.   I currently volunteer as a docent at a local museum.  I do like to tell stories about the items of interest in the museum.  However, I try to be sensitive to the reaction of the guests!  I am forthright about that by assuring them I will tell them as much as they are interested in, or simply be available for questions.   Even when they have given me permission to tell some stories, I keenly observe their reactions.  When the eyes glaze over, I know it is time to shut up!

    Further on awareness, I have to share my pet peeve about individuals  who are totally unaware of their annoying behavior.    I wonder if their minds are simply shut down by their egocentric processing of the world around them.   I find it especially annoying in conversations that are not really conversations.  I have encountered at least two of that type in recent weeks.  They will start a thread of a topic and segue from one element to another with no chance for you to make a comment.   That is bad enough, but it gets worse in that the thread of the topic can literally go on for 15 minutes or more.   Both of these persons I encountered are fine citizens and tragically they are alienating a whole community of "friends" by being unaware.  

In closing, I hope that I continue in my senior years to be aware of my own  idiosyncrasies  and to find a way to gently suggest changes for others who are unaware of their annoying behavior.

      

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Expressions In Poetry

     A few days ago I was reminded that April is designated by the Poetry Foundation as National Poetry Month.   There are all kinds of poetry styles.   I particularly like writing Haiku.  The poems are three lines with  of 17 syllables.  The form is five, seven, five for the three lines.  I appeals to me in simplicity and my engineering side.  Hear are some thoughts in poetry as I transition in the glories of spring and summer.

April Poetry Month
Haikus

Life rhythms abide
In spite of day light saving
Time to abolish?

Positive thinking
Season pass purchase now
Geezer optimist.

E-bike riding now
Glorious activity
Spring bloom were observed

Museum gig calls
Volunteering my wisdom?
Captive audience

A final thought!   In my freshman year of college my writing skills were so bad that I had to take a remedial class in writing.   I daily thank the astute teachers that recognized my need.   That learning has enhanced my whole career as an academic where publish or perish has been so evident.   Maybe, I should get some remedial lessons in skiing before it is too late.  








Friday, April 12, 2024

Prime Time

     Just had a birthday!   Almost finishing nine decades.   One more year to go.  My son reminds me of every time my age is a prime number.   Yes, the 89th is prime.  Therefore, I can say I am in my prime!  Too bad that is not so.  However, I am blessed enough to be active both mentally and physically.   However, there is a significant difference in my physical activity versus my son's activity at 65.   On the 9th of April, he climbed Mt. Baldy at Alta Utah to ski some pristine snow.  His birthday call yesterday filled me in on his adventure.  As an avid skier myself, I get vicarious pleasure from his adventures!  From the time he was nine, he was the pace setter for our family skiers!  I think he continues to do that today with his companions on the great slopes of Utah, British Columbia and so on.   We agreed during his call that we both have been blessed with great time of skiing, both solo and with groups of friends.  I will not be around to see it, but I expect him to be one of those people that will be ripping up the slopes well into his nineties.  Perhaps he will be part of the Wild Old Bunch in Utah.  

   Meanwhile,  I hope to be celebrating my 90th birthday on the slopes at Greek Peak in 2025.   Since it is not likely the Peak will be open on April 11th, I may have to prematurely celebrate in March.   It would be nice to be able to hang around in enough good health to ski at my next prime time birthday of 97!  However, the probabilities are pretty low.   But as a friend at the museum where I volunteer who is just a few day younger than me,  reminded me that is good to aspire to better things.  Would you believe his sights are on 100.   So be it.  L'Chaim.




Friday, March 29, 2024

Old Endeavors

    Since my ski season got cut short for me this year, I have been pursuing new endeavors.   Just finished trying to revive what little piano playing ability I developed when I retired in 1996.  I took lessons for five years starting at age 61. I must report that my daughter  Victoria age 11 was taking lessons from the same teacher.   What took me a month to accomplish, she mastered in a week!  

    Here I am now, trying to recapture some of the ability I had so many years ago.  Unfortunately, I discover that the process of refreshing is going very slowly.    However, I can amuse myself with simple melodies, even if I can't fill in the base line.  Maybe this is all a metaphor for my skiing abilities in my more senior years.   Go for the simpler terrain and simply take pleasure in sweeping turns that can be considered as a simple ballet on snow.

    I  will continue to seek other old endeavors too.  If you have been a reader of my blog over some time, you will notice the frequency of posting new blogs has increased in the last few weeks.  Therefore I hope to come up for more tiny vignettes for my own entertainment, if not for my readers.

As we move into summer, I am looking forward to returning to the tennis court!  That is not an old endeavor for me, because I have been playing tennis every year after I started banging a ball against the barn on a the farm I grew up.  I was 12 when a neighbor gave me a beat up wooden racket.  I guess an activity that you have engaged in for over 76 years qualifies as an old endeavor in a different way.   Finally, my old endeavor of skiing started in my thirties.  Hats off to those who were able to start much earlier!


Friday, March 22, 2024

Skiing Egos

    Today's Senior Skiing newsletter had an article about ego related to skiing.   It seems that as we age into the 70's, 80's and even 90's, our ego can drive us to take chances on the slopes beyond our current conditioning and skill set.   We have imbedded in our psyche the belief we should be able to master bumps, sketchy conditions, trees, etc. like we could in our younger days.   Not so! To keep enjoying the sport we love, it is best that we know when to limit our adventures.  Really, we should not have to prove ourselves to others or ourself!

    In my 88th year, I have daily reminded myself about the above admonition.  I have learned to delight in just being on the slopes.  I have learned to enjoy what I can do, and not long for the more adventurous challenges of the steeps.   Skiing can be an enjoyable ballet on the gentler slopes.   Graceful complete turns can be most satisfying.  Also in the past, whatever the hill conditions might be, I have had pride in toughing it out at least for a few runs.  However, now is the time for me to tamp down that desire.  

    My geezer skier friends, I wish you many days of simply being out there and remind you to pause from time to time and view the scene, take a few pictures, have a coffee break with your buddies and perhaps reminisce a little about the good old day.  

   

Friday, March 15, 2024

Anchors

     Recently I ran across a quote from Henrik Ibsen's play Ghosts that inspired my thinking about what holds us down in our pursuit of life.   You may think, how does this connect to senior level skiing?  Maybe that will develop as you read on. The quote is as follow.

"It is not only what we have inherited from our fathers and mothers that existsin us, but all sorts of old dead ideas and all kinds of old dead beliefs and things of that kind. They are not actually alive in us; but there they are dormant, all the same, and we can never be rid of them"
    Metaphorically the dead ideas and beliefs are anchors we keep dragging along with us and prevent us form moving forward.  It is always time to shed some anchors and move on to new ideas.  In the area of beliefs, it is a bit more complicated.  If we are on a faith journey we cannot necessarily shed all our beliefs, but we certainly can find new perspectives and insights.  
    So what kind of anchors do I have to shed as I adjust to my skiing activities in my more senior years?   A new reality is that in spite of my attention to conditioning and healthy living, I am not as expert on the slopes as I used to be.  Thus I will have to shed the idea I can shred the slopes as if I was a teenager.  I will learn to savor what I can do on the slopes and focus on what I can do rather than what I no longer can do.  Perhaps I will also have to shed the belief I can conquer challenging slope conditions is always the goal. Beyond my skiing obsession, I am thankful that I can look forward to other endeavors.
    In conclusion, to you readers, I hope I have given you some stimulus for reflection on any anchors you may be dragging along and figure out how to shed them.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Yo-Yo Season

    This morning I woke up to a rare March sight in Central New York this year.   A blanket of snow covering my lawn!  Enough snow to get the ski juices going, but meager in the sense that most of it has melted by this afternoon.   Thus, I would define this ski season as one of providing a yo-yo of emotions--hope for good conditions for a while followed by a crash of quality skiing.  No matter what we are up to, we don't like to be jerked around.

    Along with not skiing, I am also feeling jerked around by a change to daylight savings time.   Perhaps, this angst comes from being so wired into routines that we have comfort in.  Sleep is disrupted, meals are off schedule and biological rhythms are out of kilter.  The curmudgeon in me demands more stability. Staying with one or the other time pattern year round does have some issues.  Apparently we aren't going to get out of that dilemma soon.  

    On an end note, we don't always get stability.  That is a fact of existence.  Therefore we must develop coping skills for variations.  Thankfully, I have diversions beyond skiing!  Geezers with the right mindset will adapt. And that ability to adapt will serve well for an optimistic outlook.   My optimistic outlook for skiing to my 90th year is wrapped up in having purchased my season pass for 2024-2025!


Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Chaos

     Sometimes unexpected events throw your life into chaos.  Post skiing on this past Saturday morning in the rain, I returned home to lunch and my usual afternoon geezer nap.  Unfortunately, I awoke from the nap in a totally confused and blanked out state that lasted for about a half hour.   Needless to say,  something happened and things began to roll that upset my life in a big way over the next several days.  The upshot was a hospital stay which confirmed I had a stroke.  Fortunately, there are no lasting effects.   We are not allowed to call it a mini-stroke.  A mini-stroke does not show up on the MRI, but the stroke does. Mine was visible on the MRI. The doctor called it a small stroke.

    Thankfully, I am home and perking along essentially normally.   Sadly my ski season is over for this year.  However, I don't expect to miss much, since the rain and warm weather had devastated conditions at my local ski area.  I will remain optimistic about next season and buy a season pass.  However, in my 89th year it is likely I will not pretend to engage in ski conditions that I endured in my more youthful years.

    Back to the matter of chaos.   Does going through chaos have something to teach you?   All of us at one time or another have experienced a myriad of chaotic experiences.   I think how well we handle them depends on our support community and whatever good character we have developed in  the past.  During my health issue, I was and am so blessed by my community in all forms that have been supportive and concerned.  That blessing has come from family, neighbors, church folks, ski buddies and professional associates.   I cannot say enough about the extraordinary love and support provided by my dear wife of almost 42 years, Nancy.  May I be as supportive to others as they have been to me.  

    Geezer skiers, in my opinion are a special breed.  We are essentially survivors!  Our love of skiing provides incentive to be healthy, be active and to live each day as a gift, whether on the slope of off.  May we avoid chaos in all forms, but if a bit of chaos enters our lives, may we be fortunate enough to have a dynamic support community.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Rainy Day Musings

    Woke up this morning expecting to head to the slopes.  Surprise!  A steady downpour dampened my enthusiasm so my plans quickly changed.  The day will not be a complete bust since our Geezer Skier group at Greek Peak will be meeting for an already scheduled lunch.  Thankful for a great group of people in their senior years to socialize and ski with!

    I am led to thinking about how group dynamics change as we age and as some of our companions depart for various reasons.  Some that I would prefer not to mention. However, if we are a vital group we should be able to recruit new members.

    In the vein of musing on socialization, I am reflecting on some of the encounters I have had on the ski lift rides this holiday week.  At times I have been in the single mode approaching the lift and have had the good fortune to have random companions join me.  I joke with my wife that  I do 6 or 7 minute interviews as I ride with strangers to the top.   Often an opener for those conversations comes when my companions see the 85+ sticker on my helmet.  Yes, I have been a long time member of the 70+ club.  A frequent reaction I get is how old are you?  Well, I am not far from my 89th year and hoping for the day when I can put the 90+ sticker on my helmet.   Probably the most interesting reaction I got this week was amazement from two of my riders and one saying I have to go home and tell my wife I was on the ski slope with an octogenarian. It is amazing how a senior skier can open doors to candid conversations where people reveal things that might come out in a session with a therapist.   In conclusion, I am so happy to be entertained and informed by a wide spectrum of people I see in my daily sojourn on the slopes.  We all have unique life stories and they should be appropriately shared for posterity.


Monday, January 15, 2024

Avalanche Restriction

    Checked the news regarding Utah's Alta and Snowbird today.  My son and family regularly ski there. So I have a personal interest in the conditions.  I know at times the Canyon road to these areas is closed sometimes due to avalanche danger.  With 17 and 24 inch snowfalls in the last few days, apparently there have been restrictions on movement in the area.  As far as I know my son and family are safe.  However, I do know they will be blowing up the powder as soon as any restrictions are lifted.  I haven't visited them to ski in quite a few years.  In my senior years, making the trip seems beyond my stamina.  Also the big mountain now challenges my ability.

           Meanwhile, I do not have to worry about any avalanche danger in Central New York.   All I have to do is get my injured hand healed enough to hit the slopes after a long lay off.  I guess that is a substitute for an avalanche restriction.  Perhaps avalanche restriction is a metaphor for the vagaries of life.   Unexpected events that throw a monkey wrench into one's pleasures!

Friday, January 12, 2024

Playing it Safe

     In making critical and not so critical decisions, I have found myself struggling with playing it safe or taking a chance.   Today I am facing a decision whether to attempt to ski while my hand surgery is healing.  As my doctor says, if you take a fall and break open the wound you could face an ulcerative wound.  Not nice.  Therefore I am left with waiting for healing or enjoying some turns on the slopes.   It was quite a blow to have to face several more days away from a wonderful winter passion to be safe.  Before I started to write this blog, I did decide to postpone my immediate gratification and play it safe.  

    Thinking in a broader sense about what I just wrote above, I am reminded of decisions I have made on the ski slope that sometime pushed the boundaries of a safe ski run.   One of my weaknesses is to ski slopes and conditions beyond my ability.   Too often I have been tempted to ski in conditions that one playing it safe would not do.   However, most skiers are addicted to the rush the comes from conquering a Black Diamond or a field of moguls.   As a considerably senior skier, one has to weigh the benefits of rising to challenges versus playing it safe to be able to ski another day.   

    Beyond skiing, I also do some things that are not playing it safe.   E-Biking comes to mind.  I am balancing the pleasure of biking and mobility versus the potential hazards of bike riding.  I do my best to minimize the risks as a panacea to the danger.  

    The examples above are but a few of the daily decisions we make about playing it safe or taking risks.   More examples come to mind!   I'll confess that my diet does not always play it safe.   I love my fritter, deserts and fail to avoid too much salt.  Alas maybe all this angst ought to be put aside and go for it.  YOLO - you only live once!


Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Kindnesses Remembered

    I guess my forced absence from  the slopes as my hand heals has given me more time to reflect on past events and perhaps consider future activities.   I woke up this morning remembering kindnesses offered to me by colleagues, family and friends.  One might think I have a muse that prods me down interesting paths.   The early morning thought has stuck with me and drives me to share some of my experiences of kindnesses as well as to think of how I can be more active in expressing and doing kindnesses to others.

    On thing I remembered today was the appearance of one of my Cornell colleagues, J. Robert Cooke,  at the funeral of my mother so many, many years ago.  He made the effort to travel a significant distance to the funeral location and provide a representative support of my entire Cornell community.  In the vein of the Cornell connection, when I was struck with kidney cancer in 1995, President of Cornell University, Frank Rhodes sent me a most touching supportive letter while in the hospital! I was amazed by the kindness of a man taking the time to reach out in spite of his busy schedule.  

    In my geezer skier community I have also been the beneficiary of numerous kind gestures.   When injured by a serious fall several years ago, my friend Roger Pellerin (now passed on) stayed with me and offered needed assistance to mange my transition to hospital care.   Some years ago while going through a rough patch with a back injury and depression, good friend Pat Ryan, founder of the Tough Old Geezer Skiers, provided wonderful support for coping with my issues.  

    On a daily basis,  I know many others, receive both large and small kindnesses.  May I be reminded to reciprocate.  As I conclude, I will not speak of the kindnesses I have given to my colleagues, friends, family and fellow geezers, but I am somewhat comforted that they do come to my mind as satisfying good deeds.  In an ideal world, a proliferation of kindness would indeed be a blessing.  Maybe we should make that a priority for 2024 and beyond.


Friday, January 5, 2024

Dismissed!

     Unfortunately, I have not been skiing for several days and will be out for several more as the surgery on my right hand heals.  Too much sun in my youth causing skin cancer.  I guess we should have known better.

      So the new year has been a bit of a bummer.  On top of no snow,  other issues have arisen.  After the first of January I have had a sequence of three doctor's  visits and one other postponed.  You certainly know you are a geezer by the size of the stable of doctor's you have tending to you.   While it is a nuisance to keep up with it all, there are surprising positives that come your.   In my visit with my opthalmologist I learned I am an outlier at my age for vision quality.  Cataract surgery still a few years away!   

    Yesterday I got wonderful news at a visit with my Urologist.  We have a close bond formed over nearly 29 years.  He essentially saved my life 29 years ago when he removed my cancerous kidney!  Over the years he has given me unusually excellent compassionate care. He is like a family member in a way.  In my visit with him yesterday I was surprised to find he will be retiring in the coming year and I had the gift of wishing him well.  I didn't want to challenge his dignity by calling him a geezer, but I hope he will become a geezer with grace some time in the future.  As he reviewed my chart and surveyed my status, I was stunned to hear from him that I no longer needed to follow up with his office unless I had an issue.   

     To put it bluntly, I had been dismissed!  Wow! And to top it all off, I also received a Bro hug!  Made my day and many to come.  It is amazing that we find blessings in unexpected as well as expected locations.   During this hiatus from skiing with my geezer pals, I look forward to getting back to the coffee session with Greek Peak's Tough Old Geezer Skiers.