In my ’80s

Thursday, May 30, 2018

What is the calling that I might, as an 80 year old, fulfill? Or, said in another way, what is my vocation in retirement? And what are the means for discovering vocation now?

These questions typically prod and poke the college student, the shocked worker recently laid off from a job, or perhaps the mid-lifer seeking a change of direction. In contrast, I ask the questions as a senior.

My first impulse suggests that for a senior the searching for vocation differs considerably from those who are younger because of the obvious “diminishments” of old age: less strength, less energy, less dexterity, less mobility. Further, a motivation associated with vocation and career is “to earn a living.” However, many of us seniors exist on pensions and social security and possibly savings which allow us to suppose that we no longer need a vocation.

As a starting point in this discussion, I would like to adopt a term recently used to define those people born before 1950. “Perennials.”  The term allows us to continue to consider vocation for as long as we live. The perennial is capable of blooming year after year. Vocation is not an annual but a perennial. That is, we can always be in vocation.

What are the means for discovering vocation now as a perennial? Richard Rohr’s daily meditations this week pertain to vocation. Perhaps that is why my thoughts have lingered on this topic. He has quoted Parker J. Palmer (Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation).  Good counsels indeed. Surely there are more library and computer resources of this kind to guide. For example Google “books on vocation” and you’ll be shown “goodreads’” fine list. 

Rohr and others suggest to me my own need to make a cognitive shift in my thoughts about millennial vocation. Years ago I used a somewhat pat sentence when consulting with college students who had not yet made up their minds on a career. “If you can read and think and write and speak, a world of opportunity awaits you.”  Today, as a perennial, I am invited away from those terms, not because they lack validity, but rather that they are more appropriate for a skill-oriented quest for successful career. The millennial is not on a career search, but rather a calling. I have a growing hunch that the perennial’s vocation has less to do with skills and more to do with personal identity and disposition. The quip “when you grow older, you just become more and more like yourself” seems to hint at something significant.  

The perennial vocations that I most admire do not depend upon a particular IQ, a distinguished history of accomplishment, a widely regarded talent, a high level of popularity or the maintenance of “style.” Actually, such distinguished people might, as perennials, be grouches. Instead, the perennial in fulfilling vocation has, as it were, come home after a long journey to be the person he or she deeply is. 

Such people, as I see them from a distance or interact with them closely fit these characteristics and exhibit these behaviors.

    • They accept who they are and even poke fun about it.
    • Their goodness is not so much an act, but a flowing out from a fountain.
    • They are more interested in learning than in proving something.
    • They inhale each moment and exhale gratitude.
    • Whether gregarious or solitary, they are not alone.
    • Their greatest generosity is toward those who have surpassed them.
    • While mental and physical abilities decline, soul is renewed each day.

I should be quite pleased to have a long coffee with you, there to hear of your vocation and share a precious moment together.

In my ’80s

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Ben returned from Madrid. Even though he wasn’t a prodigal son, we had a party anyway.



Of course we begin with a meal.


Brad and Gretchen place the ping pong table in the front lawn.


In the median, the Annie slings a disc.


Phunny photos.


Dancing on the driveway.


Son and Mom.




Water balloons.




Welcome home, Ben.

In my ’80s

Sunday, May 27, 2018

In the most recent blog four days ago, I celebrated the blessings of friendship. However, there is a yang to the yin. The high energy associated with living gregariously is more than matched by the power of privacy and presence. I know this close hand, for I am married to a person who cherishes solitude and prefers to avoid ados.

On this quiet Sunday evening, I benefit from a kind of remove. No, I did not attend the Indianapolis 500 today. I had no desire to, what with a rather crowded week. Jim, the carpenter, was here almost daily. The two painters finished their work on Friday. There were windows to free from new paint and scattered old paint pieces to clean up. I tried lugging around the ladder but found it considerably heavier than last year, so I gave it to the painters.

Meanwhile the garden deserved attention — weeding in some areas, new perennials in others. I harvested perhaps ten wheelbarrows of compost. And of course the lawn needed mowing.

We spent a day at Winter Wood, and our granddaughter came back with us for a day.  Rudy, the birds and the fish all wanted care.

I’m not complaining at all, just explaining why “time-out” feels good to this 80 year old.

From this vantage of Sunday night repose, I think of my family: Ben has just arrived home from Madrid, will be leaving in several days for San Francisco. Sam has now arrived in China for a six weeks term. Adrian has probably settled in at the North Carolina camp where he will work for the summer. Ingrid soon leaves for Italy, Florence more specifically, to direct an art study there. Jordan just moved into a new house. The comings and goings show an activity I admire, but at the same time, even as I cheer them on, I sit on a laz-y-boy with my feet up. 

In my ’80s

Wednesday, May 21, 2018

It is a gift handed down. One of the most valued treasures from forbears.

Gramma Good most surely had the gift. She loved people. She insisted on arriving early to church each week so that she could talk with others. Often she invited her friends to quilt with her in the sitting room — the quilt frame stretched from wall to wall, with her friends on either side chatting amiably. Gramma Good wanted her large family to come home from Christmas and Easter. And more than once Gramma and Grampa took me along for Sunday dinner and afternoon with one of their many friends.

She handed the gift to my mother — one of the most gregarious people I have ever known. What a pity — there she was in a country house, on a farm. A thousand time I heard her say, “If only I could have been a school teacher.” She didn’t need an excuse to take the car on an errand. This was after the war when gasoline was no long rationed. On those errands she found someone to talk with, often to laugh with — women and men. Then at home she recounted to Daddy whom she saw and what she learned from them. All of her adult life she taught Sunday school, she went to market on the street, she knew how to use a telephone for social purposes.

Me?  I love people. Often I’ve said that friends are my treasure and that I am very rich. In the past two weeks I enjoyed coffee with a former pastor, with a writer whom I met in Starbucks two years ago, with a retired counselor recently moved here from South Dakota, with a professor friend who moved to California last year but now returned for a teaching assignment in his former college, and with a retired technician. I learned to know a recent chem graduate. I enjoyed chatting with brothers now painting our house whose family comes from Guatemala. The early morning trip to the airport with my grandson (now headed to China) made my day. My long-time correspondent and I exchanged notes. I teased the neighbors who live on both sides of us and yelled greetings across the street to other neighbors. Sunday we enjoyed afternoon tea with a young professional family here in Irvington. And in ten minutes I will head southeast to have lunch with my brother.

Yes. Yes. I am very rich. 

In my ’80s

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Tim Herrera gives a sparkling approval of the Smarter Living section of The New York Times. “I’ve learned a lot in the last two years: how to actually manage my finances; how to eat better and tick with an exercise routine; how to say no effectively and how to build good habits (and break bad ones), among many, many other things. Most meaningfully, I’ve learned how to find and focus on the things that truly matter to me and let the rest fade into the background. ”

Herrera then offers four things he learned from Smarter Living, one of which I shall consider further: Do less — but do it better.

Do less — but do it better.

I read Herrara’s note first thing this morning and have ruminated on it throughout the day. Instead of scoffing at self-help suggestions as this one, I propose to “give it a whirl” and benefit. I’ll begin with questions?

  1. Might I reduce driving by planning more carefully once a week what errands will require a car trip, and then completing more errands with fewer trips?
  2. If I bought better clothing, much of it the same color, might I reduce the size of my wardrobe?
  3. Instead of skimming a large batch of written material, might I learn more with  concentrated reading of selected materials?
  4. I am enjoying spring gardening. Perchance a focussed attention on the square foot before me might eventually result in a more beautiful garden?
  5. Thomas Merton writes in The Sign of Jonas, “Let me keep silence in this world …  ..” What might I learn if I kept silent?
  6. Of my household responsibilities — vacuuming, washing the dishes, cleaning windows, picking up — which ones could be done better by doing less?
  7. My two principal hobbies are writing and photography. How might Herrera’s counsel inform me?

What I have already begun to learn, even before reading Herrera, is that the most productive time for me in a full day is usually that span of quietness when I use yoga breathing to bring myself into quiet union with yesterday and tomorrow, with alpha and omega, with that great statement “I am that I am.”

In my ’80s

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Our beloved children called for a conversation. The agenda was contained in a questionnaire they created. Each of us — that is, my wife and I — was to supply our respective answers.


Future Living Plans

How long would you like to live in your current house?

What are the indicators (if any) that will let you know it is time to move?

If you move, where would you like to live?

If you need assisted living, where would you want to live?


Future Activities

Are there big things that you want to make sure get scheduled in the next few years (trips, events, etc)?


Future Concerns

What are the things you spend the most time worrying about?  Are there ways we can help alleviate those concerns?

Are there supports (yard help, maintenance, etc) that would help you stay at Bolton longer?


End of Life Issues

Do you have concerns about end of life care and issues?

Do you have updated advanced directives?  If so, where are they?

Is your will up to date?  Where is it?

Do you have concerns about any estate issues?

Do you have concerns about any ongoing care issues?

Are there any files that you would like read/destroyed upon your death?



As needs arise, what types of support do you want from family, from friends, from professionals?

In what ways can family support you?  In what ways do you not want us kids to be involved in things?



Each of us completed the questionnaire. Our children led the conversation. I tell you from the bottom of my heart — I was reassured, inspired and gratified by this initiative.

In my ’80s

Thursday, May 17

This from the New Yorker Desk Diary:


Yes, my village too.  And the schools. And the churches. And the social services. And the legislature. We need some younger elders.

And my extended family (the last uncle will be buried tomorrow).

And my household (the contracted carpenter and painters are doing the job so much better and faster than I could).

And my office (please tell me once again how to use which apps on the iPhone and also how to get rid of the companies that have found tons of viruses in my computer and how to make the printer respond to job request without it being plugged into the computer, and how, and how, and how).

See me there by the fire. I say to my elderly colleagues, “let us vote yea.”