Even at almost 98 years old, the person inside remains the same
On September 25 of this year I will become 98 years old and have been asked what it feels like to be that age. To begin with I know I am 97 simply because I am able to subtract. I feel the same way I felt five or ten years ago. I can speak only for myself and, in answering that question, find myself dividing my life into three stages: memories of the past, current experiences, and plans for the future.
A person of my age has many memories. I remember moving at the age of five to Islip, Long Island, from New York City. The difference was night and day. Islip at that time had a population of approximately 2,000 and all students from Kindergarten through high school were housed in one building. Trains on the Long Island Railroad were pulled by steam engines, and I can still hear the “two long-one short-one long” as it approached the station. Along with other boys, I would make it a point to be at the station when it arrived. In this way we could watch the fireman as he continued to throw coal into the furnace. The station master would remain inside using Morse code to notify other station masters down the line that the train had just arrived. Following my graduation from high school I commuted daily by train to my work with an advertising agency in New York City.
Islip is on the south shore of Long Island and we could look across the seven miles to Fire Island which, in those days, had a lighthouse overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and nothing else. Nowadays there are numerous communities on Fire Island. The father of one of my classmates was the captain of a ferry that traveled daily across Great South Bay to Ocean Beach.
Everyone my age remembers the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which led to our involvement in World War II. On June 10, 1942 I enlisted in the Army, did my basic training at Ft. Meade, and ultimately ended up with the 29th Infantry Division in Europe. I served in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany and received my honorable discharge in 1946.
So much for the past. Part of my time currently is spent re-examining my purpose in life. Is the world any better – to an even small degree by my being here? My major strength lies in my ability to communicate – both orally and in writing. How have I used that strength to benefit the world that I know?
I am a “people person” as opposed to being a “thing person.” “Thing people” serve a valuable place in society. These are the people who build houses, repair cars, and in one way or another create the world that we see. A “people person” like myself works with emotions and which are obvious only when they are expressed.
The second stage in my life involves my current experiences. They continue to involve working less with patients and more with those who might be patients but more likely are not. I no longer use an office on Hospital Hill in Warrenton. Those who wish to be my patients come to my home. I am, in other words, semi-retired. Patients, however, receive the same careful care that I have always given patients throughout the years.
My time is now spent planning for the future. Yes, I am a person almost 100 years old planning for his future. And why not? It is no longer extraordinary for a person to live past the century mark. What will I do? How will I spend my time? Item number one is to keep myself as physically healthy as possible. Through the good graces of a neighbor of mine I use his exercise machine on almost a daily basis. I try to walk more and ride less. Equally important are remaining both mentally and emotionally healthy. By far the activity that keeps me mentally healthy is constant interaction with my friends and acquaintances. As I travel less in my car, I welcome visitors to my home.
Yes, I am approaching the age of 98 but that is merely a number. The person inside remains the same. My home is open to anyone who wishes to share with me the beautiful county of Rappahannock.