Aging well is an art that requires a lot of practice. We don’t get to ‘practice’ dying. The deaths of Prince (57) and Muhhamed Ali (73) and some friends have me pondering the rest of my life. (More)

Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

I was 16 and a junior in high school when my good friend Susan died of systemic lupus. It took 6 weeks from the initial diagnosis to her death. It had a big emotional impact on me and my classmates. She was in the same hospital where I worked as a kitchen helper in the coffee shop so I saw her almost every day and could watch her deterioration. It was the first time I got the unfairness and the random nature of death. The idea that her death was “God’s will” set me off on the way humans can manipulate God to rationalize the inexplicable. Not comforting at all. I have become a fatalist. If your time or mine is up, that’s the end.

The deaths of my grandparents in their late 80s and early 90s were more to be expected. It was the first time I remember cringing at the phrase “the natural order of things.” We all know that we will die when we get old. At least we hope we get to get old first. We hope that we die before our children if we have them. The ‘natural order of things’ implies that our grandparents will die and then our parents and then it is our turn. We are orphans and have moved to the front of the “next in line.”

Garrison Keillor is retiring this July after 40 years of A Prairie Home Companion. He suffered a brain seizure last week. Luckily for him, the seizure missed the language center in his brain and he can still write. His comments on success, included for my author friends;

Asked how he measure success, Keillor gave a longer explanation: “Success is when you get up early in the morning and you feel ambitious, and you go and you sit down at your computer with a cup of coffee and you’re still in your pajamas and there is something you urgently want to do. And that’s, that’s the good life. Work.”

I have been pondering these things off and on for a while now. I will be 70 in December. I can still push the lawnmower for 6 or 7 hours if I need to catch up when it’s not raining. I think ahead and look at the mower as a replacement for a walker. When I turned 40 I thought that in golfing terms I was probably going to the back nine. When I turned 45 there was no more pretending maybe. At almost 70 I wonder if self driving cars will be commonplace by the time I can no longer drive myself. Hmmm.

In my determination to practice aging well, I have a new book of Minnesota Orchids and maps from the Forest Service. I intend to spend part of my summer up north checking out the local orchids which are believe it or not, quite plentiful. I have mastered the local trees and wild flowers. I even went along the trail a few years back with permanent marker and tongue depressors to make identifiers for the wild flowers. I put one in the ground for the state flower, the Lady Slipper Orchid. A couple days later some damn fool had dug it up. It is protected and illegal to dig them up. I may do my orchid hunt for myself and to share their beauty with my grandkids. Part of my idea of aging well is to pass on the family stories and values to my grandkids.

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