Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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18

Sep

2021

Goodbye to being young

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday September 5, 2021

 

I had my 85th birthday this last week. It’s a new experience for me. I’ve never had an 85th birthday before; I’ll know I’ll never have one again. Obviously.

           My 85th birthday made me feel I have crossed some kind of threshold, some invisible Rubicon. I have entered a new phase of my life.

            My almost-brother Ralph Milton defines it as the division between the young-old and the old-old.

            The young-old are the newly retired. Without employment to tie them down, they’re free to do all those things they always wanted to do. 

            Almost all books and magazines about aging deal with the young-old, assuring people they can still enjoy life to the fullest. 

            But that doesn’t apply to the old-old. Their backs hurt too much to play golf. Their fishing buddies have died. They can’t drive. Their children want them to live where someone will look after them.



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20

Aug

2021

The highway of increasing decrepitude

Author: Jim Taylor

Sunday August 15, 2021

 

Another school classmate died last week. David Scott died in Washington DC August 5.

            David and I went through our first six grades together at a school in the foothills of the Himalayas. Then we lost touch. 

            I left India with my parents, and have only been back briefly. David, on the other hand,  spent most of his working life in India -- four decades with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. He was professor of history of religions in theological colleges, a chaplain, and a study-center director.

            I didn’t get to know David again until I attended a school reunion some 40 years later.

            Other classmates were much closer to him. So I don’t write this column deep in grief. I write it because David’s death brings into sharp focus the harsh reality of growing older. We lose friends.


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29

Jul

2021

Going ‘round in circles

Author: Jim Taylor

Thursday July 29, 2021

 

Long long ago, I had a Baby Brownie camera. It had no settings at all – just point and click. But it let me take grainy black and white pictures. 

            As time went on, I graduated to a 35mm camera that would do almost everything for me except choose my subject. It would set the aperture. Choose the shutter speed. Auto-focus on whatever I had on the screen. 

             Except that one of its dials sets “picture mode,” in which the camera automatically amends its settings to suit special circumstances -- portraits, landscapes, close-ups, etc. 

            Not long ago, I took a series of photos of our Rotary club picking up litter along a popular walking route. Somehow, I bumped that dial from “Auto” to “Art.” 

            I got grainy black and white photos that I might have taken with my old Baby Brownie.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: aging, letting go

3

Aug

2019

Brain fog

Author: Jim Taylor

I watch as friends struggle to find words, to follow instructions, to grasp concepts. Some call it dementia; some call it cognitive impairment; some call it “chemo-brain.” And some simply wear a bewildered look. 

            I realize this is dangerous ground – I haven’t been there myself, yet. But by the time I get there, I won’t be able to put the experience into words. I also realize that the people who could tell me if I got it right – or badly wrong – probably can’t respond. My hope, however, is that this poem may help some of you, who have friends or relatives with some form of ongoing dementia, appreciate what they may be feeling. 

 

 

Brain fog

 

The fog creeps in

on little dendrites and axons, 

It short-circuits the fungal filaments 

that feed the chemistry of communication

from gray cell to… oh, what were the numbers

for the combination lock

on my memory locker?

Clarity scampers like a squirrel,

always just out of reach. 

I grasp at dust motes dancing in a sunbeam....

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Categories: Poetry

Tags: Dementia, aging, fog

15

Aug

2018

Conversations that don't need to end

Author: Jim Taylor

In long-term relationships, the past always remains relevant. 

            A group of men were talking about death. (At our age, every conversation gets around to death, sooner or later.) Ralph Milton glanced at me, and said, “Bob Hatfield.” And I knew what he meant. 

            More than ten years ago, Ralph and I drove to Cochrane, Alberta, for a last visit to our friend Bob Hatfield, dying of leukemia. Bob was emaciated, skin and bones. But he was not afraid. We spoke. We held hands. We shared a prayer, for him and for each other. 

            Bob quoted Vera Lynn: “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when...” His voice trailed off.

            I don’t know what Bob believed about life after death. As a medical doctor, he had seen death often enough to have no romantic delusions about winged cherubs hovering above an abandoned  body. 

            But he believed that conversations did not have to end. He believed that our conversation would carry on, even without him,. 

Bob died the next day. 

            And Bob but he was right. Our conversation with him still continues. 


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11

Jun

2018

My body won’t let me

Author: Jim Taylor

I watch a friend aging and fading. The process of dying is not for the faint-hearted.

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Categories: Poetry

Tags: aging, dying

17

Jan

2018

Struggling with stereotypes

Author: Jim Taylor

 don’t expect much more snow. Not around here, anyway. Because I just bought a snowblower.

            In a sense, my snowblower symbolizes our social obsession with independence. 

            It starts young. We encourage our children to do things for themselves, instead of depending on their parents. We expect young adults to earn their own way, to plot their own course. We expect older adults to keep on looking after themselves, despite disabilities.

            A group of us guys get together, occasionally, to talk about growing older. We don’t have any choice about growing older, short of expiring. But we agree that we don’t want to grow “old.”

            “Old” implies weak. Helpless. Unable to cope with credit cards or iPhones. Forgetful. Needing someone to supply the word we knew perfectly well when we started that sentence. Needing help to carry bags of groceries out to the car. If we have a car at all. Tripping. Falling. 

            “Old” means losing our precious independence.


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