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Archive for July 2011

Remembering Louis Davenport

Yesterday I had the privilege of walking with some Friends of the Davenport to remember on his death day, Louis Davenport, who left behind the Davenport Hotel.

It was a glorious day for the short stroll in Riverside Memorial Park. And it was refreshing to see how simple Davenport's gravesite looks.

He didn't need a huge monument in death, explained Dennis Murphy, president of Heritage Funeral Home because “his monument is the hotel.”

Davenport “checked out” of life July 28, 1951.

(Photo courtesy of Tom McArthur)


Would you watch?

According to the MMD newswire, billionaire Alki David has paid for the rights to stream over the Internet ”the legally assisted suicide of Nikolai Ivanisovich (62), who is terminally sick with brain cancer from a clinic in Switzerland with the use of lethal injection administered by a physician.”

The eccentric man is one of the richest men in Britain and known for publicity stunts, such as offering  $1 million to the first person who could streak naked in front of Barack Obama.
Now, he comes out with this “stunt.” Pretty weird.

Would you watch?

Jeret “Speedy” Peterson dies

When we look at people who are famous, people who have reached success beyond our own imaginations, we think we have an accurate glimpse into their lives. We do not.

 Today we learn  the sad news of Jeret “Speedy” Peterson’s death – from an apparent suicide. Peterson was a recent Olympic silver medalist, a risk-taking freestyle skier who had overcome personal challenges to reach that podium in Vancouver.  “I know that a lot of people go through a lot of things in their life, and I just want them to realize they can overcome anything,'' Peterson said that night. “There's light at the end of the tunnel and mine was silver and I love it.''

We don’t know what pain people carry in their hearts. Peterson witnessed a friend’s suicide. He lost his sister to a drunken driver. Peterson was sexually abused as a child. These life events do not create an easy path. Peterson inspired many young skiers with his feats; may his life story inspire each of us to listen to the pain in others’ lives – as well as the award-winning success.

(AP file photo)

“Her end was very grim”

Though Mary Gordon wrote the book Circling My Mother in 2007, I only now just read it. Her mother had a fascinating life — she was a career woman long before most women, a polio survivor, a mother who treated her daughter like an adult and sang the love she could not speak. But as Gordon points out in the book:

“Her end was very grim. She lost her hysterical fastidiousness, she refused to bathe. Her house was filthy and stank of cigarette smoke. She stopped using the toilet; she would no longer wear her brace.”

The mother spent a decade of her life in a nursing home. The mother's sisters suffered from dementia, too, so the older generation in Gordon's family had hard end-of-life years.

We often hope we'll live well to the end, or live well as close to the end as possible. But how many of us get the wish? And what lessons are to be learned when the opposite happens? Gordon created a beautiful, instructive book from her mother's grim end. In a 2007 interview, she said of the dead:

I really feel surrounded by my beloved dead, and there are some times where it’s almost literal, and particularly with my father, where I can say, “Hold my hand.” I believe that that love never ends, and if you loved and you were beloved, they’re with you.

“There’s always Norway…”

…I would say when violence erupted in Seattle, in Lakewood, at the Uffizi in my beloved Florence. At the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, a wallet was inadvertently left on a bench. The finder turned in the wallet which made its way back to its owner.  Gotta love a country where its citizens are so honest. A peace-loving, quiet country with lefse and fiords.  There’s always Norway to flee to; a place my ancestors left in the 1890s could be a great place for us to land in retirement, I’d say.

Then last week’s massacre: the bombing in Oslo, on the island those innocent sweet children gunned down, hunted. Paradise violated.

Yesterday at church, I made my way back to my pew after receiving Communion.  This silence is a time of quiet reflection when I pray for family, friends, concerns. Each time I ask myself who, what needs prayer.  Yesterday, as I reflected, I had only one thought: “There’s always Norway.”  

Man wakes up in morgue

The Associated Press reported that a South African man spent 21 hours in a morgue, in the mistaken belief he had died.

The man started yelling, prompting morgue workers to run away in fear. They eventually returned and removed him from the fridge. He was then taken to a nearby hospital and later discharged by doctors who deemed him stable.

If you woke up from the dead, how do you think you'd feel? Relieved, grateful, disappointed?

Memory candles at a wedding

My mom and I went to a wedding yesterday for a couple who married later in the age game.

Their parents have all passed away, but they were not forgotten at the wedding Mass. The siblings of the bride and the groom lighted candles in honor of the deceased parents. The names of the parents were listed in the wedding program, with their birth dates and death dates.

And the couple had invited several older friends of the parents, including my 90-year-old mother, in order to have an elder presence there, since their parents could not be.  People in the crowd came up to my mom and other elders to pay respect and to reminisce about the couple's deceased parents. Those parents were there in stories, in spirit and in the living who knew them long ago.

Last call

Singer Amy Winehouse has died.

I do not recall her music, if I ever heard it, it has left my memory. The only voice I do remember is that of media reports of her on-going demise: alcohol, drugs, strung out, passed out, a self-destructing-train-wreck of a young woman, an acute mix of rare talent and a tortured spirit.

Her music will be around to enjoy; her demonstrated need for healing - while heard - was unable to be answered.

Godspeed to a good and humble man

Elwood Powers, 92,  died recently and was put to rest today.

Steve Witter, who worked with Elwood's wife, Dorothy, long ago at The Spokesman-Review, delivered a beautiful eulogy. What was so moving about Elwood's life was this detail from Witter: “Though he was a man of great accomplishment, Elwood always considered it poor form to talk about himself. He was not fond of the word 'I”.

Daily here, I get emails and press releases from people promoting themselves and wanting, sometimes demanding, press attention.

Though Elwood was a two-sport athlete — basketball and football — at University of Tennessee and a B-17 pilot who flew 25 missions over Nazi Germany, he always remained humble and didn't need attention or back-patting. His wife was one of Spokane's best-known journalists for years and Elwood was never threatened by her fame or acclaim. They shared a great love for 65 years.

They don't make 'em much like Elwood anymore. Godspeed, good man.

The vigil keepers

When my husband was in surgery Tuesday, my sister and mom showed up in the surgery center waiting room, even though I'd insisted earlier in the day that I would be fine waiting alone.

The surgery was not a major one, though Tony was put out for it,  and he was expected to be out in an hour or so.

But show up they did — with lunch. My sister knows my favorite treat is french fries and she had a bagful for me. So we sat in the waiting room eating a fast-food lunch, talking and laughing and planning out the rest of the busy summer because of many family visitors expected.

Later, I was so happy they had arrived, despite my assurances I would be OK. I was and would have been, but it was kind and comforting to have them wait with me.

I realized that one of the best things you can do for people you know well is hold vigil with them in a surgery waiting room. It also helps to have other “ears” when the doctor comes out with the surgery report.


The $450 billion cost of caregiving

My husband had some minor knee surgery yesterday and I'm home today as caregiver, because he can't really do much except stay in bed and keep ice on his knee. When we got out of the surgery center yesterday at 5ish, we were both tired. Tony from his surgery (and not eating or drinking anything since midnight the day before) and me from being up extra early to get stories done before taking Tony to his surgery.

We were sent home with a lot of after-care instructions and luckily, the instructions were written down, because when the nurse told us, it was like listening through a cloud, because of the tiredness. Our situation is quite temporary, thank goodness, but as I was driving home with my “patient” I thought of all the caregivers in the world who do this day in and day out, with little help. And I wondered how the caregiving gets done in a culture now where half of all women work.

And then in my email this morning, an Associated Press story on an AARP report about the high cost of caregiving in our culture. Three highlights:

1) AARP estimates the cultural pricetag of unpaid care at about $450 billion a year. “That's how much it might cost for the unpaid care that roughly one in every four adults provide; helping loved ones get dressed, take medications, and myriad other tasks.”

2) And caregivers typically work full time as well. The study found that the average individual is a 49-year-old woman with an outside job, who spends nearly 20 hours per week caring for her mother for nearly five years. That's one of the reasons the hidden costs for caregiving are increasing as well.

3) AARP noted that caregiving is getting more medically involved, due to factors like shorter hospital stays and more home-based medical technologies. Caregives “often have little training or preparation for performing these tasks, which include bandaging and wound care, tube feedings, managing catheters, giving injections, or operating medical equipment.”

Oh! the places we’ll go!

Austin, Texas was recently named by Kiplinger as the number one “Best City for the Next Decade.”  As Baby Boomers hit retirement, many of us seek a new place to call home, a place where money will go far.  Today's retirees often take classes, pursue hobbies that may have been abandoned during their working years and look for cultural opportunities.  On the list of top seven cities named, the only one in the Northwest is Portland, Oregon.

(S-R file photo of Portland)

Closing the Borders

Remember learning to read: the feel of books and struggling to carry them around as a child?  Remember lugging them in the hallways of school or down the road to home?  

How we read has changed recently as much as what we read as adults. And the book industry is suffering; bookstores are going bankrupt - stores like Borders.

 Tom and Louis Borders opened their first store in 1971, selling used books in Ann Arbor.Now Borders is seeking court approval to sell off its assets after it failed to receive any bids that would keep it in business.

 We know you read EndNotes; where and how do you access other good words? Are you an e-reader or do you like your books as paper only?

Spacey Senior

Happy 90th birthday, John Glenn!  What a journey – then and now.

I am old enough to remember Glenn's first flight into space. It was sci-fi-like.

Would you, if you were offered the chance, travel into - or out of - the atmosphere?

Cancer or memory loss: Your biggest fear?

The Associated Press is tracking aging boomer attitudes toward getting older and today reported that its recent poll indicates boomers worry most about cancer and memory loss.

But they should be worried, too, about heart disease and diabetes because, according to the report, boomers are chubbier than any other generations that came before them.

What do you worry most about will get you?

(AP archive photo)

Aging with the stars

When I give journalism talks to students, I explain one of the reasons why we try to always publish the ages of people in our stories. Readers like to compare themselves to other people. So if some 30-something doctor is also a best-selling author, you can enjoy the envy.

We publish “the birthday bunch” in our people column each day. In it, celebrity birthdays are often noted. And it can send you down memory lane.

For instance, Phyllis Diller is 94. I remember babysitting in 1970 and watching her in a comedy show. She seemed old then but she was just 41! Donald Sutherland is 76. Lucie Arnaz is 60. “I Love Lucy” is one of the first shows I remember watching as a child, circa 1960. Lucie's famous mom was a lot younger than 60 when she starred in that series. But again, to a child, she looked like an older person, as all moms did.

And David Hasselhoff is 59. I remember him mostly for what not  to do with your life, such as get drunk in front of your teens and have them videotape you and sent it out over the Internet.

Perspective, perspective, perspective.

See you in the obits!

On Sundays in The Spokesman-Review, our classified obituary section runs in the Northwest news section and it generally takes up two pages and more, as most families wait to place their obituaries in our Sunday newspaper, due to its high circulation.

Once a month in our Features section, called “Today” we run a Seen & Noted page, written by freelancer Cheryl-Anne Milsap. She goes to various fund-raisers throughout the month, meets folks, and then photos with their names and the events they attended are published.

Today, my husband and I knew several people featured in the obituary pages. He knew no one in the Seen & Noted column, and I knew just one person pictured there, Ben Cabildo, founder and executive director of AHANA Business and Professional Association and organizer of Unity in the Community. Ben is alive and well, by the way.

Don't know what it means exactly when you know more people in the obits than in the social scene, but it gave us both a laugh — and a pause — this beautiful Sunday morning.

(Spokesman-Review archive photo of Ben Cabildo)

Letting go means…letting go!

Today, I am …well, Rebecca calls it “shedding” while a physician friend calls it “giving the house a 'crapectomy.' ” I will just call it “unloading stuff into the universe.” But I always get stuck on the part “where shall I send these things?” And I get stuck on the sentimental symbolism of many items, wanting to keep them - long after they have served their purpose.  

And so, I took a look at the story of one woman from the Pacific Northwest (her name is Beautiful Existence, really!) who just may receive some of my erstwhile treasures.  I wonder if I could meet such a challenge of no-new-stuff (except for food and medicine). Could you?

Sweet Departures

Earlier this week our EndNotes column ran a Q/A on Japanese traditions surrounding death and grief. A lovely film explores this topic in the Japanese-produced film “Departures,”   a film that won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

“An exquisite cinematic masterpiece that is both funny and sad and all the emotions in between; it touches the heart with its treatment of beauty, music, death, and abandonment.”

Take a minute to taste this lovely piece of cinema…

Movies are killing our kids

How's that for a dramatic headline?

It's a little bit of an exaggeration but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released today a National Cancer Institute study that says there's a link between “exposure to depictions of smoking in movies and youth smoking initiation.”

In science speak the CDC writes: “Adolescents in the top quartile of exposures to onscreen tobacco incidents have been found to be approximately twice as likely to begin smoking as those in the bottom quartile.”

But the CDC report also noted that In 2010, “the number of onscreen tobacco incidents in youth-rated (G, PG, or PG-13) movies continued a downward trend, decreasing 71.6% from 2,093 incidents in 2005 to 595 in 2010.”

Anyone out there start smoking as a young person because it looked cool in movies?

(AP archive photo of Joe Camel)

Stinky sock smell versus death

Malaria is a huge killer globally. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been aggressive about ways to stop mosquitos from biting people and infecting them. Bed nets has been one great solution. And now, scientists will try to make better traps, using stinky feet smell. Here's an excerpt from an Associated Press story:

Dr. Fredros Okumu, the head of the research project at Tanzania's Ifakara Health Institute, says that traps scented with the odor of human feet may be the answer as they attract four times as many mosquitoes as a human volunteer. The mosquitoes who fly into the trap are then poisoned.

No need for this to ever happen

A 23-year-old woman delivered a baby in an Olympia hospital, put it in a plastic bag and placed it in the trash and then walked back into the emergency room, where she was being treated after coming to the hospital by ambulance for an unrelated complaint. .

The baby, rescued by health care workers, is expected to live, according to news reports.

These stories are always crazy-making because what woman can do this? Mental illness of some kind is sometimes involved but women in their OK minds have this alternative. They can use the so-called safe haven law.

This law, passed in Washington in 2002, allows a parent to leave a baby ”in a safe place and increase the likelihood of survival. Immunity is provided from specific criminal liability for a parent who transfers a newborn to any hospital employee at a hospital emergency room or to fire station personnel at a staffed fire station. The hospital must give the parent the opportunity to provide family medical history anonymously. Child protective Services is contacted within 24 hours. The hospital, fire station, staff, and volunteers are immune from criminal or civil liability for accepting a newborn.”

How old is old?

How old is old??

Rebecca and I initiated our EndNotes column primarily for our generation, the Baby Boomers, to address issues around aging, illness, death/dying and etiquette needed in these situations. A new poll finds three-quarters of all baby boomers still consider themselves middle-aged or younger, and that includes most of the boomers who are ages 57-65.

When I was 14 I remember looking ahead to the millennium when I would turn 45. I imagined myself as graying and past my prime – that image could not be more wrong. I am enjoying my life now more than ever. I hope to continue on this path until…

So, gentle reader, how old is old? How do you see yourself, your life 20 years from now?

(AP photo of Cher at 65)


Toledo bishop and his pelvic theology

In my theology classes, I learned the term “pelvic theology.” It's used when (allegedly) celibate priests, bishops, cardinals and popes in the Roman Catholic church try to control women's bodies, especially in the reproductive area.

Today, this news item from CathNewsUSA website:

Toledo Catholic Bishop Leonard Blair has banned parishes and parochial schools from raising funds for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, citing concerns that the global anti-cancer giant may someday fund embryonic stem-cell research.

Unbelievable that he would come out against an organization that saves lives.

I always hold the hope that someday Catholic women who run parishes and make up most of its employees would go on a one-month strke over pelvic theology nonsense such as this. Parish life would fall apart and then the priests and bishops would really have things to worry about, other than controlling women's bodies.  

Another pope miracle?

Did Pope Pius XII, sometimes seen as the pope who did very little to save the Jews during World War II, come out of afterlife “retirement” to save one woman from a cancer death sentence?

Maria Esposito, whose Stage IV Burkitt's lymphoma disappeared, thinks so. The Vatican is investigating. Pius is under consideration for sainthood, controversial due to concerns about turning a blind eye to Nazi horrors in WWII.

To be declared a saint in the Catholic faith tradition, you need a certifiable miracle.

Read AP's exclusive story on Maria Esposito's cure.


(AP archive photo)

The thought counts in any language

Our EndNotes column today explained what to do if a Japanese relative or friend has died and you want to show support for the family. The culture has some fairly strict etiquette rules.

But I'd like to stress that condolences in any language are appreciated and people will make allowances for what might be taken as missteps.

I have relatives, through marriage, in Sicily and have visited many times. They have lost several younger family members in the past five or so years. I was able to send some photos of the deceased person with just a few sentences of my limited Italian. It was appreciated.

So don't let language or culture stop you from your condolences.


Back away from that french fry

My email in-box was filled today with food and longevity stories. The message in all of them boil down to this. If you want to live a little longer, skip the salt, processed food and load up on fruits, vegetables and low-sodium foods.

From the Centers for Disease Control report:

Americans who eat a diet high in sodium and low in potassium have a 50 percent increased risk of death from any cause, and about twice the risk of death from heart attacks, according to a study published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The study was conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Emory University and Harvard University.

From the National Institutes of Health report:

Munching more unprocessed plant foods may help keep the middle-aged bulge away, a new study suggests. On the other hand, meat, french fries and sugar-sweetened drinks can help pack on the pounds. The findings suggest that the types of food you choose, not just calories, are important for avoiding age-related weight gain.

(Spokesman-Review archive photo from historic advertisement)

What you learn in the ‘hood

In my interactive editor days, when I gave a lot of speeches, I would ask people to remember a crabby neighbor and a welcoming neighbor and how interaction with both types helped the children of the neighborhood shape their world view.Crabby neighbors have a lot of staying power in memory, believe me.

In my Sunday story today, two childhood buddies, Tom Perko and Dee McGonigle, walked their old Comstock neighborhood. The two men, both 52, credit the dads of the neighborhood for role-modeling how to work hard at professional jobs while also giving back to the community.The moms? They kept the chaos in check. The two best friends hadn't seen one another in 30 years but were amazed how they chose very similar paths in life.

Which leads to today's question: To the children in your neighborhood, are you a crabby guy/gal or welcoming?

No matter what you may think, those little neighbors are watching you and learning how to be adults in the world.

(Dan Pelle photo of  Dee McGonigle, left, and Tom Perko)

Leading lady

“He who conceals his disease, cannot expect to be cured,” says the Ethiopian proverb.

Former first lady Betty Ford died today. She will be remembered as a woman who did not conceal her disease - and consequently helped others to not conceal theirs,  seeking to be cured.  

 Her story of her own descent into addiction and recovery led her to campaign for better addiction treatment, especially for women.  In 1982, she co-founded the nonprofit Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif.  Nearly 90,000 people have sought treatment at the Center.  

Her willingness to speak publically about her personal health journey and her personal opinions endeared her to America during the 1970s. She was informed, articulate and no nonsense about her beliefs. She spoke with class and conviction.  As a first lady, she found her place in the political world doing what she enjoyed: entertaining, indulging in fads and creating a welcoming home for leaders from around the world. Her legacy remains one of courage, integrity and compassion. A quiet, unassuming hero.

(Spokesman-Review archive photo)

So long, Charley Vingo

A man I never met but have long appreciated died recently. His name was Charley Vingo and he lived to 104.

According to his obituary, “as a young man he worked hard trying different businesses until he finally found his niche as a district circulation manager at The Spokesman-Review, and for 26 years traveled the inland northwest helping to greatly increase the readership.”

But I knew him through a book I keep at my desk that he published in 2001 titled “Italians of the American Northwest.” He asked dozens of Italian-American families to write their history of coming to the “New Country” from Italy, and the immigrants and their children responded, including my mother.

The Italian-American community I grew up in here is losing its elders and Vingo's book is an invaluable guide to the past.

In a Spokesman-Review article on the book in 1998 (photo above came from that story) the reporter wrote:

“Someday, Vingo hopes to see the book of stories in local libraries. Maybe, he said, it will help younger generations hold onto their Italian roots. “To me, it's memories,” Vingo said. “I believe we should preserve things like this.”

Amen, Charley. And thanks!


Do it now!

Seven years ago this week I started treatment for early-stage breast cancer. Rebecca's post “Say it now” is a reminder for all of us - not just at retirement parties, or times of illness, but in the moments, as we experience those feelings - of affection, gratitude, asking for and granting forgiveness. Seven years ago my first thoughts were: “I have a young son, I cannot die from this disease, do what you must to cure this disease.”  (A skilled and compassionate doctor did.)   The bittersweet dimension to our lives is that we do not get “do overs” like the mulligans in golf or dress rehearsals on stage.

Mostly, we get one shot, but when we do get a taste of a second chance - a cure to a life-threatening disease - the say-it-now urge is ever-present: enjoy each day, let the little stuff slide, laugh-laugh-laugh, be kind at each opportunity, say what's on your mind.

And so today, I say:  “Do it now!” Get your mammogram; hold the women in your life accountable for getting their screening tests. Because once this disease takes over, the second chances are gone.

Say it all now

Doug Floyd, who had a 42-year newspaper career, at the Spokane Daily Chronicle and The Spokesman-Review, retired Thursday. His send-off ceremony was standing-room only and people said kind and funny things. There were also some tears.

Associate editor Gary Crooks wrote about him in his Sunday column. (See excerpt below). And Milt Priggee, freelance cartoonist who once worked with Doug, sent along the perfect caricature.

The ceremony was one more reminder of the importance of telling people close to us, whether in our work life or personal life, what they mean to us. By funeral time, it's too late for them to hear it all.

Not that Doug's going anywhere in the funeral arena soon!

From Gary's column:

Doug’s last day on the job was Thursday, capping an illustrious 42-year newspaper career. No, he wasn’t one of Gutenberg’s interns, but his journalism arc did cover “hot type,” Teletypes and typewriters. He had the great fortune of working when ink-on-paper journalism ruled the day. His younger colleagues, which is to say all of us, are envious as we grapple with the uncertainty that lies ahead… Typically, he ate lunch at his desk. He did all of this with humility, humor and hardly any food stuck between his teeth. On his final day, he wrote two editorials and wrapped up that in-depth interview on the opposite page. Nobody found this odd. On a personal level, Doug is a great guy. When I was struck with family tragedy, he was steadfast in his support and flexible upon my return to work. I will never forget that compassion, or the everyday examples on how to be a better journalist and a better man. All the best, my friend, and enjoy those symbolic strolls to the ballot box. Just be sure to read our endorsements first.

(Milt Priggee cartoon courtesy of Milt. Contact him at

The keeper of the boxes

As a very young attorney in Spokane in the late 1940s, my dad, Joe Nappi, was given space in an office by Charles Cowan, an established and respected attorney. Our families soon became close friends and by the time I came along, Charles had died. His widow, Iowa, and her widowed sister, Keo, lived together in North Spokane. They became like surrogate grandmothers to us, as both our grandmothers were dead.

Iowa and Keo were part of the King family, a well-known family in Spokane in the early decades of the 20th century. Iowa lived to the late 1970s. Childless, her estate went to charity and to two nephews. Remaining were about six boxes of photos, letters and greeting cards, given to my dad. My dad, before he died, told me I could have them because I was always interested in Iowa and Keo and their younger lives before I knew them and in Spokane's early history.

For more than a decade, the Iowa-Keo boxes have been in bins in my basement storage. I wrote a few articles about them over the years and scanned into our photo archives some of the historic photos in the collection, especially those featuring early Spokane scenes.

I have always felt a great responsibility to share the memories and the history in the boxes and often pictured writing a book in my retirement years. Maybe I still will. But in the meantime, I hope to share some of it, on occasion in this blog and in the newspaper, too.

In Sunday's paper, we published four of the historic lake photos compiled by Keo, with my essay on lake life then and now.

Almost everyone I know has these collections of photos and letters and so I ask today: Who would you designate your Keeper of the Boxes?

Lessons at death’s door

Just finished What I I Learned When I Almost Died by Chris Licht, former producer of Morning Joe on MSNBC. At 38, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage but came out of it with no brain damage.

He also came out of it as ambitious as ever and recently jumped to a new job at CBS. I liked that angle in the book that the near death experience didn't necessarily alter his passion for work. It just put it in a perspective. For instance, he says he now errs on the side of taking opportunities to do things with family and friends and one of his big regrets, as he waited in the hospital for test results, was looking back on some key times he chose work over relationships.

For instance, as his newborn was preparing to be circumcised, he was on the phone with work. He skipped a best friend's wedding because it was sweeps week.

Now, he emails people he hasn't connected with in awhile. He flew to Las Vegas and invited a good friend at the last minute. He made a long drive to catch a football game with his dad. And he finally understood how valued he was at work and in his personal life.

MSNBC regular Mike Barnicle told him: “You're able to see how loved you are without having to die.” 

Midnight in Paris… Saturday in Florence

 As American college students in Florence, Italy, we walked the city often – exploring, meandering, discovering new places, discovering who we were as 20-year-olds.  One lovely autumn day David and I struck up a conversation with an elderly American gentleman who was sitting on a bench. He appeared melancholy and wise to us: “You know, you cannot re-create the past, no matter how hard you try.”

Simple wisdom, painfully true. We do, however, get opportunities to heal the past and strengthen our future with decisions we make today.

Woody Allen’s new film Midnight in Paris offers viewers an adventure of returning to the past with Owen Wilson as writer Gil Pender who steps back into the 1920s. He meets Hemingway, Cole Porter, and Gertrude Stein among his new nighttime pals. And while Pender cannot return to the past forever, his glimpse back challenges his current worldview, transforming him.

An object lesson, for sure.  

(AP photo: Scene from “Midnight in Paris”)

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

Ask a question: Catherine welcomes questions about aging issues and grief. Email her at

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