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Column: As life comes full circle, noted author shares his regrets

Oliver Sacks, physician and writer best known for the book “Awakenings” and the movie based on it, turned 80 recently. In a July 6 New York Times essay he wrote about the grace and the sadness of that milestone.

The author of a dozen fabulous books has few regrets, but he’s so accomplished that his regrets surprised me with their humility.

He wrote: “I am sorry I have wasted (and still waste) so much time; I am sorry to be as agonizingly shy at 80 as I was at 20; I am sorry that I speak no languages but my mother tongue and that I have not traveled or experienced other cultures as widely as I should have done.”

APPLE A DAY: Spokane Parks and Recreation recently announced parkgoers would find some healthy food offerings in park vending machines and cafes, such as fresh vegetables, salads and whole-grain bread.

In seventh grade at St. Charles School, a vending machine appeared one day that dispensed apples. This was 1968, when no one worried much about junk food and we all ate Hostess Ding Dongs with abandon. The machine didn’t last long. Think how different our vending machine culture would be today if healthy choices had caught on 45 years ago.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Diane Nebel, a member of the Rosalia Planning and Historical Commission, sent me an email with the last entry in the diary of Leo Donohue, who was from a pioneering Rosalia family.

It reads: “Well, I will bring my life story to a close. I batch and live alone. I was born August 25, 1887 before Washington became a state in 1889. I saw all the new buildings go up since it started. All the old timers are gone. It took ten years and the country was all wheat. It was a great country, full of flowers (balsam arrowleaf, lupine and camas) and prairie chickes. I can’t write anymore. I hurt my hand. The story is finished. I could tell more.” – Leo Donohue, 1979.

OLD ZOMBIES: In “World War Z,” starring Brad Pitt, some of the quieter zombies are stranded in a medical lab. They hang around in hallways, pacing slowly, uttering monosyllables, looking confused. It reminded me of hallways in nursing homes, especially older nursing homes, now mostly gone.

In close-ups, the zombies’ faces resemble age-worn faces. Rheumy eyes, broken and brown teeth. Don’t know if the filmmakers intended to depict the zombies in a way that plugs into our deepest fears of growing older. But it didn’t seem accidental to me.

THERE THEY GO AGAIN: Now that the housing market is revving again, housing speculators are gearing up to swoop into communities and buy property they can sell quickly for profit.

RealtyTrac, an online market of foreclosure properties, recently listed the top 15 hot spots where buyers can gobble up property predicted to be popular among boomer retirees. Many cities in Florida, Arizona and California made the list, of course, but none in Washington. Oregon has one hot spot – the beach town of Florence.

READ ON: Dementia researchers have long puzzled over the fact that, upon autopsy, some brains show all the telltale signs of Alzheimer’s – plaques and tangles – yet the victims never exhibited memory loss symptoms while alive.

The online journal Neurology recently reported that reading into older age, and undertaking other strenuous brain tasks, may help explain why.

“The research found that people who participated in mentally stimulating activities both early and late in life had a slower rate of decline in memory compared to those who did not participate in such activities across their lifetime.

“The study found that the rate of decline was reduced by 32 percent in people with frequent mental activity in late life, compared to people with average mental activity, while the rate of decline of those with infrequent activity was 48 percent faster than those with average activity.”

So thanks for reading Boomer U today. It’s keeping your brain healthier. Tomorrow, try tackling “Ulysses” by James Joyce, considered a masterpiece by some, unreadable due to its complexity by others.

FRESH WORDS: Saw this clever line on a delivery truck recently: “If our flowers were any fresher, we’d have to slap them.” Baby boomers and generations older know what fresh means in this context. But would your teens?


• Buck Knives factory tours, Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m., 660 S. Lochsa St., Post Falls. Reservations required. Call (800) 326-2825, ext. 172.

• Annual rose display by Rosalia Garden Club, Tuesday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Rosalia Library, 402 S. Whitman Ave., Rosalia, (509) 523-3109.

• Clark Fork River Moonlight Float, Sunday, 9:30 p.m., Pangaea River Rafting, 11111 Mullan Road E., Superior, Mont., (877) 239-2392. Reservations required.

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