Gero-Punk Celebration: Happy Birthday, Harry R. Moody!

Upon the occasion of his 70th birthday, I celebrate Dr. Harry “Rick” Moody, Ph.D.

I first met Dr. Moody in 1998 shortly after his lovely book The five stages of the soul was published.  Rick came to Marylhurst University to give a public reading sponsored by our then brand-new gerontology program. I had been following his work as a critical gerontologist for quite some time, taught his gerontology textbook Aging: Concepts and controversies (which I now co-author with him) and, truth be told, designed the interdisciplinary gerontology program at Marylhurst inspired by the critical thinking and liberal education approach embodied in that text. He is amongst the most influential North American gerontologists; there are few areas in the field of aging that Rick hasn’t influenced in lasting and powerful ways.

So you can imagine my excitement when Rick not only accepted the invitation to give a presentation at my university but offered to meet with me for a mentoring session!

And you can also perhaps imagine my distress when I developed laryngitis the day before his visit and could only manage to communicate with this gerontology luminary – Dr. Moody! – by speaking with a barely audible croak.

If you know Rick you are lucky. And if you know Rick you will probably not be surprised to hear that he was patient, kind and generous as he engaged with me for over an hour in a conversation about the challenges and opportunities I faced as I began my first official post-doctorate faculty position, as well as my aspirations for development in and contributions to the field of gerontology.

I would have conversed with Rick for far longer had my voice not quit.  There were so many questions I wanted to ask him, so much common-ground and new territory to cover. He promised the conversation could continue in the future and by the end of our time together he extended to me the gift of his ongoing mentoring, a gift which I accepted immediately and have received countless blessings from over the past seventeen years.

In addition to serving as an important professional mentor, Rick has also become my close colleague and friend.  I admire his intellectual brilliance, boundless energy, emotional generosity, unique vision, and commitment to service.

And I am inspired and held up by his well-examined belief in the power of radical praxis animated by wisdom, love, and compassion.

Rick is a human being par excellence.

For all of these reasons (and so many more!) I proclaim: Happy birthday, Rick Moody! And many (many!) happy returns!

(And: Thank you.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gero-Punk Update: Betty

In my most recent Gero-Punk dispatch, I wrote about Betty and Jake. Well, I have an update to share.

When Happy and I were on a walk on the last cold, sunny day Portland has seen for quite some time, I followed an impulse and headed down Betty’s cul-de-sac, hoping to spot her car and thus determine which condo she lives in.

I was hoping to find Betty.

As we walk towards the condo complex I notice – again — that there aren’t any cars in front of any of the condos and I fear that this is another thwarted mission to try to locate Betty. Then I suddenly realize that each condo has a garage and I figure that most likely the residents park their cars inside their garages, which means that I may never find Betty unless I happen to spot her driving down the street and I chase after her car.

But I am undaunted.

I decide to use my intuitive powers to suss energetically which of the four condos Betty lives in. As I approach the first one on my left, I think it might be the right one because of the care with which the occupant has created a welcoming display of plants and objects by the front door. But as I draw closer I see that the name on the door is an unfamiliar male name. I remember that Betty live alone, so I cross the first condo off my list.

Then I stand in the middle of the cul-de-sac and take a look at each of the other three condos, wishing that I might discover which of the three contains Betty. Happy-the-dog is incredibly patient during this process, by the way. I have a spooky feeling about the next condo on the left, that it is Betty’s, but in case I am wrong again I resolve that I will knock on every door and inquire after Betty until I find her.

So we approach the second condo on the left. I feel jangly, brave and shy. I have never been one to just show up at someone’s house.   I don’t just show up at my mom’s place, nor Erica’s, nor Simeon’s, not without asking permission and making arrangements first. And I’m always a bit disconcerted when someone – even someone I am close to and would enjoy seeing – shows up on my front stoop unexpectedly.

I knock on the door, Happy standing next to me. Nothing. I wait 15 seconds or so and then knock again. I hear rustling from within. The door opens and there is Betty!

Upon seeing each other we simultaneously shriek like girls. And then I exclaim, “We found you!” Betty opens the screen door and we hug. And by “we,” I mean the three of us: Betty, Happy-the-dog, and me.

There is a young man who resembles Betty who appears from behind her. He takes a look at me as if to make sure everything is alright and then he disappears. (I find out later this apparition is Betty’s grandson, who is living with her for a few months. Long story!)

Betty says to me, “Let’s go for a walk!” She grabs her shoes and jacket and, saying nothing to her grandson, joins Happy and me for a walk in the park on this cold, clear Friday morning.

We amble for quite a while, catching up and talking about the books we are reading and what we did over the winter holidays; our daughters, all of whom are living adventurous lives; and the hooded mergansers dabbling on the stream. We also talk about Jake and how much Betty misses him; she says she is happy to have some time with Happy, a dog friend who lessens her grief, but only a bit.

We are like two reunited lifelong friends, not park acquaintances with a thirty year age difference. We exchange numbers at the end of the walk, promising to text and get together again soon.

As Happy and I walk back to our house, I find myself wondering about other old park friends whom I haven’t seen for quite some time.

There’s Dave, about whom I have written before. Stunning in his 70’s throw-back track suit, stiff and bent over from the waist — such an awkward upper body — but fleet and sure from the waist down. Whenever we’d pass each other in the park, Dave walking and me running, he’d say, “Looking good!” And I’d say, “Hi, Dave,” to which he’d respond, “How do you know my name?”

And the wizened, toothless Asian man who preferred to do Tai Chi under one particular tree by the casting pond. When we spotted each other I’d wave and smile and he’d yell “Goo Mornin!”

I don’t have any notion about where the two gentlemen might live so I don’t have any means of pursuing them like I pursued Betty. But I’ll keep keeping my eyes open for them.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Gero-Punk Preoccupation: Betty and Jake

We saw Jake and his human Betty almost every day when we (Happy-the-dog and me) walked or ran in our park.

Both Jake and Betty were gray on their tips and edges. They’d both seen quite a lot of life though not at the same velocity. As for Happy and me: Happy is gray on his chin and I have gray stripes, just in case you are wondering.

Happy and I and Betty and Jake would always stop to chat. Even if Happy and I were on a run and trying to beat our last time, we’d stop and keep pace with Betty and Jake.

Last fall, sometime in November, we realized we hadn’t seen Betty and Jake for quite some time and so we began to wonder. And then we began to worry because their usual park routine was so far from what we had come to count on.

And then one time when we were walking in our park, a bit before winter began, we ran into Betty but Jake wasn’t with her. Betty wasn’t walking in our park, she was in her car driving by the park and she’d stopped her car and rolled down the window so she could talk to us and tell us that Jake had died of old age.

We told Betty we were quite sad and sorry to hear this though we had wondered if something had happened to Jake because we hadn’t seen him and Betty in the park for a few weeks.  We asked Betty if we could do anything and she said it was really difficult to live without Jake. I (but not Happy) suggested that it was very important that she continue to take walks even though Jake was gone. And I (but not Happy) told her that I would be happy to take walks with her any time.  Betty thanked me.

We haven’t seen Betty since then and that was in the late fall, before the winter solstice, before the winter holidays. Every day when we are in the park running or walking we look for Betty but we’ve never seen her.

We have a general idea about where Betty lives (and where Jake used to live). We know what Betty’s car looks like. Today at the end of our walk in our park we did some reconnaissance at Betty’s condominium complex to see if we could determine exactly where she lives. We had in mind that if we saw her car and determined which condo she lives in we might knock on the door and invite her out for a nice walk. But her car wasn’t in the parking lot and so we abandoned our mission.

I don’t know about Happy-the-dog, but I can’t quite yet give up on my search for Betty. I know how devastating it is when one’s creature-companion goes back to the stars.

I also know how our dog friends walk us though we think we are walking them. And how important this silly pretend misunderstanding is for keeping we humans engaged in the wide world. We think we are taking care of them. But they are taking care of us.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments