Photo by Vlad Tchompalov on Unsplash

Will a Ponytail be Far Behind?

In my youth, and in my middle age, and even a couple of months ago, I liked to mock the old guys with gray ponytails and sunglasses who drive around my neighborhood in Corvette convertibles or similarly noticeable masculine cars. I made nasty comments (in private conversations with my wife, of course) about these midlife-crisis-mobiles that appear on sunny spring days as predictably as dandelions.

Mocking people is all good fun until the table turns.

Here I am approaching my seventieth birthday, and I am checking my computer every morning to see when my…


Photo by Damir Bosnjak on Unsplash

Neither did my father, and I’m okay with that.

As far as I can recall my mother never told me she loved me. I am sure my father never did. I am not complaining. I had good parents and a satisfying childhood. I also had a sister. Until I was well past middle age, I never told my parents or my sister that I loved them. The “I love you” thing was not what our family did.

I didn’t realize until adulthood that the way my family did things was not the way all families did things.

Only after I…


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There, I’ve said it. I don’t want to travel.

I don’t want to buy an RV and see the country. I don’t want to visit the Galapagos. I don’t want to cruise the rivers of Europe.

I recently retired from practicing law. I liked working. I ran my own office, got to do things my way, and earned a lot of money. But it was always work, and I never mistook it for anything else. It was not my calling or what I loved to do. …


The Sneaky Power of the Letter

Communicating with complex bureaucracies, whether business or government, always presents a challenge. Large organizations employ gatekeepers. The job of the gatekeepers is to limit your ability to interfere with the efficient operation of the organization. These gatekeepers often inadvertently make accomplishing even simple goals frustratingly complex. An under-used (and thus often effective) tool for communicating with complex bureaucracies is the old-fashioned letter.

As technology has advanced, the number of communication channels used in business has increased, some going out of fashion and others coming in. For years, I have avoided calling government agencies or…


I am a ludic reader.

(Ludic: of, relating to, or characterized by play.)

Reading is play. I do it for fun.

I will read anything as long as it is fun. I dabble in history, science, finance, biography and will never turn down a book of well-written essays, but most of my reading fun comes from novels. I am old — sixty-nine years old, to be exact — and I started reading early. I’ve read a lot of novels, and it is still fun.

Reading great novels is more fun than reading mediocre novels, and much more fun than reading…


I was practicing elder-law and received a request from the court to represent an old guy named Martin. That kind of request was not unusual in my line of work. Local judges often asked me to represent elders who wanted to object when someone was trying to subject them to a guardianship. Martin was not an ordinary case.

Martin was a retired corporate finance officer. He was sixty-five years old and looked eighty. I was older than he was. He had been drinking a fifth of whiskey a day in his garage for a few years and had been hospitalized…


As I get old, my memory is unreliable. I can remember the lyrics to songs I loved in the sixties but can’t remember the code to my garage opener. I can tell you the names of my high school buddies and the occupants of my freshman dorm in college, but can’t remember the name of the lady who lives across the street from me. And in recovery, I can remember the names of the people I got sober with, but I can’t remember the name of the newcomer I met yesterday.

There are many people who know the words to…


I am old. To be exact, I am sixty-nine years old. I am not sure precisely when I got old, but I didn’t fight it. Being old fits me better than any other stage of life.

When I was studying gerontology, we were all keen to identify stages of adult development, much as Piaget identified stages of cognitive development in children. I can’t say we were successful, but I know from my personal experience that being old is different, and, for the most part, I like it.

I wasn’t good at the early and middle stages of life. I got…


At one point in my past, I was a graduate student in gerontology at Portland State University. I was studying the social aspects of aging. I don’t remember a lot from that experience, just as I remember little from any of my other academic adventures, but a few things stuck with me. One of those was that loneliness is as dangerous to one’s health as smoking.

Loneliness in old people is most acute among men. Men get married and thereafter depend upon their wives for a social life. Wives not only handle the couple’s social life, but build and maintain…


When I first got sober, I was terrified of hypocrites. The counselors in treatment told me that without the companionship of my drinking friends, I would face some lonely days. They suggested that I join a church. I couldn’t do that because churches, I believed, were filled with hypocrites, and despite my significant personal failings, I would not lower myself further by associating with hypocrites.

As I look back, my abhorrence of hypocrisy was silly. I was emerging from two decades of alcoholism. I had been a terrible son, a terrible husband, a terrible employee and a terrible citizen. The…

Orrin Onken

I am a retired elder law attorney who lives near Portland, Oregon. I write legal mysteries for Salish Ponds Press and articles for the blog, Aging in Recovery.

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