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Frank Sinatra sang I Gotta be Me. Frank was not of my generation, but for a while he sang my anthem.

In the early seventies, during my gotta-be-me period, I had long hair. I wore denim bellbottoms, beat-up Frye boots, and a leather hat. My clothes said that I was counterculture — a rebel, a new generation, the harbinger of the Age of Aquarius — or something like that. The clothes made a statement. I wasn’t sure what the statement was, but I worked hard to make it.

In those days, I had assigned myself the job of rooting out…


I miss belonging.

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I retired about a year ago. Before that, I practiced elder law. I set up guardianships for the demented, fussed with trusts, and helped heirs fight over inheritances. My niche in the legal profession didn’t make me rich, but it provided me with a decent income and good stories to tell at parties.

When I quit practicing, I kept my bar membership. I get the glossy bar magazine, can participate in the listservs, and continue to get the monthly newsletter published by my colleagues who practice elder law where I live. …


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I made a driving mistake today and almost caused an accident. No damage was done. No one was injured, but it was close. Horns were honked and glares given. The other people involved have probably forgotten it. City life is full of close calls.

But I didn’t forget.

I am 70 years old. My reflexes have slowed. My hearing, eyesight and cognitive abilities are declining. It would be pure folly to believe that while driving I am not a greater danger to others and myself than I was 20 years ago.

I recently bought a new car. My primary consideration…


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Over the Fourth of July weekend, 2021, the club where I attend twelve-step meetings held its first large gathering since the COVID shutdown.

The parking lot was full. There were hot dogs. People sat on lawn chairs in the sun and renewed old acquaintances. Dogs frolicked. Gossip was exchanged. Old rivalries were renewed.

For nearly three decades, my spiritual community has been where people recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction gather. The buildings that house their meetings are my church. When among my people, I renew my commitment to honesty, humility, and not taking myself too seriously, commitments I find…


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Prior to retiring, I ran a law office. In my office, we had a rule.

We were never busy.

I had that rule for two reasons. The first reason was that busy people were the bane of my work-life. Those busy people were usually other lawyers, and trust me, there are a lot of busy lawyers out there. They are too busy to answer their emails, return their phone calls, or complete the ordinary legal work that comes with being a lawyer. They are a pox upon the profession.

How do you know if a lawyer is busy? …


Photo by <a href=”https://unsplash.com/@oliandud?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Olga Dudareva</a> on <a href=”https://unsplash.com/collections/ap5arjiD7KQ/medium?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>
Photo by <a href=”https://unsplash.com/@oliandud?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Olga Dudareva</a> on <a href=”https://unsplash.com/collections/ap5arjiD7KQ/medium?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>
Photo by Olga Dudareva on Unsplash

Somebody said there was going to be wisdom.

My online version of Merriam-Webster defines wisdom as an ability to discern inner qualities and relationships… insight… good sense. I heard it comes with age. If that is true, I’ve been cheated.

I got old, but I didn’t get wise.

I don’t feel wise. Not even a little bit.

I suppose it is possible that I could be wise and not know it, but that is unlikely. Merriam-Webster states that wisdom is the ability to discern inner qualities, and if I could discern inner qualities, then I would discern the quality of…


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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…


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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. …

Orrin Onken

I am a retired elder law attorney who lives near Portland, Oregon. I write legal mysteries for Salish Ponds Press and articles about being old.

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