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…


“My name is Orrin. I am an alcoholic.”

I first said those words twenty-eight years ago. At the time, I was a resident at a bottom-of-the-barrel drug treatment facility. Since that day, I have said that phrase thousands of times. I believed it the first time I said it, and I believe it when I said it yesterday.

Back at the treatment center, there were other ‘I am” statements I could have made.

I am bankrupt.

I am unemployed.

I am unhappily married.

I am ashamed.

But the one that interested my counselors and colleagues in treatment was

I am…


We can predict the future, but no one will believe us

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was a Trojan priestess. To win her love, Apollo gave her the ability to see the future. When she still rejected his overtures, he became angry, and, finding that he could not revoke the gift, he cursed her so that no matter how true her prophecies, no one would ever believe her.

Aging, particularly aging in recovery, makes Cassandras of us all. We can see younger people — sometimes family, sometimes people in the recovery community — taking roads that we have traveled. …


And I am enjoying the ancient game more than I ever have

I am about to turn seventy years old. I started playing video games in the mid-1970s on a coin-op Pong game in Circus Circus Casino in Las Vegas where I was working a summer job while going to college. I liked Pong and went on to play every major video game produced in the last four and a half decades. …


And some love for the internal combustion engine

After a year of driving an electric car, I wrote about it in my first Medium article. Now, two years later, I drive the same Chevy Bolt EV. Since writing that article, I retired from being a lawyer. My wife and I no longer needed two cars, so we gave our Toyota Camry to a deserving grandchild. We are one hundred percent electric.

After two additional years driving electric, including driving without a gas fallback option, my opinions have both changed and remained the same. …

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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