I’m not going to achieve immortality, certainly not in the corporeal sense and just as unlikely by any historical measure. Maybe I’ll come up with something so incredibly smart and pithy that my quote will be in the 2138 edition of Bartlett’s, but that’s a long shot, and my back gets too sore for me to ride across Asia like Attila the Hun. Likewise, it’s too late for me to invent something earth-shaking like penicillin, the internet or Chia Pets.
Like most guys who think about their legacy and their contribution to the future, I need to scale it down. What’s the most achievable goal for being known and valued by people who have never met you—and never will? What is the equivalent of immortality for someone who will neither save the world nor blow it up?
Ultimately, for me, it is to have my grandchildren tell their grandchildren about me, or at least to pass on lessons that I shared during my hour of strutting and fretting upon the stage.
This is no small feat. I have repeated lessons from my dad to my children, who knew him for less time than any of us would have liked. So my father’s grandchildren are familiar with his insights and they can pass those on to their grandchildren, probably three or four decades from now.
Meanwhile, I have stories to tell my grandchildren about my mother’s dad, who picked us up from school sometimes to take us to lunch at Pekin House or Kow Kow. He told me the wooden bowl story, which was definitely self-serving but one that I will repeat to the grandkids when I am in a self-preservation mood. And when I take them to lunch, I can tell them about my lunches with my grandfather. Thereby, Ben Caplan will be immortal, even though he shuffled off half a century ago.
For me, having grandchildren born when I am past sixty, the challenge is daunting. With kids getting married and having children later in life, fewer of us will see grandchildren in our lifetimes, and for those who do, the connection is likely to be very brief. Great-grandchildren? Almost unheard of, and that ship has absolutely sailed for me.
Thinking about children who are likely to be born around 2075, when I am closing in on 122 years old, might seem nonsensical, but it gives me purpose. If I want to have a positive impact on descendants I will never meet, I need to have a very positive impact on their grandparents, who are my grandchildren. And that is a venture that I can control, at least partially and, of course, temporarily.
When they hold the last party where you are the guest of honor, you don’t get to hear what people say about you. The same holds for the life lessons learned by your great-great grandchildren. Count these among the millions of things we don’t control in this life or beyond.
Still, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be working on it today.
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So I’ve been giving it a lot of thought and I have decided, with only minor regret, that I will not be sacrificing myself in order to reopen the economy. It’s been a tough decision to make, especially when I consider the indisputable arguments in favor of my death from the virus.
My friends on the internet have explained it to me in detail, of course. I am old, past my prime, in that age group where I’m gonna die from something or other, and what do I have to live for anyway? It's my patriotic duty, they say, to dive into the mosh pit and let the chips fall, well, on me.
From an economic standpoint, they explain, I am absolutely “unproductive,” and therefore expendable. Yes, I worked diligently and produced income and jobs over 40 years, raising good kids, consuming goods, and hoisting Old Glory on every national holiday. But that was then and now is now and what the heck have I done for you lately, America?
Nothing, that’s what. Yeah, I mentor startups and give to charity and provide support to people who need it and, once in a while, I even remember to floss. Mostly, though, I’m a leech who sucks on the teat of retirement savings. Worse, I’m getting dangerously close to signing up for the welfare scam known as Social Security. Sure, the government forced me to pay into the system, but they never intended to actually pay the money back. The only way to keep Social Security solvent is for people like me to just croak a few decades early. Problem. Solved.
My internet friends challenge me daily. Don't I want my children and grandchildren to live in a nation with a thriving economy? Yes, yes I do. I want them to be able to go to fancy restaurants and movie theaters whenever they want. Of course, I know they won't want to do any of that, preferring to sit on the couch while they stream their movies enjoy pizza delivery. Still, I want them to have the choice to do or do not.
Still, from a completely selfish perspective, I should make the sacrifice in order to be a hero to all the people who are demanding that I shuffle off in order to create jobs. I know that these people, who are just too busy and productive to volunteer to sacrifice themselves, will thank me for my service and honor my memory in much the same way they have honored the other 100,000 people who preceded me. (Fun fact: When I started fiddling with this post, the number was 50,000. How time flies.)
So, as I said, I’ve given this whole thing a lot of thought, but then it occurred to me that this isn’t a zero-sum game. If I get infected and croak, that doesn’t magically prevent it from happening to someone else. In fact, I am likely to spread the virus to several someones on my way out. Even worse, I might take out one of those productive members of society that we need to protect.
Worst of all, though, I have it on good authority that this whole pandemic didn’t come from China at all. CV-19 was cooked up in a Denver warehouse where airlines once made food to serve on planes and now produce…nothing. Turns out the whole disease is a plot to keep us from using our frequent flier miles. (You can tell this is true because you just read it on the internet.)
Damn you, United, you almost had me. You can get my miles back when you pry them from my cold, dead account. And that, as I said, is going to be later than you hoped.
Meanwhile, there are a couple of slices of cold pizza calling to me from the refrigerator. Who says I have nothing to live for????
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WARNING: Crotchety old man at the keyboard this week.
There was a time when I wondered how I might fill my days if I retired. Now, I wish I was back at work so I could get more rest. Why didn’t anyone warn me that retirement is harder to manage than a career?
The first big surprise for most of us is how bad we are at time management. We never really appreciate while we’re working, but our jobs organize our lives for us. They determine the hours we’ll sleep and the hours we’ll be home and what we’ll be doing all week. It feels like a straitjacket at times, but the daily grind creates a structure that holds our lives together.
When we're working, we know the time pressures of doing the laundry and we stick to the schedule. We're more likely to let things slide when we're retired, which is why so many old people wander around all day in sweat pants and World's Best Grandparent T-shirts.
After we've mastered time management, it's on to Latin 201, which is a prerequisite for reading the reports from our MRIs and our CT scans and our blood tests and everything else the medical profession throws at us.
Then we're forced to learn an arcane dialect known as Legalese, a combination of Latin and arrogance invented by attorneys to convince us we need to pay them $500 per hour. Otherwise, how would we know if we’re leaving money to our pet turtles pari passu or per stirpes, or both? Seriously, it’s better to die broke.
Beyond linguistics, retirement demands expert timing to sync with the medical machine. The internist will only see patients on Tuesday from 10 to 4, but the dentist is only in on Wednesdays from 9 to 3, and the pharmacy is closed for a lunch break every day from 1 to 3. Abandon hope, all ye.
Then there’s the issue of insurance, as in Medicare. You need at least two policies from Medicare and one or two more as supplements, depending on your medication needs, and the amount you’ll pay will vary with your income and other factors. It was so much easier when the company picked our insurance and we had to take whatever they gave us.
Yes, I know, the company’s insurance plan rejected 100% of our claims 100% of the time, but at least we didn’t have to shop for all the coverage we weren't getting. It will be much simpler for our kids, of course, since all of them are “independent contractors” who don’t get any insurance at all. How I envy them.
With all these demands on our time, we can’t schedule activities with friends, which is fine because we don’t have any. We put them on the shelf while we were building our careers and now they’ve all dumped us. That’s why we need to spend our free time with the grandkids, who are the only people who aren’t fed up with us by now.
Of course, the other reason we don’t have many friends is that they’re dropping like flies. We retire at exactly the same time our working parts go kaflooey. After a while, hospital visits and funerals are almost a regularly scheduled event.
Meanwhile, it’s damned near impossible to get any sympathy from our still-working brethren as we struggle to fill our days with meaningful, non-medical, non-funereal pursuits. At a social gathering some months ago, a business executive asked me if I was retired. When I said I was, he simply turned around and walked away.
I wanted to chase after him to tell him all the new Latin words I had learned that week, but then I thought better of it. Why cheat him of the opportunity to discover the challenges of retirement all on his own?
One of our favorite Latin words is subscribe, which is what we want you to do by clicking right HERE. Really, what else do you have to do with your time?
Dad Writes celebrates our second anniversary this year by giving our hard-working, overburdened, socially-distant staff the day off. ICYMI, we’re reprising our first post, with the sad knowledge that we don’t need to change a word of it.
Jill and I turn 65 this year, and we always make plans for a special trip when our anniversary or birthday year is divisible by five. We’ve visited four continents together and I have been lucky enough to get to another two, but there’s still more to see than can ever be seen, as the song goes.
While the list of faraway treasures is seemingly endless, I’m considering someplace much closer to home this year. I’ve seen the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower—both in Pisa and in Niles!!—and Coit Tower and Willis Tower and the tower of cars that used to stand at Harlem and Cermak.
In 2018, though, I want to see something even more exotic and legendary: my abs. Like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster and UFOs, my abs are rumored to exist. Thus far, however, no sightings have ever been reported. Once, while standing in the bathroom and inhaling very, very, very deeply, I thought I saw a glimpse of one, but it turned out to be a streak on the mirror.
Hope springs eternal, much like delusion, and I am convinced this is the year it will happen. Like Edmund Hillary and Stanley Livingstone, I will see what no man or woman has ever seen before. (Well, with Hillary and Livingstone, it was no white European men, but the concept is the same.)
Yes, I have attempted this journey before, only to fail again and again. This time will be different, though. I have been exercising pretty regularly for almost two years now and my calves are now almost visible. Then, on to the biceps, triceps, foreceps, and finally the holy grail, my abdicators, or abominables, or whatever abs is short for. (Probably absentia in my case.)
I know they exist, because they hurt like hell after I’ve done a set of planks or Russian twists or Albanian gerbils. The pain is a lot like a heart attack, although you don’t get the relief that comes from losing consciousness.
I’ve done the math and this is doable. The flab on my gut is my most loyal of friends, guaranteed to stick with me to the bitterest of ends, so I’ll need to lose about 30 pounds before the hidden gems begin to show themselves. At 3,500 calories per pound, that’s a mere 105,000 calories. If I want to do this over three months, all I need to do is consume roughly 1.200 fewer calories per day. So, I’ll be taking in about 1,000 calories per day, every day, for the next 90 days, including weekends and benders.
Piece of cake, or maybe two pieces of cake, depending on how you slice it. No problem giving up the cake, which I almost never eat anyway. No problem giving up kale, either, or Brussels sprouts or quinoa or ramp. These aren’t really food, anyway, just repackaged tree bark they sell at Whole Foods.
But what about jalapeno poppers? How can I jeopardize the security of already impoverished popper farmers in southern Costa Rica? Can I really give up Cheetos if it means that Chester Cheetah will lose his job and starve in an urban jungle? How can I force thousands of tiny pretzel twisters onto the street, just because I want a six pack. And what about the people who make six packs? Don’t they have dreams, too?
Suddenly, I realize how many people are depending on me for their careers and happiness. In truth, I am like Atlas, holding the entire world of food industry workers on my incredibly ripped shoulders. I dare not falter, or even shrug.
All I need to do is consume 5,200 calories per day and I can be the savior of pretzel twisters and popper pickers everywhere. It’s a major sacrifice as my abs remain enshrouded in mystery, and fat, but that’s the price of making others’ lives more fulfilling.
I know my incredible buffness is in there, somewhere, buried deeply and safe, and that will have to suffice.
Anyway, I hear Willis Tower is lovely this time of year.
Will we ever discover the majesty of our abominable/abdominal muscles? Will we ever escape our quarantine to visit Willis Tower? If you click here to subscribe to Dad Writes you'll be among the first to know.
What a drag it is getting old, or at least that’s what Mick and Keith were telling us back when they were 23-year-olds who could have sex without purple pills or back braces. Whippersnappers!! What did they know?
In fact, getting old is a pretty terrific experience if you have the right perspective on the whole thing. Yes, it can be a bit disconcerting to realize that the only person ogling you is the Grim Reaper, but there are also daily highlights, if you know where to look. For instance….
There’s so much more to get excited about as we age, but I’ve just had a senior moment and I can’t recall the details. As soon as I find my glasses, I’ll look for the, um, look for the, um, where am I?
Whatever you do, don’t forget to click here to subscribe to Dad Writes by just clicking here to subscribe to Dad Writes by clicking here before you forget.
I was feeling pretty proud of myself when I told my trainer I had left some French fries on my plate four days in a row. Then he acted shocked and incredulous and amazed and otherwise uncalm as he demanded to know how often I ate French fries at all.
“Well, they come with the sandwich, so pretty much every day,” I answered, with the sudden realization that I was expected to feel guilty about this.
“Don’t you ever have a salad?” he asked in that tone you hear when a question is really an accusation.
And, no, I almost never do, for many good reasons.
First, I am an environmentalist (when it’s convenient or supports one of my rants) and the lettuce that goes into a salad is the most environmentally damaging food in the universe. On the scale of nutrition per dollar, lettuce is right behind a pizza delivery box.
Second, lettuce grows in fields, where animals frolic and poop and, need I mention, screw. Heads of lettuce are convenient support for randy rabbits who, as you know, enjoy coitus like rabbits, and you should be warned that the curved indentations in your arugula did not occur naturally. It is only safe to eat French fries because potatoes sport thick skins and have the decency to grow underground, where the fauna can’t reach them.
It’s not just lettuce that is suspect. Pretty much everything that grows just above the surface is plagued with animal excretions, along with skins so thin that anything can penetrate them. Compare that to your average steer, which has skin as tough as leather. And do you know why it’s as tough as leather? Exactly.
If we’re going to be honest about it, there is absolutely nothing good to be said for vegetables. Basically, they are a combination of indigestible fiber, water, and a handful of vitamins I can swallow in a pill before I finish my first cup of coffee. It’s trendy to say you like vegetables, but nobody really does. Brussels sprouts only became popular after chefs decided to cook them with bacon and blue cheese. Add enough bacon and blue cheese and they’d enjoy haggis, too.
Even the word vegetable is suspect, as it should be. If I was hit by the proverbial bus and, instead of dying, I was in a coma and unresponsive, would anyone say I was in a meatatative state? No, they would not. They would say I was in a vegetative state, which is one of the worst states to be in outside of Alabama.
While we’re on the subject of vocabulary, vegetables are often called “greens.” Do you know what else is green? Mold. Coincidence? I think not.
Another word to consider is “fertilizer,” which is a euphemism for manure. When animals are busy growing their fabulous meats, manure is a waste product that gets discarded. Sometimes, though, that manure gets sold, and do you know who buys it? Yep, vegetable farmers buy manure that they slather all over—and into—their crops before selling it to the rest of us. So-called “organic” farmers are the worst offenders, bragging about the “natural fertilizer” they use to poison us all.
With meat, the USDA has rules to keep the poop out. With vegetables, as they say, it’s a feature, not a glitch.
Finally, if you are what you eat and I am made of meat, it is almost a requirement that I should only eat meat. And some fat, so as not to upset the delicate balance within my bio-domain.
Man doesn’t live by meat alone, though, so it is acceptable to balance my diet with French fries, ideally cooked in animal fat. Bread is okay, but only the minimal amount required to transfer the meat from the plate. Ditto for pizza, which is nature’s delivery system for pepperoni.
Someday, the entire world will recognize the wisdom of my dietary insights and I will be lauded as a visionary.
In the meantime, are you going to finish those fries?
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Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.