Photo by Edward F. Palm)

About Me

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Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

My Column for September 27, 2015

ED PALM | Retirement life: Use it or lose it

Once again, Shakespeare put it best: “If all the year were playing holidays, to sport would be as tedious as to work.”

That line speaks to me and my condition. Except for this part-time gig, I’m retired now, and I have to tell those of you earnestly looking forward to it that retirement is tough. With occasional exceptions — mostly involving Mrs. Palm — no one else is determining what I should do or when I should do it. Having arrived at a certain age, and knowing that Alzheimer’s disease does run on my mother’s side of the family, I’m acutely aware that each of us is granted only so much life and lucidity. And now it’s up to me to make the most of my time and not waste it. In the words of another poet — taken somewhat out of context — “But at my back I always hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near, and yonder all before us lie deserts of vast eternity.”

I know. I’m just incorrigible. As I’ve admitted before, you can take the professor out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of him. Was Wordsworth right: Do the “consolations of the philosophic mind” make up for the loss of “splendor in the grass”? Retire and find out.
(That last was virtually a giveaway, but a free Palm Print to the first reader to correctly identify all four allusions in this column by author and title. No fair Googling them! God will know if you’re not identifying the allusions by memory.)

Actually, I think that Mrs. Palm would agree that I’m doing OK with retirement. I have my writing (not just this column), my reading, my self-imposed photo assignments, a volunteer commitment, my hiking and my dog. To those of you about to retire, my advice is to make a plan. The best way to grow old before your time, declining physically and mentally, and is to rest idle. I’ve seen that happen among family and friends. The old cliché applies: “Use it or lose it.”

I likewise have it on reliable authority that too much togetherness is not a good thing for a mature marriage. Mrs. Palm lives and breathes for bridge. A serious player, she earns master’s points — whatever that means. Don’t ask me. I don’t play the game. It’s too complicated for a mind like mine that wanders through eternity and can’t stay focused on what cards have been played and who played them. But I’m fine with her obsession, and she’s fine with mine, even though photography is more expensive than bridge.

But, fortunately, the digital revolution has made photography much less expensive than it used to be. So “even in that was Heaven ordinant.” (There I go again.) I must live right!
On the other hand, I have arrived at the age at which I’m expected to be a curmudgeon. I do have my complaints.

For one thing, as a lifelong eyeglass wearer, I am wondering if anti-glare coating on lenses is a plot. It seems like such a good idea at first. But, in my experience, by year two, the coating becomes increasingly hazy, making the lenses difficult to keep clean. The solution, of course, is to buy a new pair.

For another thing, I object to the television commercials in which a series of people detail what they’ve lost to cancer and then go on to anthropomorphize and threaten the disease. These commercials trivialize and oversimplify the problem. They give people false hope that a messianic fervor will yield a magic cure for the complex series of diseases lumped under the category of “cancer.” Donations to the appropriate agencies will certainly help. But so will a realistic understanding of what we’re up against. I recommend that people read Siddhartha Mukherjee’s “The Emperor of All Maladies” before deciding how they might be able to help.

Along the same lines, I can’t see the point in walking 60 miles to demonstrate my solidarity with cancer sufferers and my commitment to finding a cure. A good bit of the money such walks raise must go to pay for overhead and the salaries of the organizers. And now another organization would have us walk for Alzheimer’s disease. For the reason I’ve admitted above, that one hits close to home.

The problem is that retirement gives you too much time to think back over your life and to mull over your regrets. My Cousin Doris, ten years my senior, is now in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. She taught me to drive when my mother wouldn’t. She helped pay my tuition to an academically sound all-boys Catholic high school. I never repaid her or even properly thanked her for those and other kindnesses. It’s too late now.

Think about such things before you retire.
Contact Ed Palm at efpalm@centurylink.net.

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