My Novels

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Brief Update

Finally, finally....finally I am writing daily again. Hurrah! I was afraid I'd never find my voice again, or be able to actually stick with a project. (Not counting the numerous entries at this journal, that is.) And while I'm not sure how long it will take to finish the memoir, it FEELS right, moving along almost effortlessly.

I usually spend part of my afternoon making notes, either from my memory or stuff my family remembers when I ask. Then I go on the bike ride by the old neighborhood, carefully observing everything -- surprisingly little has changed. I see little kids playing, and it's as if they are US, staring, yearning, hoping, wishing...making believe they aren't living in poverty.

Around ten, I get ready for bed, then sit down in my comfortable chair in my bedroom, and fire up the laptop and write, write, write. The memoir is taking shape -- each chapter has three parts, and moves time forward, as well as exploring various people, places, events, family trouble, dysfunctional neighbors on the block, etc. I have even located two of the children I grew up with there who are in prison for murder. I sure know how THAT could have happened, coming from abusive, violent, most often alcoholic homes.

I am not sure what I'll eventually do with the manuscript. One of my nephews, who is in college studying architecture, has taken an interest in creative writing. He is writing stories occasionally, and if he continues to show signs of the writerly affliction (as well as becoming an architect), I may leave ALL my past and future work to him. Some of it is already online, but I could still arrange for him to have CDs of my work to do with as he wishes in the future. Time will tell, I suppose. I've never had the great ambition necessary to pursue print publication, and don't see it developing at this late age.

Otherwise, life goes on smoothly here. I'm thinking of turning the rental house over to a real estate agency to manage for a small commission. They screen tenants, do credit/background checks, handle all the tenant/financial details...and I can deduct the fee at income tax time. I'll decide when my tenant is gone, at the end of September.

Our family has a get-together planned for Labor Day. A nearby sister and brother-in-law just had an above ground pool installed, and invited us to come there for a cook-out, and to enjoy the pool. I don't know if they can get me in the pool (I can't swim), it just depends on my mood that day! The only bad thing about family get-togethers these days is that it makes me miss DH more; it always seems he should be in the other room, or just out of sight, teasing the kids, wrestling with the teens, which they loved. Everyone misses him so much!

I haven't started on the novel about the past two years, but I am thinking of leaving that for November and NanoWrimo -- an online group who strive to write the rough draft of an entire novel during that month. Could be a fun challenge too.

As some of you know, I collect news articles about people who live past 100 -- and the enormous farce that we can "control" our lifespan by diet, etc. Yes, I DO believe in eating sensibly, exercising daily, avoiding being overweight (I've had bouts with anorexia)...but in truth, I have begun to wonder if we all aren't "destined" to die at a certain time. Fate, if you will, determines our lifespan. Or maybe Karma. Who knows? I do believe genetics play a large part in a few deadly diseases (such as what happened to my DH), but genes alone DO NOT determine longevity. I read an article about that recently too, and when identical twins were studied, it was found that one usually died a decade or more before the other. Genetically, they are as close to similar as you can get.

At any rate, here is another article with a curious situation of a man who lived past 100:

Man Lives to 112 Despite Junk-Food Diet

Sep 1, 2:00 PM (ET)


LOS ANGELES (AP) - George Johnson, considered California's oldest living person at 112 and the state's last surviving World War I veteran, had experts shaking their heads over his junk food diet.

"He had terrible bad habits. He had a diet largely of sausages and waffles," Dr. L. Stephen Coles, founder of the Gerontology Research Group at the University of California, Los Angeles, said Friday.

The 5-foot-7, 140-pound Johnson died of pneumonia Wednesday at his Richmond home in Northern California.

"A lot of people think or imagine that your good habits and bad habits contribute to your longevity," Coles said. "But we often find it is in the genes rather than lifestyle."

Johnson, who was blind and living alone until his 110th birthday when a caregiver began helping him, built the Richmond house by hand in 1935. He got around using a walker in recent years.

Johnson was the only living Californian considered a "supercentenarian," a designation for those ages 110 or older, Coles said. His group is now in the process of validating a Los Angeles candidate who claims to be 112 years old.

Coles participated in an autopsy Thursday that was designed to study Johnson's health.

"All of his organs were extremely youthful. They could have been the organs of someone who was 50 or 60, not 112. Clearly his genes had some secrets," Coles said.

"Everything in his body that we looked at was clean as a whistle, except for his lungs with the pneumonia," Coles said. "He had no heart disease, he had no cancer, no diabetes and no Alzheimer's.

"This is a mysterious case that someone could be so healthy from a pathology point of view and that there is no obvious cause of death."

The family was in favor of an autopsy. Relatives said Johnson wanted them to allow it if it would help science.

Born May 1, 1894, Johnson's father managed the Baltimore and Ohio Railway station in Philadelphia.

Johnson was working in 1917 as a mail sorter for the U.S. Post Office when he was drafted into the Army. The war ended a year later, and he never served in combat.

Two years later, he and his wife moved to Northern California.

"It was a great adventure in those days. We were young and wanted the experience," Johnson said in a March interview with the Contra Costa Times.

The couple settled in Fresno and remained there until 1935, when they bought property in Richmond. They used lumber salvaged from dismantled buildings to build their house.

During World War II, Johnson worked at the Kaiser shipyard in Richmond and later managed the heating plant at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland.

He remained in good health and continued driving until he was 102, when his vision began to fail.

Johnson's wife died in 1992 at the age of 92. The couple had no children.

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