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More About Old Dogs: Will Do is Better Than Can’t Do

My 90s Club cozy mystery series continues to raise eyebrows. Some readers tell me of the 90- and 100-year-olds they know who do remarkable things like drive long distances, win tennis matches, canoe across lakes, etc.; other readers shake their heads and say they find it hard to believe that anyone in their 90s or 100s is up for anything but a rocking chair or the Alzheimer’s unit.

The 90s Club series concept came from watching a slim attractive, fit woman swim laps at a pool party. Then I learned she was 91 years old. So for the nonbelievers, I add another person to my list of very senior but functioning citizens: Helen Crossley, a former school nurse, who turned 105 in August 2013. She held her nursing license until age 96 and, although legally blind since age 99, she still gets around with and without a walker. (Washington Post, 8-24-2013).

The older I get, the more I hear people fall into line and repeat that sad refrain, “I’m too old.” I’ve heard people in their twenties say, “I’m too old for…” In fact, it seems to me that most popular aphorisms that pass for “wisdom,” are intended to limit and control rather than encourage and support. So I say phooey to all that stuff about what a person can and can’t do at any age.

Just saw a wonderful movie called Quartet, about a group of elderly musicians at the Musicians Retirement Home in England. It’s directed by Dustin Hoffman, stars Maggie Smith and Tom Courtenay and includes cameo appearances by many formerly well-known now retired musicians. A love story develops as these musicians put together a gala to save their home and try to persuade Smith as a troubled opera diva to join three other singers in the Rigoletto quartet. Highly recommended.

Available Dec. 1: The 90s Club & the Whispering Statue, second in this cozy mystery series. This time, Nancy Dickenson and the 90s Club at Whisperwood Retirement Village head south to Fort Lauderdale to rescue one friend and find another. Four attempts to murder Nancy’s long-time confidant Peter Stamboul have failed, but in the placid lifestyle of his retirement condo, who would want to kill Peter and why? Adventurous young Jessica Cantwell took a job as crew on a boat, but when the captain is murdered, she disappears and becomes a “person of interest.” Once again, murder and mayhem stalk Nancy and fellow 90s Club members Louise and George as they race to save Peter and Jessica’s lives and, ultimately, their own.

The Sapper’s Plot, a tough, action-filled mystery-thriller, is the latest book by M.L. Doyle, author of books about “women in combat boots.” Army Master Sergeant Harper is assigned to accompany a TV news team to a remote construction camp in Honduras where U.S. troops are providing engineering support for the project. The TV team is supposedly following one of the construction units on the mission, but Army public affairs suspects the team has another agenda. When the group arrives at the camp, they discover the body of one of the workers buried alive in concrete. Harper takes command of the investigation and fights her way through the cover-up attempts, rigors of rough jungle living, army protocol, and male chauvinism. The descriptive details add much to the realism and mood of the story. This is a fast-paced, gripping read that builds to a thrilling climax and final unmasking of the killer.

The Roads Less Traveled

I read obituaries, not to satisfy a gruesome interest in death, but to expand my imagination about the many roads less traveled and the consequences of taking them. I’m interested in the people who refused to let popular wisdom carve their path through life. Because my cozy mystery series is about people in their 90s, I focus on articles about them.

And so in the July 25th Washington Post, I came across the obituary for Betty Brown Park who died at age 95 from a brief illness.  At age 92, she retired from her position as Senior Attorney at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  She began her 68 years of government service as a lawyer in 1941. This was at the beginning of World War II, when women were recruited for all types of jobs.  Despite this need, before, during, and after the war, most professional women were routinely asked, “can you type?” Most people also bought into the idea that women could either have a marriage or a career. Once you married, you either quit or were let go. She married in 1942 and continued working while raising three children. During her years of  service, she received many awards including HUD’s Distinguished Service Award.  She also traveled extensively, volunteered in various associations, and was a musician.

She’s the kind of person I write about in The 90s Club & the Hidden Staircase.  They’re the people who don’t look outside themselves for social approval of what to do in life but inside at what they want to do. They don’t, for example, assume they are feeble simply because they are old. People who make such assumptions and perpetuate them live life by prescription. They’re the ones who say, “I’m 85 (or 65, 55, 75), therefore I’m too old to [fill in the blank].” This may be true for them, but it’s the “therefore” that I quarrel with. That’s why I focus on people in their eighties, nineties, and one hundreds who are or were active, alert, busy, and out adventuring in the world—even climbing mountains. They don’t let the standard “wisdom” stop them.

So I salute Betty Brown Park and all the men and women who refuse to let prescriptions for living block their way on the road less traveled.

This just in: Singer and actor Tony Martin died July 27. He was 98. At age 95 he performed in a nightclub act where he introduced one selection by saying, “I first sang this song at Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration.”

Eileen Haavik McIntire 7/31/2012

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