Almost forty years have passed since Adela and I served as VISTA volunteers in Levelland, TX, yet I never met her husband Scott, so our reunion included fresh introductions among vintage stories and aging photos.
Scott is a fitness fanatic; not an ounce of fat on the guy. He weighed 240 pounds when he played Center for Bucknell University football. After college he trimmed down and continues to run and lift weights. At 57 he’s developed arthritis and his chronic Parkinson’s is more pronounced, but those conditions don’t interfere with his positive attitude about health. Scott retired a few weeks earlier after more than thirty years as a mechanical engineer. The rhythm of retirement hasn’t sunk in; he’s still up and out for a run every morning. Scott has already found some success in his primary post-work endeavor: he recently published his first poem, ‘Four Years,’ in the volume, Where the Mind Dwells, under his pen name, Otis Scott.
Adela, fit and rail-thin as in our Texas days, has been a nurse her entire career. These days she works part-time in a clinic.
Scott launched our conversation about tomorrow, “A lot of people are not thinking about tomorrow. The people who toss their McDonald’s wrappers out the window; the people who are contaminating our earth, the people idling their cars with the AC on: just quit tossing stuff out!” To which Adela added, “At least let us throw things out responsibly!” She explained that in their half-acre lot development, “there are deed restrictions that we cannot compost our yard waste. You have to put your waste in a plastic bag at the curb. We compost anyway.”
Our conversation turned from days past to what lies ahead. Adela said, “I’ve met people who don’t talk about dying, but I’ve never met anyone who didn’t care about dying. Death to me is like birth. You have to plan it the way you plan for birth. Who’s going to take care of this and dispose of that? I refuse to give into fear about it. We don’t accept it. I have been by the side of many people who are dying. It is difficult.”
When Adela said this, Scott leaned over and said softly, “Don’t die anytime soon. I need you.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“Technology is changing so fast. We don’t know what we’ll have tomorrow. In 1981, when I was in graduate school, we had no computers. Now we can’t live without them. What is the new technology? Robotic drivers? Fuel cells? We have some ideas, but we don’t know what the next big breakthrough will be.
“What I can’t figure out is the Middle East. It’s not about technology. It’s about blowing off someone else’s head. The terrorist destruction is huge. Can we help them correct their state of being?” – Scott
“I don’t understand it. Is it a religion that feels its superior and can annihilate everyone? I don’t think America can maintain its superpower status. We’re another Rome. We’ve had our rise and fall.
“The healthcare system is broken. The pharmaceutical industry is buying doctors. Americans take more prescriptions than any other people in the world. Your cholesterol hits a number and you get a pill. That’s the expectation of the patients, to leave the doctor’s office without a prescription is a failure. While the drug reps, who are one step above streetwalkers, are promoting it. They show up every month and buy everyone lunch until you get to the point you plan your lunch through the drug reps.
“I’m a healthcare professional who doesn’t go to the doctor. I had a mammogram, a colonoscopy, the usual tests. But I am not going to keep doing them. I’m over sixty. What happens to my body now is part of aging. I’m going to let it go through the aging process.”