S3E15. Meet “The Octogenarian”

Chaucer is credited with the first usage of the phrase “All good things must come to an end.” In that vein, then, last week’s episode of “Mistakes On The Journey To Nowhere” was the last as you knew it.

I have written 117 weekly episodes over the past 2+ years without missing a beat. Of late, however, it has become harder and harder to unearth interesting content that I haven’t covered before. This past week was really bad. By Thursday, I had nothing. Bupkis. Nada. Zippo.

Fortunately for me, earlier in the week I found myself musing about what it might be like to be 87, which, following Bernard Baruch’s formula, is when I currently believe old age begins: “To me old age is always fifteen years older than I am.” 

I decided to write down my thoughts. I liked how it read and so I wrote a little more. It occurred to me that what I was doing might make interesting reading even though I had no idea where it was going. So I wrote a few more episodes…and both Sally and I liked what we saw.

Today, then, I’m shifting gears in “Mistakes” from a science-based report on the state of brain health research to a serialized, autobiographical novel about an 87-year old man. The themes of aging, brain health, memory and dementia will transfer to the new format, but science will no longer be the dominant focus.

I know that this is not what most of you subscribed to and I understand if you decide to drop the page from your weekly reading list. I do hope, though, that you’ll give it a shot for an episode or two. Who knows…you just might like it!

So without further ado, here is the first episode of “The Octogenarian.”


1. Art

He pencilled in two horizontal marks about ⅓ of the way down from the top at the outer edges of the first sheet in his new sketch pad. He did so because he remembered seeing a movie in which the film director John Ford told a young Steven Spielberg that putting the horizon in the middle was boring. 

This was his first attempt at painting with watercolors. He had no aptitude for it at all, but it popped into his head one day that it was something that he might try…just for shits and giggles.

At 87, you could do unexpected things like that and people would praise you for it, so long as it was ‘age appropriate,’ whatever the fuck that was supposed to mean.

He didn’t need their approval. Never had. But he got a kick out of them anyway, smiling inwardly about how they didn’t realize that they were talking to him as if he were a pre-schooler with newly discovered potential.

It is true, though, that the set of watercolors Amazon had delivered the day before was meant for the elementary school set, but he didn’t care. He just wanted to see what happened. He wasn’t re-visiting a high or low point in his life (although he had done that a number of times over the decades). He thought it had something to do with his cataract surgery. Colors were so much brighter and vibrant with his new artificial lenses. He now saw 50 shades of green when he jogged in the park. (No, that’s not a typo; he still jogged.) From daffodils to roses to lilacs, the beauty touched his heart…and that was a new experience for him. He liked it.

On second thought, maybe he was revisiting a past regret. Did you ever have a Venus Paradise Coloring Set? It included a rainbow of colored pencils and pictures that were divided into numbered, outlined areas. All you had to do was fill in each area with the matching numbered pencil and you wound up with a pretty nice picture.

He did have an aptitude for staying within the lines, and so at the age of 10, his parents bought him the same kind of set, but this time with oil paints and a brush instead of pencils.

It was a disaster. He couldn’t control the thick paint as it oozed beyond the boundaries. It looked terrible. He was frustrated. He hated it so much, he flushed the paints down the toilet. His parents weren’t pleased.

As punishment, they made him keep his unfinished picture to remind him of how bad he had been. One day, he noticed that it looked better from a distance than it had up close. He placed it on the fireplace mantle in his room and stepped back as far from it as he could.

It was beautiful.

What an asshole he had been. He felt like shit. Right then and there is when he learned the meaning of the word ‘regret.’

He was 10. Now he was 87. He was a lot closer to 110 than he was to 10. Maybe that boy was still in him somewhere, hoping for another crack at it, but he didn’t think so. He just wanted to see what would happen. Nothing more, nothing less.

And he wasn’t in any rush. In his mind, he was ‘only’ 87. People who were born in the generation before him were living to be 100 with increasing frequency. In fact, the last census showed that it was the fastest growing age group in the country. And since each generation seemed to be living a little longer than the last, he honestly thought that 110 was within reach for him. If so, he had 23 years to figure out this watercolor thing…so long as he didn’t get frustrated and flush it all down the toilet. He was pretty sure that The Community’s maintenance crew would not appreciate that gesture at all.

He wondered how people would refer to him if he did make it to 110. When you passed 100, you became a centenarian. But what was the word for someone who survived yet another decade? He didn’t know, so he googled it. 


He doubted many people would bother to google it. They’d probably just refer to him as ‘the old man.’

And that was perfectly fine with him.



  1. tencat9511771 says:

    I’m still here. Keep going!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sticking around…I’ll do my best to keep it interesting!


  2. Kathy Napurano says:

    Welcome, Octogenarian! Enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It may not be book club material, but I hope it will at least be entertaining. Wish me luck!


  3. Andy Howard says:

    Dear Octo,
    How about…elevedecadarian ?
    If things go as planned, you won’t need to figure out the one after that…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What are the chances we can get this past the overseers at the OED?


  4. wcdem2 says:

    I like it! Maybe I’ll take up something new at 80.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can’t wait to find out what it is! BTW…you just stole the punchline from next Friday’s episode!


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