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The Way it Was: At age 98, writer looks at 6-week-old infant, ponders life

by John Straka Published: July 27, 2016 12:00 AM

A short time ago I was in the entrance lobby of the Cleveland Clinic facility on Rockside Road. I was seated in a Clinic wheelchair, waiting for my driver to pick me up. A young man came in with one of those baby carriers that look like a baby buggy without wheels. From the way he held it, I was sure it contained a baby. There is no doubt that babies are cute and most people are attracted to them. Sensing my curiosity, he proudly turned the carrier so I could see his 6-week-old son. I looked at the father and remarked about the age difference between me at age 98 and this little newborn baby.

First of all, that little guy is infinitely better looking than I am. Words are totally inadequate. What surprised me a bit was the man's interest in my age. A 6-week-old boy in public is as rare as a 98-year-old man out in public. That little one is going to have to learn to do many of the things that I don't do anymore. I don't run. I haven't driven my car lately, although I have a valid driver's license.

He will learn to talk while I struggle to remember names. He will be interested in anything new and will reach for it, pick it up, and probably taste it. He will cry when hungry, while my appetite diminishes bit by bit. His diet will go from liquid to solid, while I find it easier to chew soft foods compared to tough steaks. He may learn to cook, while I find it very difficult to stand over a stove or carry a platter of food from stove to table. Keeping his weight down may be his problem while I am drinking Ensure to keep my weight up.

He will go to school, maybe to college, and learn all sorts of things. It just may be that I will have forgotten more than he will ever learn. My memory is failing bit by bit. The greatest difference will be that what he will learn will be different than what I am forgetting.

I have more than 50 years experience driving a car. He may own one of those new self-driving cars and not have to learn how to maneuver in traffic. I used a lead pencil, a liquid ink pen, a typewriter and a computer. He will use wonders knows what to communicate. By the time he gets a job, communication will be by some new kind of electronic gizmo.

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One day he will meet the love of his life, a pretty girl who will become his wife and the mother of his children. I was marrried 54 years before my wife died. Nobody knows how long his marriage will last. It will depend on many factors, one of the most important being how long he and his wife will live.

I wonder what kind of job he will have. It could be a job that doesn't exist now. He might be in charge of a colony of explorers on the moon. His job might be living and working underwater for protection against nuclear bombs.

Maybe, someday, there will be a way to transplant something from a person like me to another person, and extend that one's life to nearly 100 years. Maybe the secret to long life will turn out to be something as simple as taking a pill once a month. The pill could be made of material found on the moon.

Do some of these things seem to be impossible, impractical, and out of this world? Much of today's everyday living was thought of that way when I was born. Lindbergh didn't cross the Atlantic until I was 10 years old. The first organ transplants didn't take place until just recently by comparison.

Maybe he will get to see a united world, at peace, with people exploring worlds that we do not even know exist. Who knows? He might be one of the rulers of such a nation.

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Trying to predict the future is difficult, if not impossible. However, based on experience, you might be able to guess the direction in which things are going. Based on such evidence, this little guy will probably live in a cashless, paperless society, where all financial transactions will be done by computers.

He may seldom, if ever, actually be seen by a doctor. There will be machines, much more sophisticated than today's MRIs, that will not only find out what's wrong with him, but also dispense the medication for it.

I wonder what he will be doing for entertainment, and how he will spend his leisure time. Fifty to 100 years from now, there may not be any golf courses. And baseball will either be a forgotten, ancient sport, or it will be done electronically, with one computer competing with another.

I wonder how the world's supply of fresh water will be handled. Demand is increasing, while the supply is decreasing. I wonder how the problem of feeding billions upon billions of people will be solved. They say the problem really isn't a matter of having enough food, but one of distributing it from the source to where it is needed.

I wonder what the odds are that this little 6-week-old boy and I would ever meet again someday.

Most baby boys are found in nurseries and 98-year-old men live in nursing homes.

Editor's note: Straka can be reached via email at wenceslas88plus@gmail.com.

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