Columnist Jim Cahillane: A new year filled with hope


Published: 12/29/2016 12:28:57 PM

From time to time I find myself talking to writers and editors.

Editors are persons whose job demands that they deal with writers. Writers are the bane of an editor’s life. That’s why “deadlines” were invented. The editor has deadlines because of his publisher, causing the less-dependable writer class to find themselves “on deadline.”

One early tip I received was that when phoning an editor, ask if they’re on deadline? If the answer’s yes, apologize and hang up. Keep talking and your pitch could be doomed.

New Year’s Day and my natal day arrive close together. Thus, New Year’s Day brings me that much nearer the deadline set by that great editor in the sky. He’s been patient with me so far, eight decades of errors under my byline and counting. As my favorite fictional character, Bertie Wooster, would say, “Jeeves, it makes a man think, what?” Jeeves, imperturbable, concedes, “ If you say so, sir.”

Bertie and I are not the only aging philosophers spouting wisdom. This year my friends’ Christmas cards carry messages noting time’s swift passage in our later years.

Once you’re on Medicare, life is measured less by stopwatches than more usefully by calendars. We seniors substitute for and put off heavenly deadlines with one more medical appointment. One thing that bugs me is that each kept appointment is followed by another, three or six months hence.

If you’re searching for an optimist, talk to the office staff, they want you back again. Our health has morphed into their job security.

This year had me taking a smooth Highland Ambulance ride to Cooley Dickinson Hospital. The problem was a painful knee due to a blood leak. I lived with its symptoms for far too long, resulting in an early Saturday morning 911 call. Don’t follow my example. My New Year’s resolution is to quit doing self-diagnosis. Last year began with a pair of 911 calls, the second leading to open-heart surgery at Baystate.

Just one serious operation concentrates the mind. I’d been sitting on the mostly completed draft of a book, “The Pilot’s Satchel,” which reprised a six-year-old medical crisis. God has infinite patience, yet when it comes to our lives doesn’t do do-overs. But, he does send angelic messengers. Some of them arrive in a shout — like making too many 911 calls! My hearing may be weaker next year, but I’ll hear you Lord when you whisper.

I refuse to dwell on the recent presidential campaign for now, yet my head won’t let go of a comment by Bill Clinton: “We have more days behind us than ahead.”

It isn’t Shakespeare, but there’s a lot of truth in there. President Clinton and I go back a long way. His new administration was the subject of my first column in 1993. Until very recently I thought that I’d be writing about Hillary’s election; it was not to be.

Ten years ago I brashly mailed the former president a copy of “The Best Place of All: An Irish American Memoir of Pluck, Luck & Automobiles” published in 2004 by Northampton’s 350th Committee. I’d recently read his autobiography, “My Life,” wherein he mentioned that one of his first jobs was at his uncle’s car dealership.

His July 2006 thank-you letter, boldly signed Bill Clinton, is framed on my wall. Compared to today’s selfies a letter may be seen as small change, but they last. Conversely, candidate Bill Clinton got a lot of mileage out of a filmed JFK handshake.

When I get around to publishing a collection of these columns it will reflect life in the 1990s, titled “Halcyon Days.” Another name that would work is “Hope,” which grew apace because our economy expanded and America was not at war. First Lady Michelle Obama said it well when she inquired of Oprah:

“What do we have if we don’t have hope?”

So far as our odd-duck new president goes, I commend to you the warning pre-printed on receipts from our old Honda motorcycle shop:

Stay Alert!

On that note I sign off with a prayerful wish for everyone to have a happy new year, one filled with hope and excellent physicians.

Jim Cahillane, of Williamsburg, a writer and poet, writes a monthly column. His new book, “The Pilot’s Satchel,” reveals dreams from a 2010 coma.

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