Age Well Senior Services

Arnie Rides off to Montpelier

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013
By Riley McDavid Riley McDavid

“He’s leaving,” Mrs. McD said.  For all the sadness in her voice she might as well have said, “Our cat of 15 years died” or “The IRS says we owe them ten thou.”

I went to the window.  Indeed he was about to leave.  The “he” was Arnie. We have called him Arnie all these years, but his full name is Joshua Bateman Arnold.  He was born just outside of Montpelier, Vermont, and after twenty-nine years in Orange County, California, he was going back home.

“To die?” I asked him when he first broke the news to us.

“No way!” he said. “To live!” Arnie is a widower whose wife passed away about five years ago.  On more than a few occasions he swore he would never marry again, most recently when we conned him into going to Age Well’s Seniors’ Prom with our golfing friend Winifred.   A wife, he claimed, would make him do ridiculous things like pick up his dirty clothes and not let three days go by without washing the dishes.

But then one day in November his phone rang, and the voice at the other end said, “Josh?”

“Yeah.  Who is this?” Nobody had called him Josh in decades, so he was a bit befuddled.

 “It’s me, Mary Jane.”

“Mary Jane who?” he said.

“Mary Jane Winslow, you old doofus. I sat right in front of you in Miss Eldridge’s eighth grade English class and you always teased the dickens out of me. You don’t remember me? “

After a moment he did remember, and what he remembered, he later told us, was the cutest, liveliest brunette on the face of the planet.

“I was in love with her.  But I didn’t have a chance.  She and Bobby Chase were inseparable.”  After high school she married Bobby and together they raised a small family right there in Montpelier.  Arnie eventually became a long-haul truck driver, and after one cross-country trip to southern California in the middle of January, he decided he’d had enough of snow.  He informed the trucking company that henceforth his home base was Orange County, CA, about 3,000 miles from Montpelier.

“I’m in Anaheim with a girlfriend,” Mary Jane told him on the phone.  “We’re at Disneyland.  I want you to come up and spend tomorrow with us. Will you do it?”

“Where’s Bobby?”

There was a long pause.  Finally Mary Jane said, “I guess you didn’t hear.  Bobby passed away last year.”

Now there was an even longer pause while Arnie tried to figure out what to do.  Then, without really making a decision, he opened his mouth and said, “Sure.  I’d love to go to Disneyland.”

From there things got complicated. Two days later, when it was time for Mary Jane to go home, she sent her girlfriend on without her and came down from Anaheim to visit Arnie for a couple of days.  He brought her over to meet us, and even in her sixties she was still a head turner.  He drove her up to L.A. for a day, they spent time in Laguna Beach, and they had dinner at several nice restaurants on the coast.  When she asked what he did with his time, he took her on his Meals on Wheels route, and showed her to the Florence Sylvester Center at congregate lunchtime.

Those two days turned into a week at the end of which Arnie announced they were engaged.  He put his home up for sale, and now today he was about to get behind the wheel of a rental truck loaded with many of his possessions, and he and Mary Jane would head back to Montpelier.

“I can’t imagine life without him,” Mrs McD said.

“I can’t imagine my blog without him,” I said.  “He was the inspiration for so many, including a whole bunch he wasn’t even in. I guess this is le dernier blog.

“The very last blog?”

“The very last.  Let’s go over and say goodbye to Arnie.”  And we did.


Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

Captain’s Ball, March 1, 2014, 5:00 p.m. to Midnight at the beautiful Ritz Carlton, 1  Ritz Carlton Drive, Dana Point, CA. The Captain’s Ball Black Tie Gala recognizes companies or individuals who have gone above and beyond in their caring towards seniors. This event has been described as “the one Ball you don’t want to miss and best in Orange County” and has been featured in Orange Coast Magazine among other publications. Complimentary valet parking. Contact:  Beth Apodaca, (949) 498-3322.

Mrs. McD Discovers Hulawalu Syndrome

Thursday, December 12th, 2013


“Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.”  ~Erma Bombeck

By Riley McDavid Riley McDavid

“This just doesn’t feel right,” Mrs. McD said.  She was rubbing her tummy lightly at the time.  It was a Friday evening, and she’d been having some noticeable discomfort for several days.

“Let’s go in,” I said, expecting her to say no, that’s okay.  Maybe in the morning.

But women are more sensible than your average macho male when it comes to symptoms of illness, and Mrs. McD surprised me.  “Yes,” she said.  “Let’s go in.”

So we did, and after hours of examination, by humans and machines, Mrs. McD found herself spending the night in a private room at the hospital.  In fact, she ended up spending nine nights there.

In the interest of protecting at least a bit of Mrs. McD’s privacy, I won’t describe her symptoms.  But they did cause her medical team to consider an operation, a move they ruled out after several days of intravenous feeding during which time ice chips became a gastronomical treat for her.

During her very first days there, a relative sent us an article from the Sunday Times Magazine about a lady patient in the University of Chicago Medical Center who had remarkably similar symptoms.  Her doctors were mystified at first, but eventually concluded the woman was having a reaction to a blood pressure medication.  Could this be Mrs. McD’s problem as well? the relative asked.

Now I would never consider approaching an auto mechanic or a plumber or an electrician with a suggestion about how that person should do his work. That’s because I know nothing about auto engines or plumbing or electrical wiring.  I also know next to nothing about medicine except what I have learned as a patient, but that didn’t prevent me from approaching one of Mrs. McD’s doctors with a copy of the article.

“Oh, boy,” he seemed to be thinking. “I spend over a decade in med school, but this guy thinks he can diagnose his wife’s illness by reading a Sunday supplement.”  He took the proffered article, but was polite yet firm that the team had already ruled out a drug reaction as the cause.

I am grateful to the relative who pointed out that article because at the time the doctors were still playing the roles of medical detectives, and the article made a lot of sense.  However I subsequently got advice from others that was, to put it most kindly, suspect.

“I know what’s wrong,” a well-meaning neighbor said.  “You two didn’t get your flu shots.”

“Actually we did,” I replied.

“Well see!  There’s your problem.  Her sickness was caused by the flu shot.”

Another friend asked if Mrs. McD had eaten out without me the previous week.  Yes, I acknowledged. She went to a ladies’ club luncheon on Tuesday.  “There’s the cause,” the friend said.  “Food poisoning.” The fact that none of the other hundred or so women at the luncheon came down with the illness didn’t faze my friend.

Another had a one-word diagnosis: “Gluten,” she said quite adamantly.  “Gluten.” Yet another said, “Chicken. Bad chicken has been in the news a lot lately.”

By now I was beginning to appreciate how the doctor must have felt when I gave him that article.

After several days the gastroenterologists zeroed in on the diagnosis — Ogilvie Syndrome.  Olgivie is an extremely rare disorder that is named after Sir William Heneage Ogilvie, the British surgeon who first reported it in 1948 — not that long ago as medical chronology goes. The doctors prescribed an appropriate course of treatment for Mrs. McD, which, much to our relief, involved no surgery.  She spent several more days in the hospital, improving each day, until the doctors judged her ready to return to the outside world and the care of her non-physician spouse.

Mrs McD has been home over a week now, and is recovering nicely with no recurrence of any of her symptoms.  She also learned a valuable lesson.  “If you’re ill, never tell your friends that the doctors don’t know what ails you,” she said.

“Next time, what will you tell them?” I asked.

She thought about that for a minute or so, then said, “I’ll tell them I’ve got Hulawalu syndrome. It’s a rare disorder found mainly among Pacific islanders.”


“Really. I probably acquired it during our cruise to the Hawaii three years ago.  It killed Kamehameha the Great, you know.”

“No, I didn’t know that.  And neither do you.”

“But you’ll never rat on me, right?”

“Never in a million years,” I said.

Are you a seven-day OC Register subscriber?
If so on December 3rd you received a brown envelope containing info on how you can designate Age Well Senior Services, or any other listed charity, to receive $50 from this  OC Register program.  Please fill it out and return it by January 13.


Veterans Day Through the Eyes of a Child

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

 In William Saroyan’s 1943 novel, The Human Comedy, Homer Macauley is a teenager who works part time as a delivery boy.  He pedals around Ithaca, California, a fictional stand-in for Fresno, on his second-hand bike bringing messages to families.

Thousands of miles from the war in either the Pacific or Europe, Homer has a part in the war effort.  Many of the telegrams he carries to homes are from the War Department.

One day he brings a telegram to the door of Mrs. Rosa Sandoval.  “I cannot read English,” she tells him. “Please, what does the telegram say?”  And Homer starts to tell her without even opening it because he knows what’s inside.  But she makes him open it and read it.   Her son Juan Domingo has been killed in action.

Homer feels terrible, “Maybe it’s a mistake,” he tells her. “Everybody makes mistakes.” But what he really wanted to say was, “I’m only the messenger, Mrs. Sandoval.  I’m very sorry I must bring you a telegram like this, but it is only because it is my work to do so.”  Homer ends up riding his bike wildly back to the telegraph office, tears streaming down his face.

Like Homer, Mrs. McD and I each grew up with reminders of the war around us, she in Seattle, and I three thousand miles away in Maine. Mrs. McD’s brother Bobby, a junior at West Seattle High when Pearl Harbor was attacked, was determined to become a pilot in the Army Air Corps, the forerunner of today’s U.S. Air Force.  So were a bunch of his buddies. Someone told them carrots would improve their vision, so they munched them nonstop.

Bobby did make it through flight school — we have photographs of him smiling in his uniform, his wings pinned to his lapels in one, and to his collar and garrison cap in another.

He went to flight school in Santa Maria, CA, and Mrs. McD’s dad, Harry, who served in France during World War I, took the train down from Seattle to see Bobby solo for the first time.  In mid-1944 Bobby was sent to Tinian in the Marianas, to pilot B-29s on raids over the Japanese offshore islands.

He sent Mrs. McD, who was nine at the time, letters with his hand-drawn artwork of planes doing loops, something he undoubtedly never did in a B-29. Bobby was very young looking, and, unlike some of his mates, had no inclination to smoke or drink.  Those close to him kidded him about that, but if someone from outside their circle tried that, they stuck up for him.  He was just a kid, but he was their kid.

Mrs. McD and her mom and dad worried but there came a day in 1945 when Bobby came home to Seattle.  He never piloted a plane again.

My own two brothers went off to the service, John in 1943 and Bob in 1944 but neither of them went overseas.   I had what I called an adopted brother in the war.  His name was Walter and he was from Ohio. 

Our city, Bangor, was home to Dow Army Airfield, which eventually became a stopping off point for troops on their way to fight in Europe.  In 1944 alone, more than 8,400 flights passed through Dow, and the city was flooded with servicemen. The Tarratine Club, a lush gathering place for Bangor’s rich and powerful, was taken over for several years to serve as what must have been one of the poshest USOs for servicemen anywhere.

Walter was a military policeman — an MP. I was only ten at the time, but I showed up at Dow’s main gate one day, wanting to look around.  I‘m sure Walter gave me the 1944 equivalent of “No way, José,” but he was a friendly guy and he told me to come back on his day off.

I did and he gave me a grand tour.  He bought me a burger and a shake, and took me for a ride in some kind of small vehicle that were all over the base.   Several times after that I came back to visit, and one day Walter said he might be shipping out soon.  He asked for my address, which I gave him.  About a month later I got a letter from him.  He didn’t say exactly where he was but I assumed Europe.   We exchanged maybe four or five more letters after that … and then they stopped.

My mom told me not to worry.  He was probably okay but just couldn’t write for some reason.  I never heard from him again.  I worried about Walter every time I passed a window with a gold star flag in it.

The war had receded to the back of my memory by 2001 when the HBO series Band of Brothers was aired, and for me it was 1944 all over again.  It told the story of Easy Company of the 101st  Airborne as they fought in World War II.  The guys talked and walked and acted like Walter and his buddies. If I happen upon an episode while channel surfing, whatever the hour, I stay glued to it.

Arnie Gets a Date for the Prom

Monday, November 4th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

“Are you going to the Seniors’Prom?” Mrs. McD asked Arnie.

“I don’t have anyone to go with.”

 “How about Winifred, the lady we sometimes play golf with?”

“I dunno.  She’s kinda clingy.  I’m afraid once she gets her clutches on me, she’ll never let go.”

“That’s not such a bad thing,” I said.  “Ever since Mrs. Arnold passed away six years ago, you’ve been all alone.”

Arnie screwed up his face and shook his head.  “No way,” he said.  “No more marriage for me.  She’d just come in and tell me to pick up my socks off the floor and put on a clean shirt every two hours, and all that female stuff.   I like the way I live.”

“Who said anything about marriage?” Mrs. McD said.  “She could just be a now-and-then companion. Anyway, I know for sure Winifred’s not interested in marriage either.”

“You think?” Arnie said.

“I know for sure,” Mrs. McD replied.

Arnie thought for a bit.  Then he said, “So why should I even go, with or without Winifred?”

“It benefits Age Well.  Over the past 20 years, the proms have collected more than $500,000. “

“That’s more than half a million,” Arnie said.

“You’re good with numbers,” Mrs. McD said, but Arnie totally missed the sarcasm.

“Give me another reason.”

“It’s fun,” I said. “If you can do something to benefit others, and have a lot of fun while you’re doing it, that’s an all time great win-win situation.”

“Why is it fun?”

’You’ll dance to the music of Johnny Vana’s Big Band Alumni, enjoy a delicious buffet dinner and have the chance to take home some terrific raffle prizes, “

“Just who is Johnny Vana and what school did his alumni graduate from?”

“Not from a school,” I said.  “They’re almost all graduates of some of the greatest big bands of all time — Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Harry James, Woody Herman, Stan Kenton, Count Basie, Billy May, and many more names of the Big Band Era.”

“And this guy Vana?”

“He is one of the best drummers in the United States. He started his playing at the age of four — four, Arnie!“ At fourteen, he was a regular with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.”

“Does anybody really go to these things?  I mean will I be out there on the dance floor with Winifred and nobody else around us?”

“ You bet people go to the Prom,” I said. Age Well CEO Dr. Marilyn Ditty told us they get nearly a 1,000 seniors every year,  She also told us that besides providing an evening’s entertainment for all those people, this event is an important fundraiser for Age Well,  particularly now when government funding sources are being squeezed.  You’re a Meals on Wheels driver, Arnie.  You know how much good Age Well does.  You’ve got to pitch in and help financially now when they need the help so much.”

Mrs. McD, who would have made a great closer had she chosen sales as a career, jumped right in. “Kindred Healthcare is making a big commitment with a $10,000 sponsorship. The least you can do is buy a $45 ticket.”

“Suppose she turns me down?”

“Oh, she won’t,” I said quite confidently, and Mrs. McD shot me a withering glance.

“You sound so sure. Have you been talking to her?”

“Not me,” Mrs. McD said.  “How about you Riley?”

“Me? Gosh no.  I haven’t seen Winifred in weeks. I think she’s out of town.”

“I think so too,” Mrs. McD said.

“So anyway I’ll be helping Age Well?” Arnie said.

“Not exactly,” I said. “You’ll help the seniors they serve.  These are good people who, through no fault  of their own, need some assistance.”

“Okay, okay, you got me convinced. Tell me the details”

“It’s at the Irvine Marriott on Sunday November 10 from 5 to 9 p.m. Admission is $45 in advance, $50 at the door. Self parking is $7, valet. $12. To purchase tickets, call (949) 855-8033 or go to any Age Well senior site.”

We chatted a little more and then Arnie left.   As soon as the door closed, Mrs. McD picked up the phone and dialed a number. After a brief moment, she said, “Winifred? This is Riley’s wife. Expect a phone call. Arnie just left. What’s that? No, he didn’t suspect a thing. He bought it hook, line and sinker.”

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

Sunday, November 10: Seniors’ Prom: “The Roaring 20’s” at the Irvine Marriott Hotel Benefiting Meals on Wheels. 5 pm to 9 pm. Entertainment by Johnny Vana’s Big Band Alumni. Tickets $45 in advance $50 at the door.  Tickets available at Age Well sites through Friday, November 1. Transportation available at select sites. For more information, call (949) 855-8033.

You Can ‘Do Immeasurable Good For Our Seniors’

Sunday, October 13th, 2013
By Riley McDavid Riley McDavid

We can all be forgiven if we don’t remember many, or even any, of the details about the so-called “fiscal cliff” deal that Congress and the Administration struck about the time 2012 was turning into 2013.  Without taking any sides — really, I mean it — it seems like every six months or so we have another governmental kerfuffle that some of us don’t understand at the time and certainly don’t recall with any clarity in hindsight. With each new one our vocabulary of Washingtonspeak expands — fiscal cliff, debt limit, sequester, and Mrs. McD’s personal favorite,  “kick the can down the road.”

Well yesterday Mrs. McD, who enjoys nosing about for obscure stuff on the web, found a nearly year-old article with some really good news about the 2012/2013 fiscal cliff resolution, as reported by Tom Herman in the Wall Street Journal:

”As part of the ’fiscal cliff’ deal,” Mr. Herman wrote, ”Congress has resurrected a popular tax-law provision, known as the ’IRA charitable rollover,’ that had expired at the end of 2011. The rule allows many investors 70-1/2 or older to transfer as much as $100,000 a year from an individual retirement account directly to a qualified charity without having to count any of that transfer as taxable income. The transfer, if done properly, counts toward the taxpayer’s required minimum distribution for that year.”

In other words:

• If you are 70-1/2 or older and you take up to $100,000 from an IRA and spend it on whatever whim hits you, you must declare it as income.  But if you roll over up to $100,000 directly to Age Well, the amount rolled over is not subject to income tax.

• Also, the amount directly rolled over can qualify as satisfying part or all of your Required Minimum Distribution, or RMD.

Caution — The  phrase  “directly rolled over” means exactly what it says. Writing in Forbes, Deborah Jacobs warned that you must ask “the IRA custodian to send the distribution directly to the charity, rather than funneling the money to the charity yourself.” If you take the money out and send it to Age Well yourself, the amount won’t qualify.

“I wish people everywhere could understand what our most generous donors have long known,” said Dr. Marilyn Ditty, CEO of Age Well. “They appreciate that more than 93% of the money we receive goes directly to help seniors, and less than 7% to administration and fund raising. Few charities can even approach that record.”

Here’s what your gift can do:

• $10,000 can feed 20 homebound seniors three meals a day for three months.

• $25,000 can provide two weeks of Adult Day Care for 25 seniors with impairments.

• $75,000 can provide 3,000 hours of Case Management to seniors in crisis.

• $100,000 can provide door-to-door medical appointment transportation to 3,000 seniors.

Talk to your tax advisor.

And also talk with Michael Crvarich of Age Well, who can tell you more about the IRA Rollover Gift or other legacy options.  Michael can be reached at (949) 855- 8033 or at mcrvarich@my

“Our senior population continues to grow at the same time funding from traditional sources continues to shrink,” Dr. Ditty said.  “Your gift can do immeasurable good for our seniors right here in Southern Orange County.”

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar: 

Tuesday, October 29: Senior Summit.  “Care Management — Managing Your Health.” South Shores Church,  32712 Crown Valley Parkway, Monarch Beach.  Free Parking, Free Admission, and Complimentary Lunch and Refreshments.  RSVP by October 25 to Casey Gholson, 949-496-9331, ext. 123.

Sunday, November 10: Seniors’ Prom: “The Roaring 20’s” at the Irvine Marriott Hotel Benefiting Meals on Wheels. 5 pm to 9 pm. Entertainment by Johnny Vana’s Big Band Alumni. Tickets $45 in advance $50 at the door.  Tickets available at Age Well sites through Friday, November 1. Transportation available at select sites. For more information, call (949) 855-8033.

A Monument to all the Kids Who Can’t Play Ball

Thursday, September 26th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

A few years back Mrs. McD and I visited Bangor where I grew up.  We took pictures of my boyhood home on Warwick Street,  I showed her what had been the Bangor Osteopathic Hospital where I was born, and we bought some donuts just up the street from the hospital at Frank’s Bake Shop, my summertime employer when I was in high school.

And, oh yeah, we ate a lot of lobster.

I had heard that Bangor had a superb kids baseball field so we went to see that.  It is Shawn T. Mansfield Stadium, located on Bangor’s west side.  I had been told it was great, but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw when we arrived.

Mansfield is a jewel. It seats 1,500, has a complete concession stand, night lights, an electronic scoreboard and an incredibly sophisticated drainage system to cope with the spring snow melt and the inevitable April rains. Everything is a cut above — the dugouts, the stands, everything.

The dimensions are regulation — 90 feet from base to base and 60 feet 6 inches from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. Every year the Senior World Series (ages 13-17) is played here and televised on ESPN.  Including standees, it has held as many as 3,000 fans for a single game.

Looking at the gorgeous layout, I suddenly remembered the first time I played baseball in Bangor when I was about eight or nine. The ball field was across town on a large square lot that sat right in the middle of our neighborhood. Except for Mr. Canty’s house, a pointy-roof Hansel-and-Gretel structure which sat at the very edge of right field, it was all ours.

In reality, the field was the pits, mainly because it wasn’t  flat. Home plate in front of Gerry Hayes’s house was the highest point, and centerfield — the corner of Field Street and Princeton Avenue — the lowest. After the snowmelt in the spring, center field was a swamp populated by tadpoles and frogs, but by late May it was always dried out. I don’t recall that we ever minded the field’s topographical deformities. We loved baseball.  And there were better playgrounds in the city we could have gone to, although none the likes of Mansfield.

Mansfield came into being because of the vision of four Bangor men and the generosity of two well known authors.  In 1989, David Mansfield, Neil Waterman, Stephen King (yes, that Stephen King), and Ron St.Pierre coached the Bangor West 11-12 year old all-star team that won the State Championship, and went on to the Regional Tournament in Bristol, CT. From that team, a dream was born that the local boys should have a better facility in which to play. Stephen and Tabitha King were generous enough to build a new $1.2 million stadium that they then donated to the City of Bangor. (A number of causes have benefited because of the Kings, not the least of which is the Bangor Public Library, which, even long before their support, was already known by librarians everywhere  as an outstanding literary mecca.)

The stadium was named after Shawn Trevor Mansfield, David’s son. Shawn never played baseball.  He had cerebral palsy and was confined to a wheelchair his whole life.  In 1983 at the age of 14, he passed away. At the entrance of the stadium, there is a plaque dedicating the stadium not only to Shawn but also to all the other boys everywhere who never got a chance to play baseball.

Okay, we had a lousy ball field, but at least we had a place to play, and, unlike Shawn and many other kids, we were able to play. We were the fortunate ones.

As for Stephen King, the stadium was no fluke gift.  He loves baseball passionately, especially his beloved Boston Red Sox. He has written about baseball in the New Yorker and elsewhere.  In 2010 he published Blockade Billy, a novella about William “Blockade Billy” Blakely, a fictional character who in the book briefly plays catcher for the New Jersey Titans in 1957.

“I love old-school baseball, and I also love the way people who’ve spent a lifetime in the game talk about the game,” King says of the book. “I tried to combine those things in a story of suspense.”

It’s safe to say that the man who has spent his adult life scaring the daylights out of us not only loves baseball, he also loves kids.

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

 Tuesday, October 29: Senior Summit.  “Care Management — Managing Your Health.” South Shores Church,32712 Crown Valley Parkway, Monarch Beach.  Free Parking, Free Admission, and Complimentary Lunch and Refreshments.  RSVP by October 25 to Casey Gholson, 949-496-9331, ext. 123.

Sunday, November 10: Seniors’ Prom: “The Roaring 20’s” at the Irvine Marriott Hotel Benefiting Meals on Wheels. 5 pm to 9 pm. Entertainment by Johnny Vana’s Big Band Alumni. Tickets $45 in advance $50 at the door.  Tickets available at Age Well sites through Friday, November 1. Transportation available at select sites. For more information, call (949) 855-8033.

Living Forever

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

It was a lazy Saturday morning, and, as we frequently do, Mrs. McD , Arnie and I were sitting in the backyard reading. Mrs. McD was perusing a last year’s Atlantic  that she’d gotten at her dentist’s office.  He’s too cheap to pay for magazine subscriptions, so every week  or so he goes to our local Green Center and does some reverse recycling.  Instead of turning in magazines, he takes some back for the office.  Mrs. McD, knowing that the skinflint didn’t pay a nickel for any of them, isn’t above bringing one of them home if it has a really interesting article.   Then she takes the magazine back to recycling whence it came in the first place.

Arnie had the news section of the morning paper, which I am proud to say he paid for. I was in the business section trying to calculate how rich I’d be if I had taken my broker’s advice and bought 4,000 shares of Apple at $4 a pop back in 1997.

You know how that goes.  You divide four bucks into today’s price of five hundred bucks then you multiply … no, that’s not right.  Just multiply 4,000 shares by 500 dollars and voila! $2,000,000 vs. the $16,000 I would have invested.  It’s a really masochistic exercise.  I had the money, I loved Apple, I could have done it, but …

But here I sit with a liquid net worth several freeway rest stops south of $2,000,000.

“Soledad Mexia died yesterday,” Arnie said.

Mrs. McD and I exchanged  questioning glances.   Finally, she said, “Who?”

“Soledad Mexia. She was the oldest person born in Mexico and the oldest living Californian.”

We both shrugged and went back to our reading.  After a long silence, Arnie picked up the narrative.  “Come on!” he scolded.  “That’s important.  She was 114.”

I put down my paper. “Why is that important?” I asked.

“It shows we’re living longer.  Man is improving.  Why Matthew down the street told me he expects his two  boys, Joshua and Jonas, to live to be 150.  He said it real matter of fact, like it was a done deal.”

“There’s a good chance they will,” Mrs. McD said, “In the 20th century the average life span increased 30 years, which is greater than the increases in the last 5,000 years of human existence. And in the 21st century the increase may be dramatically greater.”

“I think that’s great,” Arnie said.   “I want to live forever. I’m like that guy that chased around Florida hunting for the Garden of Eden.”

”Actually I think he was hunting for the Fountain of Eternal Youth,” I said.

“Whatever.  I want it.”

“But suppose it turns out to be the Fountain of Eternal Arthritis,” I said. “Would you still want it?”

“I want it.  Period.”

“Arnie, my mom, who passed away in 1971,  told me a number of times that she wanted to, in her words ‘make it to 70.  Dying in one’s 60’s isn’t quite respectable,’ she said.  Couldn’t you be like her and just pick a reasonable goal like, say, 85 or 90, and do your best to live that long?”

“Nosirree,” he said. “I want it all!”

“You know,” Mrs. McD said, raising one finger skyward and pausing for exaggerated dramatic effect, “not everybody is happy about the idea of us all living a lot longer.”

“Like who?” Arnie said.

“Like bioethicists,” she said.

“What’s a biowhosits?”

“They’re sort of like referees in the world of medicine,” I said. “They try to guide the rest of us on what’s okay to do and what isn’t.”

“Lordy them colleges got a degree for everything these days.”

“This is serious business,” Mrs. McD said. “Let me quote from this article I’m reading; ‘As funding for anti-aging research has exploded, bioethicists have expressed alarm, reasoning that extreme longevity could have disastrous social effects.’ In other words, if we all live a lot longer, there may not be enough food and water and livestock. Pretty soon wars will break out over who gets the limited resources. A hundred years ago there were only about a billion people on earth.  Today there are more than six billion.  If that doubled, how would we feed everyone?”

Arnie looked stunned.  “Meals on Wheels?” he said,  but he didn’t sound very convinced.

“The idea is that we shouldn’t tinker with evolution,” Mrs. McD said.  “It’s done pretty well by us so far. If we mess with natural selection, we do it at our own peril.”

“Phooey on evolution, “ Arnie said.  “I don’t believe in that. Anyway, I still want to live forever.”

“Arthritis and all?” Mrs. McD said.

“You guys are such spoilsports.”

“Your mom made it to 70, didn’t she Riley.”

I beamed.   “I am proud to say that she did — 70 years and several months. And in so doing she didn’t take any food off anyone else’s table.”

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

Sunday, November 10: Seniors’ Prom at the Irvine Marriott Hotel. Entertainment by Johnny Vana’s Big Band Alumni.

The Case of the Dead Battery

Thursday, August 29th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

Last month the McDs were in Seattle on our annual trip to the great northwest. Mrs McD grew up in Seattle.  She graduated from West Seattle High and later from the University of Washington, these days known affectionately as U Dub.

On our last day we ate a terrific crab lunch at a seafood restaurant near Pike Place Market. Afterwards we drove out of the Public Parking Garage on Western and gone less than two blocks when our rental car stalled on Pine Street. I tried to get it going, but no luck.  The battery was dead.  I phoned in for a tow truck.

Almost immediately we were blocking traffic badly.  Horns were honking, and people were yelling at us. Suddenly two patrol cars with sirens blaring pulled up.  A cop got out of one and came over to my side.  “What’s up, mister?”

“Dead battery.  I called for help.”

“Sounds like the battery is beyond help mister.” Then he yelled at the cop in the other car.  “Harry.  We got a dead battery.  Get the crime scene tape. And call the coroner.”

“The what?” I said.  Then I started to get out of the car.

“Stop right there!” the cop said.  “We don’t want any evidence disturbed.”

“Evidence? What evidence? All I got is a dead battery.”

Just then another car pulled up.  It was a red Porsche 928 with no police markings but it had one of those magnetic red flashing police lights on the roof.  A stocky guy a little over six feet tall got out.  He was wearing a plain tan suit badly in need of pressing that might have been fashionable about twenty-five years ago. “What have we got here Hennesey?” he said to the uniformed cop.

“Oh, hi, Beau.  It’s a dead battery.”

The plain clothes guy couldn’t believe his ears.  “A what?  I’m in homicide. Since when did I get busted down to traffic?”

“Captain Powell said to call you, Beau.”

The plain clothes guy whipped out his cell phone and punched in two numbers.  “Get me Captain Powell!” he screamed.  “Now!” We could hear everything because he had the phone on speaker.

“Yes, Detective Beaumont?”

“Captain Powell, I’m in homicide.  Why am I working a traffic jam?”

“Well Detective Beaumont, the man reported he had a dead battery.  Unless the battery killed itself, it sounds like automotive homicide to me.”

The plain clothes guy thought a bit.  Finally he said, “I never thought of it that way, Captain Powell.  I guess you’re right.  I’m on the case.” Then he hung up and came over to me.  “What’s your name?”

“Riley McDavid.  We’re visiting from California.”

“I’m Detective Beaumont.  J.P. Beaumont.  My friends call me Beau.”

“Pleased to meet you, Beau.”

“I said my friends call me Beau,” he snarled.   “You’re not my friend. And who is this gorgeous lady?”

“I’m Mrs. McDavid.”

“Well honey, you can call me Beau.”

“Well you can’t call me honey, detective,” she snapped.

“Whoa, Riley, you got a live one here!”

“Did I hear you talking to Captain Powell?” Mrs. McD said.

“Why yes I did.”

“You should know he was best man at our wedding.”

“Oh, oh,” Beaumont said.  “Does that mean I’m in deep yogurt?”

“One more ‘honey’ and you will be.”

Just then the teenage parking attendant from the garage ran up.  “Maybe he had something to do with it,” I said.

Beaumont looked around. “Jimmy? Naw, not him.  He’s my nephew.”

“Hey Uncle Beau, thanks again for letting me take my girl to the prom in your Porsche.”

“Jimmy, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that.”

“Did I do something wrong?”

“Yeah, Jimmy.  When you left after the prom you put the red police magnetic flasher on the car top and turned it on.  The principal freaked out.  He closed the parking lot gate and put all of West Seattle High on lockdown until four a.m.  The parents were really steamed.”

“Sorry, Uncle Beau.  I won’t do that again.”

“Detective can I get out?” I said. “My legs are getting really cramped in here.”

“Sure, get out.”

I started to but when I did, my left foot slid on some oil and I went down flat, banging my head on the side of the car as I did.  I went out like a light. For a while everything was fuzzy.  I could hear people talking but I didn’t know what they were saying.  Eventually I came to, but I wasn’t in Seattle, I was in my driveway.  Mrs. McD was there along with Arnie and two paramedics.  “What happened?” I mumbled.

“You slipped off the stepladder.  Bo and Hennesey, the two paramedics, revived you. While you were out you must have known Bo was here because you said ‘Bo’ several times.”

“I said ‘Beau’?”

“No you said ‘Bo.’”

“That’s what I said, ‘Beau.’”

“No, you said Bo.”

“I said ‘Beau’”

“You didn’t say ‘Beau.’ You said ‘Bo.’”

“Oh. Bo.”

Later that evening she asked, “Have you been reading some more J.P. Beaumont detective stories?”

“Why yes.  How did you know?”

“Just a wild guess.”


With grateful appreciation to J.A. Jance whose engaging J.P. Beaumont mysteries have kept me up well past midnight far too many times.


Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

Sunday, November 10: Seniors’ Prom at the Irvine Marriott Hotel. Entertainment by Johnny Vana’s Big Band Alumni.

Donors Thanked, Board Installed

Thursday, August 15th, 2013
By Riley McDavid   Riley McDavid

Several  hundred donors, volunteers and staff members braved the elements (that’s supposed to be humor; it was actually a gorgeous August afternoon) to attend Age Well’s Annual Donor Recognition and Board Installation August 8, generously hosted by First Bank. Again this year, Susan Montoya of First Bank performed flawlessly as Mistress of Ceremonies for the event, which was held at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel.

Dr. Marilyn Ditty, Age Well CEO, used a portion of her annual report to heap praise on the many donors in the audience who, in her words, “make our work possible.” She noted that their donations have become even more crucial in a time when government funding for the kinds of work Age Well does has become increasingly scarce.

She also had the pleasant task of announcing that the new senior housing facility in
San Clemente would open this fall with the possibility of another one in the area opening  in about a year.

Superior Court Judge John Adams administered the oath to this year’s board. Included were three new members: Patty Alexander, Owner, Personalized Senior Placement; Marlene Bridges, Village Real Estate Services, Inc; and Barbara Hogan, Barbara Hogan Insurance Services, Inc.

Three members who are leaving the board were recognized for their years of outstanding service: Mark Burton, New York Life Insurance; Kim Luu, Oakwise Group; and Patricia Kolstad, O’Connor Mortuary.

Keith Janca, Senior Partner at New York Life in Irvine, stood in for Mark Burton and presented Age Well with a check for $5,000. That got the donation ball rolling, and Susan Montoya quickly added another $1,000.  Others in the audience made pledges for various amounts.

Meals on Wheels driver Don Owens delivered a low key but powerful testimonial about the work Age Well does.  Don is one of those people who is into things for the long haul. He celebrated his 91st birthday on August 6, and a while back he and his wife Bess celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary.

He said that one day about seven years ago, a good friend told him, “Don you should be a driver for Meals on Wheels,” and Don said that if his good friend said it, it must be true.  Thus he began his once-a-week stint taking meals to seniors in the community.

Relatives and friends of the people who receive Meals on Wheels, he said, should feel comforted because Meals’ drivers do more than just deliver food.  “We’re not like FedEx or UPS,” he said.  “We don’t just drop the food, ring the bell, and run back to our vehicle.” Part of their job is making sure everything is okay inside the dwelling.

In the rare instances when there is no answer when the driver rings, the driver calls the office and, if needed, someone is summoned to make a welfare check. When he does get an answer, he brings the food inside and checks to see if anything needs attention. He also engages in some friendly conversation with the person who may not see anyone else all day long.

He pointed out that Meals on Wheels means continued independence for the many seniors who can no longer drive or shop or even cook. It enables them to stay in the comfortable surroundings of their own home rather than being institutionalized.

What does a driver get out of his volunteer work? Plenty Don says.

•  You meet some truly interesting people.

• You develop friendships that would never have occurred had it not been for Meals on Wheels.

• You feel the appreciation of the recipients for the work you do.

During fiscal year 2012-2013 Age Well served 307,917 meals to 1,102 seniors. Those are 1,102 flesh-and-blood human beings who every day get nutrition, a caring eye, and warm friendship from people like Don Owens. And that is made possible by the continuing generosity of Age Well donors, including the many in Don’s audience.

Sam Conti’s band provided lively musical bookends to the event before and after the actual program. 

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

Sunday, November10: Seniors’ Prom at the Irvine Marriott Hotel. Entertainment by Johnny Vana’s Big Band Alumni.

Invisible People

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
By Riley McDavid Riley McDavid

(Mr. and Mrs. McD have been on their annual pilgrimage to the beautiful state of  Washington, including an idyllic few days among 100-foot tall pines in the village of Packwood. As is our vacation custom we are republishing an earlier blog.  This one, which is about the Next Meal Club, first appeared in November of 2012.)

For those of you not old enough to remember, which is just about everyone under 60, Naked City was a popular television detective series that told the fictional story of police work in a Manhattan precinct. The show, which aired on ABC from 1958 to 1963, was shot entirely in New York, and each episode was structured as a documentary in order to achieve a gritty realism.

Among the viewing public — the viewing public of a certain age, that is — the series is mostly remembered for the iconic closing line the narrator uttered at the end of each episode: “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.”

Think about that line next time you are riding the Metroliner to Los Angeles and looking at house after house just beyond the tracks.  Or when you are waiting in your car at a busy intersection and seeing dozens of anonymous people crossing the street.  Or when you are driving by a nondescript apartment building whose inhabitants are hidden from view.

When I was very young — maybe nine or ten — my friend Jerry Hayes and I were walking on the west side of Bangor, Maine, taking a circuitous route home after playing basketball at the Y.

“Can you help me?” a woman’s voice called out.

We looked up to the left and a lady was standing in the doorway of what could be described as, at the very best, a modest one-story triplex.  We asked if she was hurt or sick.

“No. My hall light has gone out and I can’t put a new one in.” Now kids that age can be a little suspicious of older strangers, and that we were.  Nevertheless we walked bravely up to the door and into the hall. She had a new bulb in her hand, and Jerry, who was a bit taller than I, climbed up on a chair, took the old bulb out and put the new one in.

She thanked us, and then asked about where we were going, and we told her. She wanted to know what school we attended, and we told her that too. Pretty soon we realized she didn’t want to let us go.   She desperately wanted company.  It turned out she lived alone and her only son was half a continent away in Kansas.

Eventually we pulled ourselves away but not before she had given us each an apple as recompense for helping her. Come back again, she said, but we never did.

There are indeed many stories behind the closed doors we pass in every city and town, and most of us don’t know but a tiny fraction of them.  I will tell you who does know them: our Meals on Wheels delivery volunteers.  Each one knows a dozen or more, and collectively they could write a book — many books.

They know people like the light bulb lady, elders whose spouses and friends have passed on and who need human contact as much as they need nutrition. They know people who are otherwise healthy but who can no longer drive and get to a supermarket for food. I met several of them once during a Meals delivery ride along.  Had it not been for Meals on Wheels, they would have been forced out of the emotionally comforting surroundings of their homes and into some kind of institutional setting. And mostly they know those who simply can’t afford sufficient nutritious food.

Statistics about this latter group are daunting. According to one recent study, 8.3 million seniors face the threat of hunger every day in America.  Every day.

And it’s true right here. 

“Orange County may be the land of plenty for some, but not everyone’s living the good life,” Age Well CEO Dr. Marilyn Ditty wrote in an op-ed. “It’s especially true for thousands of homebound senior citizens who depend on Meals on Wheels for their survival.”

You can help by joining The Next Meal Club.

“The what?” you ask.

That was the reaction Mrs. McD and I had when our good friend Arnie first told us about it.

“Ain’t you two never heard of that old saying, ‘I don’t know where my next meal is coming from?” he explained. “Well there’s tons of seniors right here in this county who actually don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  So Age Well has created the Next Meal Club so its Meals on Wheels program can help feed people who are in that kind of pickle.”

“How does it work?” Mrs. McD asked

“You send a donation to Age Well Senior Services,” Arnie said.  “Since people have to eat every day, ideally the donation is a recurring one — so much every month, for example. “

Send a check to Age Well at 24300 El Toro Road, Suite A-2000. Laguna Woods, CA 92637. Or go online to and donate using a credit card or PayPal. If you have questions, call (949) 855-8033.

Think about the big numbers for a bit — the 8.3 million seniors facing hunger every day and the nearly half-million meals Age Well provides every year. But mostly think about the smallest number — one.  Bring an invisible recipient to life by drawing a mental image of someone you’ve known who has struggled to get enough nutritious food. And make your donation today.

“In a nation and county as great as ours,” Dr. Ditty wrote, “no one should be going hungry.”

Coming up on the Age Well Calendar:

August 8.  The Annual Donor Recognition and Board Installation at the Ritz Carlton, Dana Point, hosted by First Bank. High tea, wine and cheese reception. The event will be in the Pacific Promenade from 4 pm to 7 pm. Tickets: $50 per person.  For more information, call (949) 855-8033