Posted by: jhvn | 02/11/2013

A Gallery of Ageing Geezers

Here’s my late wife, Pat when she was 5 with her mother, and with her grandfather aged 75 (my grandfather-in-law) on Mt. Monadnock. She often told how proud she was when she was the youngest and he was the oldest person on the mountain that day .


Pat often lovingly described him as her favorate adult in her family, and so strong-willed that he would wear a straw hat in winter “if he was a-mind-to.” Pat’s grandfather died 4 years later, decades before we were married, so I never knew him. However he became my first geezer role model. Here’s my tribute to this true geezer, who introduced Pat (who introduced me) to climbing Mt. Monadnock — andf to being strong-willed.

Straw Hat in Winter

You’d be surprised at how comfortable it is — keeps your head cool, and keeps the sun out of your eyes. Be careful in the wind, though.

Now on the left, here’s my own grandfather — one proud geezer.

 My Grandfather - one proud geezzer

His  dressing style of the 1920s reflecterd his attitude toward fishing, which he loved. He was so attached to fishing that for several summers he took his family to a back-woods fishing camp on Kezar Pond (geezer pond?) in Maine that could only be accessed by buckboard.Kezar Lake, ME On the right you can see the family on the buckboard, including my Grandmotther (Dolly), who, I understand, hated the rugged conditions there. His son — My dad — hated spending all his time rowing the boat for his father. So my dad never enjoyed fishing and had little to teach me about fishing. My grandfather exercised his patriarchial role by taking his family where he wanted to go, regardless of their strong resistance — hardly a geezerhood characteristic, but clearly an adulthood characteristic. However, years after Dolly died in 1935, my grandfather married a woman who loved fishing as much as he did. Together they enjoyed many fishing excursions — in the Maine woods and at the Florida oceans,  and at spots in between. That move did demonstrate his geezerhood wisdom.

“It’s a hard rain gonna fall” along the road that leads from childhood, through adulthood, and on to geezerhood. Not everyone survives.

Wm. the Geezer

    Jeff MacNelly skipped Bill the Jock, the adulthood part of his life. Billy the Kid never quite made it to true geezerhood. He was shot too soon.

We all tend to “defend to the death” the place we’re at. Few children leave the nest of parents’ home to get a job or go off to college without a wrenching inner struggle. In college I mailed my laundry home to Mother, rather than do it myself. My grandfather suffered being widowed before  he realized the wisdom of finding a mate who shared his passion for fishing. My own wife’s death jolted me into  recognizing my own geezerhood.

Amsterdam-On January 28,2013, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands officially announced that she plans to abdicate after 33 years on the throne and will be succeeded by her eldest son, 45- year-old Willem-Alexander.Queen Beatrix & the Prince of Orange0001 The Queen, who turns 75 this week, decided to step down, which was not surprising since her mother, Queen Juliana, abdicated at the age 0f 70 after 32 years on the throne. Willem-Alexander is the eldest of three sons and has the title Prince of Orange — the title of the Dutch heir apparent since the Queen’s investiture in 1980. We understand that the investiture will take place in Amsterdam on April 30th when the Dutch celebrate Queen’s Day. (from the Holland Society of N.Y.)

Now here’s a geezer who knows when to retire. Some geezers, like Queen Beatrix, and now the Pope,  do have the wisdom to shift many family responsibilities to the next generation without losing face, or self-esteem. They shift from playing the leading role or the director to perhaps the role of prompter, keeping the cast on their toes and helping out when the going gets rough. Every person, every family, every institution, needs a respected counselor and skilled navigator without direct authority who who can be relied on when the storms arise, or unknown shoals loom up and threaten shipwreck to an inexperienced skipper.

The wise geezer rises to this challenge. This is the wisdom I seek.

© John Van Ness 2/11/2013


  1. You have a striking resemblance to your grandfather!

  2. Oh John. thank-you! Seeing Pat as a wee five year old brought tears to my eyes. How I miss her at times, still. She was as unique as they come. I’ve never met a woman like her. Her spirit and precious gem personality richly exuded- bubbled up and over-flowed; could not even be contained by dementia. I never experienced this before working with seniors living with dementia. It was rather somewhat of a phenomenon to me- a most amazing and dazzling-to-behold anomoly, if you will, along the lines of Thoreau’s description of one who walks to the beat of a different drummer! And that does describe Pat’s spirit! I cannot even begin to put into words the blessing Pat was to me the last 8 months of her life because of who she continued to be despite the disease process upon her biological brain. Her spirit shone through and we were courageous Christian soldiers together, united by our appreciation of nature and humor and our love of God, daily laying hold of His grace, through Christ, to revive us and help us find our way through the sorrows and cobwebs of dementia, knit together in unity and friendship. The hidden blessing of dementia is the inability of one’s intellect to block child-like faith or incite arguments over differences in doctrinal views. Pat and I were able to side-step those precarious mines and enter in to His courts together with thanksgiving and praise! What a gift the Lord gave me in her.

    • Hi Robyn,

      Great to talk with you today. Thanks so much for this wonderful description of Pat and your sense of your own blessing from her – and just on the day that I’m particularly remembering the anniversary of her death. My heart melted reading your words. That’s the way I experienced her; but so many folks were put off by her quick emotional responses and reactions. Surely the Lord brought you and Pat together for the blessing of all 3 of us. I’d love to quote you in the video I’m doing on our growth and healing through her dementia.

      Best wishes and prayers for your new life and work. That sounds like a blessing for you in different ways.

      Peace, and Love, John

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