From Cool to Heat

Photo courtesy Eddie Howell on

The weather has turned cool since last we met. Each area of the United States has its identifiable seasons, from the Deep South (where New Orleans has two, those being “summer” and “February”) to the West (where, as Mark Twain is reputed to have said, “The coldest winter I’ve ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”). Ohio has a more severe line of demarcation. The heat of summer at this time of year sinks into the chill of fall. Leaves drop. One can’t um, leave them go without raking or mulching for too long, as snow will almost inevitably fall by November. One sets the thermostat from “cool” to “warm” and calls for the furnace check-up, even as it seems as if but a few weeks ago it was the air conditioning system that was being checked out. The circle, it seems, moves faster and faster.

I’ve of late been feeling the rapidity of the turning of my own seasons. I came across a passage in a new book entitled THE DARKNESS by Ragnar Jonasson. The protagonist is a police inspector who is being involuntarily retired as she approaches the age of sixty-five, muses that she feels little different than she did in her forties, other than for perhaps some minor fatigue. Just so. I’m waking up at 3 AM much too frequently but I’m doing it in my bed in my house and know where I am. There are no real complaints there. Still, I am increasingly aware that the miles in the rear view mirror are substantially greater than those between me and the final destination, and I increasingly doubt whether I’m going to get there before the warranty expires. Most of my close friends are a few years older than I — in their early to mid-seventies — and seem to be hitting a wall. One of them,  who I have known for well over fifty years, advised me yesterday that he was not up to making the two-hour drive to visit me this weekend due to vision problems. He reminded me that when we lived on the west coast he would call me and say, “Tahoe!” and off we would go, making the six-hour round trip to Nevada and back on the same day as if we had not a care in the world. We didn’t. Not then. It was high noon. We are well past that. The sun hasn’t kissed the horizon, but the lengthening shadows hint that, from our landlubber perspective, it is well-nigh approaching the yardarm. Sunset occurred for another friend last week. His body mercifully slipped loose of its moorings last week and followed his essence, which had been stolen by Alzheimer’s Disease, piece by piece, over the past two years. It’s not the way I want to go — I would prefer to pass either while writing at my desk or at the hands of an irate husband — but we don’t always get a choice. Shakespeare’s untimely frost follows no calendar. 


Photo courtesy Eddie Howell on

What more to do? I have four wonderful children, each accomplished in their individual ways, and a terrific granddaughter. There might be time for one more dog. I think I’ve made more people smile than otherwise which is something that not everyone can truthfully claim. It’s been a good ride and there are many more miles and adventures to come. I hope. The lesson I’ve learned, and which I am making so bold as to impart to you —particularly those of you here who are younger — is don’t waste a day, or even an hour. Decide what you want to do and work toward it, whether it is writing the Great American Novel — someone will do it, so why not you? — adopting a stretch of highway, or visiting every Sonic, Tim Horton’s, and Cracker Barrel in the country. Regardless of what you want to do, there are only a finite number of times that you get to switch from cool to heat and back again. Cherish each one, and enjoy them.

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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

21 thoughts on “From Cool to Heat

  1. Good comments, Joe.

    A number of the favorite detectives are aging: Bryant and May, Rebus, Bosch, Milan Jacovich. The novels deal with at least some of the issues, mostly related to problems of retirement. Maybe it’s too much to expect genre lit to deal with the deeper aspects of aging, though the Bryant and May series does deal with developing memory problems. And Milan Jacovich hires a young associate–one might say, to deal with the heavy lifting, but, more accurately, he’s hired to receive with the heavy hitting that Jacovich no longer covets.

    Milhone only ages about fifteen years in her 25 adventures (“the alphabet ends in ‘Y'”). At the other end of the story-telling spectrum, Marple and Poirot did not age after the series started (Poirot already retired from the Belgian police).

  2. Thanks for the inspiration this morning, Joe. “Youth is wasted on the young” comes to mind as I read this post. Time to check out the bucket list and get going.

  3. Great post, Joe. And frankly, I resemble your remarks. I feel fortunate that I’ve always been “blessed” with an overactive sense of urgency since childhood. It wasn’t always a blessing, but the older I get the more I’m glad to have it. Cheers!

    • Thanks, Harvey! I totally agree. Mammals that don’t have an overactive sense of urgency usually wind up as food for those that do! It’s better to have a place at the table than on the table…

  4. Good morning, Joe.

    Yes, I always feel a sense of urgency in October, trying to get the outside work done before the November slide into winter begins. I have half of my firewood cut, split, and stacked.

    But today it’s time to travel to Ashland to visit a new granddaughter. And that reminds me that my leave-a-legacy over-the-hill bucket list includes writing middle grade fantasy for my grandchildren. Time to put the pedal to the medal.

    Thanks for the reminder to not waste a day. And have a good one. I always appreciate your posts.

    • Good morning, Steve! I always appreciate your being here as well. Congratulations on getting that firewood in and special good wishes on that new member of the Hooley family. She is one lucky little girl. Safe journeys today and every day.

  5. Great post, as always, Joe!

    Lately, I’ve heard a disturbing number of stories about contemporaries being fired or laid off b/c young new brooms are sweeping through. The worship of youth dominates our culture. Experience and wisdom are not valued.

    The good news: writers only get better with age–more skills, more experience, more understanding of human nature with which to build compelling characters.

    We’re in our writing prime and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

    • Thank you Debbie, for your kind words and keen observations, particularly about authors. Two of my favorites — John Sandford and James Lee Burke — are up there in age but continue, book after book to produce their best work. The important thing is to keep moving. It’s harder to hit a moving target.

  6. Last week we said goodbye to a family member. He turned 101 in May and up until a few months ago was still healthy, self-sufficient, living on his own.

    No matter how long we have someone we love, it’s never long enough.

    • Cynthia, I’m sorry for your loss. Thank you for the reminder about love and duration.

  7. I am traveling the same road, maybe a few years ahead of you. I remember a fear similar to what you described.
    Somehow, I’ve found a place of happiness. I read, I write, I walk (not enough) on my own schedule.
    Unlike you, I don’t have a big family to share with. And I fear my sweet wife has grown tired of my BS. I love her so.
    Once I had the deep belief that my pinball life was wasted. It has now become fodder for my stories. Far from wasted, my life has been filled with danger, love, fear, regret, and all the other emotions. It wasn’t planned or even directed very well, but it was a hell of a ride.
    I think this place of peace might be there for others if you accept who you are now. Eschew fear.

    • Thanks for sharing that wisdom, Brian. Before George Carlin there was a comedian who went by the name of Uncle Dirty. I saw him perform at a club and somehow afterward wound up sitting next to him at a bar. He was extremely clever, but one thing he told me while laughing maniacally that sticks is “The only sin is guilt!” Just so. See you on the path of those miles to go, Brian!

  8. One wonderful essay, Joe.

    It reminded me a book I have on my shelf or a magazine in my own personal stacks that has the thoughts of a man who assured us that, believe it or not, writers write about the times or decades in which they live–that is, 20s writers write the thrillers, the blow-’em-ups, the romances, while 30s writers write about Cold Wars, the political intrigues, the other boring stuff, and, finally getting to guys my age, we write about the golden ponds, the contemplations of why hummingbirds choose a particular feeders over others, why great-grandmas wander the gardens admiring and perhaps picking the lilies, the nasturtiums, gardenias of the sedate life instead of the roses and acacias and asters of love, even of hot passion.

    I quote All Capp: “It ain’t necessarily Moe”. Or Colonel Potter: “Mule Cookies!”

    I write about things that I want to take away from the young writers: a Chengdu orphan who wonders if the beautiful woman who eventually adopts her might really be a goddess; why do we shy away from men-in-black instead of walking up to one, slapping the snot out of him and yelling, “Leave me alone!”; why, instead of running from a flying saucer guy, don’t we chase one down do experiments on HIM–or IT?; why do we let the government get away with keeping secret the fact that dozens or hundreds of people of all ages, types, and purposes disappear in our national forests every year and yet not, they claim, keep any statistics on these disappearances?; how can we get to the bottom of the suspicion that the government knows a lot about bigfoots and is keeping that knowledge from us?

    All sorts of things that I want a younger writer to ask, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

    So I walk with you, Joe. (In spirit, of course. Physically, I have a difficult time walking around the corner to the grocery store any more.)

    So, nowadays on Social Security, when someone yells “CHARGE!”, my reply is, “If you got the credit card, let’s GO!”

    • Thank you, Jim, for your kind comments and for sharing your ideas, which, I have to confess, are going to keep me up for at least one night, particularly about the Chengdu orphan. Here’s another disappearance topic, maybe for another time: I was surprised to learn recently that there are no accurate statistics kept regarding the frequency of disappearance of Native American women from reservations. It’s apparently regarded as a de facto non-event for everyone except, of course, the families. Thanks for the wake-up.

  9. Totally agree with you, Joe. Life’s too short to waste. In the last year I discovered a book by Barbara Sher called “Refuse to Choose”–it is written for people who have a large abundance of interests who are always conflicted with themselves *because* of all the things they want to do but then end up paralyzed & doing none of them in a lot of cases.

    Now in my early 50’s, the sense of urgency is on hyperdrive (compounded by early & often deaths in my family over a dozen years). So this year I joined a local western history group, an art league, & while I’m not in a position to do it myself, a woodworkers group.

    It has brought such wonderful value to me just being around other creatives (& in the case of the art league, they do a lot of work with veterans & I get to contribute (albeit in a small way) to that effort as well. And I’m always thrilled to be around people who have a love of the American west as I do.

    And that sure beats the previous many decades where life consisted almost exclusively of slave-away-at-the-day job and do your chores & go to bed life. The time struggle remains a viscious battle but I’m not going back. I want to see what creativity (among other things) is possible in whatever time I have left.

  10. A tip of the fedora to you, BK, for the book recommendation. It sounds like it would go a long way in my life to getting where I want to go. Thanks for sharing it and your comments.

  11. Good post, Joe. I’m also from Akron, Ohio so know exactly what you mean about the seasons. Being in India now I miss the Autumn. I grew up near a small lake about fifteen miles south of Akron where we moved when I was nine. The trees reflected in the water and it was outstanding. I’m now in my later 70’s and remember my 60’s as a more mobile time. I take each day as it comes. My daughter is getting married in Chicago next week and I told her I can’t make it. I’m still mobile but need a walker. Travel all that way and some days there would be an uphill battle I’m no longer able to master. I told them to make a trip here when they can. Thank goodness my mind is still functioning well for my age which is a blessing. Take care and all the best. 🙂 — Suzanne

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