Do The Years Steal Our Abilities?

On March 14, 2014, in Uncategorized, by rsguthrie

collision-coverageLast week I was hit head-on by an incident I never saw coming. In fact, the very reason I didn’t see it coming is because I trusted my instincts—instincts that had almost never failed me in almost thirty years of adulthood. My whole life I’ve been able to read someone from the first moment I meet them or, if I can’t read them, I know I can’t read them. Almost never was I fooled or tricked into liking or trusting someone that was not what they pretended.

Recently I have seen this happen more than once. More than twice. More times than I care to admit.

So just as I have always promised myself, my wife, and anyone else who cares or will listen, that before I am a menace to the roadways in a vehicle, because of my age, I will willingly surrender my driving privileges. My grandfather did it. He noticed his skills slipping, he reevaluated himself and, were he honest, found himself lacking. He put his LeBaron into the garage and never drove it so much as to the corner grocery ever again.

I have hung up my “first impression” spurs. I cannot be trusted any longer. This recent lack of “human radar detecting” cost me a job. I let a rat join our team and, when I turned my back, he spun some sort of lie or another and had me gutted from the team. I heard recently my old boss also was just let go; my best guess is that this same snake in the grass—this modern day cowardly Judas—torpedoed him, too.judas

It is a sad day for me. Not because of the job. I hated the job. Our “big boss” in San Diego was the worst manager I’ve ever laid eyes on and the company is being taken over my a much, much larger company. I was only a contractor and I don’t believe dead weight such as my old director (a title he could never live up to) nor the Judas in the midst for less than two weeks (that’s right; he’s there two weeks and the two top people on the team are gone—coincidence? Not unless you value land in Florida and bridges in NYC). It is a sad day for me, however, because I now must check a once quite valued ability at the door.

What concerns me is that I have counted on writing far into my golden years. Like golf—even better than golf—I have considered writing perhaps the most capable activity a person can do until they are dust.

charac36Now I am forced to wonder. My boss—the one who also lost his job, just yesterday, a few days after mine—is in his early to mid sixties and is exhibiting terrible memory problems. He’s also a curmudgeonly fishstick—you know the type: love to tell corny jokes but if you find one and tell them, they don’t even have a smile for you; the classic dish-it-out-can’t-take-it kind of guy. So it’s not that I really feel all that bad for him—it was clearly his karmic comeuppance—but I see those memory problems and, well, if I’m being honest, it makes me wonder.

I don’t have any history of memory-related problems or diseases in my family (not until the mid to late eighties, where we all tend to start spilling our marbles all over the kitchen tile). Aforementioned grandfather, Max, retained a perfect memory until almost ninety, and even then it was all short-term loss; he could still tell you about a bridge he helped build sixty years earlier and tell you the name of the pretty secretary who signed his paychecks.

So I don’t worry too much about memory loss, but what I do worry about is the lost of talent. Ability. I am now very capable of drawing back and reading my own work as a reader rather than a writer, for example. This helps me very much in the ability to send polished pieces to my editor (or, I’ll admit, even act as my own editor on less-important pieces, like blog entries).

Will I lose that ability? Will I (or my muse) lose the ability to think up a good storyline or, worse, great characters to run through the story’s gauntlet? If I do, well, I figure I have then lost my ability to be a decent writer.

talent22I turn fifty this year. I’m not afraid to say that. Heck, I feel thirty. Well, I did, until I recently lost the ability to read people—to notice those little tells (facial ticks, the eyes into the soul, the way they intoned an answer or question, the slight arrogance—or lack thereof—in their gait). I’m not saying it’s all gone. I told my wife the Judas coward had me “on the fence” after being with him a couple of days. Problem is, I would have smelled his stench the moment he walked in the room three to four years back.

I’ve probably interviewed two hundred candidates for my technical teams and I always had the best teams. In fact, people always complained that I got the best people, but that was like complaining that the coach who snatched up players like Emmitt Smith and Brett Favre late in the draft always got the best players. Many of my best employees had been let go by other programs. I met them and hired them on the spot.

Now I’m not sure I could trust myself to do that—at least not without taking some time and doing some more homework. We can always find crutches, reading glasses, new thermostats—things that will help us as senses and abilities begin to falter or outright fail us.

time-marches-onWatch yourselves. As the years creep onward, stay sharp, be frosty—don’t assume anything. And by God, if you are finding yourself halfway across the dotted white (or, heaven forbid, the SOLID yellow) lines and driving forty in a sixty, do the right thing.

I promise you I will. I learned to drive from my grandfather—as did most, if not all, of his grandchildren. The man who taught me to drive also taught me that when it is time to get off the road, you get off the road. You don’t wait until something happens. You own up to your own limitations and you do the right thing.

He taught me that, too. Not Spike Jones.

Do The Right Thing.

Thanks, Grandpa.


The blank page is dead…long live the blank page.


Rubber Chicken Arrow Through Headv2Author known to use spontaneous satire, sarcasm, and unannounced injections of pith or witticisms which may not be suitable for humorless or otherwise jest-challenged individuals. (Witticisms not guaranteed to be witty, funny, comical, hilarious, clever, scintillating, whimsical, wise, endearing, keen, savvy, sagacious, penetrating, fanciful, or otherwise enjoyable. The Surgeon General has determined through laboratory testing that sarcasm can be dangerous, even in small amounts, and should not be ingested by those who are serious, somber, pensive, weighty, funereal, unsmiling, poker-faced, sober, or pregnant.) For those who enjoy and/or revel in the utterance of profanity, the author reserves the right to substitute “fish” for “fuck” without fear of repercussion, mental reservation, or purpose of evasion.


4 Responses to Do The Years Steal Our Abilities?

  1. Wayne says:

    Uh-oh, Rob. You have a couple spelling errors, and a forgotten space in your blog…

    But, those are minor things. You’re not losing your writing touch. Also, I think you’re worrying too much about Judas. It was one person. Even James Randi was fooled by one medium. It happens to everyone.

    Back to your writing: There’s only a very few authors whose work I can’t put down until I’ve finished, no matter how tired I am. Yours is one of them. Ever notice on Facebook that when I tag you, it’s about favorite authors, or sharing your work? That’s not because I want to make you like me, or to kiss your ass.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Fixed. I actually skipped one step I normally do complete (as mentioned in the blog), which is step back, take a breath, and read the piece like a reader. I didn’t this time. And the snake bit me! Thanks; I have corrected said typos!

      Thing is, it isn’t just Judas. I at least sensed he was one of those “talkers” not “doers”. There have been other cases. The ability isn’t gone, but I feel it slipping.

      And yes, as far as my writing, I hope you feel the same about it in twenty years! I think only time will tell. (But your favoring and spreading the word is noticed and appreciated and I know you aren’t the kind to kiss ass—what you say, you mean). 😀

  2. Jack Durish says:

    I wouldn’t say that age “robs” us of our abilities. It simply makes “trades”, usually for the better. Of course, my opinion will change if it ever trades my enjoyment of sex for enjoyment of tea.

    Also, I wouldn’t give up on your “radar” too quickly. You may not have really ever had it. I suspect that, like most people, you tended to expect the best in people all your life and, by happy coincidence, they delivered. True “Rats” come along only occasionally and only sociopaths expect them.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Well, if it were Ted Bundy or another practiced sociopath that fooled me, I wouldn’t feel bad. And actually, over the years, it wasn’t just “nice” people I noticed but also the snakes in the grass. I would tell people “watch out for her” and they would say “not her! No way! A month later, snake-bitten.

      I like the idea of “trading” abilities. Especially the “usually for the better” part. Then you had to bring up “sex for tea”. You’re too much the realist, Jack. Always bringing the dream back to earth! 😉

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