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"Coming Of Age, Liver Spots & All"

"Getting old can be tough. It's just not a merry-go-round ride." — Don Marsh

Don Marsh began as host of St. Louis Public Radio's "St. Louis on the Air" in September 2005. In his long career in the media, Marsh has won 12 Regional Emmy Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. (click for larger version)

August 09, 2018
"Old age ain't for sissies" — that axiom may seem trite and overused, but Don Marsh makes a convincing case for the truth of the matter in his new book, "Coming of Age, Liver Spots & All."

At age 80, Marsh has the experience and senior discount "creds" to write all 36 chapters of this book. That comes through as he mixes personal anecdotes, often very humorous, with worthwhile advice for those who have not yet come to terms with the alarming number of candles on the old birthday cake.

"Getting old can be tough," said Marsh. "It's just not a merry-go-round ride. I've had a couple of surgeries – a couple of scares. But I wanted to write this book with some humor to make it all palatable. There's a lot that's laughable at this stage of life.

"I'm amused by all the TV ads now for drugs and pills that will help prolong your life," noted Marsh. "Then they add all the disclaimers about possible dangerous side effects. You come to realize that trying to take care of yourself could get you killed."

Marsh has been a journalist for most of his long life. He is best known now for his radio interviews on KWMU's, "St. Louis on the Air," which airs on weekdays at noon. Before that, he was a respected evening TV news anchor in St. Louis where he has covered some of the region's major events, including the incredible flood of a quarter century ago.

DON MARSH Coming Of Age, Liver Spots & All (click for larger version)
Marsh also has been a familiar face in several Gateway City neighborhoods. He and his wife, Julie, raised a family in Webster Groves where they lived for 35 years. They have since taken up residence in the Central West End and now in the Lafayette Square area.

One chapter of Marsh's book talks about how hard it is to discard things when it's time to move and to downsize. He calls "acquiring stuff" to be one of the troubling downsides of longevity. Get rid of it, Marsh counsels in a rather harsh, matter-of-fact fashion.

"The kids don't want that crap," Marsh writes. "It means nothing to them. And, truth be known, the very first thing they will do when the time comes, is toss it. Save them the trouble."

Failure to get rid of the old photos, 45 rpm records, vintage furniture, army uniforms and framed letters can be difficult for oldsters. Do it. Don't store it. That may tempt the kids to put you in storage. It happens, Marsh warns.

Retirement: A Final Curtain?

According to Marsh, a worthwhile retirement takes some thought and some planning. The final curtain can come down quickly if there are no plans for part-time work, volunteering and keeping a sense of purpose.

"You owe it to your wife, if you're an old guy," said Marsh. "Do something. If you just sit around and read the obituaries to make sure you are not there, at some point your wife is going to ask who that lunkhead on the couch is."

In the chapter, "Mirror, Mirror," the veteran reporter laments the scourge of balding, broken arteries, sagging jowls, double chins, nose hairs, ear hairs, wrinkles, crinkled skin on scaly forearms and much more.

"Soft lighting is the only way to go in any room in which there is a mirror," according to Marsh. "It ain't pretty to see all that sagging, wrinkled skin, and atrophied muscle presented in one package framed by thinning, graying hair and anchored by swollen ankles. No selfies here, thank you very much."

A young Don Marsh interviews American pianist Van Cliburn in May 1963 in Munich. Marsh was a civilian reporter with the American Forces Network. After talking for several minutes, Marsh asked Cliburn if he ever played the piano alone and tickled the ivories with a little jazz or popular music. "He looked at me, stunned, put a long finger on my microphone, got up and walked away. End of interview," Marsh recalled. (click for larger version)

Marsh discourages older folks from acquiring smart phones and the latest computer technology, unless he insists, you are willing to take instructions from some 13-year old.

"I do admit that I have a smart phone for emergencies and a GPS," said Marsh. "I think they work, because I have never had to use the phone in an emergency and I have never gotten lost and had to use the GPS."

On the more serious side, Marsh uses his reportorial skills to mine advice for seniors – advice for avoiding scams and preparing for crossing the bar to the afterlife, whatever that may be. He gives a number of end-of-life options.

"The last thing most rational people feel comfortable with is envisioning their own lifeless body and its disposal," notes Marsh. "But we all know, we can't just let our loved ones sit us up in a chair by the fireplace and stay there forever. I don't think we need to go into why."

Seniors become more vulnerable to scams as they age. Marsh catalogs a long list of potential predatory schemes: phone sales frauds, reverse mortgages, extended care nursing home policies, free gift and vacation swindles. Read the fine print, even if that requires a magnifying glass.

Millennials & Crab Apples

Marsh's chapters on the strange ways of millennial kids and the antics of aging crab apples are among his funniest.

He seems alternately amused and disturbed by the number of millennials now living in their parents' basements. He is alternately mystified and horrified by the younger generation's obsession with mobile technology.

"We don't have the same multi-tasking skills of millennials who can text while walking through Best Buy, riding a bike or, shudder, while driving at 60 miles an hour on a crowded highway ... these are skills to be admired or feared," Marsh writes.

Despite some real misgivings about the millennials, Marsh respects their openness and tolerance. He advises that seniors need to get with the program. Seniors need to curb their resistance to change and accept equality and compassion when it comes to race, ethnicity and sexual identity.

An obvious case in point: the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and LGBT movements that are in full flower. The train has left the station, and there is no turning back. Same sex marriage is part of today's new world, according to Marsh. Deal with it.

Marsh said he sees entirely too many older white men grumping and trying to take America back to what it was in the 1950s. It's futile. It's embarrassing.

"Is it any wonder that today's younger people think that we are crabby, cranky, cantankerous, stubborn and intolerant. They are not much interested in the way things used to be. They are more interested in what's happening now, and what's going to be," Marsh observes.

"They will make of the future what they will," he adds. "Just like we did."

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