Among car collectors, automobile resurrection’s the fountain of youth dream. Bring a rusty old “barn find” into the shop and it emerges, Phoenix like, with a luscious body of automotive art promising a new life with more miles of excitement. Is there any magical restoration stories for humans? Last month I saw a close approximation.
Stanley Forbes grew up close by the shores of Lake Walden, in Concord, Massachusetts. The arch of his life was literature, starting with a doctoral dissertation on Henry David Thoreau. After that he taught literature as a professor in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Bulgaria. He grew large on a diet of literary ideas throughout an eventful life.
Then came retirement on his 200 acre farm at the end of a long dirt road in upstate New York, close to the Canadian border. Retiring from the University, he continued a Thoreau like life of contemplation, writing and lumber harvesting. More days passed and he became content just smoking his pipe on the porch as he watched his trees grow. The children moved away years ago and his wife, of many years, couldn’t hack the hermit life. She left for the city.
Gradually the students and everyone else stopped contacting Dr. Stanley. His life became excessively rustic/somnolent and we feared his mind and body were endangered by so much solitude.
His children warned, “You’re getting behind the aging curve. You can’t take care of yourself. There are no care takers up there to pull you out of the woods if you fall during a blizzard.”
Finally they intervened and moved him into a community of seniors nearer his grandchildren. Day one was sad for the once proud, independent professor. But it was also the first day of his new Phoenix life. Instead of a downward trajectory, he reversed the curve. He settled into the new community and reengaged with the grandkids.
The new community had a men’s literary club. Dr. Stan, with his professional literary perspective was in high demand at each of their meetings. Last time I talked with him, he was writing again and picking up where he’d been in the literary world. He was submitting a story to his men’s reading club. It was an imaginative new crime novel based on his isolated farm.
The story began with a wad of cash appearing in his milk box at the end of that dirt road farm house. The note read-
” Your farm’s location, miles from any prying eyes is very suitable to us and we’re gonna help you improve your cash flow.”
“Tomorrow night we’ll be busy in the back woods of your property for two hours, a bit of digging and planting stuff. We’ll return the landscape to its original undisturbed condition and then leave. That’s it.
” We’re now your new best friends. Every night we come, we’ll make a cash drop. You need to do nothing, tonight or in the future. In fact our relationship now requires you do nothing. Say nothin to nobody including the cops. So long as nobody knows about our arrangement, your life expectancy is looking good. “
With this one little imaginative story, Stan became a new man, popular, much sought after and indeed his life expectancy is looking good. No beautiful body work or flashy chrome like the restored barn find, but he’s back. Stan is rebuilding himself and moving smartly down an exciting new road.
We should all be so lucky.