Those who have seen many New Years are skeptical of resolutions

January 02, 1994|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer

Some Marylanders began the New Year yesterday promising to drink less, learn a language, write more letters, flatten their stomachs or swear off cigarettes, but Caleb Winslow took the day as he has taken all the others in his life of 104 years, resolution free.

In his splendid red sport jacket and black string tie, Mr. Winslow ate a hearty lunch, told stories about his ancestors and hinted at a rakish youth.

"I did some chasing," he said behind his hand in deference to his daughter and luncheon companion, Louise Williams, who smiled.

He was more than a little skeptical about the value of resolutions. Having learned Greek and Latin without the benefit of college or university or New Year's, he may have earned his doubts.

For him and others at Broadmead, a retirement community of 325 residents in Cockeysville, resolutions of self-improvement geared to the calendar seemed a silly enterprise. Looking back from the perspective of advanced years, Mr. Winslow and his friends seemed to be saying that other approaches to self-improvement would be more honest, less self-deluding.

"We were always taught to say our prayers every night and to think back about the day just ended," said Elizabeth Walters who moved to Broadmead 18 months ago from Rochester, N.Y.

Resolutions, she said, can be authoritarian. "I really don't like routine and having to live up to a set of regulations that have been superimposed."

Dr. Louis Hamburger, who made house calls in the Baltimore area for 50 years or so, said he refrains from resolutions to avoid having to face

himself if he fails.

"I respect those who make them and keep them," he said, "but I suspect there are a lot more of the former than the latter."

He was anxious not to cast aspersions, though: "It shows their hearts are in the right place," he said.

But who says we need to improve?

Not Betty Begenaut.

"I live such a pure life," she said with a sly wink.

Actually, she expects moments in 1994 when she will chastise herself for failing to stop doing something or other. Of course, by then, it will be too late:

"If you hadn't done that," she hears herself saying to herself, "you wouldn't be in this position!"

What she would like next year may lie beyond her own resolving: someone to play recorder duets with. She would teach others, she says, but eager and willing students don't always have the memory skills.

This is not true of Mr. Winslow, who refers during a conversation over lunch to the Edict of Nantes of 1598 and to its impact on the silk-making Huguenots of Southern France, some of whom were his ancestors.

Without effort, he summons phrases in Greek and a proverb from Scotland: "A lot of little things," he says translating the proverb, "can add up to a big thing."

Perhaps, the excesses of the holiday season provoke corrective impulses, says Mr. Winslow's friend, Dave McIntyre.

But why wait? Mr. McIntyre quit smoking at midyear, in the summer of 1966, he recalled.

A three-pack-a-day man, his decision was not motivated by cost or by health concerns.

"I just looked around and felt rather stupid," he says. He was 53 then.He never relapsed, though he was tempted.

"I was in a bar in Denver during a convention. When I got the martini, I realized the other hand didn't have anything in it." He remained strong.

In 1980, he stopped drinking, also in the summer.

Director of administration at the Baltimore Museum of Art before his retirement, Mr. McIntyre says he wished the impulse to stop smoking had occurred earlier. Might have prevented the emphysema that, at 80, troubles him if he exerts himself, he says.

What he expects to do in 1994 is to keep traveling and keep his doctor's appointments. A bit of chemotherapy is coming, he says, but he's not worried. The problem is contained.

He has made an appointment with his neurologist for next November to check on another disorder.

But he expects to be in New York City again for the shows and the museum tours or in Europe for the ninth time.

Still, tradition did have at least one proponent: 91-year-old Margaret Otis wants to get a bit more housework done in 1994 and to get a bit more rest by retiring earlier.

"Oh, and have a good time up here," she said, referring to the main activity center at Broadmead. She drives back and forth on the Broadmead campus in a motorized wheelchair with a canary-yellow front bumper. A red ribbon and an artificial rose decorate the basket she has hooked over the small steering bar.

When she's not cleaning or shopping, she's making "touch toys" for the handicapped.

A woman of such obvious resolve, will have no trouble with her resolutions. But she's philosophical about the possibility she will fall short.

?3 "Ill just make them again next year," she says.

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