Boomer Grandpa: Our ride may get a little bumpy before the end

April 18, 2019 GMT

Dr. Joseph Bogan III was the first warden at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester. When he arrived in 1984 to oversee the opening of the former state hospital as a federal prison, the community wasn’t too thrilled.

Dr. Bogan was the right man for the position and did an extraordinary job. Eventually he departed in 1989 to become warden at another facility. Thirty-five years later, the Federal Medical Center continues to be a well-run facility.

Our professions are only one part of who we are. Dr. Bogan retired from the prison system in 2000 and went to work as a high school teacher for several years. Joe Bogan and his wife, Jane, now reside in Norman, Okla.

Recently Dr. Bogan posted an “In Memorial” tribute on Facebook to a friend and former college teammate. In the early 1960s they were basketball players together at the University of Oklahoma. He reflected that his teammate had lived a life of love and service to his family, friends and community.

Friends early in our life are significant

I have felt loss of friends and family as well in recent months. When I called Dr. Bogan, he instructed me to call him Joe. He said friendships made early in our life are significant. These are unique and memorable times during these formative years. Deep bonds are shaped that last a lifetime.

Joe told me there was something special about Jimmy, his teammate. In 2002, Jimmy started to organize reunions of 1960s-era Oklahoma University basketball players. These get-togethers became great occasions.

Joe said they had African American teammates on the OU team in the early ’60s. The players all lived in the same dormitory, but Joe said the white players didn’t have a clue what it must have been like for the black players on an Oklahoma campus at that time.

During their reunions, they got to know each other as individuals with life experiences, not as teenage basketball players. Jimmie’s vision brought them together. As they celebrated at these gatherings, they came to understand and appreciate each other at a new level of respect and love.

When Joe saw his African American teammate Willie Wilson for the first time in many years, they hugged. Joe said that in the 1960s they would not have done that. Times have changed for the better.

In our discussion of life and loss, Joe mentioned Erik Erikson, a psychologist, known for his theory on psycho-social development at different stages of life.

Joe remembered that Erikson’s work indicated that in our last phase of life, which starts at age 65, it is important that we are happy with the life decisions we’ve made. This gives us a form of self-integrity and meaning. If we can’t cope with choices we made or with issues such as loss in our lives, this can lead to feelings of despair.

Joe is a spiritual man, and he views Jimmie’s life as a blessing — a gift that had a positive impact on him. The belief that Jimmie is now with God makes loss a little less painful.

I also talked to fellow boomer Dr. Kathy Lombardo about coping with aging and even worries about our own future. Many of us have witnessed the physical and mental decline of parents. Dr. Lombardo is president of Olmsted Medical Center and a practicing psychiatrist in OMC’s Psychiatry and Psychology Department.

Important to have a sense of purpose

Dr. Lombardo said that as we age, it is important to have a sense of purpose. To assist in living well, there is a need for positive relationships, involvement in community, healthy living, eating well, faith and connection to family. These habits help us to live longer with meaning and intent.

I asked Dr. Lombardo about coping with the loss of close friends. She indicated that this type of loss is indeed heartbreaking. Close friends are people with whom we have many shared experiences and memories. With some, like Joe with his friend Jimmie, there is a bond that was formed many years ago and the relationship has only become more meaningful.

Dr. Lombardo told me that if we witness friends and family who are struggling with loss or grief, supporting them in many different ways is important. Don’t pull back just because you are not sure what to do.

Active listening helps to ensure you understand someone’s needs at that time. Assisting someone with routine tasks will never be forgotten. Our technology today can help us keep in touch on a more regular basis. This recurring contact can assist in reducing loneliness and sadness.

If you feel that you yourself are having difficulty dealing with grief, Dr. Lombardo indicated that you need to pursue professional help.

Joe Bogan had the honor to be a pallbearer at Jimmy’s funeral. All pallbearers were former teammates. They came from North Carolina, Missouri, California, and three from Oklahoma. They came to celebrate Jimmy’s life and the positive impact he had on each one of them.

As we age, the ride will get bumpy. We will experience loss of those we love. All we can do is celebrate them and remember them.