MILTON L. AGE 90
I worked as a cardiologist until I was 85. I like being retired since I can do anything I want. I cant think of anything much else that I like at this age.
I dont see well; I dont hear well; but in context, I feel terrific; as well as can be expected. Fortunately I swam competitively when I was young, and so I can still swim. I try to do it as often as I can, but it is hard when it is cold outside. I also garden, and do a lot around the house.
I play bridge twice a week, sometimes three. I paint every day. I fool around with the computer. Of course I have family, grandchildren. I have a few friends, but many are disappearing. I have bridge partners Ive played with for years, so I dont feel isolated and lonely. I also have an aide that helps me sometimes, and I enjoy his company. He comes several times a week. He is a good cook; we cook together. It would be hard for me to handle this house without him.
I have never had any religious beliefs, not once in my life. My parents were ethnically Jewish, but I dont remember them ever belonging to a temple. My wife was Catholic, but religion wasnt very important to her either. The one thing that always annoyed me was the secular Jewish family that would say, Im sending my children to Hebrew school because I think they should be exposed. That to me is hypocrisy.
I was brought up in New York, Jewish, liberal, psychoanalytic, surrounded by quite a few communists and socialists. I was always liberal, but Ive gotten a bit more conservative as most people do. I consider myself a pragmatic liberal.
I have taken many risks during my life. I married an Italian girl who I met during the war. My family didnt like it. Even though they didnt practice religion they probably didnt like that she wasnt Jewish. I was married for 62 years. When we met at a dance in Italy, she was 18 I was 23. We were occupying Italy at the very end of World War II, and she spoke English very well. I also found myself skiing down mountains I shouldnt have gone on.
I never wanted to be a doctor. My father sort of maneuvered me into it. I was going to NYU before the war. I remember studying for a chemistry exam on the Grand Concourse with a friend of mine from college in my junior year of college. It was a Sunday. We got tired so we took a break and went out on the street and everybody was running around crazy. They had just bombed Pearl Harbor.
In school I had three majors. I applied to medical school to satisfy my father. So one day I came home and my father was waving a paper at me. I was thinking, what happened to the crazy old man now? I had gotten into medical school and I had to go two weeks later. They had a program where you were in the army but you were allowed to go to medical school. If I hadnt gone to medical school, I had a major in French, a major in chemistry, and a major in English. I wanted to write; I was very interested in creative writing. I had been given a fellowship to Paris because I knew French, but they cancelled it because the war had broken out. So that was the end of the French thing.
I enjoyed practicing medicine. It was stimulating and interesting. I did a number of studies for different drugs and so forth. I did some writing. I have a concept of where art fits into the creative urge. I think that when you do creative writing, you are giving up a lot of your inner secrets but as a painter, you are still exposing yourself but not as much. It is a much safer form of expression.
I always adapted easily to technology. I was computerized from the very start. It was very easy for me to embrace.
During the last 50 years, I think things have improved in the world. Although I think the health care system was a complete disaster, I think Obama care is a step in the right direction. I think the availability of information is incredible. The Internet is incredible. For example with medical questions, I used to have to look in a journal. But I think the unfortunate thing about the Internet is that the public can get medical information but they dont know what to do with it.
There has been a tremendous loss of privacy. Identity theft is frightening, and we now have Big Brother. Again, its good and its bad. There is a risk/benefit ratio like in medicine.
My advice to young people is this. Unless you are really dedicated, dont go into medicine. Every doctor is saying that now. If you are able to, try to find something you really enjoy doing. Education is essential for those who are capable, but not everyone is capable.
Interview conducted by New Jersey artist Janet Boltax
for this exhibition.