Tuesday, April 23, 2024



Growing Old is Easy

 I mistakenly thought that by now – weeks away from my 85th birthday - I was prepared for what was yet to come. It turns out I’m not as wise as I thought I was. I I naively thought I exited the eighth decade prepared for whatever the ninth had to offer but have quickly learned otherwise. Despite a lifetime of pondering about anything and everything, I am learning things about myself I never realized, or was unwilling to acknowledge. It’s been easy to convince myself it’s the mirror that has changed, and not me.

Growing old is easy! The only requirement is staying alive. If you can do that your body will do the rest, and it will do it so unobtrusively and effectively that you don’t know it’s happening until each change, big or small suddenly appears in your mirror. Hairlines magically moves from here to there. The shape of your body changes as parts seem to shift and settle, and areas of skin begins to resemble crepe paper. It’s a bit of a shock at first, especially the skin part, but they’re not difficult to accept once you overcome misguided vanities. These physical (and metabolic) changes affect more than our appearance; they are accompanied by a host of functional changes that intrude on many of our lifetime routines. Simple tasks that were once accomplished thoughtlessly now require deliberation, patience, and even caution. It took only one tumble trying to get my second leg into a pair of pants to teach me to hold on to something, or better yet, sit down. The same with putting on or taking off a pair of socks. Sitting down is easy, but even that requires some attention. I learned that the hard way when I sat on the bench in our shower. I was feeling quite secure when suddenly I sensed something moving, not realizing it was me, and the next thing I knew I was sitting on the floor of shower with my head buried in the shower curtain. The only thing bruised was my self-esteem and confidence. Lesson learned.

With time and patience these new, age-imposed measures can become routine. The key word here is patience, which I believe is a requirement if one hopes to successfully navigate these later years when the waste of haste can be a serious injury. Then there is the issue of frustration, something I have encountered more in the past few years than in all previous years. I’m putting on a coat or shirt, one arm is in the right sleeve, but no matter how much I twist and shout, I cannot find the other sleeve, and I bob and weave around the room like a wasp behind a screen. Or I’m trying to pull a sock off with arthritic hands and it gets stuck and I can’t get it past my heel. These futile and extremely frustrating efforts result in a string of emotionally charged words uttered with intense passion!

But more importantly, when we move patiently through the day with conscious deliberation it is easier to appreciate and take delight in the simple joys of life. The fact that we have the option to do so is itself a gift. I am not always successful, but I try to find a moment every day to celebrate whatever it is I’m doing at that moment. Each year the passage of time accelerates at a frightening rate, and patience is one way we can slow things down. Time is a commodity that increases in value the longer live, and once it is spent it cannot be replaced.

Of course, there is no predicting the course our life will take, and how we will react to it. A funny thing happened when I turned 80. I became more comfortable with my age, and more secure about my future than I was during the previous 10 years. It feels like the previous decade was all about preparing me for the next one.

Another surprises waiting for me was recognizing some less than admirable character attributes that I am not proud of.  I prefer to think they are the recent results of my age, and not part of the person I have always been. A sobering experience for someone who thinks highly of himself.

There is a sense of accomplishment that comes with being 80 years or older that I can understand but find hard to justify. We suddenly revert to our childhood attitude toward age when we were so proud of being five and a half years old. Look at me. I’m 85 years old!
















Tuesday, April 2, 2024


                                                               A Dog Named Ralphie  

The dog was old. His health was failing, and he was in constant pain. There was little joy left for a life that gave so much joy to others. Once again, it was time to make the call, a call she has made too many times over the years. It was never easy. In fact, it was becoming increasingly difficult each time she had to say goodbye to a dog she dearly loved. High on a shelf in in the “dog room” sat 13 clay pots to remind her of each painful decision she lived through, each one with its own special sadness. This one was bad, arguably the worst it has ever been because of the accumulative effect of several painful losses in recent years. With the loss of this dog, she was grieving for the loss of every other dog in her life, as well as two very dear friends. The atmosphere in our home, reflecting the heaviness in our hearts, was made worse by the sadness in the eyes of our remaining dog. Bunny was grieving for the loss of her soulmate. For several days we all quietly tiptoed around each other, looking for the first small signs of levity. There was little we could say to one another, and the few words available were tired and all too familiar.

Bunny was clearly depressed over the loss of Jabber. Patience had promised her that she would never be an only dog, so it was important that she find a companion for her as quickly as possible. Acquiring a whippet can be a time consuming and lengthy affair, so she went directly to an animal shelter, and in very short order Bunny and I were introduced to the newest member of our family, a small white dog with an almost hairless body and a large hair-filled head. We were told his family was living in a car and that he was one of the two dogs they had to give up. We had several concerns. How would Bunny react to him? How much training had he received? Would he sleep in a crate. How would he react with Bunny? And of course, what will we call him? After tossing about several names, we settled on Ralphie, and considered ourselves ready for our first “little dog”.  We quickly discovered that the only thing small about Ralphie was his size. Everything else about him was extra-large. He is a wind-up toy that never winds down. This is magnified in our eyes by 3 decades with a household full of whippets who, when indoors, spend most of their time in elegant repose.  When Ralphie is not sleeping, he is moving, both horizontally and vertically. I am convinced his four feet spend as more time in the air than they do on the ground. He bounces, stands, and spins when he is excited, which happens to be his default mode. He is cute, with dark eyes and eye lashes that never end, so it is difficult to get angry at him, and he is smart, quickly responding to Patience’s training, and knowing how to use his excessive cuteness to bend us to his will. His effect on our household was immediate and dramatic. His frenzied enthusiasm is impossible to avoid. This small white bundle instantly filled our home with light. His energy and enthusiasm were infectious, bringing back the smiles and laughter that had been displaced by sadness. Ralphie’s presence filled the entire day. His non-stop motion and demonstrative appreciation for our attention and affection allowed us no time to dwell on anything but him and his funny antics. At the end of the day the newest member of our family quietly walked into his crate, ate his bedtime snack, and proceeded to sleep through the entire night, giving Patience her first full night’s sleep in weeks.

We opened our home to this little dog, and in return he opened his heart to us. In just 24 hours Ralphie had bounced his way into our hearts. Bunny needed a bit more time. She wasn’t so sure about this funny little creature barking and bouncing all around her who clearly was not a Whippet. But like Patience and I, she eventually succumbed to his charms. Ralphie, aka Little Shit, and his zest for life has reached all of us.


Since his arrival Bunny has become more active, even picking up a toy to ever so gently, play with it, something quite unusual for her. Unfortunately, Ralphie has not been influenced by Bunny to become less active. Patience has found her laughter, and I am in a constant state of captivation by his charms, quickly responding to his pleas to go outside to play with him and his toy. There is a new normal in the Renzulli household.


Friday, August 18, 2023




Sitting at my desk this morning I wondered how I would decorate my cake today. Allow me an explanation.


Since late adolescence I have always known what I wanted to accomplish in life, and followed that path with a sense of purpose and meaning. It wasn’t difficult to do until my familiar and comfortable path began to severely change direction. I maintained my footing and went on to navigate three major changes in my lifetime. I am not telling you this to pat myself on the back, but to set the stage for what happened to me when I turned seventy years old.


Changes in my attitude and self-confidence, questions about my work, and a loss of purpose began to gradually make their way into my thinking soon after entering the eighth decade. From time to time they would demand my full attention, making it clear they would not leave until I dealt with them. One of my ways of doing this is to write about them in my journal, and occasionally, when I feel I have comfortably managed the questions, I write about them publically in my blog or in these columns. The responses I receive from readers confirm my belief that these “stuff of life” issues are universal, and shared by others, each in their own unique way.


So what does cake decorating have to do with any of this? Well, thanks to my wife, I’ve seen dozens of episodes of the Great British Baking Show, which has given me a new way to look at these questions. We are all bakers, and life is the cake we bake. First we try to understand what we want for ourselves and go about acquiring the training and tools to accomplish our goals. Obviously the time and effort needed for this depends upon what it is we hope to do. When we feel we’re ready, we begin working, alone, or in the company of others. We may spend a lifetime in one place devoted to one chosen task, or we may move on to other work in a different setting. For many, this lifetime of work is marked by various combinations of successes and failures, hopefully more of the former than the latter. At some point, our working days come to an end, either slowly or abruptly, and we have nothing else to put in the oven. Our baking days are over.


As a baker, I can look back on my life’s work as a series of cakes freshly removed from the oven. With the exception of an occasional cookie or small bun, my baking days are over.  At least the oven work is. Now its time to focus my attention on the fun part -decorating the cakes I’ve created. There are thousands of written words, essays, manuscripts, and assorted notes and comments to be reviewed, revised, and edited, and above all – organized, in addition to all the unfinished material to be completed. For the past several years I’ve fantasized about having some of my work published, and if I want that to happen, now is the time to act.


In the studio, where most of the work has been completed, the decorating is approached differently. Although it involves new work, I see it more as a refinement of the past. The intent is to raise the quality of my work, building on what I’ve already done. For 35 years I’ve been learning and practicing. Now it is time to do what I’ve always wanted – to create the best art I am capable of doing – with no excuses, ifs, ands, or buts. Making those paintings I’ve been imagining in my head for years a reality will be the icing on the cake.


It is also the time to think about cleaning up any mess I’ve left in the kitchen. This means reaching out to family and friends, especially those that have been partially displaced by time and distance. It’s the time to mend those injured relationships, as well as establishing new ones and re-establishing old ones.


This has been a fun way of interpreting the final chapter of my life’s journey, and I look forward to at least 10 more years of “decorating”. It is one more new beginning.


Note...That is not my cake.









Saturday, July 2, 2022




I saw the light

Seven years ago I wrote in my journal,

"Now, resting between yesterday and tomorrow, I realize time has blurred my understanding of myself. I have a reasonably good idea of who I have been, and what I have, and have not accomplished during my lifetime. The goals and desires that have guided me through the years continue to roam about in my head, albeit with a little less noise. However, they have difficulty getting traction because time has worn away some of the fearless and unbridled ambition and enthusiasm that allowed me to believe I was in charge of my future. Now, after a lifetime of pursuing a life of my own design, and well into the 8th decade, I find myself disoriented, unable to clearly define what I want for myself in my remaining years."


I was 74 years old and struggling with the notion that all of those “Somedays” (Someday I will travel to Italy. Someday I will begin working on that book. Someday I’ll do Pilates.)  that I’ve leaned on so heavily in my lifetime were rapidly diminishing with each passing year. Of course it didn’t help that the passing of each year had become incrementally faster with each birthday. As a result, I felt increasing pressure – all self-imposed – to know what I wanted to accomplish in the years ahead and pursue it vigorously, not necessarily the best way to approach creative and imaginative work. In retrospect  my work suffered for several years while I battled with myself. It was only when I realized the true nature of the problem that work and life both returned to a healthier normal.


The problem was not the diminishing future and the loss of basking in glorious Somedays. It was the pathetic way I responded to being seventy-something years old, using age to define myself. I saw everything I did or planned within the framework of my age. I was no longer William Renzulli planning a new series of paintings, but Seventy-five year old William Renzulli. This mindset artificially distorts reality, and I was beginning to screen all future work and plans by asking if I was too old to consider, let alone act on them. I know; it is a ridiculous way to think, and fortunately, as soon as I recognized that I put an end to it. Now, early in the ninth decade, I view my future as endless and my potential unlimited. Liberated from a totally needless burden, my life and my work has once again become a source of pleasure and satisfaction. 


Another life's lesson learned, and like all the others, destined to be re-learned again and again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Notes From the Ninth Decade


It's 4 AM and I find myself thinking about the timeline of my life. How over the years my personal world would suddenly expand in incremental bursts. The first 18 years were spent getting ready for whatever would follow. Suddenly my world expands with college and medical school, and I find myself more than I was before, living in a new community. Before I can get fully settled, it falls apart and I am thrust into another life enlarging my personal world once again and revealing another aspect of the person that I am. Years later my life makes one more major change and I’m living in still another world. Each move, each change over the 82 years has grown the circle of my personal world. Those that have passed are still here in memories and long-standing personal remnants. Today my world is and once again changing, only now it seems to be receding, contracting under the weight of 82 years. Probably a natural course of events and not necessarily a bad thing. It allows me to focus my attention on what is important, discarding so many unnecessary distractions.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

You're Not Safe Anywhere


You’re Not Safe Anyywhere


It began innocently enough. A few mild lower abdominal cramps and a sense of pelvic fullness, familiar feelings we’ve all experienced, but generally find no reason to discuss publicly. There was no sense of urgency, so 15 -20 minutes later I made my way to the bathroom in the studio to take care of the issue at hand. You will understand if I avoid a detailed description of the following events, carefully selecting those that I will share with you, dear readers.


As many of you know, I am 82 years old, and I have learned to respect the limits that age has imposed on my sense of balance. So, I approach everything with some degree of caution, especially in the bathroom. But this was a simple matter of sitting down, something I do countless times every day. What can go wrong with that? And indeed, I safely accomplished the maneuver. However, within a few seconds after sitting I found myself moving swiftly toward the door in front of me. I don’t mean getting up and walking hastily out of the room. I was still seated while in motion!  Actually not just me, but the entire toilet! My swift, precision like mind told me that unless I acted quickly, not only would I find myself in a pile on the bathroom floor, but could possibly sustain some serious hurt that I would eventually have to explain to my wife. Ignoring the fact that most of the lower half of my body was exposed to the local environment, and with my trousers down around my ankles, I desperately grabbed onto the sink with one hand and pushed against the wall with the other, successfully bringing everything to a standstill. Well, perhaps more like a sit-still. It was then I realized the toilet seat had become separated from its moorings, and as soon as I sat down it slid forward and would have deposited me on the floor except for my quick cat-like instincts. As a result, I found myself sitting on a toilet seat precariously balance on the front rim of the toilet bowl, afraid to move for fear of upsetting the balance.


I will leave it to your imagination to figure out how I extricated myself from this ridiculous position. I do have some pride!

Friday, September 10, 2021






Some loves never die, even when the object of desire is a model train. Ever since Santa gave me a Lionel train set when I was 9, I have been fascinated with model trains. Over the years I’ve started several layouts, each one far too elaborate for me to complete. I came close when we lived on the farm in Maryland, but that ended when we to moved to Paducah 19 years ago. Over the years  I flirted with the idea of building a small layyout in the studio but dismissed the idea as foolish. Then Covid arrived - and everything changed. It was not a burden being sequestered at home since I work in a studio in our home. Life continued as usual, or so I thought. until the sudden decision to build that layout.

I began construction of my layout in March, transforming half of the gallery into a train room/workshop, and totally disrupting the studio, and I have never been happier. I take some time to work on several commissions in progress, and find that far from being a chore, painting is fun once again. I’m still painting buildings and barns, but with a new perspective, and dimension.

There is an art to model railroading, as there is in any enterprise, and it is this art that has always attracted me. The basic element in all my paintings has been the intent to create a sense of place for the viewer, despite the 2-dimensional limitation. Model railroading provides that 3rd dimension to create a place of my own design employing the same fundamentals of painting – composition, color, light, and design. In essence I am constructing a 14-foot diorama in the gallery.



It begins with an idea which over time becomes continuously transformed.

Slowly the  bench work makes its mark on the gallery.