Red-hot and breathin'

Feb. 1, 2009

If I did not already tell you, MLO is
celebrating its 40th birthday this year. For this reason and the fact
that at December's end, I celebrated my birthday, age was an
object of my year-end contemplations. If people are “over the hill” at
40, I wondered what that says about MLO — or are inanimate
objects simply “ageless”?

I am not aware of any “lingo” that denotes my current
phase of life. Since several friends my age and younger have departed
this world, my newest age represents to me “longevity.” I felt rather
proud of that idea until the world's oldest person — Portugal's Maria de
Jesus, 115 — died on Jan. 2, and Gertrude Baines of L.A. moved up the
list. (Baines, 114, was the the oldest African-American to vote in
November's presidential election and, at that time, the world's third
oldest person.)

When we had heard this news, Sister reminded me of
the lament: “If I'd known I was going to live so long, I'd have taken
better care of myself.”* I told Sister that I had stolen Sophie (“The
Last of the Red Hot Mammas”) Tucker's quip about achieving “longevity”
as my new mantra: “Keep breathing.”

Baines is now at that stage of life when every second
counts; I do not know the “lingo” for that stage either. Being the
world's oldest living person by rights should not involve much more than
keeping up the breathing — and while holding this title may not be
cumbersome, I should think it puts undue pressure on an elderly person
who simply wants to sit in the rocker and watch television.

At the end of my string of December celebrations and
the New Year, I found myself stuck (after three cancelled connector
flights) for nearly 12 hours in Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport. For us
“older folk,” this is not cause for worry; it is simply cause for
napping. By the time I was on my third and final nap, my dreams had
morphed into my epitaph: “The Oldest of the Red Hot MLO Editors.”

And that brings me to the upside of aging.
There is more to it than just continuing to breathe, especially if you
are an inanimate object like MLO. Readers may agree with me that,
over the years, MLO's covers continued to improve in looks. Some
suggest that MLO keeps up with the times. Others may proffer that
MLO has been a faithful companion over the years. In the six
years that I have sat in its red-hot editorial seat, many subscribers
tell me that MLO is dependable, trustworthy, and much loved. When
I hear of such affection, I have to look back to find out where this
publication's “personality” began and give credit where credit it due.

For MLO's 40th birthday tribute this month, I
would like to raise my imaginary glass — not only to Ray Gambino, MD,
whose idea it was to put together a medical lab journal — but also to
previous editors who served its loyal readers:

From former editors, I inherited the legacy of willing authors,
well-known and popular columnists, and knowledgeable editorial advisors.
Because of Edward M. Friedman (1969-1975), I need only mention MLO
when wooing a prospective author — who almost always accepts the challenge
without question. Because of Robert Fitzgibbon (1975-1995), I am
honored to work, for example, with the likes of “Tips” Editor Dan Baer who
has been with MLO since 1974. Because of Mark Zacharia
(1995-1997), I have access to an advisory team of affable experts who always
answer my calls and e-mails in a heartbeat. Because of Darlene Berger
(1998-2000), MLO's website has an interesting history of the medical
laboratory. Because of Lisa Pallatroni (2000-2001) and Lisa Mahar
(2001), a long list exists of volunteer medical laboratory scientists who
have reviewed the material contained within MLO's pages. And because Celia
, my direct predecessor (2003- 2005), undertook a new career,
I have since had this interesting view of all things medical laboratory
— and some big shoes to fill. Without their individual provision of
attention, cooperation, expertise, and support, we could not be
celebrating this publication's Big 4-0! So, take a deep breath and shout
“cheers” in their honor!

*Attributed to Leon Eldred