THE BLOG
12/15/2013 10:59 pm ET Updated Feb 14, 2014

Goodbye Mr. Chips

There was a movie that won actor Robert Donat an academy award in 1939. I was 5 years old at the time. My mother or sisters must have taken me to see it. Somehow it made a very strong impression on me. I don't know if I saw it years later when I was older or if I remember it from that year. The story was roughly about an older professor and how much he influenced his young students. I think he was sick, I'm not sure about that part, and they came to visit him because he was retiring. He was all made up in a grey wig with lots of wrinkles and stooped over.

During the last 30 years, since I have lived here in Santa Barbara, I have had many young people help me from transcribing my writings to painting on ceramics. They have been friends of friends or from various universities in the area.

I have really cared for all of them. When it was time for them to fly, I gave them my blessings, although, sometimes begrudgingly because they were so helpful. I let them go out in the world to do their thing. They would tell me about their boyfriends and girlfriends and we would discuss their futures and how to proceed with their lives.

Almost all of them have stayed in touch in one way or another, and I have loved hearing from them and being told what they have done in the last few years. One of my earliest assistants is now married and has a couple of children and sends me photos of them from time to time.

The other day I received an email from a young man, who had been an intern from UCSB. He helped on the making of the short documentary we made in 2011, called "Stage IV, Living with Cancer." I wondered what he wanted to say to me or maybe, I thought, he might want a reference for a job. I was curious. He lives out of town and was here to see his sister and as it turns out, he wanted to just stop by and say hello. My husband and I invited him to lunch. He wanted to share with us that working on the film was such a wonderful experience for him. I was so touched that he would take time to come and say that to me. So many people worked for nothing on that film and gave their time to help others. I felt it was a wonderful experience for those of us involved, and was so glad he did too.

I then realized that one of the benefits of growing older is that we all get to be Mr. Chips in one way or another. We are able to help young people just by sharing our experiences with them. They are eager to soak it up.

I felt proud that I was part of a great experience for him and that day; I didn't mind being 79, at all!