Inga Wiehl, Age 77
I live in the state of Washington with all the opportunities it offers for a life out-of-doors. I tend my garden, hike in the summer and cross-country ski in the winter, play tennis year round and bicycle with my husband and International Bicycle Tours all over Europe, preferring countries south of the Alps where wine flows freely come the end of the day. I am a first generation Danish immigrant but have had a career as a college English teacher with a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington.
Retirement has given me the time and opportunity to write books about topics that concern me. When Professional Women Retire: Food for Thought and Palate deals with the “trades” we make as we move from employment to retirement, substituting salaries for coins of time, rethinking social relationships, and moving from professional prompts to self-generated challenges. Because dinner parties are a vital part of our lives, some favorite recipes and tales of gatherings are included.
Five years later, in 2010, I published Heartstrings: A Tale of Danish Loyalty, Resistance, and Homecoming foregrounding my grandmother as representative of women in Southern Jutland during the First World War. Southern Jutland, where I grew up, had been annexed to Germany after a devastating war against Bismarck’s army in 1864. With the outbreak of war in 1914, Danish men from that part of the country were drafted into the Prussian army, commanded to fight “on the wrong side,” so to speak. My grandfather and six million men with him died in that war. The women survived to run their farms, bring up their families, “vote themselves home” in a plebiscite conducted in 1920, and grow old among their children. Heartstrings is their story, and because my grandmother and I were tied to one another by our heartstrings, it is my story as well.
A third book followed in 2013, Reclaiming Our Brains Without Losing Our Minds: Some Hows and Whys From a Reading Group. I contend that as we age, each day becomes a reclamation project of brains and body as well as an opportunity for being mindful of one another’s needs. Thirty years ago, I was asked to start a reading group to be conducted like a college English class. We would read the world classics as well as contemporary works of substance. The book tells our story, how we conduct our meetings, how we choose our texts, why we keep coming to “Thursday Readers” ten weeks in the fall and ten in the winter, as well as twenty-nine essays dealing with Readers’ responses to books we have read. We meet in one another’s houses for lunch and conversation before settling down for a lecture and ensuing discussion.