Marty Taft Marty Taft

This is a personal story from my own family that, I believe, speaks to all of us as we age, face challenges and, hopefully, overcome them. The story is about my father-in-law, Marty Taft, a resident of Los Angeles and now 82-years young. Like many his age he has had health "interruptions." One came 20 years ago when he had a heart attack. Later came a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, like his father and brother. Fortunately, nothing stopped this former engineer as he was propelled into his senior years.

About ten years ago, Marty became interested in magic, so much so that he joined the Magic Castle in nearby Hollywood and became an associate member. Marty took delight in seeing the shows there of professional magicians and was thrilled by the amazing sleight of hand of magicians doing "close-up work" who could make things disappear.

Marty decided he wanted to do it too. He threw himself into it. One day he spotted a brief item in the Magic Castle newsletter. A member was looking for help performing free magic shows at area hospitals. Marty, still a novice, asked if he could watch and help. The magician, Hy Levy, welcomed him and let him perform a trick for the patients. Marty was hooked. He perfected his skills and became Hy's regular partner. After a year, Marty passed the audition to become a Magician Member of the Magic Castle. They've been at it monthly now for years.

The other day I was in Los Angeles and accompanied Marty to his most recent performance. Hy couldn't make it this time. These days the volunteer magicians perform for what could be considered a tough audience: men at a veteran's hospital in a locked down mental health ward. As the activities coordinator unlocked door after door and ushered us into a group conference room I did not know what to expect. We found about 10 men of varying ages quietly waiting for us. Some seemed distracted and, I am sure, many were on some pretty heavy-duty medications. But there was a spark the moment Marty pulled out a deck of cards. The men leaned forward, some came closer. The first trick got them interested ("How did you do that?"), the next one won them over ("That's amazing!"). Magic was the elixir for Marty and for them. Despite health issues faced by all concerned there was a childlike wonder that came into the room and, in a word, "fun."

Magic Castle Photo courtesy of the Magic Castle

I got to thinking how simple magic tricks were wonderful medicine, for Marty, and for these hospitalized veterans. For years they have enabled Marty to give back and each performance brings delight to people who really need it.

As each of us gets through health challenges or just gets older, we may want to know if there’s some simple way we can give back to others. Marty has found his way. Patient after patient shook his hand and thanked him as the magic show ended and it’s clear Marty's choice has made a lot of people happy.

Wishing you and your family the best of health,