Thursday, May 15, 2014

Long Range Living

Dad and grandson
Not everybody gets to live past 100, but more and more people do.  You and I may.   Today is my father's 101st Birthday.  He's a special guy. 1913 was evidently a good year to be born and Washington a good state to be born in.

Dad still lives in the home we kids grew up in, in New England, purchased in 1946.  He and Mom met in 1945, raised four kids, and had a good decade of retirement, traveling round the country in their camper.  Mom's blindness and Alzheimer's settled in thereafter, and she died at home in 2000, after years of care by her husband, three daughters and part time care giver.  As sweet a man as Mom was nasty, Dad sprang back to life after she died.  We were thrilled.  Never one to go abroad before, he got his first passport at age 89, and went to Norway with an old sweetheart.  Since then, a few sweethearts have come and gone.  To heaven.  The family keeps a keen eye on his current young sweetheart and chauffeurs him on his dates. 
Dad was from the old school.   Men worked, women kept house and raised the kids.  We scarcely saw him, except at dinnertime.  He retired just before I graduated college nearly forty years ago.  He drove their camper down to New York City to attend the ceremony, and he and Mom headed west from there.  Mom was already losing her sight, so they wasted no time.  I acquired my love for camping from them.  The family went somewhere nearly every summer.  Dad and camping go a long way back.  At age 20, he bought an old Model A Ford and rebuilt its engine, traveling from Wisconsin to the Pacific.  He and a friend camped under the stars.  The depression was in full swing.  $60 got them there and back.

Dad on the left

Dad drove until a few years ago.  It was only when he nicked a skateboarder that he had his license revoked.  After that, he refused to take a bus.  Yes, his body and mind were working, but he was very stubborn.  So my sister became his driver.  Shortly after something landed him in the hospital, a first  for him.  Nothing a catheter couldn't solve, but living in his house from now on?   That would take intensive effort.  He was weakened, sure, but the house was in much worse shape than him.   Goodwill furniture, paintings, lamps, radios, phonographs, records, rugs, exercise machines, clocks, flashlights, microwave ovens, lawn movers, pants, shirts, shoes, and books, thousands of books, filled every living space.  He would steady himself by grabbing onto the furniture as he walked from room to room.  Plastic hung over the secretary and stacks of books because the ceiling leaked beside his bed.  He had buckets strategically placed.   My brother volunteered to come live with him, and now his wife has joined him.  I'm nominating them for sainthood.  The house is becoming habitable again, safe for him, workable for them.  Change is hard.

Dad couldn't live 'independently' without my brother and his wife, my oldest sister and her husband.  Stubborn and happy, my Dad pursues his interests, and we keep him safe.  Dad's eyes, ears, strength, and keen mind are rolling into history, but his heart keeps ticking.  This winter he got a pacemaker.   No, Dad hasn't outlived his joy, his curiosity, and even the infuriating bees he gets in his bonnet.

Celebrations like last weekend's remind me why we love our families.  Where else would we learn how to get along despite frustrations, disagreements, and unintended consequences when different personalities rub shoulders?  Nothing but love and hard work see us through. 
Dad, his son, son-in-law, and two of his three daughters


  1. What a wonderful and interesting post! I love your dad's spunk, He is setting a great example when you say that he "hasn't outlived his joy, his curiosity, and even the infuriating bees he gets in his bonnet." Old widowers sure don't have any trouble finding lady friends, do that...judging by your dad, mine and my brother. They draw them like bees to honey.

    Love that old photo with the car.

  2. Yes, he does have spunk. And he lights up with a lady's attention. Knowing him has formed my expectations for 'old age'.

    Last year, for his 100th Birthday, we kids combed through boxes of photos and slides, coming up with the most amazing pictures from his youth. We created a 'This is your Life' board, decade by decade. Now we need to keep adding pictures for his eleventh decade.

  3. Wonderful. Let him play--let him laugh and enjoy the ladies---just don't let him marry one!!! Trust me on this one.

  4. Agreed! I chaperoned Dad and this young (60 year old) woman on a lunch date last month, and think romance is in his heart, not hers. He's so trusting, and we want to protect him.

  5. I've been reading past posts on your blog. You've had a really neat life!!! While my daughter was studying law at North Eastern, she lived less than a block away from the symphony. I have never been to NYC. I am a country girl and big cities make me nervous. I can't see the horizon!!! LOL

    1. I love horizons, too - one reason I was happy to leave NYC! I hope you got to Boston and enjoyed it with your daughter. It's so pretty there.

      Now that you mention it, life is pretty neat - then, and now. So much to be grateful for and enjoy.