This senior has another birthday this month, and I feel great and hopeful of the future, both on a personal level and for the nation. But I wasn’t always this positive about life.
When my mom hit the big five-O, I too had just passed an age milestone, having transitioned from adolescence into my teens. With the sensitivity of a snail I told mom that I sure hoped I didn’t live that long – because old people like her didn’t have much more to contribute. I’m sure my negative views were reflective of the incessant physical problems I observed her endure over her lifetime. And mom didn’t even attempt to change my negative perspective on advanced aging until ma and pa passed on at 89 and 94 years-old respectively.
She and dad had made the “love-decision” to care in our home for her elderly parents, and she wisely hid the truth of an abusive childhood from her kids – understanding that it’s unlikely that my brother and I would have been as loving and forgiving as she. For as I later learned, her incessant migraines, misaligned bone structure and numerous internal organ issues that necessitated constant medication and doctoring, were the consequence of beatings administered by her own father. She had several siblings, but mom bore the brunt of the Belgian’s perhaps-well-intentioned but brutal disciplining.
Her response to a sad upbringing was not to complain about it, but to make sure that her kids were spoiled. We weren’t wealthy, but my parents sacrificed to assure my brother and I had a safe-haven to come home to, every earthly necessity, plus a parochial education and university training. And most importantly, they taught us the importance of serving God and our fellow man. My parents taught us not only forgiveness, but the virtues of generosity and compassion and the need to lean on God in the face of life’s challenges. The wisdom they shared drove me to take advantage of most every blessing and opportunity that came my way – things that I appreciate more each additional day God lends me.
Unlike my parents at this age, I’m physically able to crawl around on the carpet and allow my grandkids to climb and bounce all over me – even play tag with them – though these days I’m “it” most of the time, because it’s getting harder to catch even the four-year-olds. My grampa rode his bike well into his nineties, and I’m counting on exceeding that by twenty years or so. I’ve truly learned what it means to age gracefully and delightfully.