Remarkable Parents

A man turned 100 recently and gave up riding his motorcycle! An e-mail from a reliable friend (after reading the driving posts), informed me of that fact because that man, who had a very distinguished career by the way, was her friend’s father.

And we worry about our aging parents driving cars.

We learn about increasing numbers of amazing old people all the time it seems. Is it because of medical advances and health information causing people to live better longer and/or because of technological advances and instant communication? In any event I’m going to tell you about a woman people call “remarkable” who never drove a car, much less rode a motorcycle. Today, October 13, she is 96 years and one month old.

Facts: R. was widowed at 51. Her only child, my husband, lives far away. She flies unaccompanied to see us. She doesn’t use a cane. Everyone comments that she still has style, always looks well put together. The 40 birthday cards and phone calls she received a month ago are testimony to the love and admiration she has earned over the years. She is the wise octogenarian in my yet-to-be-published book.

R says she had to be independent from an early age. Independence is now a highest priority; she doesn’t want to be taken care of. So she exercises (still uses the tread mill she bought right after her husband died) and “I don’t abuse myself.” Translated: she eats right, rations her energy for what’s important and she makes the effort to be with people she cares about. She uses taxis and handles all of her affairs, and reads widely so she knows what’s going on.

Living in the same home since the 1940’s, R has welcomed many young families and babies to the neighborhood–always with a small gift for the babies. The babies have graduated high school and college and new families have filled homes that the others have left. She’s a surrogate grandmother, mother and wise friend to young and old. Who else would have a turkey sent to a neighbor’s son at college to share with friends who couldn’t be home for Thanksgiving?

R didn’t want a celebration for her 95th birthday. This year was different. A neighbor in her 40’s was giving R a birthday luncheon. The 11 guests’ ages were 13-96. The hostess’s 13-year-old daughter wanted to be there as did her 25-year-old sister (recuperating from an ankle fracture).

No gifts; only memories shared around a large dining room table. One guest expressed how fortunate she felt to live across the street, saying after her mother died, she turned to R for understanding and wisdom. Another shared a time her husband and son were having difficulties and R suggested writing a note of explanation, instead of arguing while emotions heated up. It works! The 13-year-old said R was responsible for her New York trip with her class last spring, when her parents were uncertain about financing it. R explained to her mother why it would be a worthwhile experience (and gave the child a bit of spending money for the trip). R was as dear to these younger and older women as they were to her.

R has lived a long time, making the effort (it gets harder every year, she says) to remain involved, always thoughtful with words and deeds. Is that what enables her to so successfully span generations? Is it her genuine interest in others or the fact that you hear wisdom and feel a solid connection to what matters when she talks with you? Is it because she’s an inspiration and remarkable? Well, everyone and every birthday card says she is.

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Do you have or know a remarkable, older parent? E-mail and tell me why. I’ll try to use it in a post (with or without her/his first name).

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