WORDS R LIVES BY:
“Getting Old is Hard Work”
“You have to learn to be responsible.”
“Life is tough, you have to get through it”
It’s 10:15 am. R has already heard from 35 people, wishing her “Happy Birthday.” Her 100th birthday is today. The doorbell just rang as we were on the phone, so it may be that the 36th well-wisher has sent flowers. That said, R has made it known at each opportunity that she only wants peoples’ good wishes (and hopes not to get flowers).
Too many flowers arrangements require work: carrying the heavy-for-an-old-person container of water or lifting and carrying a heavy vase to the sink to keep flowers watered; having a steady hand so as not to spill; removing the dead and drooping blooms, and ultimately taking them out to the garbage. While no problem for younger people, it’s work for those who are old and live alone. R has said so often recently that “when you’re old you need to simplify”…it’s the only way to stay on top of things and remain independent. Bottom line, R has asked that we take any flowers she receives to hospitals and rehab centers. Her life has centered around being thoughtful of others in word and deed.
R hadn’t reached 100 years of age when interviews for the 2012 publication of “Extraordinary Centenarians in America….” were done. Not surprisingly many of these centenarians were–as is R–seriously focused on doing for others. The number of birthday remembrances are testimony to R’s impact on others’ lives*–and the day isn’t over. (I’ll try to update the “remembrance” total tomorrow).
Many times the last 2 years, R has said: “getting old is hard work.” While the “hard work” statement may not be true of all the “extraordinary centenarians,” R has an impressive ability to see and assess things with clarity. I guess the latter is especially necessary when you live alone in your own home (though choice, which we honor), do your own cooking and marketing, still handle your financial affairs, and your only child (and his wife) live across the country.
R credits her father with her resolve to handle all this. When she was very young he told her “”You have to learn to be responsible. Life is tough, you have to get through it.” Of course having responsibilities and doing for others gives her purpose, which we all need to remain engaged.
R’s family is small in number and the few relatives living near are not in good health for the most part. We, of course, live far away. What’s amazing is how R has nurtured relationships with younger friends and neighbors over the years. They have willfully fulfilled a “treasured friend” role and think of her as family. And R has made certain we know each of them and their spouses. (This was especially helpful when she broke her hip and during rehab.)
We can learn from our elders and hopefully some of R’s wisdom and experiences resonate. While clearly one size doesn’t fit all, R is an excellent example of a parent who has aged well. No wonder so many say she’s “a role model.”
–And yes! We had a lovely just-family birthday party in a private dining room for her guest list of 21 people.
*R’s impact on others’ lives described
Note-New: Check out “Of Current Interest”(right sidebar). Links to timely information and research from top universities about cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s, plus some fun stuff–to help parents age well.