My father died the best way possible. No pain, no suffering, and with his mind all there. The way we all would like to go when it’s our time. A gift and a blessing.
Bill Winkler, or Wink, as I discovered he was called by some, never thought of himself as old. “Are you old yet?” I asked at his more recent birthdays; “No, not yet.” “Maybe when you reach 100, hopefully?” to which he replied, “We’ll see then.”
Lessons of a “young” 98 year old:
1. Learning and doing. My dad took classes at the local college until he was 90. And when I argued with him to give up his car at 88, he took buses to college. He was truly a life-long learner.
When he took me out for my childhood Sunday visitations (my parents were divorced), we did fun activities. From bike-riding in Central Park to row-boating to ice skating all over the city; inclement weather found us in museums and the car and boat shows at the Coliseum. Rarely did we sit in front of a movie screen.
I carried this into my parenting days with my children where Sundays were always a fun day. Laundry, errands, and shopping were fit into the cracks of the week, as opposed to making them a day.
2. Walking. My dad walked his whole life. As a little girl, I could never keep up with him and I remember my side hurting from trying. Even after getting his first and only car when he was 65 – a blue Chevy Nova- he still walked a lot. At 91 he was taking the subway to the railroad out to Long Beach to walk the 4 1/2 mile round-trip boardwalk, until a mild stroke at 92 curtailed this activity.
His walking continued with the aid of a walker all over the neighborhood to the local stores, falling fairly often but continuing on after the bruises healed. Feisty and independent, he refused help.
I’ve been endowed with the walking gene. It is a part of my daily life as well as a coping tool used to get through many a hard time. And I can actually say it is hard to walk slow for an inherently fast walker.
3. Healthy eating. My dad ate healthy long before it became in vogue. As a little girl, I didn’t like to go out to eat with him because I was embarrassed by all the instructions to the waiter –“hold the margarine, the syrup, grill it, bake it.”
Lo and behold, I now eat his way. My original impetus in converting a few years ago was digestive issues. It is now my way of life.
4. No big deal. My dad was the antithesis of a complainer. He didn’t have a “kvetch” bone in his body. Go for a 12 hour plane ride at age 90 and 92 to meet his 2 great-grandsons at their birth – no big deal, “I’ll walk around the plane so my legs don’t get stiff.” He had basil cells removed, sometimes a 6 hour ordeal at the doctor’s office scraping until they came out clean; he’d come back saying, “I’m fine, a little discomfort but no big deal.”
Perhaps that is why I don’t have much tolerance for “kvetches”.
Let’s celebrate and take in the Good.
What lessons have you incorporated from a significant person in your life?