By Carrie Classon
I’m staying “up north” with Mom and Dad, and that is always good.
My mom and dad have built a life that is pretty much exactly the way they like it. They have rituals and habits they do almost without thinking. But the amazing thing—to me—is that just about every one of these daily routines ends up giving them a healthier and much happier life.
At this point, my dad would snort, and my mom would say I was making them sound like saints, and they’d both shake their heads in unison and say that I like to exaggerate, and so I guess you’ll have to take my word for it.
My dad turns 90 at the top of next year, and my mom isn’t far behind. They still live in the beautiful home they designed and built together more than 30 years ago in the Northwoods. The house is not large, but it is perfectly suited to them. It sits high above the lake in the woods, so their nearest neighbors are squirrels and deer and raccoons, a variety of birds and the occasional bear. Loons fly over their home and land in the lake. My mother keeps dozens of pots of flowers blooming outside the house. My dad keeps enough wood chopped and split to keep them in firewood all winter, and they are out biking or walking or snowshoeing every single day.
“We don’t eat as much as we used to,” my mother notes.
But what they eat is healthy. They’ve got a vegetable garden in town, as it is too shady in the woods for vegetables. Yesterday, they picked up fresh sweet corn and a cantaloupe from the farmers market.
And I feel as if this is the part of the story where I should tell you the really amazing thing about my parents. But, as I write this, I realize the really amazing thing is not any one thing. It is all of it. As their needs and desires have changed, their habits have remained positive and healthy and filled with joy.
I think I’ve known for most of my life I would never be as consistent or disciplined or sensible as my parents. They were this way when I grew up, and they remain every bit as remarkable now that I am getting old. I’ve even thought, from time to time, that it was a lot to live up to.
Their marriage, lasting many decades, was not one I could emulate in my first marriage. My moods fluctuate far more wildly. I require regular “reboots” to stay on track.
But I am no longer envious. I am now simply admiring. And I am grateful. I am so grateful they have taken such good care of themselves and so grateful that they are still here with me, active and happy and as practical as ever.
My dad says he’s slowed down a lot, and turning 90 certainly gives a person plenty to think about. But just as I learned how to paddle a canoe and ride a bike by watching him, I now watch him managing the perils of aging with grace and elegance. And I am, once again, learning.
What I’ve just written, my father will dismiss. He’ll say he wasn’t so elegant the other day when he tripped over the doorsill and cut his hand open while bringing the laundry in from the line. He’ll say he’s doing nothing out of the ordinary, nothing worth writing about.
And that’s why you’ll have to take my word for it.