Cue Rocky music
Dad made it! I made it! WE made it! Today, March 16, 2016, sometime in the afternoon, Dad officially became the oldest member EVER of all his ancestors and equivalent relatives. He has surpassed his great-grandmother, Elizabeth Bullard Hyde’s, record of 101 and 53 days and he’s still going strong. Because I was negligent and out having a great lunch with friends I wasn’t home to actually light firecrackers and throw confetti like I’d considered earlier. I told him I would save that for the 4th of July. We are a goal-setting people.
I asked Dad what date in the future he would now like to shoot for. He didn’t care other than he informed me he plans to live to 105. I suggested first we should concentrate on sometime in May when his youngest grandchild returns from his LDS mission to Berlin. I said, “You know, Dad, Brigham never dreamed he would see you again when he said goodbye to you 2 years ago.” Dad asked, “Really? Why not?” Me: “Because you were 99”.
Frankly, this whole conversation is kind of surreal to me. My entire life my mom told me my dad would die young because his father had three heart attacks starting in his 60’s and the last one took him. Dad was also 9 years older than my mom. And she died in 2012.
But here we sit, Dad in his recliner, me in his wheelchair (because it’s easy to sit in when it’s next to him so we can have a good face-to-face conversation and I can attempt to block his view from his computer screen and his TV), and it seems like a really good time to ask him some important questions. Questions like, “Why do you think God has sustained your life this long?” and “What influence do you think your long life has had on others?” He pragmatically answers, “I don’t know” as he tries to see past my head to the latest rerun of CHIPS.
So I supply a few answers which I’m prone to do–answering my own questions.
- He has had a great spiritual influence on several who have come into his life
- He has provided an income for some additional caregivers who give me a break a few days a week
- This income has been sent to less-fortunate families in Western Samoa and has raised the standard of living for many
- Some of his great-grandchildren who live nearby have been able to help him, serve him, learn from him that the world doesn’t just revolve around them
- This whole past 5 years while we’ve lived together I’ve been able to learn so much more about myself, some weaknesses, some strengths. I’m continually provided with opportunities to try to be a little kinder, a little more understanding, a little more patient.
- And I really like that he laughs at my jokes
I know that all of us who are caring for aging parents have a variety of experiences. Some are easier and some are harder than others. Yesterday I heard some people talking about how really nasty and mean their 90-yr old mother was. When my mother was alive and plagued by the ravages of Lewy Bodies she did and said some pretty mean and shocking things occasionally, but I knew that was the disease. It wasn’t really her. She was truly a really nice person, except for when she wasn’t. And my dad is very easy to get along with. I believe it’s important to try to become as kind and generous of spirit as you can when your brain is still good because as you age your core personality becomes magnified–crotchety people get even meaner and sweet gentle people get even sweeter–providing they don’t have Lewy Bodies or Alzheimer’s or long-term addictions or mental illness or who knows what else. This is one of the things I’ve tried to learn from my dad. I know my children may have to take care of me some day. If that day happens, if I should live to be 101 and still counting, I hope I can be as easy to get along with as my dad. I’ve got some work to do.