Tag Archives: Dad

9 Rows to Oar If You Want to Reach 94

November yale467x490

(*happily updating my original post from February, 2015 when my Dad had his 92nd birthday. Now it is nearly February 1, 2017 – his 94th!)

Better to have a birthday than not, says my Dad very matter-of-factly. Consider the alternative, he often tells me.  He will celebrate his 94th birthday this Wednesday, February 1.

His pragmatic approach to life – serious when he needs to be, humorous when not, and some great luck in the health department – has gotten him to this milestone.

But exactly how has he managed to reach it?

I thought about this and wondered. For this is a man whose idea of exercise is to lift the remote ever so slightly to aim it at the TV. He eats salami, drinks beer and sees his friend, the doctor, quite frequently – but for lunch, rather than for a check-up.  As a well-regarded-in-his-community lawyer who still goes to the office every day to the firm he founded in 1951, he strongly prefers to give  – rather than take advice.

Perhaps what keeps him going is his love for his family? – not that I have ever heard him say the word “love” aloud.

A tough guy, Mr. U.S. Marine Corps, WWII Vet, he shies away from emotion. But he shows it by his actions, always being there with wise counsel when my sister and I need it. Staying strong for us when our Mom died far too young. Taking great joy in his four grandchildren, his three-year-old and nearly one-year-old great-grandsons  – and bestowing tender care upon his wife, my stepmother, as her dementia sadly advances.

If I knew precisely what got him to this point of great age and great wisdom, I would bottle it and win a Nobel prize. But since that is extremely unlikely to happen, I decided, in the spirit of Dr. Seuss, a childhood favorite, to make an educated guess, and offer the following:

 

9 Rows To Oar If You Want to Reach 94

It is not easy to turn 94

You have to know how to soar.

First, you stay married for a very long time

And Second, be frugal and save every nickel and dime.


The Third thing to try is to go to the office every day

And on the weekends to watch Eli athletes at play.

For the Fourth, you must get the Sunday New York Times

 To do the puzzle speedily, in ink, no matter what the rhymes.


And the Fifth thing to be at your best?

Take regular naps, enjoy getting your rest.

Sixth? Call your “kids” every Sunday morning at 10:30. sharp

But keep the calls brief, you don’t want to carp.

 


Now we are at number Seven, which could keep heaven at bay

Find time for the spiritual, perhaps even pray.

And the Eighth, what could that possibly be?

Provide wise counsel for many without charging a fee.

 

But the Ninth thing, the one that we treasure the most?

It’s when you tell jokes, laugh loudly, even at your own roast.

For it is your humor, your sense of the absurd

That lets you stand out from the ordinary herd.


Repeat all of your stories, not one of them is new

And yet each time you tell them we get another view.

Of your fair-minded approach, your sense of what’s right

The battles to skip, and which ones to fight.

 

So there you have it, the Nine rows you must oar,

If you want to reach the wise old age of 94.

Take my advice if you want to become a sage like my Dad

And then what a glorious life you will have had.

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Filed under Aging, Aging Parents, Family, Lawyers, Moms, Relationships

9 Ways To Be If You Want to Turn 93

November yale467x490

(*happily updating this original post from February, 2015 when my Dad had his 92nd birthday. Now February, 2016 – his 93rd!)

Better to have a birthday than not, says my Dad very matter-of-factly. Consider the alternative, he often tells me.  He celebrated his 93rd birthday this Monday, February 1.

His pragmatic approach to life – serious when he needs to be, humorous when not, and some great luck in the health department – has gotten him to this milestone.

But exactly how has he managed to reach it?

I thought about this and wondered. For this is a man whose idea of exercise is to lift the remote ever so slightly to aim it at the TV. He eats salami, drinks beer and sees his friend, the doctor, for lunch, rather than for a check-up.  As a lawyer who still goes to the office every day to the firm he founded in 1951, he strongly prefers to give  – rather than take advice.

Perhaps what keeps him going is his love for his family? – not that I have ever heard him say the word “love” aloud.

A tough guy, Mr. U.S. Marine Corps, WWII Vet, he shies away from emotion. But he shows it by his actions, always being there with wise counsel when my sister and I need it. Staying strong for us when our Mom died young. Taking joy in his four grandchildren, his toddler great-grandson – and looking forward to the arrival of another great-grand child next month.  Bestowing tender care upon his wife, my stepmother, as her dementia sadly advances.

If I knew precisely what got him to this point of great age and great wisdom, I would bottle it and win a Nobel prize. But since that is extremely unlikely to happen, I decided, in the spirit of Dr. Seuss, a childhood favorite, to make an educated guess, and offer the following:

 

9 Ways To Be If You Want to Turn 93

It is not easy to turn 93

You have to know just how to be.

First, you stay married for a very long time

And Second, be frugal and save every nickel and dime.


The Third thing to try is to go to the office every day

And on the weekends to watch Eli athletes at play.

For the Fourth, you must get the Sunday New York Times

 To do the puzzle speedily, in ink, no matter what the rhymes.


And the Fifth thing to be at your best?

Take regular naps, enjoy getting your rest.

Sixth? Call your kids every Sunday at 10:30. sharp

But keep the calls brief, you don’t want to carp.

 


Now we are at number Seven, which could keep heaven at bay

Find time for the spiritual, perhaps even pray.

And the Eighth, what could that possibly be?

Provide wise counsel for many without charging a fee.

 

But the Ninth thing, the one that we treasure the most?

It’s when you tell jokes, laugh loudly, even at your own roast.

For it is your humor, your sense of the absurd

That lets you stand out from the ordinary herd.


Repeat all of your stories, not one of them is new

And yet each time you tell them we get another view.

Of your fair-minded approach, your sense of what’s right

The battles to skip, and which ones to fight.

 

So there you have it, the Nine things you must be.

If you want to reach the wise old age of 93

Take my advice if you want to become a sage like my Dad

And then what a glorious life you will have had.

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Filed under Aging, Aging Parents, Family, Lawyers, Moms, Relationships

That Dad Instinct

A Stack of White Disposable Diapers Isolated on a Black Background

 

I had planned to write for Father’s Day about my still wise-cracking, 100%-with-it-yet-92-year-old Dad, but then my husband, JP, piped up, only part in jest (I think):

“What about me? I’m the father of our children. You watched me, not him, becoming a Dad. Why don’t you talk about my fathering skills instead of reaching into your childhood memories?”

O.K., I’ll give it a try. But fair warning, JP, be careful what you wish for…

My husband and I didn’t rush into parenthood. We waited five years after our marriage, which caused JP’s “born in the old country” Aunt Dora to wring her hands and lament that we were not trying hard enough to have a baby. Which was true.

It was also true that we had no prior baby care experience.  Caught in a pinch without a babysitter one night, some slightly older friends asked us to watch their 6 month old. After tearing through several sets of those pesky little disposable diaper tabs, we sent the baby home bound up in bright blue masking tape. The baby’s mom thought our inability to fasten a diaper was hilarious; I thought we needed help.

So when I got pregnant, I said, “let’s take a class.” JP was reluctant; his approach, as always, let’s wing it, we’ll figure it out as we go. Look at our forebears he said, they managed parenting just fine without taking any classes.

I signed up for a “childbirth education” class at the hospital and dragged him along.

Where he did little to distinguish himself.  Unless you call not taking the class at all seriously a point of distinction.  JP knew I was pregnant (non-spoiler alert: he was there when that happened), but even though I was 8 months pregnant when the class began, he had not yet realized that a live human being was going to emerge at the end of the process.

I, on the other hand, had no plans to stay pregnant forever and listened most intently to what the childbirth education teacher said —  while my husband  snickered on the edge of the room as the teacher demonstrated labor breathing techniques.

All of us (except for you-know-who) diligently practiced, chanting aloud:

“hah, hah, woo” – “pant, pant, blow” – “hee, hee, who.”

Let’s just say it was fortunate I had to have a C-section with our first child.

On the supply side, JP was equally clueless. When the teacher asked the class how many diapers to expect a newborn baby would go through in a single day –

Hands shot up in the air.

My husband said: “Four? Six?”

When the teacher said – “10, possibly 12 or 14, maybe even more, diapers per day in the first few weeks” – I thought my husband might faint.

He almost did faint before the baby was born. He got very light-headed, I was later told, while they were prepping me for the C-section, and the nurses made him leave the room. Many months later I learned that the kind person stroking my forehead during the operation was not my loving husband, but a nurse, and that my woozy spouse had been sitting it out on a bench in the hall.

So not an optimal beginning. But I was to be surprised.

JP got the hang of the Dad thing very quickly, perhaps – dare I say this now that our kids are adults? –  – he latched onto early Dadhood with an easy self-confidence.

Thinking back on this, I wonder if this was because I was (am) a worrier and he was (is) not.

  • The baby had a fever, I was convinced she had appendicitis. He assumed it was a just a fever.
  • The baby wouldn’t eat. I thought she was getting sick. He said she wasn’t hungry.
  • The baby had colic. I went into high-panic mode. He just swooped her under his arm, and rocked her around the living room to very loud music (Donna Summer’s disco songs were an early favorite) and that would quiet her down.

And then as baby #2 came along and our kids grew older, JP continued to go with the flow – from kindergarten field trips to coaching basketball to college visits to beaming father of the bride.

How did my husband learn to be such a great Dad?

Not from books. As always the believer in finding the answers in books, I had stacks of them piled on my night table  (Dr. Spock, Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, Penelope Leach).

JP wouldn’t touch them.

Not from his Dad. Like mine, a great guy, but old school, 1950’s traditional model, the kind of Dad, who, while caring and loving, went off to work in the morning, expected to come home later in the day to find dinner on the table (it was) and left the less pleasant tasks of parenthood to their wives (who did not complain.)

Could it be that my husband was simply born with natural great Dad instincts?

But I won’t be getting him a “Father’s Day” card or setting up a BBQ in our backyard or buying him a nifty new gadget. Because as JP likes to remind me, he is not my Dad.  He is, however, proof, that to be a great Dad, you don’t need to take a class, read baby books or have a role model. You can just be present, stay involved and figure it out as you go along.

Our kids got very lucky. Hope yours did too.

 

 

 

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Filed under Baby Boomers, Family, Husbands, Marriage, Men vs Women, Midlife, Moms, Parenting, Raising Kids, Women

9 Things To Do If You Want To Turn 92

November yale467x490

Better to have a birthday than not, says my Dad very matter-of-factly. Consider the alternative, he often tells me.  His 92nd birthday is this Sunday, February 1.  (and yes, it does fall on SuperBowl Sunday, perhaps not a coincidence.)

His pragmatic approach to life – serious when he needs to be, humorous when not, and some great luck in the health department – has gotten him to this milestone.

But exactly how has he managed to reach it?

I thought about this and wondered. For this is a man whose idea of exercise is to lift the remote ever so slightly to aim it at the TV. He eats salami, drinks beer and sees his doctor for lunch, rather than for a check-up.  As a lawyer who still goes to the office every day to the firm he founded in 1951, he strongly prefers to give  – rather than take advice.

Perhaps what keeps him going is his love for his family? – not that I have ever heard him actually say the word “love” aloud.

A tough guy, Mr. U.S. Marine Corps, WWII Vet, he shies away from emotion. But he shows it by his actions, always being there with wise counsel when my sister and I need it. Staying strong for us when our Mom died young. Taking joy in his four grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and one toddler great-grandson. And now taking tender care of his wife, my stepmother, as her dementia sadly advances.

If I knew precisely what got him to this point of great age and great wisdom, I would bottle it and win a Nobel prize. But since that is extremely unlikely to happen, I decided, in the spirit of Dr. Seuss, a childhood favorite, to make an educated guess, and offer the following:

 

9 Things To Do If You Want to Turn 92

It is not easy to turn 92

You have to know just what to do.

First, you stay married for a very long time

And Second, be frugal and save every nickel and dime.


The Third thing to try is to go to the office every day

And on the weekends to watch Eli athletes at play.

For the Fourth, you must get the Sunday New York Times

 To do the puzzle speedily, in ink, no matter what the rhymes.


And the Fifth thing to do to be at your best?

Take regular naps, enjoy getting your rest.

Sixth? Call your kids every Sunday at 10:30. sharp

But keep the calls brief, you don’t want to carp.

 


Now we are at number Seven, which could keep heaven at bay

Find time for the spiritual, perhaps even pray.

And the Eighth, what could that possibly be?

Provide counsel for many, without charging a fee.

 

But the Ninth thing, the one that we treasure the most?

It’s when you tell jokes, laugh loudly, even at your own roast.

For it is your humor, your sense of the absurd

That lets you stand out from the ordinary herd.


Repeat all of your stories, not one of them is new

And yet each time you tell them we get another view.

Of your fair-minded approach, your sense of what’s right

The battles to skip, and which ones to fight.

 

So there you have it, the Nine things to do

If you want to reach the wise old age of 92.

Take my advice if you want to become a sage like my Dad

And then what a glorious life, you will have had.

10 Comments

Filed under Aging, Aging Parents, Family, Lawyers, Moms, Relationships

No more Hot Potatoes for Dad

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My kids refer to me as the “Department of Complaints”.

They always turn to me whenever something goes wrong. When they were in college, I was the one to get the calls about roommate problems, a bad grade and “Do you think I have mono, Mom?”

I urged them to consider calling me not only when things went wrong but when things go well. How about the occasional call, I suggested,  to say – “Hi, Mom. It’s a sunny day. I’m feeling good. Had a great class. Love you, bye.”

Never happened.

Now that they are adults the calls have changed but only as to topic.

I am happy to give tips on how to get along with an annoying boss, thoughts on grad school and relationship advice. I function well as “Tell Mom, she will know what to do.”

Mostly, this is kind of flattering and it goes with the role we play as perennial parents.

But sometimes it can be burdensome. Especially if you are the type who worries. (Who me???). Your kid has a problem, picture it as a “hot potato”; he or she calls and hands off the “hot potato” to you. Your kid then goes on about his or her life while you are stuck worrying about their problem, the “hot potato” is now in your lap; even if the problem may already be solved or they aren’t worrying about it anymore.

I was a regular player of  “hot potato” with my Dad.

After my Mom died when I was in my 20’s,  Dad became the one I called with my problems.  He has been a wise advisor for concerns, large and small, for many years.

When our daughter got quite sick as a toddler, he was the first person I called. When our son had a tough problem at school, guess who got the phone call.  If I was having a difficult time at work, I called Dad for advice.  When the economy sunk my 401 (k) plan, I complained to him.

I never once stopped to think that maybe I was doing exactly the same thing to my Dad as my kids do to me.

Where is it written that we should spend our whole life as parents as the on-call-recipient of our kids’ problems?

Shouldn’t there come a time when your relationship with your parent changes?

Shortly after my 60th birthday I spent some unpleasant months being very ill. My 89 year old Dad called me every day while I was in the hospital to see how I was doing. Suddenly I realized I didn’t want to burden him any longer with my problems. He had been on the receiving end long enough. Maybe it was time for a change.

So when he called me in the hospital and asked – “how are you feeling today?”

I’d answer – “pretty good, doing better, really.” And I’d say that even if I had had a bad night or a frightening procedure coming up or a worrisome test result.

Now I was the one who wanted to protect him as best I could from bad news.

He had enough going on in his own life. My step-mom’s dementia was not getting better. Every week he would hear of the death of a friend or colleague. Attending funerals was becoming a hobby. Getting older was no picnic, although he never complains.

Since my illness (I am now much better, thank you), I call my Dad frequently. But I try to offer only cheerful news or funny stories. Our 1st grandson learned to sit up, our daughter got a new job, my husband has a promotion.  I no longer share with him any of my daily woes or the worries of our family.

Sometimes I almost slip up. A problem crops up and I reach for the phone. But then I stop. I can handle this. I can work through it, with my husband’s help, whatever it is. No need to call Dad anymore to put the “hot potato” in his well-worn lap.

Scary but liberating to (finally) become a grown up at age 62.

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