“Don’t grow old, Stacey.” my father used to say to me. “Getting old is for the birds!”
“There is only one other alternative, Dad. And I don’t like the alternative.” I used to respond.
He would laugh. “Yeah – I guess you are right.” he would add.
Dad hated getting older. He hated the limitations his age put on his physical abilities. He pretty much refused to give into his age – until a wood splitting accident removed his thumb and index finger, Parkinson’s Disease took his balance and mobility, cancer took his parotid gland and burned his face. Oh – and he had had a stroke earlier on which taught him to keep falling off a ladder quieter so that Mom wouldn’t fuss over him. This stroke lead him to a bit of a hospital stay and a hip repair.
My Mom had a hard keeping him “in line”. He refused to give up. Every weekend, Dad would venture into the back acreage (80 acres of maple trees and meadow) to clear the bush of fallen trees for firewood. I have such strong memories of how hard Dad worked. He did not back down – ever – from a challenge. All of his life, until he chopped his thumb and index finger off in a wood splitter, he had been healthy. I don’t remember him ever visiting a hospital, never mind a doctor.
Dad always claimed it was “good living” that helped him to live such a long and healthy life. Good living, of course, meant body builder – homemade wine. Dad invited many guests to join him in his good living over the course of the years. One would think there would be longevity in many of Mom and Dad’s friends.
He started to slow down when he lost his two digits. He could no longer chop wood, change a fan belt on the tractor, or plow the snow. It was not long afterwards that Mom and Dad sold the farm and moved into town.
The decline for Dad was slow and gradual. It was mainly physical because his mind, right until the end, was as sharp as a tack. He was so frustrated with his physical challenges. I think that’s what kept him going.
“Don’t grow old, Stacey”, he would say to me when shuffling off for an afternoon snooze.
“Don’t grow old, Stacey”, he would say to me when trying to get up out of his pink chair.
“Don’t grow old, Stacey”, he would caution me when getting up out of bed in the morning.
I don’t think he would tell me that if he were here today. I think he would wish old age on me. To be Dad’s age, I would need to live another 40 years. I could live with that. He was a healthy person with Parkinson’s – just like I am a healthy person with cancer. But I want old age. I want to grow old. And I think Dad would agree.
Getting old is not for the birds – it is a blessing.