A few days ago, my father turned 98 years old. Yesterday as usual we went to our favorite restaurant for a lunch. We were served by a young woman who for years has a kind heart for my father and therefore always helps us very pleasantly. Of course, at the checkout I revealed that my father recently had his birthday. I had the idea that she, like so many other people, did not realize at all that this spirited and vital man is already 98 years old. In his good moments he does not really look that old, and that’s always the case when others are around. So she almost fell for surprise, and in all her spontaneity she slipped away “98 But that’s OLD !!! “. After she had overcome her embarrassment because of her frivolity, a spontaneous conversation arose, in which she told us that one of these days she’d be 25. “Half of Sara …” indicated how she looked at it. I think that the most beautiful part of her life is just beginning!
This fun event brought up the question why this man has so much vitality that he survived his own generation in his family (and even people of my generation). He features just about all the existing old age problems, but he still lives relatively independently in the care center, does his shopping at the supermarket, and regularly goes out with us. He is the proud ancestor of the fourth generation great-grandchildren. Yes, he needs more rest and time to process things. In the Netherlands, people are getting older, that’s a fact, and as a result the pension ages are constantly being raised. But some people become much older than others. My father never lived very special. No superfoods, but also no excessive use of junk food and stimulants. As a student in hiding during the war he started smoking , first cigarettes, then cigars, a bit like the trend of those days. And he stopped doing that, as soon as the aversion against smoking increased. Actually just a family man with a normal life.
As his confidant, I sometimes have conversations with him that give more color to that average life picture. With me he shows another side, and I am happy about that. Not so much because of the privileged position, but because everyone must have the opportunity to discuss the balance of life. It is not only about the outside, but also the experience from the inside. In 2008 my father had an advanced lung cancer diagnosis, which he later recovered from in a miraculous way. That is my positive approach; probably it’s just been a tragically drastic erroneous diagnosis. That spring, my parents lived with me for 3 months before they moved to a care center. I remember the evening they said goodbye to each other and their past life, while in the background I played their favorite tunes on my guitar. Since then my father regularly indicates that it has been good, and that every new day is an extra gift to enjoy. Nowadays, the latter is somewhat more difficult, because physically and mentally everything is getting less. He is aware of that process, and says that it’s okay now, and that it will not last long anymore. He reminisces about his childhood, his student days, how my mother took him in and how our family started. How it then went on until in 2008 he was rushed to the hospital. He makes up the balance of his life.
We all want to get old, but do not want to be old!
You want to grow old because your life gets more and more depth. Your appreciation of things, your understanding and acceptance grow. Because you distance yourself from the daily active life you get a different and richer perspective. Certain bonds become stronger, others become looser. At the same time, “letting go” takes on a completely different meaning, for you and for your environment. Forced by the physical and mental limitations that inevitably come with the years, you become more selective. That is why you do not want to be old: you can no longer really participate in the “normal” life around you. Times change, everything goes faster (apart from the fact that you slow down), ideas and morality shift. The only thing you have to give is your presence and gratitude. And the example function.
Let’s face it: following a reorganization, at 60 I decided to retire early and to pass on my life lessons to others as an e-Coach. Within a few months I noticed that I end up in another dimension, that the people I used to work with on a daily basis go on without you on another track. My prospect is positive (or maybe I just am myself), but my choice starts the last phase of my life (according to the series growing up and developing, working and being productive, and as older person take it easy). There is still much to discover to further shape the richness and maturity of life. Besides enjoying my time with Bärbel I will certainly help people with their personal development. I have a good example of the impact an elderly person can have on his environment. That is my new challenge!