The years teach us

Comparing this photo to the one featured here, I think my folks have held up well.  April 2015

Comparing this photo to the one featured here, I think my folks have held up well. April 2015

“It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.” ― Elizabeth Taylor (the novelist)

One of the great blessings of having parents who live a long time is the ability to learn from them about how to handle what lies ahead.  As my siblings and I are all old enough to be AARP members,* we’ve moved through many of the stages we remember watching our parents negotiate, marveling at how young we feel now compared to how old we once thought adults in this phase of life must be.

The challenges of growing older are slightly different for each person, of course, and everyone differs as to which aspect of aging is most easily handled.  But there is little doubt in my mind that one of the most important qualities to have when we pass into the latter half of life is patience.  Fortunately, life itself ensures that we will have this quality, if we are blessed to reach our senior years.

I suppose those who can’t learn patience probably are more likely to succumb to accidents, disease, or strokes and heart attacks.  It’s as if patience is a sort of screening device.  We may as well learn it, because we will need it in ever-increasing measure.

Truthfully, my Daddy always seemed fairly patient to me.  My busy and accomplished Mama, not so much.  Yet Daddy has grown even more patient over the years, and Mama surprises me at how well she endures (often with a smile or a laugh) things that once would have driven her mad.  Looking at them now, I realize two things: one, a long life is a mixed blessing that requires great endurance, and two, I hope Jeff and I are able to find out what it’s like to enjoy that blessing for ourselves, mixed though it inevitably will be.

Those of us facing or enjoying retirement have been, often unconsciously, learning from our elders all of our lives.  Most of those lessons have been good ones.  I hope we all remember and honor the ones who have made this difficult journey a few years ahead of us, lighting our way with grace, a sense of humor, and the deep conviction that life is good.


*not that any of us actually are AARP members, but just saying…

This post was first published seven years ago today. And I still miss my Mama and Daddy every day. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Judy

    This candid photo of your lovely parents says so much about them even though we never met. Your mom seems to have loved plants in her home, and is that a plant catalog that she was looking at? A torn out paper from a spiral notebook looks like it’s filled with notes, maybe about gardening? Your dad has a magnifying glass next to what looks like an inhaler, and an open magazine or journal is there too — perhaps something he was studying? Your love of gardens and information gathering might be traits passed on to you from your mother and father, as well as the endurance you wrote about today — wonderful gifts to you.

    I hope Matt is doing well after his surgery this week and that you yourself are being carried by faith as you make your way, day by day. You’re both in my prayers.

    • Judy, I love the way you looked so closely at this photo for the details of their lives. I believe Mama’s catalog was almost certainly from a vendor for her business (a health food store), since she was still active in managing it at that point. Probably she was putting together an order. Daddy read a great deal, and I assume the magnifying glass was for tiny print on whatever he might have been trying to read, such as product information or planting instructions– he was keen on trying new things, such as a hydroponic gardening system he started on his patio. And yes, the final years of his life were totally dependent on that inhaler for the COPD, though it was a massive heart attack subsequent to a broken back that got him in the end (he broke his back lifting my mother into her bed, which she insisted ONLY HE could do, despite his weighting less than her at that point).

      Matt is doing very well after his valve replacement surgery. They won’t be able to do the pacemaker surgery until September, because they need to give him time to heal. But he’s back to his full 3 miles per day (one hour) on the treadmill, and seems to feel great. Thank you for your prayers for both of us!

  2. bendichoso

    Great post!

    • Thank you, Ben!

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