On the 14th of December, my father celebrated his 97th birthday.
Some six months ago, a group of 12 of us took him out for dinner at a local restaurant in Port Townsend. This was a bit of an undertaking but well worth the effort.
Dad went out on the town with the aid of a walker and a wheelchair. He is hard of hearing, and his mind isn’t as sharp as it used to be. However, overall, I’d say that he’s doing quite well for his age.
When we were at the restaurant, someone wisely suggested that he be given a mug instead of a glass, making it easier for him to hold onto his drink.
During our time together there came a couple of memorable surprises. Dad made the comment, “How come I’m the only one that has a mug?” One would think that this detail would have gone unnoticed, but he was well aware, in spite of his advanced age.
Dad was given food that was piled high on his plate. It was an extra-large portion that I would have difficulty consuming. Yet, amazingly enough, he finished it all. I have never seen someone in their nineties eat that much set before them.
On the other hand, I could understand the motivation behind it. His father had died when he was 9 years old. His mother raised him and his two brothers alone. They lived a simple lifestyle on the homestead with a small orchard and some livestock. She was a seamstress and managed to eke out a living through the Great Depression. Food was hard to come by. The boys had learned to eat everything on their plates. That lesson was well-ingrained. So much so, that Dad still practiced it at age 97.
I was thinking the other day about what it would be like to live as long as my father. Would some important practices stick with me? If so, what would they be?
My faith has taught me to especially be mindful of the needs of others. It would be a blessing if those were the things that would remain, even in the simplest of ways.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 25 years.