Sunday, February 21, 2010

Measures of a Life Well-Lived

I invite you to celebrate an amazing life. My dad (age 96) is in the hospital ICU and on the mend. He had some gallstones melted down and is beginning to drink broth (asking for a hot dog!). A couple of days ago he was cold. The nurses wrapped him in a blanket and took care to tuck his feet in. He said, "You better get a rope and tie 'em so they won't get away!" The nurses compete to take care of him, he's such a pleasure. My brother goes up every day to sit with him and my sister took Mom up yesterday. I am grateful for such a brother and sister. I am grateful for such wonderful parents. I thought after the Red Sox won a couple of World Series Dad would decide to shove off, but he keeps finding reasons to stay around!

Those who know Dad have seen him re-invent himself several times in this life. When he was a young man he raised his first flock of roosters to sell on the market and paid off the farm's back taxes, to my ailing grandfather's huge delight. When the poultry business got tough, Dad installed automatic feeders and a grain mill, bought all the ingredients from the mid-west, and hired a trucker to bring soy, wheat, etc. from the train station in Lisbon Falls to the dumping pit on the farm. At that point he was one of only four independent poultry farmers in Maine, and he stayed in business even in the bad years. He served on and sometimes chaired the state Poultryman's Association.

While he was farming he sometimes worked at the gypsum mill to supplement the family income. He also substituted as a rural mail carrier. He was elected to the Board of Selectmen and later served as Chair. When he tired of calculating carloads of ingredients for chicken mash, he went to school and became a tax assessor/building inspector for the town of Gray where he worked until the age of 70. As we know, taxes can be touchy. People would come in hot about their assessments. Dad would say, "Come into my office. I'll show you how I got those figures." People knew he was fair and they knew he would never get riled. He was beloved at the town offices.

My brother, meanwhile, planted and tended a large garden with Dad’s help and lots of canning and freezing from Mom. When Dad retired he devoted himself to tending his pine trees and raising vegetables and berries. I think a lot of the longevity of my parents can be explained by the homegrown vegetables they ate summer and winter all their lives. I have to work very hard finding "real food" and I pay a lot to eat as well as they eat. Further, it's really true that behind this successful man is a strong and loving wife. Dad has always said that my mother's companionship meant a lot to him. Please celebrate with me this amazing life.