We drove to the Chicago area to visit my parents the weekend before Christmas.
Mom and Dad, ages 83 and 85 respectively, are doing well.
Mom is “deaf in one ear and can’t hear out the other” as Dad puts it, but with the help of hearing aids she can still listen to television and hold a conversation. Every once in a while she’ll say something that makes you wonder if she understands what is being talked about, but for the most part she keeps up.
She also gets around.
She still drives to the church every other week to tend to the altar, a chore she performs as a 57-year member (and past chair) of the Altar Guild. Before a knee replacement a decade ago, she used to work in the kitchen for funerals and such but she has cut back. She also drives to get groceries, attend water aerobics, cash in too-good-to-pass-up coupons, etc. in a 10-mile radius of their home.
Dad, who is blind in one eye, gave up his driver’s license a few years ago because of failing vision. A lifelong truck driver, it was hard for him to quit the wheel but he’s adjusted. He was in extra good spirits because he recently got to do his two favorite things: work and fish.
Going into the ice fishing season he told my youngest brother, Bob, that he didn’t think he’d go out any more. Because of his limited eyesight, he has trouble with tangling and untangling line. When I think back I cannot remember him with a tangled line, but I can remember him fixing my bird nests on many an occasion.
But little brother regaled him into submission with stories of big catches on thin ice. Through more than 70 years of experience, Dad has concluded that fishing is often best when the ice first comes in or the last of it goes. For early spring fishing he used to strap a 10-ft. plank to the top of the car to use as a bridge over open water. That way he could get to ice that was little more than slush.
The day before we arrived, they went fishing and made out like bandits, catching more than a hundred and keeping about two dozen. If you’ve never savored a freshly-caught-through-the-ice, filleted, breaded and fried blue gill, you’ve never experienced culinary perfection.
Also, before we arrived, Dad shoveled and ran a snow blower to clear the drive, the sidewalk and the car-parking area. Did I mention he’s had two open-heart surgeries? Bob, a heavy equipment mechanic and part-time snowplow driver, told Dad that he’d stop by early and “get ‘er done,” but Dad would have none of that.
Bob, I should mention, considers getting up at 4:30 a.m. routine. I’m not sure what time he got up to start plowing, but it was earlier. While Bob was clearing parking lots, Dad was on the driveway shoveling. He has a snow blower but he does the bulk of the job with a hand shovel nevertheless. A Samurai prefers a sword to gun, and snow is a homeland invader.
By 8 a.m., Dad’s job was finished, and he was having a cup of coffee when Bob stopped by with his diesel Ford 500 truck (he recently downsized from an even bigger pickup) with plow a few minutes later.
I wasn’t there but I’d guess Dad said something like, “What happened, did you decide to get some beauty sleep?”
Of course, I would have done the shoveling as well, but fat chance of that, since we arrived at noon. The next morning, I offered to spread some salt over a couple of icy spots, but Dad declined help. He said he didn’t want me to get salt where people might walk through it and drag it in the house.
Hard to argue with that kind of logic.