Monday, July 29, 2013

The Worst Part of Growing Old

That title is strictly subjective. I'm sure if you asked 100 people over 50 what they hated most about growing old, you would get 100 different answers including these:

  • Losing hair
  • Losing skin elasticity
  • Age spots
  • Poor eyesight
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Listening to your friends who are also getting old.
  • And all the other boring stuff .
Just peruse through "Prevention" magazine or "Readers Digest" and look at the ads. Ew.

Today I am going to reveal to you, my faithful reader, what is the worst part of growing old for me.

Losing a parent.

We blame our parents for practically everything, at most every stage of life we travel through. Then they become old and unhealthy and have the same attitude as we did when we were 6 and that's how we have to treat them. No one is prepared for this. No matter how many well-meaning people try to tell you what it's like parenting your parents. We rarely step back and breath in the blessings and wisdom and naked, raw love that our parents show us. Until it's too late.

Last week my father died. 
It was rather sudden. He lived in a nursing home and suffered with advanced Parkinson's disease. His mind was intact, however. More so than some people my age. But God decided it was time to bring Floyd into his elite circle. So we are learning to let him go. 

Those of you who know me, know that I was a daddy's girl. Always was. I can remember one day having a horrible fight with my mother so I jumped on my bike and rode several miles across a 6 lane highway to my dad's office. I walked in and plopped down in his lap and just cried out my frustrations. I was 14...much too big for his lap. But he just listened and patted my back. I felt so much better then. We had an unspoken code between us. "You and Me Against The World" or something very melodramatic like that.

I have a baby granddaughter due this week. God seems to replace the old saints with new ones. Even though he won't get to hold her, he will get to see her every day now. Dad will like that. He loved my kids and their kids. I am so blessed beyond measure that Floyd Griffin was my father. I am not going to keep writing my feelings because this would get way too mushy and personal and you did not come here for that. What I will do is share with you what I learned from him. 

by Barbara Burks

How to hold hands.

I have been holding my dad's hand since my first memories of him. He was a hand-holder and a patter. Even when I was a teenager I was never embarrassed to be seen holding my father's soft hand. He had "engineer" hands. Because all he did was draw schematics, hold a solder gun, and read Popular Mechanics. My first-born is also a hand holder and a patter. Bless her.

How to shoot a gun.

I was about 6 years old when I received my first pistol shooting lesson. He used to take my brother and I to the county dump and set up targets for us with cans and bottles. If you want to make memories with your kids...take them to the dump and empty a few rounds into someone's old mattress. I believe that because of our exposure to both the fun AND dangers of all guns, I was never tempted to play with his vast collection when he wasn't around.


Floyd Griffin was the most patient man on this earth. (He HAD to be to raise me.) He never lost his cool, was never rude to anyone, and never raised his voice. Let me be clear, I am not always like that...but he TAUGHT it to me, nonetheless.

What to look for in a husband.

First and foremost, my father never expected me to "look" for a husband, thank goodness. My husband, Buddy, does not quite share all of Floyd's qualities...his hands are not soft and he is not quiet. But having Floyd for a father made me seek a man who could make me feel protected, who can fix anything like my Dad (we rarely ever had to call a repairman and Buddy refuses to!) and who loves being with family. My parents were married for nearly 60 years and I pray I can show my children that same level of commitment.


Floyd made math almost fun. He got me through 12 years of it so that I would never have to take it again. This is probably where he developed his patience.

The value of education.

My dad was the first to graduate college in his family. He went to Georgia Tech on a GI Bill as a newlywed and held down several jobs, one being a janitor. He loved his profession (engineering) with a passion. That is probably one reason I was obnoxious about my kids going to college. I didn’t really care what their major was, as long as they completed school. Dad was very proud of all of them for getting their degrees. That could have been one reason I decided to go back to school to complete my college education at the age of 50. I now proudly wear his class ring as my own. 
Let your children be who they are.

My father never tried to change me. He would definitely discipline me if (when) I got out of line, but he was either proud of everything I did, or just tolerated it. He did not want me to be anybody else:
  • When I was convinced I'd be a professional polka dancer and would polka in circles around his chair for hours, him never looking up or telling me to stop...
  • When I created special concoctions to quench his thirst, such as 1/2 tea and 1/2 coke called "tea-cola" that I was positive he would love, he would drink it and say, "delicious." I tasted some just the other day in a moment of nostalgia. Not delicious...
  • When a raccoon wandered into our yard and we made him catch it and put it in a cage for a few days so we could have a pet raccoon, feeding it Honeycomb cereal and chicken bones...
  • When cartwheels were my preferred mode of transportation...

I sincerely hope I have allowed my children to be who they are because we who've been celebrated as children, will in turn celebrate our own.

To be content with what I have.

Floyd was a low maintenance kind of guy. Certainly he needed a lot of care in his old age...but besides that, was extremely easy to please. He taught me not to want what everyone else has just because they have it and I don't. He taught me the value of a dollar by teaching me about the stock market when I asked him what all those numbers on 4 pages of the newspaper were for. He had me choose a stock (Winn Dixie) and we watched it everyday. The exhausting and unsatisfying journey of climbing a social ladder never appealed to me because of the lessons I learned from the man who decided that $40 for a pair of slacks was ridiculous so he found a magazine ad for 3 pairs of pants for $19.99. He was so proud when he ordered them. They were designed for a man who was 5'9" instead of a man who was 6'3", and made of the cheapest polyester plaid fabric I've ever seen. But he proudly wore them with dignity until they mysteriously disappeared about 10 years later.

So, today...

I am a relatively patient woman that likes to hold hands, shoot pistols, clepped out of college math, chose a wonderful husband who gave me unique children I can celebrate, and am content with my surroundings and my family because of my dad, Floyd Silas Griffin, Jr. I would love to know what I taught him. I suspect he would say something sweet like, "that daughters are wonderful" but more likely he would say, "patience".

Floyd and Bobby. Just a couple of boys fishing.

 So long dad. Now it's you doing the cartwheels!

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