A few weeks back, John and I went to Dickinson, ND to visit my 98 year old grandmother. Yes, that’s correct. She is 98, goes to church, makes her own breakfasts, lunches and dinners and does five to six crossword puzzles a day. She has lived a very full life and has plans for many more years. She wants to outlive her oldest friend, who’s currently 107.
Over the week we had many conversations about her nine siblings, nine kids, 22 grandchildren, countless great-grandchildren, a few great-great-grandchildren and her over 50 living nieces and nephews. One thing that struck a chord with me was the simplicity of her life and those who grew up and lived around her. She eats oatmeal for breakfast daily, doesn’t have an extravagant home and lives with her daughter and son (my aunt and uncle). Although she relies on them for very little; she does need some help. She enjoys cooking from time to time, although pots and pans are a bit heavy for her.
She told me that when her children were younger she remembers only two times that they went out as a family for dinner. They didn’t go out two times a week, but two times in over 30 years! True, it’s not easy paying for nine dinners, let alone getting nine kids into one car. Although, without seat belt laws and with the massive size of cars in the 40s, 50s and 60s, it may have been easier than today.
She and my grandfather owned farms for many years and then became grocers, owning and operating stores in Minnesota and North Dakota. They raised a big family that now spreads over more than ten states. Many of their children went to college and have served in the military. They have a great level of respect for family, God and country and, to my knowledge, have never committed a crime.
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I love bragging about my grandmother because she owes much of her success to her simple outlook on life. Although she lives near the Brakken area of North Dakota that’s now awash with oil money, she enjoyed raising her children, working with her husband and having a low-stress life. Maybe that’s the key to her 98+ years.
She lives in the same house that she and my grandfather bought in 1968 and made few changes to it. Because she is diligent about cleanliness, it still looks nice. Maybe this is another key to her number of years; she didn’t try to keep up with others or have the latest and greatest of everything. She doesn’t compare herself to her neighbors. She’s content.
She, also, enjoys gardening. She isn’t able to get in the dirt and grow everything she once did, but eating simple and home grown foods has limited her intake of the chemicals that are sprayed over corporate farms today. This year she has potatoes, beans, tomatoes, carrots, peas, corn and a variety of lettuces. This, also, has helped her manage her budget, another lesson we can learn. Not all our food needs to be delivered on a plate in a restaurant or is store-to-stomach ready. We can sustain ourselves with some effort and, who knows, we might enjoy gardening.
As a family, we look forward to celebrating her first century in a couple of years. I know she looks back on 100 years of life with fondness and humor. I can only hope to live the long and fulfilling life she has. I think we would do well to learn to enjoy a simple life; a life like my grandmother’s that brings about contentment without over-spending and over-consuming.
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