The Secret to Living a Long and Happy Life

mom and dad1This is a photograph of my parents at their breakfast table. After being married for 56 years and weathering all kinds of storms, they sit quietly and enjoy each other’s company.

My father celebrated his 87th birthday two weeks ago and my mother will be 83 on Saturday. I took this photograph while back in Wisconsin.

Every day they dress and set the table for breakfast. It always includes my mom’s homemade bread made seven loaves at a time. She expresses her love for her family through the meals she serves.

When my dad went on a salt and vitamin K-free diet, at first it was a challenge for my gourmet mom. She had to think outside the box and can, literally. While I was there, she whipped out her splattered, but loved cookbooks and concocted dinners worthy of a fine restaurant: Salmon doused in a fresh tomato ragout and pork chops with apples and cinnamon. Stir-fried fresh vegetables and meatloaf with peppers and onions. More vegetables filled that loaf than meat!

My dad is an artist and still paints. While visiting, I had him sign all of his work. Some dated back to the early 1950’s. His artwork chronicles the passage of a long life from the depictions of his farm while growing up during the depression in Holy Hill outside of Milwaukee, to many of my family while living in Madison and the latest of his beloved Collie. He has painted all of us in various life stages. My sister and I in a fantasy world at Storybook Gardens when we were children is one of my many favorites. The oil of my mother on their honeymoon shows the twinkle in violet eyes full of love and excitement over her new life with my father.  Water-colored and acrylic paintings of landscapes hearken back to family camping trips and weekend jaunts in the country. All display my dad’s quiet reserve and happy demeanor. He always sees the beauty in everything that surrounds him. I like to think that I inherited that same quality from him.

My mother is one of those people who can sense when someone is hurting and rushes to help. Talk about a sixth sense, the phone always rings on my worst days.

A couple days ago, a young boy knocked on my parent’s door asking to shovel. The snow still swirled around him as he stood on their doorstep shivering. He explained that he would be happy to do the work, but needed to borrow some gloves. My mom welcomed him inside and gave him a pair of new work gloves and a hat to keep. He not only shoveled their walk as agreed upon, but their long driveway and steps. Then he asked if he could sprinkle some salt from the bag he noticed on their porch.

After she paid and tipped him for an excellent job, she learned that he didn’t go to school, but worked at McDonald’s. She sensed that something was wrong with this young boy, so she hired him to come back to help her on Wednesdays and to check in with her to help them with other odd jobs.

She plans to inquire about why he isn’t in school and to find out what is going on with his family. After relating this story to me yesterday she said, “God always works in mysterious ways. Sometimes he says, ‘Mary, I have a job for you,’ and a boy rings my doorbell. It is just how life works.”

My mom has always been an amazing role model and she is still teaching me about empathy.

The snow still falls in inches outside my parent’s kitchen window in Wisconsin. My dad will continue to paint from a photograph while my mother bakes a cake and then leafs through another worn cookbook searching for a new recipe to try for tonight’s dinner.

They feel blessed to have lived such a long life together and treat each day like a gift. It’s in the quiet moments that one can see a life well spent.

Happy Birthday!

Do you enjoy the quiet moments?

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Filed under Inspiration, Life, Photography

125 responses to “The Secret to Living a Long and Happy Life

  1. Inegilltence and simplicity – easy to understand how you think.

  2. Anonymous

    A lovely testament to a beautiful couple! What stuck me was that you have all those lovely paintings from your father chronicling your lives. A photograph will record the moment but your fathers painting I am sure will show the spirit and heart of that moment.

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  5. Well that is just a beautiful post. They sound so inspiring. Glad you came by my blog.

  6. I’m in catchup mode here, Susie – but this is beautiful. Your parents sound like wonderful, rounded people. And I’m so impressed your Mum still loves to cook gourmet at 83!! Wow. We can see where you get your spirit from ;)

  7. Your parents sound absolutely lovely. Aren’t you lucky to have had them this long?!

  8. Wonderful portrait of your parent’s marriage/ time together. It is a tremendous relief to have parents who change their cooking and eating habits to be healthier. My mother switched to less salt, less fat cooking about 20 years ago with her high blood pressure diagnosis from doctor. That means Chinese food cooking with hardly any soy sauce! It still is Chinese cuisine to me in terms of its cooking style and ingredients.

    Will you feature some of your father’s best art work? It would be great.

    • That is so great that your mom is taking care of herself. It makes such a huge difference.
      I definitely will post some of my dad’s artwork after my next visit. He is super talented and has paintings from throughout his life!
      Thanks Jean! I missed your comment somehow!

  9. Such a heartwarming story especially in the troubled ones we live in. It’s reassuring to know that there are good people who know how to live and love! And isn’t that what it’s all about in the end?

    I’m so glad I found your site while browsing The WordPress Daily Post!! I think it was the universe working to get me here! Enjoyed your site, your writing and your joie de vivre!! Will be back for more :)

  10. As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree! Lucky you to have such exemplary parents who have obviously passed on their fine attributes to you.

  11. Playing catch-up after being buried under some editing tasks. Love this post, Susie! Thanks for sharing.

  12. What a lovely story, Susie. You are so lucky to have such a close relationship with your parents. I hope that once you find out that young boy’s story, you’ll let us know. I’m feeling worried about him, too, and I wasn’t even there! (That’s a sign of a great storyteller, so nice job there Susie. :) )

    • Thank you so much! I wasn’t sure how this would be received. It always surprises me how some posts relate better than others.
      I am very lucky to have them in my life! They are still doing what they love and stay connected to their community. We’ll see what happens…

  13. What a wonderful story. Here’s wishing your mom a very happy birthday today. And yes….the quiet moments are where I find the answers to the questions.
    Good stuff.

  14. filbio

    56 years married, in their 80′s, and still going strong. God bless them. Reminds me of my past great aunts and uncles who have since passed. All married over 50 years. They all came from a generation that is so different from today’s.

    Thanks for this post, and the memories.


    • Thanks Phil! That is great that they were in you life for such a long time. I think there is something to learn from them. My parents have always taken care of each other. It is great to see how they still have their traditions and routines.

  15. I almost cried reading that, Susie. What wonderful parents you have! I think it’s great that they’re still active and enjoying life, helping people and doing the things they love the most. You are a very lucky woman. :)

  16. This reminds me so much of my aunt and uncle’s marriage. She passed away almost 2 weeks ago now…it’s strange thinking of him being without her.

    • I bet that he is having a hard time. People can adapt, but it is never the same. I am sorry to hear that… We have to be thankful for every day we get!
      Thanks Denise!

  17. What absolutely delightful parents. Could you keep us posted about the boy?

  18. Well this certainly explains your magnetic personality, creative genius and trusting nature…it’s genetic. This was such a heart warming post…really warmed the soul today.

    • You are so sweet Lisa! Thank you! They are wonderful people and very inspirational. I bet Danny hopes I am still baking and making wonderful dinners for him when we are that age. He would love it if I made them now! Hahaha!

  19. Such a sweet tribute to your folks. Can I adopt them? Or can they adopt me?

  20. Great story! Happily married after 56 years. Fabulous! Their kindness and compassion has surely played a large part in getting to that point. Would love to hear about the boy. Perhaps another post?

    • Thanks for coming by and reading! Yep, they are each other’s support system. My mom has really monitored my dad’s diet and that has really added years. It’s a good thing he can eat sweets! She always is baking some kind of amazing dessert.
      I’ll have to ask her what happened to him…
      Enjoy your weekend!

  21. AudiojoeM

    Nice tribute Susie.
    I like the imagery. Your description of Mom’s cooking and baking made me hungry for meatloaf! 
    Then you took me outside to shovel snow in a wicked Wisconsin Winter with no gloves. Brrrrrr!
    What a great Birthday present!

    • Hahaha! Brrr is right! Danny is about to drag me off the computer to grab the first chairlift at Breck! It is dumping here.
      Thanks so much Joe for reading! Did you see all of the comments asking me to blog Dad’s paintings? One of my friends thought I should start a blog for him!
      I should have taken pictures of his work when I was back. Maybe you can snap a few for me!
      Love you!

  22. Hey, I know you are very busy, but check out my post tomorrow as I have nominated you for an award (well, two, actually).

  23. What a lovely “love story”. I read somewhere that Wallis Simpson told her royal Edward that even if they didn’t talk when having dinners outside their home they should move the lips as they were talking … so people shouldn’t start talking.
    I think it’s so important to find somebody that we can enjoy silence with too – we don’t have to talk all the time, but then I have seen so many couples that have dinner together … on a restaurant and not spoken one word to each other druing the whole dinner and then my thoughts automaticly goes to Wallis and Edward.
    Have a great weekend.

    • That gave me shivers Viveka! I bet you are right and they are completely happy to enjoy their uninterrupted thoughts. Chances are slim that I will ever stop talking during a dinner out with my husband! But in 30 years, who knows!
      Thanks so much!

      • …. I think it’s very important that we have a partner that we can enjoy silence with. And I’m sure that there is an great understanding between your parents .. and that they enjoy their breakfasts. When going out for dinner is a treat – feast and it makes us automatically excited and when we are excited .. we talk all the time. If not excited … something is deep wrong.

      • …. I think it’s very important that we have a partner that we can enjoy silence with. And I’m sure that there is an great understanding between your parents .. and that they enjoy their breakfasts. When going out for dinner is a treat – feast and it makes us automatically excited and when we are excited .. we talk all the time. If not excited … something is deep wrong.

  24. That’s beautiful!
    Thank you for introducing us.

  25. Julie Catherine

    Susie, this post actually brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t have anything like that growing up, but it warms my heart to read of the love your parents share … and that you share with all your family. I’d also love to see some of your dad’s paintings. This is a beautiful tribute, thank you so much for sharing with us. ~ Love and hugs, Julie xoxox

    • Thanks Julie! It brought tears to mine too as I wrote it!
      I should have taken some pictures and will have to blog about his paintings sometime. So many have asked about his work today! I think they will enjoy it. I will read it to them tomorrow
      Love and hugs to you too Julie!

  26. What a touching story. You painted a beautiful picture of your parents. You’ve very lucky to have such wonderful parents. :)

  27. Susie,
    I’m crying on the inside. Your words – and your aprents – are beautiful and inspiring.

  28. What an amazing family you have. So glad that you appreciate all of the wonderful gifts you have been given and that you share them with us. Your parents sound like very special people.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Thanks Patricia! I do appreciate them. This story floated around my head since I visited, but when my mom told me the story about the boy, it all came together. Funny how that happens with us writers!
      Have a wonderful weekend!

  29. Picture was poignant, a loving couple sharing that moment before the break out the Harleys and cruise the town. My quiet moment is just that, standing under a steamy shower for the first thing in the morning letting hot water run down to the drain relaxing all the way.

    • The Harley comment will crack them up! My dad had one before he was married. He wanted me to get a motorcycle when I was in college. You can imagine my mom’s reaction to that idea!

      A morning shower sounds wonderful. I have a friend who says you can get rid of all your negative energy that way… right down the drain is right!

  30. You will treasure that photo. It says so much – and you are obviously a reflection of them.
    Funny how people find each other – your parents are a match and that boy at the door (reminds me of some O Henry stories? A positive upbeat Twilight Zone? You may make something out of this event someday)

    • Thanks so much Phil. I sent that photo along with my mom’s gifts! I think it sums them up so well.
      Maybe it will inspire a story or two…. Twilight Zone sounds great especially since they don’t know where he came from or anything about him.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  31. Oh, Susie – thank you for sharing your lovely parents with us. It’s wonderful to read about the love and kindness of certain special people. Now I see where your exuberance for life comes from. I also hope to one day see some of your father’s paintings on your blog. Maybe you could set up a second blog (or have a separate page) for “Ed’s Gallery”?!!

    Have a great weekend!

    • Thanks so much Mary and for all your support!
      That’s a great idea! I will have to look into that when I go back to Wisconsin. I regret not taking a bunch of photos of his work while I was there….
      Have a fab weekend too! See you around FB my friend!

  32. Your parents sound like a wonderful couple. Thank you for sharing them with us!

  33. Cheers Susie – wonderful post.

  34. That’s quit a story and you told it well, Susie… no snarky remarks from me today. I’ve read about your dad, but this is the first time I’ve met your mom. I know your dad is proud of his little artist… I’m sure your mom is proud of her writer.

    Let us know what Mary does with the boy.

    • Thank you so much Ted and for holding back on me. I am a sensitive soul under all this crazy energy. :)
      After two years of blogging I think they are just now understanding a little bit more about what I am doing, but I really think they’ll be excited once I publish my book….
      Have a great weekend!

  35. Susie, what a glorious gift your parents are in your life…you mom sounds a lot like my mother-in-law who always welcomed everyone into her life and tried to figure out what she was supposed to do with them – how they fit into the “plan”.

    I pray your parents continue in good health and love.

  36. Beautiful story about two loving people from their loving daughter. The part about the boy shoveling the snow for them reminds me of our newspaper carrier when I was growing up. I may have to write a post about him.

    • You should David! It is amazing how reaching out to others can make such a big impact. Even in the little things like holding the door or putting a cart away from someone. Thanks so much!

  37. Susie, what a beautiful accounting and tribute to your parents. They, from your story, are wonderful people, worthy of the peaceful, quiet times they are enjoying. You do yourself proud with this post.

    • Oh, thanks Paul! I thought it was the least I could do. I will read it to them tomorrow. They will be thrilled! There are those different phases in life. In the meanwhile, I plan to enjoy the quiet times a bit more fully!

  38. What a Darling Couple:) I love the quiet moments, especially with my greatest someone! Loving your post – thanks for sharing. Happy Friday – Happy Weekend

    • Hey Renee!
      They really are wonderful people. I have been lucky to have them in my life. I think it is easy to forget to enjoy those simple moments in the daily rush.
      Thanks for stopping by! Have a fabulous weekend!

  39. So lovely, Susie. Your post had a tone of calm that literally made me relax. Thanks for sharing your parents with us.

    • Oh I am so glad! It is funny how the words just flowed as I gazed at the photograph. They are wonderful parents and have been each other’s support system for all these years!
      Thanks so much Kecia!

  40. A great tribute to both, but obviously a well-deserved one.
    With permission, can’t you share some of those artworks on your blog?

    • Thanks so much! They do deserve it!

      I am kicking myself for not taking photos of his work when I was back there. I took a great one of my dad surrounded by his work in his studio. I didn’t include it because I didn’t want to take away from the top photo. I will definitely blog about his artwork. He is an incredible and unrecognized artist. No surprise there since he is as humble as a person comes!
      Thanks Colonist! I will pass your idea along to him. It will make his day!

  41. Hi Susie,

    Written from the heart with great eloquence. A masterpiece.

    I am very touched and expanded by this.

    I’m really glad you are a writer. And can’t wait for your books. The world needs writers like you. You carry the gift of your parents out to the world.

    Well done.


    • Wow! Thanks so much Nia! You just gave me goosebumps!
      Passing along their story seems like the very least I can do. The funny thing is, I wasn’t sure how this would be received. My posts are kind of all over the place. I just had to write it!
      Thanks again! I really appreciate your supportive words!

  42. Things are different now, and, yes, I do enjoy the quiet moments. It’s those moments that say staying single and being here taking care of myself is, basically, enough.

  43. Susie, this post really spoke to my heart. My Daddy was an artist. My Mom is a wonderfully creative woman and misses him dearly, as I do. They were married for 61 years! Happy Birthday to your Dad. I love this post, their values and their influence on you. Your posts are always positive and fun-loving and that in itself, is a testament to them — and to you. And most certainly a recipe for a long and happy life. Thank you for sharing this — it is written from the heart and so eloquently!

    • Thanks Brigitte!
      61 years is amazing!
      Dad’s that are artists are the best! Did you grow up with the coffee can full of broken crayons? My sister, brother and I always worked on one project or another. Ahhh. life before video games!

      My parents are looking forward to their 60th. My mom keeps saying, “Come on Ed. We’re going to make it!” He has had so many close calls and is like an Eveready bunny, thank God!
      I try to keep my posts on the light side. It is in my nature anyway!
      Thanks again for your kind words!

  44. What a fantastic post. Thank you.

  45. You are so lucky to have both your Mom and Dad. My Dad passed away when he was 57, Mom is still around thank God. She is 77 now. I think the secret of a long happy life is to laugh and be happy, no matter what. :-) Lovely post!

    • I think you are right. I remember you mentioning your dad. He was so young!
      How wonderful that your mom is still around! She must be proud of all of your accomplishments!
      Have a great weekend M!

  46. What a lovely, lovely sentiment to your parents! You are truly blessed to have such loving, nurturing parents. Those moments of quiet speak in our hearts forever. Thanks for sharing their story.

    • Thanks Tameri!
      They are both loving and nurturing. Two weeks ago, when I went back by myself, I was really able to see their relationship and how some parts have evolved and others have lasted all through the years. I hope to apply that to my own marriage. Danny would joke, “What quiet moments?” :)

  47. A lovely post Susie. God bless you and your wonderful parents. :)

  48. Oh dear…how beautiful this is….sniffle…Such a gift you have in your parents and such a gift they have in you…..I think gift is not sufficient…change that to “treasure”…you have all been blessed with the most valuable treasure in life.

    • Thanks so much for that! You are right. I had no idea how other families could be so screwed up until I went to college. I have always valued the relationship and am so thankful they are still here to share their lives!

  49. What a lovely post, Susie. That photograph speaks volumes about the love and contentment in your parents’ lives. As your father paints portraits, you do so – beautifully- in words.

    • Thanks so much! I really love this new medium. No matter what happens, they are each other’s rock!
      I actually had the words “this photo speaks volumes” and then I simplified it. Great minds!
      Have a great weekend!

  50. This blog made me cry

    “God always works in mysterious ways. Sometimes he says, ‘Mary, I have a job for you,’ and a boy rings my doorbell. It is just how life works.”

    amen to that sista..
    Hugs to you and your family.

  51. Love this. What a great tribute to your parents. A priceless portrait you’ve painted for yourself and for posterity– well done!

    • Awww! Thank you!
      I will have to send it to them. They have no idea! I did show them the photo after I took it.
      I do love writing these once in a while. I figure that these stories will be passed down one day!

  52. Excellent! Both on your description and their life together. Nothing is more important than seeing how life is done by people who enjoy people. Thank you for sharing their story with us.

    • Thanks Waldo!
      I think there can be more to learn by how people carry on their lives, in their routines and traditions. It becomes the rhythm of daily life and the heart of the relationship as we age.
      I am still learning from both of them!

  53. Susie excellent memoir and life post
    as stunning as your write ups are i can see where it all comes from.
    please convey my Bbest wishes and Regards to your lovely parents.
    It brought tears in my eyes as it reminded me of my trips to my patents home and how they shape our lives and inspire us in so many ways.
    Big hugs Sista. This was Beautiful :-)

    • It is so great to see you Soma! I hope all is well with you.
      I teared up as I wrote this. I have been very lucky to have them in my life and had to share. I will pass along your warm wishes!
      Thank you so much!

  54. My mother passed Sept 17, twelve days shy of 67th wedding anniversary. My parents have lived with me last 10 years. May you continue in joy with the presence of your parents. Regards.

  55. What a touching story. You are so blessed to have such wonderful parents. It also sounds like the young man is lucky he knocked on that door to shovel snow.

    • He was!
      I am blessed. They really have a great relationship and are each other’s best friend! I was lucky to have a charge on my phone to snap that picture…
      Thanks for coming by! Have a great weekend!

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