The Secret to a Long and Happy Life

mom and dad1

This 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.

The Secret to a Long and Happy Life

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 depict 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?

133 thoughts on “The Secret to a Long and Happy Life

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  1. 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!


    1. 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!


  2. 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)


    1. 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!


  3. 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.


    1. 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!


  4. 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


    1. 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!


  5. 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


    1. 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!


  6. 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.


    1. 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!


      1. …. 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.


      2. …. 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.


  7. 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!


    1. 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!


    1. 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!


    1. They would love to! They adopted all of my friends! They used to come to all of my parties back in college. Can you imagine??? My kids won’t let us!
      Thanks Robin!


    1. 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!


    1. 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!


  8. 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.



    1. 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.


  9. 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. 🙂 )


    1. 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…


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