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

Add yours

  1. 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 🙂


  2. 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.


    1. 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!


  3. 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 😉


  4. 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.


  5. I think that might be my favourite post on your page, and would be a contender for favourite post full stop

    That was a beautiful read!


  6. What a lovely tribute from a loving daughter to her parents. And I love the story of how that young man, who most needed your mother, showed up on her doorstep at the right time.


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