This is one of my favorite photographs of all time. My dad and I, along with 20 or so other relatives, were on a sailboat in Buffalo Harbor a couple of summers ago. My dad is now 81 and still going strong, and I am grateful to God for allowing me to have the time to learn all I can from “Big Ed”.
Dad lives in a 55+ mobile home community – they are everywhere in Florida! When he and my mom moved there almost 20 years ago, I knew my mom would love it. She was definitely a people person, and loved to socialize. As I suspected, Mom quickly made friends, got involved in a couple of clubs, and loved going out with friends. I worried about my dad, though. He was more of “the grumpy old man” type who was happy to have a beer with his brother-in-law and call it good.
I was amazed though, when Dad found himself quite happy surrounded by people. He played golf several times a week, partook of community events, and generally got in the spirit of things. My mom passed away in 1994, but my dad continues to be active. He and his sweetheart Carolyn go out to eat, deliver community newsletters,and go to the pool daily, especially when there is free poolside entertainment and dollar hotdogs! They buy tickets to the community plays, take in free movies, and stay so busy my dad has to “pencil me in” when I ask about spending the weekend with him.
My paternal grandfather succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease. My dad worries about it – a lot, as do I. I can see him starting to forget things he should absolutely know. It happens only occasionally, just when I’ve convinced myself I am imagining it. But I firmly believe whatever memory issues he may have are being forestalled by his active social life. His mind is constantly kept active with social interactions, even if sometimes he forgets names for a moment or two. This article on the benefits of socialization confirms my beliefs, and it reminds me how important it is for my father to continue participating in as many social activities as possible. He is now one of the “elders” of the park, and as happens with older people, his friends are fewer in number each passing year. It is the parties, the meetings, the pool, the plays that allow Dad to continue to meet new people and make new friends. I am hopeful he will have several more years of being the “social butterfly” he has grown to be.
Love you, Dad.