Wake Up & Drive

Ben Franklin once said, “There’s plenty of time to sleep when you die.” I think he was right. Life is short. Real short. A recent visit to one of our client’s senior living retirement communities made that apparent.

I was there at the end of the day for a photoshoot. It was dinner time at the retirement community. Everyone was going to the formal dining room. I was privileged to watch an elderly couple arrive at the site.

He drove up to the porte cochere to let her out. She needed a walker so he slowly got out of the car, opened the door, helped her out of the car, then walked around to the trunk to retrieve her walker. She stood patiently waiting beside the car until he wheeled the walker over to her. She slowly began to make her way toward the dining area. He, meanwhile, lowered himself back into the car and drove away to find a place to park. It took him several minutes to walk all the way back to the building. Every movement required considerable effort. Yet this couple repeats this ritual most every night.

Watching them made me aware of several things. First of all, both husband and wife were in their eighties and he still opened the door for her. How many husbands still open the door for their wives on a daily basis after the first year of marriage – much less after 50 years? How many take CARE of each other on a daily basis? Just because you’ve been together for years is no reason to take one another for granted. Lesson learned: Manners never go out of style.

Secondly, neither of them was in a rush. They took their time. Their focus was on nothing but getting to dinner. This unhurried approach breeds respect and honor. Not the harried absent-minded on-to-the-next-goal attitude most of us have today. How often do we get in such a hurry we forget to slow down and enjoy the moment? We may be working for the future, but all we’ve got is right now. Lesson learned: Be in the moment.

Thirdly, we’re all going to get old – that is, if we’re lucky. Everyone thinks s/he’s immortal, but not one of us actually is. We’ll all eventually slow down until we finally stop. My great grandmother (we called her “Ma”) lived to be 97. I still remember her rounding the corner of my grandmother’s home with her cane in her hand, her hand on her hip and her bonnet on her head. She laughed, told stories and crocheted at the local nursing home until the day she died. Lesson learned: Make the most of the time you have.

I have a friend in L.A. who recently bought a Porsche 911. After all, she reasoned, she doesn’t have kids yet. And she and her husband enjoy winding around the scenic highways of the rugged west coast.

I was reminded of a survey I saw in which 75% of those over the age of 65 expressed more regret over actions not taken than actions taken that turned out badly. I thought about that distinguished old gentleman struggling to get in and out of his car. I wondered if he and his wife ever got to enjoy the freedom of cruising along with the top down and the wind in their hair.

Lesson learned: Drive while you can and drink in every moment of it.

Because while sleep may be inevitable, life is not.