My wife and I are blessed in many ways, not least in that we both come from healthy families.
Helen’s mother lived past 90 years and although our 3 other parents only lived a rather average lifespan (all dying in their later 70s), they set us a good example in that they did what they could in their time to live and stay healthy. One of our parents died on lung cancer after a lifetime of smoking, but this has never been an attraction for us – and we’re thankful that nobody in either of our families smokes today.
Both our tribes enjoy food, but we value a healthy diet and don’t over-indulge in food or drink, so obesity and alcohol have not been troublesome either. We value and enjoy a well-balanced diet and tasty and varied menu compared with most.
Both our families have also been spared the genes that can so easily help bring on overweight, diabetes, certain cancers, heart, lung and abdominal conditions, and high blood pressure or cholesterol. So we’ve been handed down a pretty good gene mix and heritage and have always appreciated this.
Neither of us has ever been much involved in team sport and I’m pretty hopeless at it, which can be a disadvantage and has robbed us of social contact that can be quite enriching. But it’s also meant we don’t live with a list of chronic injuries, aches and other likely consequences of being pushed beyond our limit or knocked around. In our family two sad stories keep us only too well aware of the fact that head injuries in early life can often cause early dementia in our later years.
However, eating moderately and healthily can do only so much to keep us well. Especially my parents were active and enjoyed individual sports including gardening, walking and swimming. Living on the NSW coast and in Tasmania has helped both of us to taste the joy and goodness of bushwalking (as we call it in Oz) early – and it was a great option during our years of romancing on a budget!
My mother loved the garden and both of us do so now that we have more time. I have followed my father in taking a daily jog or walk: in my Sydney years I jogged in nearly and beautiful Royal National Park (the world’s 2nd oldest), and my Wollongong years enabled me to do jog along the beaches north of the city: these were certainly fabulous years in that respect – as well as in many ways my most productive years in Christian work. In the light of Adelaide’s hard clay soil I was advised to walk rather than jog, which I’ve usually been able to do 6 days a week and sometimes daily. Apart from the exercise value it’s a wonderful way to have “time out” for thought, reflection, meditation and talking with God.
We live 30 minutes from the sea now, so regular swimming has been more difficult, but seniors have free access to the local pool before 9 am – an invitation we haven’t refused, and a great way to maintain fitness. Helen does floor and Pilates exercises and finds these banish her aches and pains at bay.
It is pleasant to be able to live without medication and chronic complaints at this stage of our lives, to pass the doctor’s and dentist’s checks with a big tick, and to get regular compliments for looking healthy and feeling well.
We know that sooner or later that may come to an end, gradually or suddenly. Our friends keep reminding us to work at our bucket list (our retirement wish-list) now, while we can, and during the next 10 or so years.
What I have written here also underlines our strong sense of privilege and indebtedness: we believe that God has blessed us with the benefits of a pretty good gene mix and many generations of strong Christian faith and ethics, marriage and family life, and a service and gratitude ethos. We have done what we could to pass all these on to our children, and we’re thankful that they seem to share what we value so much. Wow!