Saturday, October 20, 2012

I miss him a lot, and I think about him a lot.

My father never drove a car. Well, that's not quite right. I should say I never saw him drive a car. I can't figure out if it was because he walked through life, Or because he quit taking left turns." He quit driving in 1927, when he was 25 years old, and the last car he drove was a 1926 Whippet.
"In those days," he told me when he was in his 90s,"to drive a car you had to do things with your hands, and do things with your feet, and look every which way, and I decided you could walk through life and enjoy it or drive through life and miss it."
At which point my mother, a sometimes salty Irishwoman, chimed in:
"Oh, baloney!" she said. "He hit a horse."
"Well," my father said, "there was that, too." So my brother and I grew up in a household without a car. The neighbors all had cars -- but we had none.
My father, a newspaperman in Des Moines , would take the streetcar to work and, often as not, walk the 3 miles home. If he took the streetcar home, my mother and brother and I would walk the three blocks to the streetcar stop, meet him and walk home together.My brother, David, was born in 1935, and I was born in 1938, and sometimes, at dinner, we'd ask how come all the neighbors had cars but we had none.
"No one in the family drives," my mother would explain, and that was that. But, sometimes, my father would say, "But as soon as one of you boys turns 16, we'll get one." It was as if he wasn't sure which one of us would turn 16 first. But, sure enough , my brother turned 16 before I did, so in 1951 my parents bought a used 1950 Chevrolet from a friend who ran the parts department at a Chevy dealership downtown. It was a four-door, white model, stick shift, fender skirts, loaded with everything, and, since my parents didn't drive, it more or less became my brother's car. Having a car but not being able to drive didn't bother my father, but it  didn't make sense to my mother.
So in 1952, when she was 43 years old, she asked a friend to teach her to drive. She learned in a nearby cemetery, the place where I learned to drive the following year and where, a generation later, I took my two sons to practice driving. The cemetery probably was my father's idea. "Who can your mother hurt in the cemetery?" I remember him saying more than once.
For the next 45 years or so, until she was 90, my mother was the driver in the family. Neither she nor my father had any sense of direction, but he loaded up on maps -- though they seldom left the city limits -- and  appointed himself navigator. It seemed to work. Still, they both continued to walk a lot. My mother was a devout Catholic, and my father an equally devout agnostic, an arrangement that didn't seem to bother either of them through their 75 years of marriage. (Yes, 75 years, and they were deeply in love the entire time.)
He retired when he was 70, and nearly every morning for the next 20 years or so, he would walk with her the mile to St. Augustin's Church. She would walk down and sit in the front pew, and he would wait in the back until he saw which of the parish's two priests was on duty that morning. If it was the pastor, my father then would go out and take a 2-mile walk, meeting my mother at the end of the service and walking her home. If it was the assistant pastor, he'd take just a 1-mile walk and then head back to the church. He called the priests "Father Fast" and "Father Slow."
After he retired, my father almost always accompanied my mother whenever she drove anywhere, even if he had no reason to go along. If she were going to the beauty parlor, he'd sit in the car and read, or go take a stroll or, if it was summer, have her keep the engine running so he could listen to the Cubs game on the radio.  If she were going to the grocery store, he would go along to carry the bags out -- and to make sure she loaded up on ice cream. As I said, he was always the navigator, and once, when he was 95 and she was 88 and still driving, he said to me, "Do you want to know the secret of a long life?"
"I guess so," I said, knowing it probably would be something bizarre.
"No left turns," he said.
"What?" I asked.
"No left turns," he repeated. "Several years ago, your mother and I read an article that said most accidents that old people are in happen when they turn left in front of oncoming traffic. As you get older, your eyesight worsens, and you can lose your depth of perception, it said. So your mother and I decided never again to make a left turn."
"What?" I said again.
"No left turns," he said. "Think about it. Three rights are the same as a left, and that's a lot safer. So we always make three rights."
"You're kidding!" I said, and I turned to my mother for support.
"No," she said, "your father is right. We make three rights. It works." But then she added: "Except when your father loses count."
I was driving at the time, and I almost drove off the road as I started laughing. "Loses count?" I asked.
"Yes," my father admitted, "that sometimes it happens. But it's not a problem. You just make seven rights, and you're okay again."
I couldn't resist. "Do you ever go for 11?" I asked.
"No," he said " If we miss it at seven, we just come home and call it a bad day. Besides, nothing in life is so important it can't be put off  for another day or another week." My mother was never in an accident, but one evening she handed me her car keys and said she had decided to quit driving. That was in 1999, when she was 90. She lived four more years, until 2003. My father died the next year, at 102. They both died in the bungalow they had moved into in 1937 and bought a few years later for $3,000. (Sixty years later, my brother and I paid $8,000 to have a shower put in the tiny bathroom – the house had never had one. My father would have died then and there if he knew the shower cost nearly three times what he paid for the house.)
He continued to walk daily -- he had me get him a treadmill when he was 101 because he was afraid he'd fall on the icy sidewalks but wanted to keep exercising -- and he was of sound mind and sound body until the moment he died. One September afternoon in 2004, he and my son went with me when I had to give a talk in a neighboring town, and it was clear to all three of us that he was wearing out, though we had the usual wide-ranging conversation about politics and newspapers and things in the news. A few weeks earlier, he had told my son, "You know, Mike, the first hundred years are a lot easier than the second hundred."
At one point in our drive that Saturday, he said, "You know, I'm probably not going to live much longer." "You're probably right," I said.
"Why would you say that?" He countered, somewhat irritated.
"Because you're 102 years old," I said.
"Yes," he said, "you're right." He stayed in bed all the next day. That night, I suggested to my son and daughter that we sit up with him through the night. He appreciated it, he said, though at one point, apparently seeing us look gloomy, he said: "I would like to make an announcement. No one in this room is dead yet"
An hour or so later, he spoke his last words: "I want you to know," he said, clearly and lucidly, "that I am in no pain. I am very comfortable. And I have had as happy a life as anyone on this earth could ever have."
A short time later, he died. I miss him a lot, and I think about him a lot. I've wondered now and then how it was that my family and I were so lucky that he lived so long.

SOURCE: A wonderful story of an aging couple told by their son Michael Gartner, editor of newspapers large and small and president of NBC News. In 1997 he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.

20 comments:

IamthtIam said...

Good Morning Master and All!

An inspiring blog..two things made the couple live longer.
1. loving heart
2. walking

Shradha Saburi said...

GOOD Morning Sir and all the gems of JN
wonderful story
many many regards!

Bala said...

Good Morning, Ilango ji...

Thanks for yet another good week end post.

Can Traders live for this long? I have read somewhere that trading as a profession is the second most stressful job next to the Air Traffic Controllers...

Manish said...

Dear Master

Very touching story from Michael Gartner.

Thank you from Heart.

A new learning "No left turns".

Ilango said...

This story is actually dedicated to "Dinesh Rishi" for his "No short trades". And when he takes those occasional short trade, it sure works well like hell.

I miss my father a lot.

And there is very precious thing for traders to learn here.

Timepass said...

For us it should be "No Right Turns"

numchar said...

The mind is confused.

It is always trying to get , to understand,
to have the feeling" I know this, I understand this,
I know where I am going "

The mind is on a linear progressive projection

Exposed to non-duality
there is nowhere for it to " go "
Nothing for it to " grasp "

Conditioned, the mind gets confused.
Countless concepts are picked up by the mind
clinging to those untruths
You suffocate your spontaneity

The mind does not understand simplicity

Its nature is to make complex
what is already Natural

~~Mooji

Nilesh Patil said...

Good Morning Master & Friends

parminder said...

Master ilango and friends,
Good morning to all
it is just like when u r not there in the day annoyed by something or sitting silently watching that we tend to
MISS U AND THINK ABOUT U A LOT.
May u live long Master.
Regards
☺☺☺☺

Dinesh Rishi said...

Thanks Master,

A lump in my throat with goose bumps

the story reminded me also about my father and the discipline he taught me. He was "Freedom Fighter" and made his will that he should be carried to Cremation Ground with band party which we did. On funereal ground we all were stunned when we saw a police van with few policeman and officers arrived there. They were detailed to attend his funeral. They played the Military Bigul on his funeral.

& the above story is same when my son fights with me that few of his friends drive bike to tuition and he is only entitled to make a round on our street that too after 8 PM when there is no traffic. I tell him he will get only when he turns 17 and gets his Learning Driving Licence.

Pankaj said...

Good after noon Ilango sir, Dinesh Rishi and all. I just want to add this story looks like as if it was written in US where in order to take a left turn you would have to cross through traffic light, (as its right hand drive there). For India we shall have "No Right Turn". Thanks...just wnated to make the context a bit more clear.

Dr.Sidharth Aurora said...

I feel its my Papa talking to me......yet again in this mortal world......Not once did he hurry through life,not once did he complain /brag about money,boredom,pain.........nothing.When he left this world 6 months ago.........he didn't even give anyone an opportunity to see him in pain...the accident took him away in seconds.He died the richest in our family..at the peak of his health and friends mourned for him like I have never seen for anyone..In Papa's own words---I have no liability of any sorts.....RIP-Papa-----------Diwali is close but it doesn't seem so without you

Parimal said...

Dear Sir
I feel quite sad when you say you miss your father. i too miss my parents very badly. their memory is deeply etched in my soul. each moment i spent with my parents is unforgettable, unmatched and incomparable. no other event can have so strong an impression in my mind. i can feel your feelings.

--never again to make a left turn--
so?
a) "Three rights are the same as a left", "It works",
b) You just make seven rights, and you're okay again."
"Do you ever go for 11?" I asked.
"No," he said
" If we miss it at seven, we just come home and call it a bad day. Besides, nothing in life is so important it can't be put off for another day or another week".
-- these are best trading tips.

Pankaj said...

In nutshell, complex corrections shall not be traded.

DNSHUKLA said...

Very Good story from the Master as usual.
You will forget the tension of past week on Saturday mng with these motivative write ups.
DN SHUKLA

sanz said...

gudny...ilango n Dr. sir... :'(

rajiv malik said...

Nifty (5,684.2)

Nifty moved in a tight band between 5,636 and 5,722 last week. This move appears to be the second wave of the downtrend from 5,815 peak with the third wave down set to drag the index down to 5,663 or 5,596 in the week ahead. Traders can go short in rallies with a stop at 5,750.

Key short-term resistance is pegged at 5,745. Short term outlook will reverse on a move above this level, paving the way for a rally to 5,818. The index will face strong resistance around the previous peak at 5815.

A sharp move above this level will give the next medium term target of 5,933.

Medium term trend in the index continues to be positive and the index needs to close below 5,420 to make this view negative.
[courtesy business line]

San said...

Wonderful story Sir
Thanks for sharing

Suraj said...

Very nice writing Ilango Sir

SJkolkata said...

Master and DRsir,
Something in common with the story and also my life.
My grandfather was also a freedom fighter and number of stories run around in my family of Gandhiji staying with my great grandfather at our house in Kolkata. There are some depleted photographs of the same also in family chest.
Now coming to the point, my father bought his first car at the age of 45 and learned driving after that, but by that time my friends were already driving their cars to school. My father was very adamant that I will get to drive only after I turn 18 and get a valid license.
I did so and am driving for last 24 years tough my father left so cause of his cerebral hamoerage.
And now it's my daughters turn and I am convincing her everyday to wait for the same discipline.
Regards

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