Be like Bob

From looking around, there aren’t many people out there like Bob. Bob is probably 95 years old. Should I make it that long, I want to be like Bob. Bob knows how to live.

I live in a retirement community; in that you pretty much have to be age 55 or older to live here. So far everyone is, but I skew on the lower side of those living here. There are over forty units, all single family houses essentially, but technically we are a condominium. We hire people to mow the lawns and shovel snow in the winter. Our houses are on a hill with a lovely view of the valley and nearby mountains. We’re all doing pretty well as best I can tell, given our houses are pretty ornate and large, and we could afford them in the first place. Most of us are first owners. The first house was built in 2008 and the whole project was completed about a decade later.

We live in New England but curiously most of us are from elsewhere. Not Bob. Bob has lived in our little city all his life. At one time he was a mechanical engineer but for likely thirty years or so, Bob has been retired. He’s likely our oldest resident. He struck me as a pretty hearty New Englander type, at least until recently. His wife passed away last year. About that time, Bob also started using a walker. But he is still reasonably independent. He drives a car safely and gets what he needs. He’s pretty methodical in his habits. When I walk in the park across the street in the afternoon, I often run into Bob. He drives there and walks a half mile or so down the path with his walker. We smile and say a few words when we pass.

Once a month, the guys here on the hill of go out to dinner. I drove Bob to the last one and talked his ear off for a while. The local café we passed has been there as long as he can remember. The city hall hasn’t changed. He remembered being in seventh grade when World War II started, and the group think was the Polish cavalry could beat off the German tanks, at least for a while.

At dinner, Bob is sociable. He loves seafood, so almost invariably he will order some, usually clams or mussels. He has a ready wit and a ready smile. Yes, he seems impossibly old. His skin is full of sags and age spots. He’s half bald. He stoops when he walks. But strangely, Bob is happy. He enjoys every day, in spite of his slow decline.

I thought for sure that after his wife Eileen died he would be in a funk. And perhaps he was. I don’t see Bob every day. But there’s something about Bob that is irrepressible: an inner joy and happiness. It’s a quality that most of us lack, but at age 95+ Bob still has it. Bob shows every sign of being happy, whole and enjoying life.

I don’t expect to make it to his advanced age, but he’s hardly alone around here. There’s a lot of hardy New Englanders. Living away from the big cities and the frequently clean and cool northwesterly breezes probably helps. I’ve known more than a few people around here who have made it to age 100. It seems that they die of age. One morning they are found dead. In Bob’s case, when that happens I expect they will find him with a smile on his face.

As best I can tell, Bob is not religious. He doesn’t seem driven by anything. He just accepts life as it comes to him and tries to squeeze out the joy from each day as it comes. I don’t think he worries about whether he is saved or not. He just has this positive and infectious attitude. He’s an example of the old man I want to become. I want to be like Bob.

Since we’re mostly from elsewhere, most of us seniors on this hill tend to socialize mostly with each other. So there are periodic gatherings of the clan. There was one yesterday between two houses near the top of the hill. Some refreshments were available but mostly we sat around a big circle in lawn chairs and gabbed. These have been mostly outdoor gatherings since the pandemic. We mostly know each other by name, but there’s an occasional new face when a unit is resold to new owners. There’s a lot of musical chairs as people shift around to have conversations with others.

Bob was a bit late to the show, but he did show up, pushing his walker across the grass. Bob’s walker is one of the more advanced models. You can sit on it and it has a storage area under the seat. Someone put a spare lawn chair under Bob’s butt, so the walker became his table. He opened it. Out came a bottle of wine and a wine glass. While Bob chatted happily, he filled his glass, toasted his neighbors and slowly sipped the wine.

Bob seems to have learned the secrets to a good life, but more importantly has managed to practice it successfully. Take each day as it comes. Suck the nectar from it. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Make the most of your day. Be yourself. Be wholly imbibed in this thing called life. He doesn’t need to be saved.

I suspect when he dies, he’ll have few regrets. He lived a good life and managed to do what few of us can accomplish: thoroughly enjoy life and take it as it is, one day at a time.

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