Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
Somewhere in an English class we all took, we learned those opening words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem, Paul Revere’s Ride. It happened to be one of my dad’s favorites, so I heard those words long before high school English. In fact, on April 18 of each year of my adult life while my father was alive, I got a phone call that started, “Listen my children and you shall hear…” Yeah, Dad, I know what day it is…
Well, this year, that date has special significance to me—and only me—which I’ll now share with you, my closest friends.
I grew up in a terrific family. I made an excellent choice of parents and had two doting older sisters. (Ordering the baby sister around and swearing her to secrecy for their shenanigans is considered “doting,” right?)
So my family was great, but they didn’t stick around very long. My mom died at 56 when I was a teenager. I lost my oldest sister at 51 and my middle sister nearly eight years ago. So here’s the significance.
Having done the math, I realized that as of April 18, 2018, I will have outlived them all. (And heck, I’m not that old!) The genetic disposition on my mother’s side toward cancer is undeniable, not to mention scary as hell.
The cancer thing has so far missed all but one of us survivors. My middle niece has, thankfully, beaten that badass disease, with as much grace and courage as her mother had.
I should mention that although my dad only lived until 76 (cigarettes got him before the common knowledge that they’re bad for you), longevity runs on that side of the family. His father lived to 94 and his sister to 96 – which would probably translate to at least 105 in this day and age! My nieces, nephews and I are all banking on taking after Papa Sid’s side of the family.
So here’s the point of this saga (I would have said “long story short,” but it’s too late for that!): It takes a lifetime of hard work to get and stay healthy. It’s tough and a big pain in the behind, but it’s all worth it in the long run – especially if you’re a parent. (My readers know that I have a 26-year-old son I’m not quite done with yet.)
So, I lost the weight (yeah, Nancy, we know…a hundred pounds, blah blah blah!), I hit the gym before the crack of dawn every day, and I eat pretty healthy. I am encouraged by a husband who could be described as a dedicated health nut who spends hours at the gym three days a week and two nights a week at karate, reminding anyone who will listen that he’s 76 years old. (When he says he’s running down the street to see a neighbor more than a block away, he actually runs down the street to see the neighbor! OK, so he’s a little cuckoo.)
Now, on the very first day that I have officially outlived the whole bunch, I can finally take my place as the matriarch of this family. So nieces and nephews, listen to your Auntie Nancy. Elevate your health to your highest priority. Follow the example of those family members who have done just that (you know who you are!). Your assignment is to outlive your Nana Edy, your own moms (aka Auntie Wilma and Auntie Bev to your cousins)…and me. Ready, set, go!
Listen my children and you shall hear…