Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Secrets for Longevity

After an uneventful day in LA, Big Dog and I are in Lancaster, home of the Dog Family, to pay our respects to the DogFather. He's the patriarch of The Family and he turns 89 today. He's slowed down a bit, physically, but is still sharper than all of us combined. I am hoping BD shares his genes because I am losing it faster than a speeding Shinkansen.

The DogFather lives alone, in the same house that The Family moved into in the early 50's. (The same house! For more than half a century! A marvel for someone like me who never lived in the same CITY for more than 3 years while growing up.) It must be an ideal life -- having your own space but being surrounded by children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Maybe that's his secret to longevity.

Both of my grandmothers lived way into their 90's. My maternal grandmother, Waka, was a city girl. Raised in a family not her own, (This was quite common back then. She was "given" to a family that only had one daughter and raised as a sister/playmate) married in her late teens to someone whose face she didn't really get a good look at until several days AFTER the marriage! Bore 8 children, lived through several wars, a major earthquake disaster and the fires it caused, who knows how many typhoons, the devastation of Tokyo during the last war, the postwar chaos, the loss of a husband soon after. She lived with her second son (the first was killed in The War) and his family, so I'm sure had to put up with a LOT. Like the DogFather, though, she was stoic about her place in life. Never complained. Enjoyed her nightly sake and the occasional cigarette. She had problems with her back most of her life, but never had surgery.

My paternal grandmother, Kinu, did well enough in school to go on and get higher education, unlike most girls during her days. Got married to a businessman, moved to China, had a bunch of kids that various nannies raised while she and the other expat wives played mah-jong, moved back to Japan before The War heated up. When her husband retired, they moved back to their home town in Kyushu and Kinu painted, wrote tanka and haiku, and worked on their teeny farm. She grew awesome tasting peaches, never minced her words and was an independent soul til the day she died. SHE didn't smoke or drink but loved fried foods.

So. What's the secret to longevity? I'm trying to find common things between all 3 and I realize that none of them are/were prone to complaining, never made a big deal about much, dealt calmly with life's curveballs. They lived through turbulent times (wars, depression, major social changes.) They take/took pleasure in the small things in life. And they all have/had a strong family network.

I wonder if that's all? Don't complain, don't blame others, get tough, enjoy life, stay calm, be close to family… suddenly it's starting to sound like a lot! I always feel like such a wimp comparing myself to earlier generations.

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