How to grow old, and other things I learned from my Father and his Father

My dad in 2012, around his 72nd birthday, looking over the land he would someday buy

My dad had two dreams late in life. One was to win a (relatively) big lottery, which he did. The other was to buy the property behind his house, which he did some time after winning the lottery. He had played the lottery for years and played the same numbers consistently each week. I thought he would never win but he prevailed.

When I was a child my grandfather planted new fruit trees in his yard. I remember being stunned when he said that they might yield fruit in a decade or so. I could not see the point in spending effort on something you might not get to enjoy soon, if at all.

The lottery tickets and the fruit trees were small acts in support of a belief in a better future. That better future may not come, but the only way it could come would be to take some action and increase — if only in a small way — the chance it would happen.

Fatherhood is like that. You plant roots and you try your luck and work and hope for a better future that may not come, or come after you’re gone. You do it regardless.

Sons and daughters live off the luck and the land of their Fathers and Mothers before they set off to find their own. During their stay some seeds are taken, some luck rubs off, some lessons (intentional and otherwise) are learned along the way. Then they go.

After you go, you think there is nothing left to learn. But then you are old like they were old, and you learn lessons even then. Lessons like the importance of having dreams and goals no matter how old you are. Lessons like living like you will never die and acting accordingly. Or the overriding lesson of believing in a better future no matter what. Though the person passes away, the lessons are passed on, like the fruit that falls from that long ago planted tree.

Happy Father’s Day to us Fathers, living and not. We the living have much to learn, and trees to plant. Wish us luck.

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