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Published November 04, 2013, 12:52 PM

Parenting Perspectives: I, too, hope I live to see that diploma

A few weeks ago, my younger grandson and I were enjoying lunch – just the two of us – at a restaurant near my home.

By: Kathy Tofflemire, INFORUM

A few weeks ago, my younger grandson and I were enjoying lunch – just the two of us – at a restaurant near my home.

For some reason, the 11-year-old brought up the subject of my life expectancy.

“Grandma, how long do you think you are going to live?” he asked.

I pondered the question. And it wasn’t the first time now that I am of an age when thoughts turn to things such as retirement, Social Security, whether I will live to regret the split-level layout of my condo and if – hopefully not – I have already purchased the last car I’ll ever own. (I am not so old, however, that I have started filling the back window with stuffed animals.)

“I would like to live until I am at least 80,” I told my grandson.

Anything beyond that would depend on my health. I didn’t tell him that, though.

I know women in their 90s who are still sharp as tacks and only limited in their time spent behind the wheel. And as someone who is often annoyed by the actions of my fellow drivers, I appreciate that. Which is not to say that at some point my daughter won’t have to wrest the car keys from my hand.

In my family, the men have tended to draw the short straw, so to speak. Although my father lived to be 76, many of his brothers died at much younger ages, and my brothers died at 24 (cancer) and 66 (massive heart attack). My grandfathers died just prior and just after my birth, respectively. Since I was born when my parents were both in their 40s, the deaths of my grandfathers in the mid-20th century, at ages 65 and 73, likely weren’t considered extremely premature.

Both my mother and my maternal grandmother lived into their 80s. My grandmother was spry till the end. My mother, not so much. She suffered from Parkinson’s disease and likely related dementia.

In whatever time period my mother “lived” during her last years, she didn’t appear to be unhappy. In one instance, during the time I was directly involved in her care, she asked whether she had to go to school that day.

“No, Mom,” I replied honestly. “It’s Saturday.”

But, for the sake of my daughter and my grandsons, I would just as soon not go down that road. I have always said that I lost my mother long before I truly lost her. I don’t want my family to have to say that.

As for the fact my maternal grandfather also had Parkinson’s, I try my best to put that out of my mind.

But I digress.

To return to that lunchtime conversation, my grandson said he thought I had 14 years left. I didn’t think to ask him how he arrived at that number. If he’s correct, I won’t quite make it to 80.

He seemed to think that was sufficient, however, as it would mean I would live to see him graduate from college.

I’m glad to hear that he expects to do that, and I told him that would be very good because I certainly wanted to live long enough to know what career path would appeal to him.

He’s a fascinating child, and I expect great things from both him and his brother.

And if I live long enough to bounce some great-grandchildren on my knee (and recognize who they are), all the better. Even if I’m not allowed to drive them anywhere.

Kathy Tofflemire is a copy editor at The Forum. Readers can reach her at (701) 241-5514, or ktofflemire@forumcom.com