Sunday, January 18, 2015

Old Age Creeps in at 70-80-90 Years of Age

I know he won't say it aloud, but now that Dad has turned 90—he did so on Christmas Eve— he'll aim for 100 just to say he made it. That’s how he is.

What follows is the last of three installments about my dad’s life. This farmer from east central South Dakota experienced even more change from 1984 to 2014. These decades serve as the empty nest years in more ways than one.

For the previous 30 years, click here. For the first three decades of his life, click here.

Part III: The Past 30 Years

Senior Citizen: 1984-1994, Decade #7
The Berlin Wall falls in 1989 

Life was busy. Dad and my brother Elliott purchased a four-wheel drive tractor and the large equipment to go with it. And he kept buying riding lawn mowers for Mom. Those mechanisms were frequent irritations to my cousin Wilmer Kleinsasser, my Aunt Mary's son, who was Dad's hired man during these days. The mowers, from Snapper to Dixon to Lawn-Boy, seemed to always break down.

Come to think of it, I have never seen my dad mow the yard. And when I see my brother do it now, it just doesn’t look right. Mowing was woman’s work on our farm. Men were busy enough with cattle, hogs, and working the land that was owned and rented.

Half-century celebrations occurred during this decade for my parents: their 50th high school reunion in 1992 and their 50th wedding anniversary in 1994.

50th Wedding Anniversary: A Family Portrait

Dad bought a cell phone—in a bag! It came in handy after the CB craze from the 70s was over. Being 22 miles from our main shopping town required a call home to see if the men needed any parts, for it wasn’t just the mower that would break down. When I had a car for my last couple years at college, the bag phone traveled with me to Hillsboro, Kansas, and then I’d mail it home for five bucks.

the bag phone

Thus began the empty nest years with me at college. Dad and Mom, for the 40 years of their married life, had never been alone in the house. Grandma Elizabeth was still alive when they first married, and then came the four kids—spread out over four decades. Farm work and following their grandchildren’s school and church activities kept them busy.

Aging Bodies: 1994-2004, Decade #8
Terrorist Attacks in 2001 

Old age sets in with two successful knee replacement surgeries for Dad, but Mom’s health declined after she had hers. Elliott took over the farm since Dad’s job was to take care of Mom.

with Dad after one of his knee surgeries

He spent five years of this decade driving 44 miles round trip to visit her daily while she was in the nursing home, assisted living, and then back to the nursing home again. He only missed a couple days in five years due to the weather.

That’s what in sickness and health means, and all of the nurses and aids at the Huron Nursing Home saw it.

Then our country changed forever while Dad was eating breakfast the morning of September 11, 2001. He turned on the TV just in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

In April of 2004 with Mom in the nursing home, they celebrated 60 years of marriage.

clockwise: wedding, young married life, 50th anniversary, 60th anniversary

Alone, but not Lonely: 2004-2014, Decade #9
Independence & Freedom

Life without a wife began on January 2, 2005 when Stella, my mom, died. Dad had to learn how to cook and do laundry.

Later that year, Dad got Dish TV installed—a far cry from the first set in 1957. Seems the news and religious programming are his hobbies now along with texting on his phone. Yes, my 90-year-old father texts. And he taught me how to operate the remote when I got satellite TV after he did.

Area farms disbanded, so Dad was alone out in the country after my brother and his wife, empty nesters now too, moved to town. Almost every other neighbor did too. But Dad didn’t budge. That house he lives in, it’s the site of his birth. His home. And so is the farm. He’s not moving.

Early in this decade though, it saddened me to go home—not just because Mom was gone, but there was no activity with farm equipment and livestock like my childhood years. The men began to tidy up.

Dad inside Elliott & Doris' demolished kitchen
They tore down old buildings on my brother’s place, the farm Dad bought in the early 70s. My nephew Michael, who lives in Colorado, along with his brother-in-law Erik helped dismantle the place and burn down the house. All that remains there is that sheep barn I wrote about in last week’s post. Dad began tearing apart metal and hauling it to town for cash.

Dad's scrap metal project

On the main place where Dad lives, hog barns have been torn down and the feed lot removed. Just that 1954 granary, the cow barn that was re-sided in the ‘90s, the Butler building, the Harvestors, the silos, the grain bins, and dad’s house remain. No livestock.

Sounds pretty empty, doesn’t it? But it’s not. Dad’s not alone there anymore. He’s got a new view from his kitchen window.

views of the farm ~ Evelynn & Erik's house in lower right

His oldest granddaughter Evelynn and her Pennsylvania-raised husband Erik and their children live just a stone’s throw away on the same yard. Now there’s the hustle and bustle of farm equipment, an organized shop in the Butler building, and little kids running around. They get to grow up where I did.

Yes, the complexion of the farm is changing once again, and Dad’s around to witness it.

The Golden Years: 2014-present, Decade #10
The Future 

My dad, Waldo. A dreamer. A life-longer learner. A Child of God. His motto: we don’t know what tomorrow holds, but for those who know Christ, we know who holds our tomorrows.

For that upbringing, his good health, and vivid memories, I am grateful.

celebrating one of Dad's Christmas Eve birthdays

celebrating again, only on this picture, Dad is 90-years and 1-day old

Who are the loved ones in your life that you could talk to about the changes they've seen in their lifetime? What could you do to honor their memories and record it for generations to come?


  1. Enjoyed so much this account of your Dad's life! I hope he gets to read it!

    1. Thanks, Mom! When I tell him about what I've written and the pics, he seems most interested in where I get the pictures from. On this post, some Chris took a couple years ago from on top of the silo. Dad also seems to think that I will write a book about him. And, well, maybe I will. There is certainly enough material there!

  2. Melodie, you have been so blessed to have a warm and loving family history. Thank you for sharing about your dad. I can tell how important he has been in your life. I hope you will continue to share your stories of the people who influenced you! Liz S.

    1. Thanks Liz. I can’t imagine a day when he won’t be around. Just tonight we chatted on the phone three times. Three short conversations, but still, he’s there to pick up.