As a kid, I wanted to be like my dad. I still do.
When elementary school kids get together, talk inevitably turns to whose dad could beat up whom. As we got a little older, it turned to whose dad worked where, each of us hoping to follow in our father's footsteps. My dad was an entrepreneur, so I did the same. I started a window washing business in high school. My dad did well in school (so I'm told), so I buried my nose between the pages of countless textbooks. Now that my father is in his mid-80s, I hope to follow in his footsteps again and age as gracefully as he has.
It has been a difficult couple of months for my family. My father has been hospitalized twice, first for a blockage in his kidney. He was in a lot of pain, but you wouldn't know it from his demeanor. A few weeks after his release, he fell and broke his hip. Instead of complaining of his fate, my dad is now at a rehabilitation hospital, working to regain his mobility.
Despite all of these setbacks, my dad remains oddly optimistic. He said the whole situation was a "net gain." His comment threw me for a loop. That is until I thought back on his life and the priorities I knew he embraced. There are Six Elements of Wealth and my dad has used all six to their fullest. The elements of wealth were useful to him as a young man and they are still useful as he ages gracefully.
My dad is very particular about how he spends his time. There are a limited amount of hours in a day and a limited amount of days in a life. My dad chooses to spend his time with the people he cares about most -- his wife, his children and grandchildren and his friends.
My dad may have been born smart, but he wasn't born wise. He has become wise over the years and has proved time and again that you are never too old to learn. During his recovery, he takes things one day at a time, choosing to live in the moment. When I ask how he is feeling, he often says, "Right this instant, I am feeling pretty good."
My dad has great relationship-building skills. While in the hospital, he has been using those talents to build strong relationships with doctors, physical therapists and nurses. He has been lucky to have a wonderful group of caregivers, but I have a feeling that he got exceptional care partly because of his kind, willing attitude and the relationships he built.
Body and Mind
Even though he has significant health issues, my dad continues to use his mind and his body as best he can. For more than 80 years, he has been the definition of health. Even now he is pushing his body to the limit every day in physical therapy. With a will like his, my dad will be walking unassisted before long.
My parents have been good financial stewards of the money they made and saved over a lifetime -- their wealth has been helpful over the last couple of months. My folks spent more money on an upgraded room at the hospital. His room has an attached sitting room, which makes visits from family and friends easier and more comfortable. This upgrade wasn't cheap, but my dad believed it was a small price to pay for the benefits he received.
Of the Six Elements of Wealth, I think my father's network has to be his greatest asset. Our family's friends and colleagues have helped us make better informed medical decisions, provided invaluable encouragement and support and even delivered chicken noodle soup to the hospital. This entire experience has been uplifting for my father, who said that he didn't realize so many people cared about him. What a great gift.
Even though this whole process has been difficult for my dad and our entire family, we'll defer to his wisdom. It has been a "net gain." We now know just how wealthy we truly are.
Bette Davis once said, "Getting old ain't for sissies." Watching my dad, I have come to understand how true that statement is. But my dad has looked beyond his difficulties for the positives in his situation, and because of his resilience and gentle strength, he has provided me with an excellent role model on how to age gracefully. Though in his 80s, he still has valuable lessons to teach.
Yes, Dad, I'm paying attention.
David Geller is the author of "Wealth & Happiness: Using Your Wealth to Create a Better Life." He also serves as a motivational speaker and the CEO of Atlanta-based GV Financial Advisors. His new book is available through www.amazon.com or at www.gvfinancial.com.