Gifts Of Love That Stand The Test Of Time

By Ron Ciancutti

My mother is now an octogenarian and is often in the company of her friends who share the same distinction.  Sometimes I listen to them tell their stories--the struggles of their week, month, life, etc.  Many defy their actual age with a youthful look and spirit and get around on their own while still maintaining the homes their children grew up in.  Others are not as fortunate and rely on a great deal of family and hired support.  Mom is extremely independent as are many of her friends, but even at an age when they can celebrate their accumulated years and wisdom and look back at so many accomplishments, their days still have problems in them.  It seems we are never exempt from the daily challenges of finding a good parking spot, fighting inclement weather, paying outrageous utility bills and spending too much for something that shouldn’t be so costly--the basic routine and momentum of life.

There was a time I thought achieving retirement was an absolute goal but now, through their eyes, I see that such a stage in life is not really all that fulfilling.  They now ask me things that I used to ask them about, revealing an uncertain hesitation that comes with age.  I see that retirement also includes a sort of unceremonious backing out of “the game,” as it were.  The cutting-edge things you think you need to know at 40 or 50 seem insignificant in many ways.  Like my mother; her focus used to be on things like whether or not the conservatory stage had proper acoustics to emphasize the sounds of the magnificent choirs that she once led.  Now she’s really focused on the grandkids getting good grades, making good friends and being sure everyone had enough to eat at Christmas dinner.  All of these are admirable issues, but they never held the kind of value or importance to her that they do today.  Her appreciation for the simple things in life was always intact, but now it is not so much something she acknowledges but something she prioritizes.

Ron with his grandfathers in 1983.

Ron with his grandfathers in 1983.

So is that a sign of the kind of intellect and wisdom that comes with age?  Where she sees that the real concern should be addressed to those you will one day leave behind or more so a signal to the rest of us not to fret over the superfluous things like job promotions or building that new deck on the back of the house?  I think it is both.  I think when you have tasted life from the beginning to the end, you eventually sort out what is and isn’t really important.  I mean sometimes I look at my father’s grave stone; “Beloved husband, father and grandfather,” and I think, “That’s it?  All those years of college, work at Ford Motor, years in the Korean War, buying your wife the house of her dreams,  putting three kids through college, marrying off your two daughters with immense celebrations, helping your parents and in-laws through their senior years and you get ‘beloved husband, father and grandfather?”  I have to tell you, folks, it seems like a less-than-adequate pay-off, but alas that IS all there IS.

I was rummaging through some old files and I came across a list I had made many years ago probably to keep my thoughts organized on a very busy day.  It itemized the following:

7 a.m.                 Prep and review agenda for 8 a.m. meeting

8 a.m.                Board meeting

10 a.m.              Following adjournment, check schedule w/ Cindy at home

Noon               Lunch, deposit check in bank, pay bills, meet at pediatrician

12:30               Sam at doctor for shots

1 p.m.                Back to office/leave message for life insurance increase and physical

          to validate same; arrange date for broker to visit/interview.

4 p.m.                Dinner, girls to ballet, Nicco to football, homework, showers, bed.

9 p.m.                Review insurance policy with Cindy to fax over in morning

***                  Remember tomorrow kid’s candy sale money due, get prescriptions

Truly, a scrawled list of scattered “don’t forget” things that kept me running around all that day with some semblance of order.  It must have been frantic enough in my mind to write it all down though.  I also recall during that time visiting my wife’s grandmother in the nursing home and excusing my need to leave by spouting off a similar list to which she seemed to look at me with envy.  The rest of her day’s schedule included dinner, a sponge bath and bed.  One man overwhelmed by the obligations of life, another woman wishing she had some.

A woman who also once raised a family, helped with grandchildren, helped with great-grandchildren and met each day with purpose.  To her, a retirement plan was paying off her house.  As so many in this country will never get to that day anymore, I have to envy the simplicity that her life had back then.

And so the circle is complete.  My mom is also simply handling her senior years with the style and grace that made her an outstanding daughter, musician, wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother her whole life. She had a time when she was ever-so-needed and as that began to wane, she took those time-learned lessons and passed them onto her children and their children; gifts of love that stand the test of time.  When you think about how likely it is that people make missteps in their lives more than once or twice, you realize what an absolute gift it is to reach those years with minimal regret and the luxury of only having to worry about the simplest things as your past lines up neatly behind you.  That’s a life accomplishment to learn from.

So take the time to listen to those that preceded you in life.  They have accumulated a wealth of knowledge while you were playing outside and making your Christmas wish lists.  The story they tell is one to hold onto.

Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a B.S. in Business from Bowling Green State University and an M.B.A. from Baldwin Wallace University. He has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at