A podcast I listen to called The Drive by Dr. Peter Attia focuses on health, nutrition, exercise and overall well-being with the goal of longevity in mind. Essentially, Dr. Attia asks you to imagine not just living longer but living longer and healthier, with a higher quality of life, into your golden years. It’s not an easy thing to do; that is, prepare for and acknowledge the inevitable decline of the body and consequential challenges. When you’re younger, it’s even harder because you think you’re immortal. I can attest, it catches up with you gradually and then seemingly, bang, all at once. Not only are our bodies mortal, they gradually fail even when you try your best to help them last as long and as well as possible. Dr. Attia’s comprehensive approach is detailed in his NY Times best seller, Outlive, for those interested.
One of Dr. Attia’s favorite scenarios for his audience to ponder is to imagine yourself in your 80s and beyond and how active you would like to be. Imagine simply keeping up with grandchildren. How heavy of a child would you like to be able to pick up and how actively would you like to interact with potential grandchildren? Even in midlife, it is hard to imagine having to pick up a little child again, never mind caring for one for any extended period of time. Very early mornings, diaper changing, sleep disruption, engaging in and finding age-appropriate activities, food preparation… are very all-encompassing when caring for another human that’s completely dependent on you. It’s amazing how easily we forget yet how quickly we were reminded.
I appreciate Dr. Attia’s podcast for its focus but only 16 months ago, after Winston Paul, grandchild number one was born, did grandparenting become a reality. And very much like parenting, unless you experience it, there’s really no way to understand what it’s like to the full extent until you’re in it. What seems to be the greatest blessing of grandparenting is that you have the time to truly spend in the simplest of ways. They’re such miraculous creatures -children- and it saddens me to think so many parents have to work so hard they miss out on the day-to-day discovery and blossoming of these little humans. I guess until grandparenting gives them another opportunity.
Initially, Paul and I were pretty nervous. We were worried that we might not have it in us anymore. It had been so long since either of us had to take care of a little one. After scrapping off some of the rust, our gears kicked in and it was incredibly special. Very much like parenting, this magical organic process unfolds, but this time around with the wealth of a huge bank of experience.
I could go on about the joys of grandparenting, but overall, it’s a hell of a lot easier than parenting and it seems to have all the delights and few of the stressors. However, you quickly realize your stamina just is not what it used to be. In a nutshell, it’s quite amazing and being with 16-month old Winston for nearly 6 weeks, Dr. Attia’s forethought, wisdom and science came home to bear witness. Like the age-old wisdom and for the first time in about 23 years, I napped when the baby napped.
We were blessed with being able to spend this time helping take care of Winston while mom and dad prepared for baby Nora Kate’s anticipated early arrival. Nana and Pop-pop were on duty and we had a blast. Nora Kate came into the world a little later than expected which was a true blessing since she came out in a darling little beautiful bundle of perfection and, after all, we had that time to spend together. We watched Nora and Winston change and grow in front of our eyes from day to day even in the relatively short time we were there. Being able to spend these precious days with family, all while enveloped by the charming Vermont mountains was terribly special.
Prior, I had spent most of my time in VT only on weekend ski trips. I had never seen it so green with rivers flowing and lakes unfrozen. I think they should change the name from the Green Mountain State to the Super Duper Incredibly Green Mountain State. There’s not a brown spot to be found, it seems.
The birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees were a major source of engagement. Winston could watch them for huge chunks of time. Though, his favorite spotting game was of large trucks and motorcycles on the winding mountain road where we stayed. Paul and I got a real kick out of the moose and bear crossing signs all along those winding roads warning to “stay alert” but alas, no sightings. Where we stayed was fairly rural but most anything you needed was about a 15-minute drive away. The bird watching was impressive, with great blue heron, belted kingfisher, goldfinch and humming birds right in our back yard.
It was terribly hard to say good-bye and Nan was a teary mess. But our hearts are still full, albeit a little achy with nostalgia. Eventually we did get anxious to get back to the boat and the ocean. We shall return again and again and look forward to it. And we will endeavor to make note of Dr. Attia’s wise and scientific insights as to how best to enjoy these very energetic little bundles of bliss.