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This story concerns a 92-year-old, petite, proud man who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with his hair fashionably coifed and face shaved clean, even though he is legally blind.

Since his wife of 70 years recently passed away, it was necessary for him to move into a nursing home. After several hours of waiting patiently in the lobby, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.

As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, a caregiver provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet curtains that had been hung on his window.

“I love it,” he exclaimed with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old just given a new puppy.

“But Mr. Jones, you haven’t even been to the room yet,” said the caregiver.

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” he replied. “Happiness is something you decide ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged. It’s how I arrange my mind. I’ve already decided to love it!”

“It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up,” Mr. Jones continued. “I have a choice: I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulties I have with parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.”

“Each day is a gift, and as long as the ‘eyes of my mind’ are open, I’ll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I’ve stored away just for this time of my life. Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from it what you’ve put into it. My advice is to deposit a lot of happiness in your bank account of memories. Thank you for your part in filling my memory bank. I am still making deposits,” Mr. Jones told the tear-filled caregiver.

The caregiver wrote down the five simple rules for happiness he related to her:
1. Free your heart from hatred
2. Free your mind from worries
3. Live simply
4. Give more
5. Expect less

The above story reminds me of my cousin, Carl. Also, a widower and a WWII veteran, he lived with Marty and me the last couple years of his life. He died at age 93 in 1999.

Carl was such a positive person…telling stories about the wonderful people he knew. And we never heard him say an unkind word about anyone.

Toward the end of his life, several times he had to be admitted to a hospital or nursing home for extended care. We knew he didn’t like it and neither did we even though we all realized it was necessary. Carl didn’t complain much, but we knew he was uncomfortable checking into the unfamiliar, sterile surroundings of a medical facility with a stranger in the bed next to his. But the next day when we came to visit, inquiring at the desk on his floor how he was doing, the responses to his name never failed to amaze us.

“Oh, you mean that sweet man! He’s such a delight. And guess what? He knew my parents…or aunt…or former neighbor,” …and so on.

In those few hours confined to his bed, Carl got to know the people around him. He asked their names, where they lived, who their parents were, where they attended school and church, who they knew that he knew. Usually, he made a connection somewhere, and we all loved him for it.

Vince LaBarbera
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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer