Successful Aging


Old Dog, New Kicks

Old Man Soccer

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? It depends. I’m a firm believer in living in the moment with an eye to the future. But sometimes the new thing is only just that, new. A morning snowflake with no chance of lasting very long. I guess I’m not into trends. I never bought a Nehru jacket when I was young and my closet is not now filled with skinny jeans. Heck, I’m so behind the times, I don’t even wear pajama bottoms to Wal-Mart. Trends are trends, and fads come and go.

Take soccer. It was actually our generation that introduced our children to the game here in the U. S.  That’s probably because the game requires only a few players, a space to play, and one ball. Kid’s soccer is great. It provides exercise, gets the family together on Saturday mornings, and everyone gets to let off some steam.

The question is: Is soccer catching on in a big way here in the U. S. as some in the media would have us believe? I doubt it. Naturally, those recent immigrants to the U. S. who were soccer fans before they got here are still very excited to follow the sport. For the rest of us, I would say it’s like watching grass grow, but that would be too on the nose. Even with the recent success of the U. S. team in Rio, I really don’t think the excitement will be sustained.

So why is kid’s soccer so popular, but professional soccer so dull. Well, first off, the skill levels of kids are so varied it almost guarantees some, if not a lot of scoring. Secondly, watching your kids play any sport is pretty cool. All three of our sons played the sport when they were young and all of them enjoyed the experience. Pushed by his older brothers, our youngest was once pulled from a game after only 30 seconds. He had already scored two goals and the coach didn’t want to run up the score.

Soccer played by highly trained and skilled athletes can be very boring. Scoring is infrequent and watching the players flip and flop faking injuries is a bit bizarre. I will admit I do enjoy watching those guys in white coats run out with a stretcher only to have the “critically injured” player jump up and resume play. At that point, off go the white coat guys like a small flock of penguins.

In my opinion, our generation will never really get interested in professional soccer. Maybe some day it will attract a larger audience, but when you have so many other exciting sports that actually tear up the grass, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Happy 4th Of July

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Getting Older

Speaking of times changing, have you ever been going through old photos  and one or two sent a shiver up your spine? I was scrolling through some the other day and a couple really caught my eye. One was my wife Trisha when she was about 17 and the other, well, I guess it’s me. Where has all the time gone?

Trisha Parker

Trisha Parker

John Parker

John Parker

 

Now, I can truthfully say Trisha is still as beautiful as ever, but what the heck was going on with my Duck Dynasty look? I was way ahead of my time. We all age physically, and as I wrote about in my last blog, there is nothing we can do about it except to live the best we can. Everyday!

 

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Growing Older Isn’t For Sissies

As my friend Herb often says, “Growing older isn’t for sissies.” Everyday, we 50+ folks know he’s right. Along with all the other issues we face, as a man, I long ago had that experience of looking in the mirror and seeing my father. For women, aging in a society that celebrates glamour and youth, the mirror can become a dreaded enemy.

Each year, we seniors spend millions of dollars trying to look better (younger) and that probably isn’t a bad thing. When I compare our generation to previous ones, I do believe we are in pretty good shape physically and have aged quite well. I think it’s great that the majority of us continue to groom ourselves nicely and dress somewhat fashionably. I smile while writing that last line because I’ve never been known as a “clothes horse.” If you don’t understand that reference, you’re too young to be reading this blog.

So, what’s the point? The point is, as seniors, we will not win the battle against physical aging. We should stay in good condition, eat well and all the rest, but we are not going to overcome the changes aging will bring about. The wrinkles will come ever faster, the hair we love will thin, and the hair we don’t want will flourish. We need to develop an attitude of acceptance toward physical aging. Of course, my wife Trisha does not accept my view on this subject and has vowed to “go down swinging.”

I raise this issue to preface what I consider to be a more important aspect of the aging process, our minds. To me, the biggest difference I observe among people as they get older is not physical, but mental. I’m not talking about loss of mental acuity, but simply how people use or don’t use their minds. Some seem very engaged concerning current events, new ideas, and even strive to be creative and contribute to society. As Trisha and I wrote in our book, it seems as though retired life for many simply means not having a job any longer. We discovered so many folks in our age group who did not have a plan or set goals for their future. This isn’t a criticism per se because we firmly believe everyone should spend every phase of their lives as they choose. We simply find it curious that so many find themselves in such deep routines, often seem bored, and quite frankly, unhappy. The fact is, planning or not, life does happen.

In our case, my wife and I can’t think of anything more interesting or rewarding than meeting new people, having new experiences, creating something new, or seeing new places around the corner or around the world. I often think about the question I used to get during my teaching career. It was, “Why do you like teaching?” My response was always, “Because I learn so much.” I had to continually read new books, review the latest research, meet new students, learn and evaluate new ideas, and create ways to put them forth. It was always new and exhilarating. I guess that helped shape my views on how I wanted to spend my retired life. I can only say it works for me and my wife, but others must choose the path that works best for them. Choose wisely. As someone once said, “This is your life; it’s not the dress rehearsal.” We’ll drink to that.

Trisha and John Parker

Trisha and John Parker

 

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Socialization and Travel

Both in our book and in our presentations, my wife Trisha and I stress the importance of socialization as one grows older. There is overwhelming evidence that a senior’s physical and emotional health, as well as increased longevity on average is directly affected by frequent and continued socialization. Growing older in isolation is one of the worst things we can do in our retired life years.

Obviously, this is more difficult for some than others. I’m sure my friends would laugh and most likely be surprised to know that basically I’ve always been a bit shy. Once I get to know someone, I have no problem, but for most of my life I’ve found it difficult to be “outgoing” and social. Fortunately, I married someone who is probably one of the most friendly and outgoing people on the planet. I continue to learn from her each day and have actually gone through a bit of a change on the social front.

For those who read this blog, you know my wife Trisha and I love to travel. Certainly, our children, grandkids, and friends are the most important components of our lives, but the occasional travel adventure is the extra spice to our retired life. While we love seeing new sights and having different experiences, we have discovered that meeting and getting to know people from all over the world is both a learning experience and great fun. To know it’s also good for our well-being is icing on the cake.

In this case, due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to cancel a previously planned trip with our good friends and travel companions. In just a few days, Trisha put together a completely different trip through northern Europe to experience places we had not yet visited. As usual, she did a great job and we had a wonderful adventure together.

While we were warned weather is always an issue in this part of Europe, good fortune was with us and our weather was glorious. The sites, sounds, food, and most of all, the people were all wonderfully educational and interesting. We were once again struck by how remarkably easy it is to meet, converse, and even strike up friendships with people from other cultures. Not surprisingly, we all seem to want the same things, but politics and power seem to get into the way with our world leaders. I know this is quite a simplistic thought, and there are very real threats in the world, but as it was once said, “can’t we all just get along?”

Here is a brief summary of the places and people we encountered during our trip:

In addition to visiting all the sights of London, we shared conversations with Jerry and Marita at our hotel, and then the better part of a late evening with Canadians Colin and Monie at a local ice cream parlor. They were an extremely nice couple. Obviously, we were curious about the food in London, and I must say the Pub scene is great fun.

We would recommend The Queen’s Arm’s near Victoria Station for fish and chips and a tankard of ale. A real surprise was an Asian restaurant named A.Wongs. It was gourmet food with over the top preparation, taste, and presentation like nothing I’ve ever had before. Perfection would be the word I would use.

Trisha and John Parker at The Queen's Arms

Trisha and John Parker
at The Queen’s Arms

The Queens Arms

The Queens Arms

A. Wongs

A. Wongs

On a flight to Stockholm, I was privileged to meet a terrific man named Urban who provided me with valuable insights into Swedish culture and politics. Our first and lasting impression of this city was entirely positive. It was very clean, the people were exceptionally friendly, and ladies forgive me, some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. Trisha might have called me sexist, but she was very busy looking at all the handsome men. Our first morning at a sidewalk bistro was very enjoyable.

Trisha and John Parker Morning in Stockholm

Trisha and John Parker
Morning in Stockholm

On our first night in Stockholm, we discovered a little bistro called Ristorante 60 with both indoor and sidewalk tables. Next to us were two interesting young musicians and graduate music students named Phillip and Victor. Although we were a bit travel weary and there was a definite age difference, we actually wound up closing the place. Time flies. Here’s Trisha with the manager.

Trisha Parker Ristorante 60

Trisha Parker
Ristorante 60

The next night, at a local pub we met three truly great young men, Joe, Andrew, and Joe (we think he said Joe because he was sure we would not be able to pronounce his name). They had all returned from their second tour as part of a peace-keeping force in Afganistan. They could not have been more interesting and were so humble when we thanked them for their service. It was another wonderful evening.

While we enjoyed everything about this beautiful city, a true highlight was our visit to Millesgarden. This is the estate, now museum of famous sculpture Carl Milles and his artist wife Olga. The estate sits perched atop a hillside overlooking the water and city of Stockholm. While the art is magnificent and inspirational, the serenity was refreshing. We stopped often just to sit and take in the sheer beauty of this truly must-see location.

Millesgarden

Millesgarden

Millesgarden

Millesgarden

I should mention that when Swedish musical legends ABBA needed a couple to fill in for one performance, Trisha and I helped out.

Trisha and John Parker

Trisha and John Parker

Should anyone be planning a trip to Stockholm, Trisha and I highly recommend the Miss Clara Hotel. It’s an eight story former girl’s school that has been remodeled and transformed into a bright and modern place to stay. It has a beautiful restaurant and a great sauna. Obviously, many hotels have similar amenities, but it’s the warm and professional staff that sets this hotel apart from the others.

Traveling to Copenhagen, we had the pleasure of meeting Christian and Caroline and their beautiful family while having lunch on New Haven Street along the canal. Each of them warm, friendly, and with a great sense of humor. We had many different servers at our outside tables, and only one of them did not seem to speak English. Finally, while Christian was helping me figure out my bill, I asked him if the tip was included. He said, “Yes, I believe the tip is included.” Our non-English speaking server was just walking by the table, and in a very loud voice in perfect English said, “The tip is not included!” We all laughed hysterically at this very funny moment.

Trisha and John Parker Copenhagen

Trisha and John Parker
Copenhagen

Of course, among the dozens of amazing sites in Copenhagen, a tourist simply cannot miss the Little Mermaid.

Trisha and John Parker  The Little Mermaid

Trisha and John Parker
The Little Mermaid

In Amsterdam, we had the pleasure of meeting Doug and Joan, and Jim and Judy while visiting the Anne Frank house. It was a moving experience and afterward we all found a canal-side restaurant with the best Panini I’ve ever tasted. These folks turned out to be wonderful company and after lunch we actually wound up walking through various parts of the city together. The next morning, along a canal we had morning coffee for Trisha and the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. The sightseeing then continued. O. K., we did share that pastry.

Trisha and John Parker Morning / Amsterdam

Trisha and John Parker
Morning / Amsterdam

 

For our next stop we headed to Brussels and on the train met a very interesting young Frenchman and world traveler named Stephane. It so happened that while we were there, the G7 leaders were meeting which gave the city an extra sense of activity with helicopters, limos, and lots of police escorts flying through the city streets. On our last day there, while boarding a bus to visit the Atomium, the last site on our list, the driver said he did not take credit cards. Not having enough Euros left, and getting near the end of the day, our plans would have been crushed. Total strangers Denny and Mary spoke up and offered their own money to buy our tickets. Obviously, we later reimbursed them, but what a wonderful gesture. The Atomium was the high point of the 1957 Brussels World Fair and it was a stopping point recently on T.V.’s Amazing Race. We loved it, especially the rocket ship feeling on the high speed elevator to the top.

Trisha and John Parker Brussels Atomium

Trisha and John Parker
Brussels Atomium

After our days in Brussels, we traveled through northern France and then crossed the English Channel at the same time the Allies had done exactly 70 years before. Of course, we were going the opposite direction toward London, but it still gave us a bit of a chill, especially knowing Trisha’s father was one of those D-Day heroes.

Just one more mention of kindness from others we received on this wonderful adventure. On our original flight from San Francisco to London aboard Virgin Atlantic, the flight crew was sensational. Trisha noticed several of the women had their hair in beautiful tight bun-like configurations. She asked one of the attendants how their hair was styled so perfectly. It turns out it’s with the simple use of a mesh “doughnut.” Flight attendant Claire asked us about our travel plans and we gave her our dates. Two and a half weeks later, when we arrived at the gate at Heathrow in London, Claire was there waving at Trisha. They embraced and then Claire gave Trisha a bag with a hair “doughnut” she had purchased for her.

The answer to the question is, “Yes, we can all get along.” Thank you to all the special people who made our trip so much fun. It’s clear that socialization, maybe even especially while traveling makes our lives much richer and far better.

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How Long Will We Live?

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How long will we live? Having made it this far into retired life, it’s probably something most of us have pondered if not discussed out loud. It’s obviously a question without any possible guaranteed answer.

In the U. S., according to a recent survey, life expectancy for all genders and races averages 81.48 years for those living in Hawaii to 75 years for those living in Mississippi. Asians typically live the longest followed by Hispanics, Caucasians, and African-Americans. But are there any factors that would help increase the chances of living even longer?

On this week’s 60 Minutes, there was an interesting segment that featured researchers who have been investigating the mystery of human longevity. Having done considerable research and writing frequently on this topic myself, I thought I would share their major findings.

First, let me tell you their study used the files taken from residents of the former Leisure World retired-living complex near San Diego, California. It also has followed up with approximately one thousand of these folks who are still living, many into their 90’s.

Here are some of the conclusions from this major ongoing study:

  1. Not surprisingly, only non-smokers have lived into their 90’s.
  2. All of those in their 90’s have exercised regularly throughout their retired life. An even more interesting finding here is that those who have lived the longest get about 45 minutes of exercise per day. More time exercising, or more strenuous exercise does not seem to be factor. Even breaking up the exercise time and activity, as long as it totals 45 minutes each day seems to work.
  3. Social activity such as clubs, game playing, or simple socialization with friends appears to be a significant factor for longevity according to this study.
  4. Surprisingly, taking vitamins has not been shown to be a factor in this study.
  5. Alcohol, in moderation (two drinks per day), has been shown to be a positive factor in longevity. The type of alcohol does not appear to matter, not even red wine over white wine.
  6. Caffeine intake, equivalent to two cups of coffee per day, has been shown to be a positive factor in longevity. The intake of more, or less, is not a positive factor.
  7. High blood pressure in older adults appears to be a positive factor. Obviously, this is not the case when a person is younger, but for older adults, it appears to be a positive.
  8. While obesity is a negative for all younger adults, maintaining one’s weight as an older person, or even gaining some additional weight has been shown to be a positive factor to one’s longevity. In this case, old and skinny is not good.
  9. While not directly addressed by the researchers on the program, some of those 90+ folks interviewed in the story contended that continuing to have sexual relations into old age was a “definite” factor. I guess we can now safely drink to that. Twice!

I want to wish all of you mothers a wonderful healthy and happy Mother’s Day!

mothersday_a7

 

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Slowing the Aging Process

As we reach retirement age and beyond, all we need to do is look in the mirror to be reminded of the many years we have lived. What I’ve always found interesting is that some people seem to look much older or younger than their actual age. Curious, I began to investigate the actual factors that  cause us to physically age. Based upon scientific research, these are the main factors I discovered:

1. Eating foods that cause chronic inflammation. Among these are foods that contain large amounts of vegetable oils, margarine, red meat, white bread, sugar, and other processed foods. The inflammation caused by these foods accelerates wrinkle formation in our skin.

To prevent this acceleration, eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-linolenic acid. Such foods would include those with flaxseed or flaxseed oil, avocados, salmon, and olive oil. Fresh fruits and veggies are also beneficial because they contain lots of zinc, selenium, vitamin C, and beta carotene. Red peppers and carrots are especially good. All of these help maintain healthy skin and retard the aging process. In addition, studies have shown that we need to have at least one helping of protein with each meal in order to maintain healthy skin. Insufficient protein causes tears, wrinkles, and cracks in our skin. This obviously ages us much more quickly.

2. Drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol is a natural diuretic and the more you drink, the more dehydrated you become. This dries up the natural moisture from your skin and exacerbates the fine lines and wrinkles that make us look older. Not drinking alcohol or drinking less also allows the liver to more easily flush toxins from our bodies that also benefits our skin. I’m sure we have all had the occasion of seeing a total stranger and can almost instantly determine that the person is a heavy drinker on the basis of their heavily wrinkled face.

3. Constant worry, anxiety, or stress.  Recent studies have shown that stress has a harmful effect on the DNA in our cells. This part of the DNA is called telomeres and when measured, those suffering stress had shorter telomeres in their cells causing the cells to become damaged or die. Stress also ages our brains, increases our blood pressure, and disrupts our sleep, all of which can make us look and feel older.

4. Lack of exercise. Exercising at 40 to 60 percent of your maximum heart rate is not only healthy for your weight, heart, and lungs, it provides a rejuvenating effect on the skin.

5. Smoking. If knowing that smoking causes heart disease, infertility, bladder cancer, high blood pressure, and lung cancer isn’t enough, it also is terrible for the skin and the aging process. Smoking deprives skin cells of oxygen and cause pale and uneven coloring. It also breaks down collagen and causes skin to sag. Puffing on cigarettes also creates deep wrinkles around a smoker’s mouth.

6. Too much sun. While being out in the sun can provide certain health benefits, too much sun certainly has a down side. In addition to the increased risk of skin cancer, UV rays weaken skin cells and blood vessels. This is what causes that tanned, leathery look. It can also make us more susceptible to bruising.

A recent four-year study in Australia determined that daily applications of sunscreen reduces the risk of skin cancer, fights wrinkles, and keeps skin smooth and resilient.

Highly Recommended

Since retiring, my wife Trisha and I have had the opportunity to travel throughout the United States and many countries around the world. In this new section of my blog called “Highly Recommended,” I will be sharing travel locations, hotels, cruises, and restaurants that we have found so compelling we want to share them with readers.

In this case, because my wife’s passion is cooking and my passion is eating, we want to share one of our favorite local places to eat in the bay area city of Brentwood. It’s a little hide-a-way place called Oodles of Noodles and More. They serve Asian-style cuisine in a very casual setting. The price is very modest and they use no MSG, no frozen meats, and all fresh vegetables. They have a variety of spicy sauces from mild to hot and spicy. Each customer gets a bowl and goes through a salad-bar style area to fill their bowl with their favorite veggies and other goodies. You then pick out your meat and sauce. My wife and I like to combine Pineapple Teriyaki and Spicy Mongolian. The chef then grills your food right in front of you, along with your choice of noodles or rice.

Family_eats

We have never been able to eat all of our serving and take the remainder home for a delicious lunch or dinner the next day.

Oodles of Noodles and More

6670 Lone Tree Way, Ste. 5, Brentwood, CA

Trisha Parker Oodles of Noodles

Trisha Parker
Oodles of Noodles

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Trisha Parker, Having a Good Day

As a young man I became very interested in biorhythms. With a hectic schedule as a grad student, college instructor, husband and father, it seemed I was sharper and more together on some days than others. When I investigated, I found that in some cultures, especially Swiss and Japanese, the scheduling of such jobs as airline pilots and even trolley conductors were regulated by biorhythm measurements.

Now, looking back as a retired senior, it seems that my entire life has been lived in cycles. This makes sense to me because everything else in the universe appears to have them. As human beings, it’s much like the proverbial little girl, wherein the cycles can be very good or very, very bad.

For my wife Trisha and me, the first quarter of this year was bad with a capital B. As I’ve previously mentioned, earlier in the New Year I required surgery, then our dear friend and my former Air Force roommate passed away. He was literally a brother to me and I will never completely get over losing him. Things did not improve as Trisha developed a medical problem that required immediate surgery. All of these episodes can be defined as part of life, no different from anyone else. In this case, they occurred in rapid succession and created a great deal of stress for both of us.

Taking a break, once our doctors approved us for flight, we headed to Florida for some relaxation. While other factors did not permit us to completely relax, Trisha did finally get on a bit of a winning streak. She did not win the lottery, but had a couple of really good days.

First of all, being an avid shopper, she was thrilled to see the newly constructed Palm Beach Outlet Stores were open for business. Needing some new clothes for an upcoming trip, she could not wait to explore their wares. On a beautiful Florida day, we headed to Palm Beach where her first stop was Banana Republic.

Trisha Florida 001

Before I go further, I know some of my male readers may be saying, “You idiot, you actually took your wife shopping?”  I plead guilty, but read on to find out why I didn’t mind. For one, you should know Trisha is a shopping genius.

After a long time picking out several items, she headed to the dressing room to make her final decisions. She then took the items to the sales counter where they totaled her purchase. The bill came to $206.57. As I looked on, Trisha took out her coupons, reward points, etc. The sales clerk refigured the bill and said, “That will be $0.77.” I’m not kidding; her total charge was 77 cents. She then went on to the Gap and bought $75 worth of clothing for $30. She was very pleased, I was happy, and we enjoyed a great dinner out that night. Yes, she did have an on-line coupon for the dinner.

The next day got even better for her. Before I share what happened, you need to know Trisha is a super sports fan. Football, baseball, NASCAR; it doesn’t make a difference, she loves it all. She also has special affection for certain athletes. Perhaps highest on that list is Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath. She loves his personality and “his smile.”

For faithfull readers, you may remember I met Broadway Joe last year in Florida. Trisha wasn’t with me and was heartbroken she did not get to meet him. Well, the day after her successful shopping trip, we went into the same grocery store where I had met Joe. As we walked in, she turned and jokingly said, “If you see Joe, let me know.” Obviously, the odds of that happening were not very good.

As we got to the back of the store, Trisha was pushing her cart down the main isle when I turned to get an item from another one. When I returned to catch up with her, I was stunned to find the man pushing a cart right behind her was none other than Joe himself. I almost busted. He then turned and headed up another isle as Trisha continued on quite unaware. I followed him hoping he would remember me and then said hello. He did remember me and we chatted for a moment or two. I then said, “Joe, you need to do something for me.” “What’s that,” he asked. At that very moment, Trisha turned a corner and was walking directly toward us. I said, “Joe, I want you to meet my wife.”

When she looked up and saw who I was talking to, she pushed her cart out of the way and ran directly toward Joe with her arms outstretched. Joe opened his arms and they embraced for quite a while. As her husband, it seemed really long. Not actually giving up the embrace completely, Joe then asked, “What’s your name?” When she replied, “Trisha,” I said, “You know Trisha, Joe doesn’t always get their names.” I was happy that for two days at least, she was into a really good cycle.

We all deserve a good cycle every now and then.

Trisha Florida 002

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Getting Better Every Day

Trisha Parker

Trisha Parker

Growing older, I’m sure most of us have heard the suggestion that one of our goals as we make our way through the trials and tribulations of life, is to try to become a better person each day? To be loving and respectful of others.

I’ve always considered myself a very fortunate person because I had parents who not only talked about the virtues of being loving and being respectful of others, but also lived that example. I’m also fortunate because I married a woman who lives according to the same principles.

This week, filled with tension and worry, I was witness to a real-life example of selfless behavior. My wife Trisha had surgery on Tuesday. She was scheduled for an early procedure that required us to rise at 4:00, get ready, drive an hour to the hospital, and check in at 5:45. We were right on schedule and she was taken to pre-op along with about 10 others. I was allowed to join her once the IV’s were in place and she was ready to go for a 7:45 procedure. As the time neared, there was a bit of commotion as a number of doctors gathered and then exited toward the operating rooms as a group. After a few minutes we were told there was an emergency and my wife’s surgery had been delayed. That was an understatement.

As we watched the other patients being rolled into surgery, we were told the operating room scheduled for my wife was being used for the emergency patient. As I sat next to her, experiencing the normal tension such a situation brings about, we waited for more than five and a half hours. Finally, my wife’s anesthesiologist came in to begin the final preparation. Now, I’m not sure how most people would have reacted, but let me tell you what transpired. After asking some mandatory questions, the doctor said, “We are very sorry we kept you waiting for so long.” My wife responded, “Were you able to save the person’s life?” The doctor, taken a bit by surprise said, “Why yes, it took a while, but we were able to save the patient’s life.” My wife said, “I’m very happy to be a part of that, let’s go.”

When I told my medical friends about this, they said not all patients would have reacted in such a positive manner. As I said, I’m a lucky man to have examples of selflessness like this on a daily basis. I’m very proud.

By the way, her surgery went well and she is recovering nicely.

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