father and son standing in field

Making an age adjustment

Home Front: John and Kendra Smiley reflect on the adjustments they’re making in life — both in the field and on the ski slopes.

By nature, I am disgustingly optimistic. I can still remember a phone call I received over 30 years ago from a college friend. In answer to the question, “What’s new?” I explained that a few months before, I had given birth to our third son, and I was exhausted and a little depressed.

After a slight pause, my friend began to laugh and then replied, “Wow! For just a minute I forgot. Depression for you is mild euphoria for the rest of the world.”

That might have been a slight exaggeration, but for the most part, Kendra is typically upbeat and genuinely enthusiastic about whatever might be on the agenda. Her attitude has remained the same for the 40-plus years I’ve known her.

At times, she can also be a little unrealistic — especially when it comes to adjusting to the challenges that are inevitable as we grow older each year.

I hate to admit it, but there is at least a shred of truth in those words. I find it difficult to make age adjustments — adjustments that are necessary for my own well-being. John, on the other hand, is much better at remembering that changes must be made in order to keep doing what we love to do, stay safe and avoid injury.

For me that realization came about almost four years ago. That was when it became clear that filling the planters by hand wasn’t as easy as it used to be. So I invested in a seed tender. About the same time, I admitted that when I get tired, it’s time to stop in order to avoid the possibility of doing harm to the machinery or my body.

You might think watching John make those age adjustments would be enough to help me get on board and do a little age-adjusting myself. Nope! It took more than that. It took a family vacation a few months ago, to the ski slopes near Buffalo, N.Y.

I hadn’t skied for 19 years, but the thought of swishing down the hills once again seemed like a real possibility. Did I make an age adjustment? Only if you count beginning on the bunny hill with our grandkids (10 years old and younger). Things went well on the beginner slope, and before long, I suggested John and I take our two oldest granddaughters and try a more difficult run.

Kendra made it down the much steeper, more advanced hill, and turned in her skis, boots and poles immediately upon reaching the bottom. That is all the information I’m authorized to give. Let’s just say, she now has a new understanding and appreciation for the necessity of making those “age adjustments.”

You might wonder if that somewhat frightening, absolutely exhausting experience altered my typically optimistic attitude. Not really. I simply concluded that my enthusiasm was bigger than my ability. And that age adjustments are not all bad.

Rather optimistically, I also declared, “It is better to have skied and survived than to never have skied at all.” 

 John and Kendra Smiley farm near East Lynn, Ill. Email [email protected], or visit kendrasmiley.com.

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