Location: Bend, Oregon
I am looking forward to seeing my mom next weekend when I am in California. She is going to fly to San Francisco and we are going to head to Santa Cruz to visit my sister and her husband. It is such a treat that my mom has the means – both financial and physical – to join me on some of my trips and I am so grateful to get these bonus visits with her. But scheduling them is no easy feat. Mom no longer works and does not have any pets, so you would think getting away for a few days would be logistically easy for her, but it is not. The hassle of scheduling around her commitments is well worth it, though, because I think they speak highly of how she fills her days. And it gives me hope that there is still learning to do and engaging conversation to be had decades from now.
One of her obligations is the Great Decisions discussion group she participates in and occasionally leads. Great Decisions is described (by the Foreign Policy Association that sponsors it) as “America’s largest discussion program on world affairs.” It was started in Portland, Oregon in 1954 and there are now groups across the country who meet to discuss eight topics over the course of a year that reflect critical global issues, such as nuclear security and the future of Europe. Participants read materials chosen by a panel of experts on the designated topic in their Great Decisions Briefing Book, watch a DVD on the topic and then meet to discuss it.
When Mom and I were together in Portland in January, she was busy reading and preparing for that month’s meeting. Much of what she read and discussed over the course of the year gave her valuable perspective on the very issues that were dominating the news. And with my dad no longer here to discuss Trump’s latest display of idiocy or what the possible solutions are to the climate change crisis, this discussion group is a wonderful and much-needed outlet for her. She is also taking an advanced conversational Spanish class at the local community college, which allows her to use her Spanish (that she learned when we lived in South America 50 years ago!) and meet some new people.
My mom also fills her time with competitive bridge, Pilates classes, hikes and walks, volunteer work, and meals with friends. The only thing that is not on her agenda is sitting at home twiddling her thumbs. But it is her intellectual pursuits – and the fact that they are still available to her and of interest to her – that warm my heart. I think part of living one’s best life is to never stop learning, and I applaud these opportunities for continuing to broaden one’s mind – and my mom’s enthusiastic pursuit of them – because they speak well for what awaits me. As my own birthday nears, it is nice to have such a good role model for aging.
For more information about Great Decisions, visit https://www.fpa.org/great_decisions/