February is always a very busy month for me, as I enjoy celebrating Heart Health month and Valentine’s Day. These two events provide an opportunity to discuss maintaining the health of a vital organ and the health benefits of love. When I speak about love, the word represents many of the words I use in my writing: connections, socialization, intimacy, and sex. For those who closely follow my view on what leads to sustaining a happy, healthy long life, you might have noted that when I refer to the acronym GRACE, the “C” stands for connections and in the Power of 5, the S stands for Sex. In essence, they are both referring to the same thing. The bond between two people or living things (I cannot exclude the connection between a human and their pet).
Love and Connections
In this blog, I want to address the special meaning of Love and Connections between a parent and a child. As a geriatrician, I’ve had the good fortune to see the inner workings of many families. I am frequently amazed at the demonstration of love between parent and child, particularly late in life. One such example is Alexis* and her father, a retired professional football player. As the youngest of six siblings and the only girl, the bond was always special. She was the “tomboy,” the girl who wanted to impress her father and who excelled in sports and many other areas of life.
She worshiped him in every way, and in his eyes, she could do no wrong. For as long as she remembered, she sent him a Valentine’s Day card every year. Starting in preschool, she would make cards expressing her love. As each aged, she bought cards that truly reflected her love. As he became frail and had difficulty managing his care and finances, she made sure that his home environment was safe and comfortable for him.
She felt it was only natural to be the one to provide or supervise his day-to-day care and protect him in every way possible. She assumed the responsibility for him, the same way he lovingly provided for her when she was a child.
Love and Aging
The road for an aging adult can be treacherous, full of unexpected dangerous curves, potholes and gaps in services. This devoted daughter had to address these challenges on the fly. She did, just like her father taught her to adjust to circumstances in a competitive sport.
Only one raised with love in her heart and so devoted could deal with the calamities she faced regularly. The daughter raised with such love is the one who can see through all the chaos, remain focused, and fend off each of the challenges as they occurred, just like he did as a tenacious football player would.
Despite the turmoil, to see the smile that shines through on her father’s face gave her the strength to persevere. When daddy’s child goes to sleep at night, she knows she did the very best for the man who did his very best to love and protect her.
Love and Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is about love. Most of us feel compelled to celebrate the romantic side of love, which is very important. This year and maybe every year that goes by, we should ponder that other type of love; that love directed toward other special people in our lives who contributed to the development of the loving people we turned out to be.
Make everyday Valentine’s Day, in any way that is meaningful. Show admiration, love and respect to those who guided and protected us in our lives.
*Alexis is a fictitious name and represents a composite of many patients I have cared for during my 40-year career.