My tenth decade

Tarragal Manor resident Trevor Fist shares his perspective on reaching his nineties and facing his 'tenth' decade in this essay excerpt.

By Trevor Fist

I am Trevor William Fist, born in Wynyard, Tasmania, on the 4th October 1925; eldest son of Elsie and Albert Fist, whose farm was located at Milabena and later Boat Harbour on the North West coast of that delightful state. I am the eldest of their seven children.

It has been my privilege to live a full and active life and now in my nineties there is much to reflect on. For my ninetieth birthday the family celebration was a delightful occasion. I enjoyed it. But that is a story for another time.

Since then the one thing I have been frequently asked has been, “How do you plan to live out your tenth decade?” Happily, one day at a time, and enjoying the experience is my response… but I do not mean to be glib.

One day my son Andrew said, “Dad you are not to vegetate.”

I too hope I can remain active: I am enjoying life in my nineties, but that is the issue. The nineties are different to previous years and frailty of body and mind threatens each of us. Sadly many people are not privileged to enjoy these years.

For my nineties I desire to live a full life; I have a very real desire not to vegetate. I know full well that physically I will grow more frail as the years roll on. The challenge of the ‘cognitive’ side of life is also a very real one for me. And doubtlessly ‘sensory’ abilities of life will suffer as time rolls by. Here in the Manor, where I am privileged to live, I see people in their nineties growing frail, struggling with daily life. But that is life!

What then is my position physically? At this time I enjoy life; I am happy and positive. I seldom experience pain. But I know I am experiencing declining strength/health. However, I am privileged to have a caring GP, Dr Geoff, who helps me in a way that gives me confidence. Geoff also refers me to a team of great specialist doctors.

Already, at 90, I walk slowly aided by a stick; I realise I will soon need the aid of a walker. I also enjoy driving my car which is a delight and a privilege. I do not feel cut-off from society: I can still drive to Church and Probus each week.

My licence has been renewed… October 2016. (Note: May 2017 no longer driving. I voluntarily gave my car away and do not drive although legally I could.)

However, for me there is another aspect of life that is very real beside the physical. Life has the spiritual aspect that enriches each individual as we live it to the full. I believe we are essentially ‘spiritual beings’ and to develop the spiritual life is to enrich all of life. That is one of my challenges for my nineties.

God has blessed my ninetieth year in many ways; that story is amazing. I believe I have grown spiritually during these wonderful months.

I have a new home, The Manor, which is just so comfortable.

I am surrounded by friends of immense worth.

Together we can make life a rich experience for each of us.

I trust life for me will be highlighted by growth and happiness.

So: my highest aim in life is to grow spiritually and to be a rich personality, and I sense that has been happening. Facing the challenge of growing in my nineties.

Let me develop my thinking: how do we grow? What are the chief elements in these years? My aim is to enrich my life; yes, enrich through making each day worthwhile for me and those around me. Enriching my life by carefully and deliberately living happily.

I need quiet times each day: periods when I am alone, no one around me. Time to reflect, be thankful, to read, to pray, to plan and dream about life and the wonderful future that we can enjoy in this delightful country we have inherited.

I often think of my parents and their wonderful contribution to my life. I appreciate that the daily comfort and peaceful community that we have/enjoy was ‘bought’ at an unbelievable price. Dad spent three years in France in World War I, including his 21st birthday; for the rest of his life, his health suffered. But he always worked hard as a farmer. I know he was often living in pain and spent time in hospital. He died aged 74 years.

Our mother worked unbelievably hard all her short life: mother of seven children, living in a primitive home without modern aids or comforts. No electricity. Life in the bush without motorised transport left much to be desired.

The local one teacher school was miles away. Mother guided each one of us in an unbelievably life enriching way. Each one of our seven children has lived life in a way she would be proud of I’m sure. The comforts of life were very sparse for our mother; she would enjoy the occasional day with her family at the lovely Boat Harbour Beach, but she never had a holiday, she never travelled interstate and died aged only 49.

I feel deeply indebted to my parents… We, their seven children, are a close-knit family, even today; each one of us has made worthwhile contributions to life in their community. Each has followed their own ‘calling’ in life happily and successfully.

Yes, I appreciate my upbringing: both in a proud and humble way.

Little schooling and in the work force before I turned fourteen years of age, but I was later able to matriculate, studying by correspondence, in my twenties. Eight years of study followed and qualified me to serve professionally as a Baptist minister.

Other factors enrich the memories of my God-given life: my apartment in this delightful Manor is enhanced by the photos of my lovely wife June.

I often recall Aunty Millie saying at our wedding, “June has been the makings of Trevor”. No truer expression ever summed up my life so realistically.

June’s contribution to my life was unbelievably enriching. A good wife; clear thinking with a good family background, June guided me in many decisions. As a married couple we never made a major decision without both being happy to proceed. Marriage for us was a life-enriching experience. I owe so much to June but throughout my life success has not been a solo effort; I have been surrounded by people who contributed so much to what I have achieved.

Looking back, I am a ‘team player’. In my daily life I am still a team player.

Now in my nineties, I live only a few doors away from my lovely sister Glenis. Our companionship truly enriches our lives. We enjoy each other’s company; as I move through the years I call my nineties, each day is enriched by her love and companionship.

I also enjoy a happy church life.

We have a very capable and gracious pastor and wise and friendly church leaders. It is a joy to share with my happy church family. Many of the younger couples take time to befriend me. There are several retired ordained pastors regularly worshipping with our church and together we are able to encourage each other. I could not wish for a more helpful situation to live out the final decade of my life. We share the hopes and desires of life and are able to enrich each other’s experiences of getting older.

I also enjoy life in a friendly Probus Club.

Our Probus Club is led by a most helpful team of experienced retired men and women. They have honoured me with life membership; I am also Patron of the Club. Many of the members visit me in my unit at the Manor from time to time. Therefore please note I have wonderful companionship with people who live in the community as well as the church. That helps me live a growing balanced life. It enriches my experience of life.

Here at the Manor my life experiences a dynamic ‘assisted living’ which helps me live a full and enriching time. I appreciate the quietness of the Manor; it helps me live each day.

I try to live a disciplined life each day. I rise from my bed about 6am, exercise bike 20 minutes, news 7am, computer and emails, lunch 12:30, reading, study aided by carefully chosen DVD ‘great courses’, bed about 10pm.

A little bit of history may be in place here. For about five years I nursed my wife. Then in 2005 ACAC assessed June as needing nursing home high care. I was also assessed as needing low care.

June died in 2006 and I was in the nursing home for nine years. Then two years ago my family arranged for me to come to the Manor to live.

Although I am ninety years of age the powers that be here use me in special services, such as Anzac Dawn services and Remembrance Day services and I have a real sense of satisfaction from the experience.

However being a leader is not an essential for me to be happy.

I want to be as active as my body allows; I try to keep my mind active all the time.

People are important to me and I love to have visitors in my unit. My family is important to me; I love their visits, their phone calls, Facebook, interaction.

How then do I plan to live my tenth decade of life? People have enriched my life and I hope to live the rest of my life enriching other people.

Faith in God and following the teachings of Jesus is as important for me in this decade as it has been throughout the previous eight decades. Jesus has taught me a lot about the way to live, so I want to follow his teaching and grow. I want my final years to express a real positive faith in our loving God and Jesus our saviour, and to enrich the life I live so that family and friends are helped.

With God’s help this can be the best decade of my life.

I am to be positive: learning new ways to make life richer and daily discovering new ways to make life a joyous experience for me and everyone I touch in this wonderful life.

Every good wish my friend!

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