About four years ago I wrote an article about two 103-year old men entitled, “A Pair of 103’s.” One of them died a year later; the other one (the father of my sister-in-law) died this past March, shortly before his 107th birthday. He had played bridge a week before he died. He had requested — and been served — a lunch of mashed potatoes and beer two days before he died. He had told his granddaughter that he would live until 110 just a day before he died. Now there’s a guy who demonstrated the importance of maintaining a good attitude until the final curtain comes down.

I’ve encountered several other examples of true grit over the past few weeks. A man who has experienced three forms of cancer and now has Parkinson’s means it when he says he’s glad to be alive. Another man who used to love playing play golf and tennis can no longer get around without a cane or a walker greets every person and every day with a smile. A woman who suddenly lost her husband of 65 years admits that, while she’s no fan of widowhood, “You just move on; what choice do you have?” A woman who has pancreatic cancer takes pride in learning about the people she has admired (e.g. Ruth Bader Ginsburg) who have shared that diagnosis. A young woman (an only child) whose parents suddenly split — a complete shock to her — conveys an upbeat attitude when she talks about her future career options.

M. Scott Peck wrote a bestseller, which stressed the importance of maintaining a good attitude in the face of life’s travails. The book, entitled, “The Road Less Traveled: a New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth,” begins, “Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it — then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

I am blessed to be living with a woman who has faced more than her share of “life is difficult” challenges. Tina’s family’s house in Lisbon Falls burned to the ground in December, 1946 when she was only four years old. (She saved the family by getting under the blanket and yelling at the top of her lungs to wake up her dad.) She has survived breast cancer, thanks to chemotherapy, radiation and a fine oncologist at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts. She has survived a heart attack. The heart attack required paddles administering six electric shocks to restore her heart rhythm. (She joked with the EMT’s when she was being transported from Parkview Hospital to the Maine Medical Center.) She always loved baked goods, but she must now maintain a gluten-free diet. (She loves the offerings of Wildflowers Gluten-Free Bakery in Brunswick) She has difficulty reading, but she persists. And her short-term memory is no longer what it was, a common affliction of people at our age.

Despite these challenges, Tina maintains an upbeat attitude. She calls it a privilege to grow old. She always says that she’s happy that she and I found each other. (I’m glad too.)

As for me, I’ve gotten a little better about accepting life’s bumps and bruises. And I appreciate more the small joys of life — a cup of coffee, a child’s laughter, a glorious sunset, a good talk with a good friend. In fact, I’ve come to the point where I mean it when I say, “From here on, every day is a bonus, a gift.” That said, I don’t think I’ll opt for a farewell lunch of beer-and-mashed-potatoes. Make it iced coffee and minced pie, thank you very much.

David Treadwell, a Brunswick writer, welcomes commentary and suggestions for future “Just a Little Old” columns. [email protected] (David’s latest book co-authored with Anneka Williams, who graduated from Bowdoin College this past May, is entitled, “A Flash Fiction Exchange Between Methuselah and the Maiden: Sixty Stories to While Away the Hours,” is available at Gulf of Maine books (Brunswick) Mockingbird Books (Bath) or on Amazon.)

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