One of the many things I love about my in-laws is that they like to dance—with vigor and at every opportunity. And it doesn't matter if you're 8 or 80, you're expected to join in the fun and give it a whirl.
I just returned from my father-in-law's 80th birthday celebration, and, despite the sling he's wearing for a torn rotator cuff, he still cuts a dashing figure on the dance floor. He and my mother-in-law danced the opening dance after the dinner party, gliding effortlessly across the floor with an ease that comes from 57 years of marriage.
But, my father-in-law didn't only dance with his wife—he took a twirl with some of his daughters and granddaughters, too, easily leading each of them around the dance floor.
When I attended my first Cronin event—a big Northeastern-style wedding for one of my husband's sisters—I was a little intimidated by how well everyone could dance. And, while it is true that they will probably always dance better than I, I've come to realize that it's really not about how well you dance but how much you enjoy the moment.
I think it's part of what keeps my mother-in-law and father-in-law young. Clearly, they love to dance—and they love the family celebrations that allow them to dance with their six kids and extended family.
So, what else is it that keeps them young and so much fun to be around?
This is just my theory, based on occasional observations over the past 25 years. There are two main things that keep them young.
#1: Staying active. I remember that first wedding visit, back in 1990, when I was lying in bed half awake in the early morning and could hear my future mother-in-law bounding up and down the stairs, taking care of her guests and all the pre-wedding details. I remember wishing I had her energy!
When my husband and I had children, we would jokingly take bets as to whether his mom, Nana, would wear out the kids before they wore her out. Usually Nana "won" on the first few days of her visits, and the kids overtook her near the end. Still, her energy far exceeded mine.
Similarly, my father-in-law is rarely idle. When he comes to our house, he looks for projects he can do, and when we visit his home, he is often out working in the yard or around the house, fixing things and figuring things out.
Since moving from New York to Boulder County, Colorado, about 25 years ago, the two of them have regularly taken long walks through the canyons and hillsides surrounding their home. When we visit, they take us for hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, walks through the Denver Zoo and other activities that we all enjoy.
#2: Challenging their minds. If my father-in-law isn't tinkering in the house or yard, he often is in the basement researching some challenging problem on his computer. He keeps his mind as active as his body. And both my mother-in-law and father-in-law enjoy reading, traveling and staying involved in their church and community.
And of course, it goes without saying, they eat well, drink very moderately and maintain a healthy weight.
So, when my 18-year-old nephew who was acting as deejay for the party, played his mix of tunes spanning at least seven decades, my in-laws were first on the dance floor, leading the way for the rest of us to shed our inhibitions and enjoy life.
None of us is guaranteed good health and longevity, but I hope to return to celebrate more decades with my in-laws.