When Mom was in her mid-80’s, she wanted to drive from Chicago around the south end of Lake Michigan to our summer home, staying as close to the water as possible. The rest of us doubted the efficacy of her idea, an old lady driving through dangerous neighborhoods for no important reason, but we knew Mom.
She was going to do it.
She asked if any of us wanted to accompany her, and although many of us said, “Sure!” there were always reasons why it wasn’t a good day. Then Mom got sick of waiting. She left her home in Wilmette, 25 miles north of Chicago, and threaded her way south along Sheridan Road, Lake Shore Drive and route 94, enjoying a lake view all the way.
When she got to Gary and Hammond, she had trouble staying close to the shoreline because of the steel mills but said she never lost sight of the water (questionable). She finished her drive to the Michigan cottage on routes 20 and 12, reaching her goal.
Naturally we lectured her after the fact, but half of her joy was in showing up the rest of us. When I asked if she’d been nervous anywhere along the way she said, “Be friendly to people, and they’ll be friendly to you.” Who knows what she encountered.
Dad was accurate when he said, “Your Ma is a risk-taker.” When it involved our children, however, we cringed, like the time she let our preschoolers drive her car by having them crawl under her feet and push the break and gas pedals with their hands. Or the time she sent two 2-year-olds to the beach unaccompanied. We found them playing in the lake.
Another time she took our 4 and 5 year old girls to Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. Once inside the building, she remembered their snack bags in her car.
“Grandma needs a rest, “she said, plunking down on a planetarium bench. “Here’s the car keys. Do you remember where we parked?” The two little girls headed down the wide steps and into a sea of cars parked in downtown Chicago in search of snack bags. I can’t even list the multiple risks she took in doing this, though as always, it worked out fine.
Recently some friends and I talked about risk-taking in relation to aging. As the years pile up, most of us get cautious, eliminating risk wherever possible, but then without our realizing it, the world begins to shrink, along with many positives.
We agreed it’s a good idea to force ourselves to take at least minimal risks. We should keep driving in busy cities, going out after dark, trying new foods, meeting new people, traveling to faraway places. But how?
By factoring in God, trusting in his care. But will he come through if we’re risking too much? He wants us to walk in wisdom, which is usually somewhere between wild risk and none at all.
Amazingly, Mom’s risk-taking never got her in trouble. Maybe God assigned extra angels to “keep her in all her ways.” Although her risk management was sometimes foolish, taking no risks at all can be foolish, too.
“Moderation is better than muscle.” (Proverbs 16:32)