Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Happiest People in the World

According to a segment I saw on “60 Minutes” a few months ago, Danes are the happiest people in the world. I’m not sure how they measured this, or what criteria was used, but apparently the reason Danes are so content is because they have low expectations.

Conversely, Americans are among the least happy people in the world – because we have such unrealistic requirements for happiness. We live in a world where we‘re barraged with movies, TV shows, newspaper ads, and, above all, commercials telling us about all this cool stuff we should have – we deserve to have. So when we don’t get it, we’re miserable.

Last week I visited one of my two remaining aunts , my Aunt Dortha. I’ve lost two aunts this year, Miss V and my Aunt Louise, who died on Easter, forcing me to bring a laundry basket filled with plastic grass and good chocolate (none of that cheap stuff – Aunt Ease used the holidays to teach her barbaric nieces and nephews an appreciation of the finer things – like good chocolate) to her memorial service.

And, yes, "Dortha" is the correct spelling – my grandparents were Appalachian, and those folks have their own notions about names. Seriously. I have relatives named America, Pocahontas and Palestine and my first husband (also Appalachian heritage) had cousins named Ottie, Oretha, Opal and Okra.

Anyway, Aunt Dortha is my mother’s younger sister. Mom’s been gone for nearly 35 years, so I never got to know her as an adult (me, not her) and I love hearing Aunt Dortha’s tales about the two of them growing up in Kentucky. They’d sit around on the front porch and Aunt Dortha would play the guitar and they’d sing (and not, apparently, help grandma with the chores). And about the two of them coming to Dayton during World War II and working as waitresses at the Green Mill Restaurant, where she met my Uncle Ed, her husband for 55 years. (It was out of this experience that Mom taught us never to stiff the waitress. She said if you don’t have enough money to leave a good tip, you don’t have enough to be going out to eat.)

Anyway, Aunt Dortha now lives in a nursing home, which you’d think would suck. She has Parkinson’s disease and the meds they give her to control the tremors have pretty much erased her short-term memory, which should also suck, but, for some reason, it doesn’t. She’s been in about 4 different rooms since she arrived there, and every time I go to see her, no matter what room she’s in, she’ll say, “I think this is the nicest room in the place. Don’t you?” I’ll nod, and, lowering her voice, she’ll go on, “You know, your Uncle Curt (actually my great-uncle Curt, my grandmother’s brother, who made a packet in real estate) used to own this place.” I’ll agree and then she’ll whisper, “I think that’s why I got such a good room” and nod significantly.

And it doesn’t matter if the room’s pretty nice (like the one she has now) or is an 8’x10’ box because, in her eyes, it’s a nice room.

So now that I’m out of work, I figure I have the option of seeing it as a tragedy (no money to buy best-grandma-in-the-world toys for the grandkids this Christmas, a black mark on my formerly pristine work record) or a joy (because I LOVE having time to write, keep my house clean, take the dogs to the park and make actual from-scratch meals).

So when the pastry tray of life comes around, make mine Danish.


  1. Cute story. I think being happy (or not) is a decision we make. Im not Danish but I choose to be reasonably happy. Patients come into our office with real problems. That is a reality check for me.

  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving such a sweet comment! I read your whole blog yesterday (how's that for blog stalking), though I was terribly remiss in commenting because I was sick (and grumpy!) and friends don't let friends comment grumpy!

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your writing! I added you to my blog roll (I can't figure out the why of the blog following...)

  3. Hi Jeanne, Thanks for leaving a comment at my place! It is nice to meet you, you have a very nice place here and I will be back to read more! Those two grandbabies on your front page are sooo cute! I am going to add you to my blog roll too! :)


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