Back in 1916, the ship Jőngkőping was crossing the Baltic Sea with 5,000 bottles of champagne aboard. She never made her destination, though. Torpedoed by a German U-boat, the Jőngkőping sank in the icy waters between Sweden and Finland.
For close to 100 years, the ship sat quietly under some 200’ of water. At an almost constant 35°, the Baltic made for perfect refrigerated storage.
In 1997, some of the Jőngkőping’s champagne was salvaged. And now it’s for sale at an upscale hotel in Moscow… at $275K per glass.
My father-in-law reminds me a lot of that champagne. He’s come into his own rather late in his career, but he’s aging remarkably well.
Of course, with wine, it’s a crap shoot. Maybe that expensive bottle you’ve been saving for a special occasion will be great. But then – even if you’ve carefully tended it in a climate-controlled wine cellar – it may turn out to be pricy vinegar.
There’s just no telling.
With people, it’s different. Aging is a crap shoot if you do nothing. But my father-in-law isn’t that kind of guy. He’s a self-taught problem solver. And he approaches getting older pretty much the same way he’s always approached everything. He takes whatever he has on hand and makes the best of it.
This is a guy who comes from humble beginnings. He left school at a young age to work in the family dirt business. Yes, dirt. It doesn’t get much humbler than that.
After a typical blue-collar family life, he found himself approaching his “golden years” with too much weight, dodgy arteries and an uncertain future. He knew he had to do something.
He’d spent 40 years keeping old bulldozers running with baling wire and duct tape. So he took the same approach with his body.
He couldn’t afford a personal trainer or a membership at a fancy gym. But walking was free. So he walked. He started riding a bicycle again. Always a fan of the outdoors, he’d grab his camera and head to a nature preserve for a couple of hours.
He started eating more sensibly. Less beer; more vegetables. And he could grow some of his own – even in Florida. After all, he knew his way around dirt.
He asked questions, too. He didn’t have a college education. But he wasn’t shy about asking questions of people who did. His doctors figured out quickly a visit from my father-in-law meant they’d better do their homework.
It worked. He lost weight. He built strength and endurance. And now he’s far more active than most folks his age.
We went to Yellowstone when he was in his mid-70s. But even at altitudes above 7,000 feet, he was skittering up and down hills without thinking twice. Even now, as he closes in on 80, he does yard work, exercises regularly and even carries furniture and heavy boxes.
He’s like a fine wine that’s aged well.
The point is, my father-in-law got his wake-up call fairly late in life. But he was still able to turn things around and enjoy additional years of quality life. Fun, active years that are still happening.
Most of his friends are watching life pass by from their rocking chairs… or already gone. He’s busy making new memories.
He recently returned from Delaware, where he visited a wildlife refuge in search of an elusive snowy owl. You can see the excitement on his face as he describes slogging through un-tracked snow.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather look forward to my next adventure than look back on one from 20 or 30 years in the past. And my father-in-law proves anyone who really wants to can do it.
Sometimes the wines that age best don’t come from the fanciest vineyards.