Ninety-seven and Counting

Three years ago I wrote a blog celebrating my grandfather’s ninety-fourth birthday. Well, here I am, in South Florida, to celebrate his ninety-seventh. Another year; another gift.

While many live into their nineties or early one-hundreds these days, the ability to do so cannot be underestimated. With all that could overtake us – from illnesses, to accidents, and even suicide – it seems quite unbelievable when some can beat the odds. My grandfather was the eldest of six and he has outlived three siblings.

From a personal perspective, however, I am acutely aware of how lucky I am. I do not know anyone in my age group who still has a set of living grandparents; especially ones who still live in their own home, have something to do everyday, and are in remarkably good health given their age demographic.

I often wonder what it’s like to live through a century. Can you even imagine? My grandfather was born in 1918. How many wars, natural disasters, inventions, businesses, births and deaths, etc. has he experienced through his lifetime? (Sounds like a good research project and documentary!) What regrets does he have? What life-lessons and words of wisdom can he impart to younger generations? This weekend I intend to get some answers to my questions.

As the eldest of nine grandchildren, I’ve been around for more than half my grandfather’s life. I – and I’m sure I can speak on behalf of my siblings and cousins as well – am grateful for his and my grandmother’s fortitude and longevity. First, they are Holocaust survivors. Had they not overcome Hitler’s campaigns, none of us would be here today. (And neither would the twenty-four great-grandchildren or two great great-grandchildren we produced.) More importantly, the emphasis they placed on cultivating a close-knit family – through the adherence to Jewish traditions and values – has kept us all together. Their expectations and mere presence have influenced and guided many of our attitudes, behaviors, and life choices. In many ways they’ve always been my “true north.”

As my grandparents’ years wane, I am more and more aware of my own mortality. I simply cannot envision myself living to the ripe old age they’ve achieved, so I focus now on the memories and legacy I will leave behind. I thank them for teaching me to live life to the very fullest; to make, enjoy, and celebrate special moments.

The world will be a very sad place when my grandparents are no longer here. So I’m in Florida this weekend to make the most out of the precious time we all have left.

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