My Grandfather, Max, was born in August of 1922, so currently he is 93 years old. He was one of seven children, but he is the last one to remain alive. He and his twin brother were the youngest boys with one sister younger than they were. His old age is remarkable to me because really anyone that lives over 90 seems to have done something right to be alive for that long. So, a few days ago, I stopped to see him at the assisted living home that he lives in on my way back to school. I planned to ask him what most people always ask those who are 80-90 years old, "what is the secret to living a long life?"
My Grandmother died 9 years ago and I knew it was hard on my grandpa, but I was too young to really understand much. Since then, my grandfather did the best that he could to live on his own without her help and to form closer relationships with his sons and daughter and his twin brother.
But, I knew he wasn't happy. I guess that everyone assumes that once your spouse dies, the other one dies shortly after. However, this wasn't the case. My grandpa is young at heart and his health is still very good for being 93. He stayed in Connecticut during the summer and went to Florida by himself in the winter for a while, but then his physical health started to decline. First, he was forced to remain in Connecticut year round and then he had to be moved into assisted living some years later at the age of 92. He suffers from poor eye sight and a bad hip, but mentally, he has it better than anyone that I know despite the loss of his wife and recently his twin brother.
My Grandpa is one of the funniest people you'll ever meet in your life. He loves to crack jokes when you least expect them. He refers to himself as a "loner," but I think that if he tried to make friends with people his own age he would be too much for them. He always says that he "gets along better with younger people". I'm not sure why this is, but I don't think that he has the patience for people who are not as "with it" as he is. Essentially, he acts a lot younger than he looks. He says that he could live alone at his age and take care of himself if he had better eyesight and if he could walk without his walker. Remarkably enough, he even tries to walk without it sometimes to "show off" and he does okay.
So, during my visit with him I asked him the question that everyone asks or is tempted to ask very elderly people: "What is the secret to long life?" and "What habitual routines have helped you to live this long?" My grandpa responded vaguely and he said: "Luck." I was pretty disappointed with his response as I wanted him to list things that I could potentially follow or present some tips that I could share. So, I asked him what he meant by just "luck?" He proceeded to tell me that there is no way that he could have thought about living as long as he did he just feels "lucky" to have lived this long. Perhaps following certain rituals and eating certain foods that people say aid in a longer life really don't matter. Maybe if we just go through life not over thinking the little things that are said to help us to live a longer life, maybe we will enjoy ourselves a bit more?
Then, we talked about genetic makeup and how there must be good genes that run in our family. He's right because my dad and aunt (his kids) are always told that they look at least ten years younger than they actually are. Then, he sort of went off on a tangent and told me about all of his favorite foods. I never really got a straight forward answer, but if you believe in luck despite some tough times and adversity in your life then maybe you'll reach 93+ years old and maybe you'll be living as a young man trapped in an old man's body wishing he were somewhere else.
My Dad told me once that whenever one of my Grandpa's siblings would pass away he would nudge his twin brother and say, "Hey we made it to the final four!" His sense of humor and love for sports is something that is unique and two passions of his that have kept him acting so young.
I think that the secret to a long life is not to take things too seriously, have a good sense of humor, be honest, eliminate stress whenever possible, laugh as often as you can, and make others laugh any chance that you can get, because you only live one life. I hope that I can enjoy many more jokes from my Grandpa in years ahead.