Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Reflections on Turning 100

No, not me. My Dad turned 100 a couple of weeks ago. That's quite a milestone for anyone to make, and we celebrated with a grand party at the home where he now lives.

He's only been in the home since March. For 99 and two-thirds years he's lived an independent life, hale and hearty. He always was a big man, over six feet tall, strong and healthy.

He loomed in my mind as larger than he really was. When I lived in the Netherlands, I bought him a sweater made in Denmark. Knitted of fine wool, the sweater was meant to ward off the North Sea gales and would do well against the rugged winters of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

"What size should we get?" asked my wife. Holding it up, I replied. "Better get the extra large."

When we called that Christmas, Dad laughed. "How big do you think I am, anyway?"

"Just wash it," I said, "it will shrink."

It was a shock to see him at the nursing home, in a wheel chair, face bruised from a nasty fall taken a week or so earlier. He's nearly blind from macular degeneration, diminished in strength and stature. I gave him a CD player along with several audio books so he could listen to the stories he can no longer read.

But his spirit is undiminished. His mind is clear, and his memories are sharp. We talked about the old days. how he and his cousin hoboed their way out to California in the early days of the Depression.

"I worked in a bakery on LaBrea," he said, "A Frenchman owned it, or maybe a Swede. It was so long ago, I can't remember. But he was fat." Never trust a skinny cook, or baker for that matter.

So I set up the CD player and showed him how it works. One button for the power, and he could see enough of the LED lights to tell if it was on or off. One button to make it play, and one button to open the cover to change the CD.

I wished I could do more. But fighting City Hall would be a piece of birthday cake compared to fighting old age. May God bless our Centenarians.


  1. Your article brought tears to my eyes because I lost my father this past May. August 16th, two days ago, would have been his 82nd birthday. It wasn't an easy day for me because I miss him so much but I miss him every day.
    You are so fortunate to have your dad and, from reading your article, I see how very much you realize that and appreciate him. Be sure to tell him that - often.

  2. Hello Patricia, it isn't easy, is it? I sympathize with you in your loss. Cling to the fond memories, and savor them. My brother and I have e-captured a lot of slide pictures our dad took over the years. They serve as excellent reminders of the treasured years.