My grandfather is 91. And a half.
That half is important. Like when you’re 6 and can’t wait to be 7, and announce you are “SIX AND THREE QUARTERS!” when asked your age. When you’re at the other end and your train is running further than everyone else’s, you keep track of every second that ticks off.
So my grandfather is 91 1/2 yrs old. He’s not the one keeping track of it, I am. Because wow. I am so lucky to have had 46+ years with my grandfather.
He lives on his own-ish, in a basement apartment my parents set up when my grandparents were in their mid 70s and retiring. For the first 10 yrs my grandmother ran the show down there, for the past 6 it’s been my grandfather on his own. A man that could barely make toast, now does his own groceries, makes his own meals, and looks after himself.
Yes, he still drives. When I last visited, he was the one weaving down the highway into the city and dodging traffic looking for a parking spot.
My grandfather lawn bowls in the summer, plays bridge in the winter, and often goes off on excursions with the community seniors group.
He’s 91 1/2.
I cherish every second I get to spend with him. There have been times when I miss him so badly, I’ve packed up the boys to fly to Vancouver for a few days just so I could sit in the same room as him. The TV would be likely showing curling while he’d peck away at a crossword puzzle or online bridge game in his comfortable chair. We wouldn’t say much for an hour or two. I’d just sit there and stare at him, take in the smell of a grandparent’s tv room, and enjoy the moment.
When we were younger and would get calls for birthday wishes from our grandparents, it was my grandmother who would do all the talking. Grumps would give us a quick 5 words of hello or happy birthday before passing the phone off to Nan. Now? Now he’ll talk your ear off if you call.
So I called. It had been a while. And I miss him. So I called.
“I might have diabeetus,” he announced, pronouncing it in that Wilfrid Brimley way in a run on sentence right after saying hello when he recognized it was me that was calling.
At 91 1/2, my grandfather has never had any major health problems. Sure, he has an enlarged prostate, but at his age there’s other stuff that will get him before that does. Same with the diabetes. He’ll pop a pill, cut down on the orange juice, and keep chugging along.
“I’m still playing cards four or five times a week,” he went on. “I don’t feel any different,” referring to the diabetes diagnosis. “I’m not worried about it, if you’ve gotta take a pill, you’ve gotta take a pill. Everything’s copacetic.”
And then we went on to talk about trains, urban development, the weather, and other things that occupy the mind of a nonagenarian until I brought it back to health.
I asked him what his ‘secret’ was and why he thinks he’s been so lucky to live so long.
My 91 1/2 yr old Grandfather’s Secrets Of Longevity
“I never drank a beer – I don’t know what beer tastes like. I don’t know what it’s like to be drunk.”
Now, my grandfather has had wine at diner, and I have seen him have a few more than 2 (wink, nudge), but I’ll give him this one. “I’ve got a 40 ounce of Canadian Club in the house here, never opened, we’ve had it for 16 years,” he continued.
“I never smoked.”
That one’s not rocket science.
“You gotta keep moving, don’t just sit around all day doing nothing. If you’re sitting around moping, you’re done.”
Like I said, he’s 91 1/2 and still plays cards every day and does all his own chores. This summer, on the eve of his 92nd birthday in September, he’ll be back at the lawn bowling club to defend many of the titles he captures at tournaments each year.
I’ve talked about this with my mom and dad, and we agree this is the thing that has kept him on so long. He lives each day with a purpose. He’s got a to do list, and is off and running after breakfast. He’s not just physically active, but he’s mentally active, and socially active too.
“I’ve got clean air and nice weather.”
Granted it was pouring rain the day I called him, but that rain and the breeze off the ocean in Vancouver each day clears the air. “There’s no smog or pollution,” he explains before going into a rathole about trains and engines and new smokestacks (he’s a bonafide train nut).
“I’m waiting for your mother and father to get up so I can do my wash!,” he blurted after I asked him what his plans were for the day. He’s 91 1/2 and not slowing down. I said goodbye, and then called my parents to wake them up so my grandfather could get on with his day.
And then my mother turned the conversation to me and my health.
I’ve never had a full blood workup done. I’ve never had a cardiogram. I’m 46, just a few years younger than my dad was when he had his heart surgery. While my maternal grandfather is a horse, my paternal side has more health issues that I need to be paying attention to.
So, immediately after talking to my parents and grandfather, I called my doctor and made an appointment for a full physical.
If it’s been a while since you’ve called or visited a parent or grandparent, call them and have a heart to heart – and then look in the mirror and have one with yourself.
[infobox title=”Have A Heart To Heart”]
One heart attack occurs every seven minutes in Canada, with an estimated 70,000 heart attacks annually. If someone experiences the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, have them call 911 then chew two ASPIRIN® 81mg tablets.
Some of the key signs of heart attack are: chest discomfort, upper body discomfort (including discomfort in the arms, jaw, neck and back), shortness of breath, sweating and nausea, light-headedness.
A lot of people find it hard to talk to loved ones about their health. My grandfather thought he was doing okay with his diet until he had portion size explained to him. My mom had to do it tactfully, so as not to scold him in his choices, but to steer him in a more positive direction.
Whatever the path you need to take to talk about the health of your parents, and grandparents. Take it. Have them over for dinner, go with them to the doctor (so you hear what’s being said instead of them interpreting it how they want to hear it), have a heart to heart.
It’s worth it.[/infobox]