Sunday, November 20, 2005

I hope that I'll get old before I die

I was going to write about this past Thursday and how my father was awarded an honorary Doctorate in Divinity from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and I probably will within the next few days, but before that I feel compelled to write about a member of my father's congregation.

Jesse (last name with held for anonymity - also I have absolutely no idea what his last name actually is) has been a member of the Marathon Jewish Community Center (for some reason they don't use the word synagogue or temple in Queens, everything is a "community center") for quite some time. As an active member he enjoys celebrating his birthday after services on the Saturday closest to his actual day of birth by sponsoring a lunch or some sort at the "temple." This past Saturday we celebrated his one hundred and first birthday. Let me repeat that. HE'S ONE HUNDRED AND ONE YEARS OLD. He was born November 24, 1904.

Please shake from your minds the idea that he is some old bed ridden feeble asthmatic forgetful old man. He is as spry as a man in his eighties. He walks everywhere. Everywhere. He walks to the supermarket, to the drug store, to temple. He probably isn't allowed to drive anymore but still, it's a hell of a lot of walking. He even walks in the annual Israeli day Parade in Manhattan every year. At age 101 he has only just recently started to use a walker because he had some sort of accident about a month ago. In fact I'm starting to suspect he is actually Colonel Steve Austin and not the nice Jewish old man he who sits six rows up from the bimah every Saturday morning.

Forsaking the amount of money (six million dollars) put in to his body (we have the technology...) I find it helpful, to really put in all in perspective, to discuss what this man has witnessed throughout the course of his life. Just some of the major plot points (not necessarily in linear order).

-World War one, 1914-1918
-The great depression, 1929
-The invention of Marshmallow fluff, 1917
-The mass production of the and eventual commonplace of the Automobile
-Charles Lindbergh's first nonstop transatlantic flight aboard the Spirit of St. Louis, 1927
-The invention of the Oreo Cookie, 1912 (which actually came second to the now defunct Hydrox cooki,e 1908 - personal aside: I miss Hydrox and always liked them better than Oreos)
-17 Presidents of the United States (From Teddy Roosevelt to Bush the second, Presidents in between of note: all of them)
-World War Two, 1939-1945
-The creation of the state of Israel (big deal for the Jews), 1948
-The growth of America from 48 states to the whopping 50 we are today: Hawaii + Alaska, 1959
-The first man in space, 1961
-A man walking on the Moon, 1969
-The creation and dissolution of the Bull Moose political party, 1912-1916
-Fourteen near presidential assassinations (Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Truman, Nixon, Ford - twice, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton - three times, and Bush two - twice so far); 1912, 1933, 1950, 1974, 1975 twice, 1979, 1981, 1993, 1994- twice, 1995, 2004, 2005; and one actual assassination (JFK) 1963
-The film "The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai across the 8th dimension" 1984
-Korean War, 1950-1953
-Vietnam War 1965-1973
-Gulf War 1991
-Iraq War 2004 - ?
-Bud Bowl one through seventeen 1988- present
-The Red Sox winning the World Series in 1918 then again in 2004
-The civil rights movement
-Gay marriage legalization (at least in one state) 2003
-The rise of radio and then consequently the demise of radio followed by the rise of Television
-And though there are many more, in my mind the most important: The invention of Tang (The Greatest thing to come of the NASA!) 1957

He is literally four times older than I am. He has children, grandchildren and great grandchildren (and if he keeps this up he'll be alive with great-great grandchildren) During his 99th birthday celebration he turned to the congregation and said, "I'm thankful for the past ninety-nine years I've had and for the one year I have left." I don't know whether he expected to die at age 100, or just meant he was excited to reach a full century. Either way he has outlasted his own expectations as he's 101 and still kicking strong. The way things are going I almost expect him to outlive me; petrified of death as I am, for some reason, I'm OK with that.

(all information only half ass researched using the internet, mostly wikipedia, where you all can go to verify the facts)


Fridaysweb said...

I am in awe of your friend. It really puts things into perspective, more, when one thinks about all that our elders have witnessed throughout history. I have to say that him being 101 and all that, made me think of the song Gravedigger, by Dave Matthews. The first section is, "Cyrus Jones, 1810 to 1913. Made his great-grandchildren beleive he could live to 103. One hundred and three is forever when you're just a little kid, so Cyrus Jones lived forever." While the rest of the song is sad, that first set certainly has impact. Your dear friend carries that "impact".

HitManJ said...

Wow. How far we have come. Next time you see him, ask him who he voted for in his first election. Just something I always want to ask old people.

Lady K said...

That is the coolest thing! I'll bet he has some REALLY great stories. Nice to know he's still got his wits and health about him. May he live to see 150!

BTW, that recipe you put on J's site sounds fabulous! I'm totally gonna make some for the peeps at work. The "goody-fest" has begun and it's not even Thanksgiving yet.

rawbean said...

It's interesting that you blogged about turning 101. Just yesterday I was talking to my Grandma about age. She is 85 and said she would like to live until 100....then she proceeded to tell me how growing old is "the pits!"

Oh Gran.