Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Century or Centuries (02/17/11)
TITLE: Living Too Long
By Anna Moody
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My biggest lesson with regard to reaching 100 years of age came from my Great Grandpa. Before becoming a resident of a Lutheran nursing home, he lived with my Maternal Grandparents. In order to differentiate between them and my Great Grandpa we referred to Great Grandpa as “Old Grandpa” - - - because he was.
Old Grandpa would spend entire afternoons cutting bull thistles with a scythe in the pasture. Typically when he returned to the house, and without cleaning the mud from his shoes, he would walk across my Grandma’s freshly scrubbed and waxed floor to his chair by the window. The flapping of his shoes against the floor as he stepped down first with his heel and then slapping the rest of his foot on the floor served as a source of irritation to my Grandma. Once he seated himself in his Queen Anne chair, his demeanor approached that of a king on his throne. He slowly moved his gaze back and forth from the window to any activity within the room although he seldom engaged in much conversation with anyone. Nonetheless, we were all well-aware of his presence.
My Grandma was not a healthy woman with a list of ailments no woman should have to bear. In addition, to having Old Grandpa under foot, she cared for and raised my two cousins during the two years my aunt was a patient in a sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis. Soon all of these stresses became too much for Grandma’s health to tolerate. Ultimately the decision was made to move Old Grandpa to the nursing home. I vaguely remember how my Grandparents struggled with the decision to place Old Grandpa there.
Old Grandpa’s life had become mundane, except for the irritation of my Grandma which he seemed to enjoy. Nursing homes had a much better reputation in those days and it truly gave Old Grandpa a new lease on life. In his younger days, Old Grandpa was a horse trader, so making new friends came easily for him. We visited Old Grandpa at the home often with my Grandparents. We seldom found him in his room. Generally he was over in a corner of the gathering room deep in conversation with another elderly resident reliving his horse trading days. We realized Old Grandpa’s obsolete profession was still alive and well in the hearts and minds of Old Grandpa and his nursing home friends.
Sometimes my Grandparents would bring Old Grandpa back to their home for a weekend visit, but Old Grandpa never seemed quite content on those visits. He actually suffered from homesickness when he was away from his routine and friends at the nursing home. He had adopted a new home where he was happy, secure, comfortable and among friends. We were finally convinced and accepted that Old Grandpa was exactly where he wanted and needed to be.
Our visits to Old Grandpa’s new home continued and I especially recall the excitement on Old Grandpa’s 95th birthday. The source of our excitement was Old Grandpa’s nearness to celebrating his 100th birthday. We were barely in his room when we queried, “Aren’t you excited Old Grandpa? Only five more years and you’ll be 100 years old!” Old Grandpa thought a minute and his chin dropped to his chest as he peered into his lap, shaking his head hopelessly, “No,” he said, “I’ve lived too long already.”
I now fully understand Old Grandpa’s statement. His parents were gone, his daughter lived on the other side of the country, his son and wife could no longer tolerate his aging behavior, his neighbors and friends were gone or going. He had outlived his means and felt hopelessly abandoned. It seemed there was little left for him in life. While living to be a century old was exciting to us, Old Grandpa’s young Great Grandchildren, Old Grandpa saw it as having lived too long. Old Grandpa was 95 years, 10 months, 17 days old when he died.
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