In the Suburbs: At 95, father remains forever young
Published 6:29 am, Sunday, October 4, 2015
These days, my father, who lives in Chicago is busy developing new ideas to help seniors like himself with disabilities to get around more independently. While he now has his trusty, state-of-the art scooter to zip around his high rise building and his walker to help him outside, he is still determined to try and create something more streamlined.
Oh, did I mention that dad will be 95 next week? “And why,” you may ask, “is a 95-year-old dude spending so much time on new inventions?” The answer, which I believe is part of the secret to his longevity, is that his mind is sharp as a tack and he still believes he can make a contribution of some kind to benefit others.
This whole effort evolved from a series of setbacks that began late last December. Dad and his girlfriend Bernice were spending the winter at his condo in North Miami when he noticed that his legs were swelling. Prior to that, dad’s only problem was a weak left leg that was more of a nuisance than a problem. He had always been active.
After my mom’s death nearly three years ago, he pulled his life together, met Bernice, a then-93-year-old Chicagoan visiting Florida and spent time learning new computer skills, reading avidly and traveling.
When the swelling in dad’s legs became acute, Bernice insisted that they get to the doctor right away and within 24 hours, dad was in surgery having “tons” of fluid drained from his legs. Within hours after the surgery my youngest brother had mobilized our three siblings and I was on a plane to Florida on New Year’s Eve, handling shift one of the “dad watch.”
Several weeks later, after dad’s stay in a nearby rehabilitation center, the doctors determined that he should return to Chicago as soon as possible. While disappointing for dad and Bernice, it proved the right thing to do. Just getting dad dressed for the airport was traumatic for my two other siblings. The legs just weren’t cooperating. Now all that is history.
Once dad had completely recovered from his Florida ordeal back home, the doctor explained that his legs were extremely weak and he would probably need a permanent scooter device to help him get around inside his building for meals and other activities. That all worked fine until dad took an unexpected fall while out for dinner with Bernice and my aunt and chipped his right hip bone in three places.
Despite this setback, dad bounced back stronger than ever and was more determined to keep moving and recuperate. His physical therapist kept him going and today he is really upbeat. He just goes and goes.
In early August, dad announced that his 95th birthday party was on and tomorrow, at dad’s request, our entire family and a group of probably 50-plus relatives and friends will raise our glasses to toast dad at his 95th birthday dinner in Chicago. I’m sure he’ll be wearing his best suit, and if I know my father, he will be standing at his place, greeting everyone. This party will be dad’s victory over the setbacks of the past 10 months and his chance to share his 95th birthday joy with all of us.
My youngest brother asked if I’d emcee the event and introduce a special video, highlighting dad’s life and work as a mechanical and packaging engineer, which my Aunt Rita (dad’s 90-year-old sister) and her son Joel have probably compiled. Talk about great genes and longevity. Of course, I was happy to play the emcee role.
I don’t have the space to elaborate on all that I have learned from my father. But if I had to mention the most important things I would say that my legacy includes a love of family and friends, a wonderful sense of humor; great generosity, innate curiosity and creativity, a hunger for reading (dad bought six books from the bookstore where I work when he visited us last fall), a love of education and a zeal for travel. And I’m sure there are more things I’ve forgotten.
I know in his 95 years my dad has accomplished all of these things and more. I am so grateful he’s my dad and I wish him, with all my love, the strength and encouragement to reach 100 and beyond.
Dad, you are truly our energizer bunny, and you are an inspiration for all of us. I hope you will continue to get stronger and that you and Bernice will enjoy many more years together. Happy 95th, dad. What a ride you’ve had!
Steven Gaynes’ “In the Suburbs” column appears each Friday. Gaynes, who now lives in Bridgeport, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.