Friday, January 13, 2012

Happy 99th Birthday Great-Grandpa

Earlier this week, I made a whirlwind trip home (up one day, back the next) to surprise my Grandpa on his 99th (yes, ninety-ninth) birthday.

He's a truly wonderful man, and you can read more about him and his now 75+ year marriage to my Grandma if you'd like.

The stars definitely aligned for this trip. I was able to get a round trip ticket for $160 (can't remember the last time I booked a flight for under $200). Granted, I had to get up at 4 am two days in a row, but Grandpa is one of those guys you'd do that for without thinking. Especially because you only turn 99 once. And amazingly, I made it there (and back) without flight delays.

Everyone did a good job keeping this one secret (though my dad almost blew it he covered well with a colorful fib). My dad was able to take the day off, too.

I had planned to phone Grandpa from just outside his apartment to say, "I wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday", and then step inside and say "but I'd rather do it in person", but when I called they didn't answer the phone.

My grandma (97) has limited mobility and didn't have a phone nearby. Turns out Grandpa was about to get in the shower.
So I first wished him Happy Birthday through a door while he was in his "Birthday Suit".

Needless to say, he was completely taken by surprise.

We had a nice day of visiting, capped off by a "catered" dinner from Grandpa's favorite pizza place, and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. The folks at their assisted living facility had another cake for him, and they all sang Happy Birthday (that was his only request besides the pizza, to have everyone sing.)

When we left the dining room to go back to their apartment, someone told him, "Happy Birthday - I wish you many more!"

In his true fashion, my Grandpa looked over at me as we were walking back and said, "Many more. I'm 99 years old. I don't have a hell of a lot of birthdays left."

This coming from the guy who still does about 15 minutes of morning calesthenics, including push-ups and sit-ups (no joke). He's done that pretty much his entire natural life.

In 99 years, my Grandpa has certainly witnessed a lot - World Wars, the Great Depression, automobiles (he's bought and sold about 8,000 in his lifetime), television, space program.

I asked him about some of the most amazing events in his lifetime. Interestingly, in contrast to saying something like assassination of President Kennedy or 9/11, without much hesitation he started talking about the 1918 influenza pandemic. His father (my great-grandfather) was affected and the entire family was quarantined, my Grandpa being unable to go to school for a whole month. At the end of the quarantine, the doctor came to their house, and my Grandpa was instructed to go to the pharmacy to get something (couldn't imagine sending Big Brother to walk from home to go run and errand). On the way back, the sirens went off announcing Armistice Day, the end of WWI. Fascinating.

Let's face it, we're all really busy, myself included. But it's particularly important that we need to take a break from that bus-e-ness and "do the right thing" when certain situations present themselves. Being there for his 99th birthday was definitely the right thing for me to do. I wouldn't have missed it.

I pray that my Grandpa makes it to his 100th birthday (and a brief appearance on national television)! If so, we'll figure out a way to get my entire family there to celebrate. But no matter what, I will always carry the memories of this trip with me, and I know he will, too.

Love you, Grandpa.

Have a good weekend,


  1. I'm so glad you got to go see him! What a wonderful, memorable trip for you both!

  2. Great story! I assume those push-ups and sit-ups are part of what keeps him so spry! I love seeing older people looking as healthy as he does! I'm so glad you got to take the trip and make more memories with him. Love, Aunt-E

  3. Happy Birthday to Grandpa! I have a feeling he will be celebrating his 100th next January with the whole clan.