For an entire week I lived a life of a senior citizen of south Florida while visiting my ninety two year old grandfather, overdosing on relaxation and being hit on by fellows twice my age in his retirement community. The trip wasn’t a holiday so much as a disconnection from the chores and errands which usually fill my normal day, leaving me feeling detached with a boredom I hadn’t felt since I was ten during my last week of summer vacation. But I wanted to spend time with my grandfather who I haven’t seen for three years and who, in his quiet way, is the pivot of the family because he is far removed from the emotional drivel that most people carry and able to give practical and useful advice.
He would tell me “not one of my friends is still alive, every one of them has died or has become an invalid” including my grandmother yet instead of spiraling into depression he has found new relationships and has continued to find interest in life. His relaxed and accepting disposition is the reason of his longevity and certainly not his diet of meat and potatoes which has been attacked by doctors and health advocates for decades. “These are the golden days, not tomorrow or yesterday”, he tells me, whiling walking down the board walk at the local nature preserve hand in hand with his girlfriend, pointing out alligators and birds.
While those around him are jaded by life or fixated on faded dreams and lost days, he enjoys himself without the jealousy and insecurities that taints happiness in insidious ways. And through it all he has found romance bringing to mind the old cliché “it’s never too late” but this time around it is even better because now he has no responsibilities. I smile, for my grandfather at ninety two is having the time of his life.
At night I laid awake, jetlagged, my thoughts floating haphazardly unable to settle, but one keeps coming back…a simple observation my grandfather made “happiness is when reality exceeds expectations”, and I think this layman’s philosophy is just as brilliant as any studied in text books, a simple recipe to live your life.