Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Youngest Octogenarian I Know



Today my dad turns 80. EIGHTY. My DAD, not my grandpa. My DAD. EIGHTY. 80.

And suddenly, 80 doesn't seem so old anymore.

Dad was born in Bozeman Montana in 1927, the only child of German immigrants Karolina and Johann. He grew up in Montana and lived through the Great Depression. He says that Bozeman did rather well during the Great Depression because the residents were willing to barter goods and services, so in return for meat from his father's butcher shop, other residents gave eggs, milk, flour, etc.

When Dad was 13 his father spent some time in Washington state starting to set up a joint shop with another man. They were doing the work on the building themselves. At Easter time my father and grandmother went to join my grandfather in Washington, and when they arrived they were told that he had fallen off a ladder and died.

My grandmother lived into my dad's early 30s, I believe, and after he finished school he bought her a smaller house in Bozeman. He was drafted into the Navy during the last year of World War II. Yes, WWII. Not Korea or Viet Nam. WWII. My dad, not my grandpa.

After my grandmother died Dad moved to California, where he met my mother, who was a young new teacher. They met while they were both members of the church choir. He was 35 when they married and 36 when my oldest sister was born (44 by the time I showed up). After my siblings and I were born my dad was transferred (he worked for the US gummint his entire career) to West Virginia, where we lived until I was in high school. The entire 12 years we lived there, no matter how many wonderful friends we made, Dad always talked about coming back to California and kept his contacts here. Eventually his work putting in for transfers, etc. paid off.

In 1993, after my college graduation (I'm the youngest so it was the last), Dad retired. Since then he mostly enjoys working around his and Mom's 5 acres, making sure his two small orchards of fruit trees are healthy and happy. He really really enjoys having his kids around as well, so we'll be having a family dinner for him this weekend and my brother is even coming out from across the country! That will be fun.

It's pretty hard to believe that Dad is 80 now, but despite the fact that I do remember when he had black hair and no wrinkles, I am always happy to realize how great his health is. The biggest brush with bad health he has had was a cancer scare (prostate, which is to be expected in men who live this long). The doctors caught it early, did some kind of newfangled procedure that was minimally invasive, it was successful, and he has been in complete remission for the past 7 years.

When I was 14 I went back to Montana with Dad and Mom for one of Dad's big high school reunions. I hung out with one of his classmates' granddaughters who was my age. You would not believe how much better Dad looked than any of the rest of the gang. Most of them had a lot more white hair and wrinkles than he did, but other things too - like oxygen tanks. I think those German genes he's got give him really good health. He is quite active and maybe it's just because he's my dad, but I just don't think of him as being old.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

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4 comments:

Dana J. Tuszke said...

Happy Birthday to your Dad! He doesn't look a day over 65. ;)

Dana J. Tuszke said...

I was just coming over to let ya know I got your comment from this weekend. I haven't done anything different. :( That's so weird!

The Pizzitola Family said...

A great story. Thanks for sharing!!!

Anonymous said...

My dad, too, is eighty. He's a World War II veteran. I am his eleventh and final child. Unfortunately, he is an old eighty.
Happy Birthday to your dad!