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A Living Legacy: Wisdom from My 98-Year-Old Grandpa

Updated: Jun 26

My grandpa turned 98 today! This man has been more of father to me than my own, so naturally I look up to him. He’s always been as capable with his mind as he is with his hands. He was peacefully married to my grandma for 65 years before she passed. They raised 5 incredibly brilliant and compassionate daughters who all chose to live in Florida to be close. He has 8 grandchildren and 7 great-grands who love him dearly. And while he has always inspired me, I feel even more impressed as I’ve witnessed him age. 

He wakes up early and walks a mile each morning. He greets the neighbors and remembers their names even brings them treats from time to time. He lifts hand weights, reads the entire New York Times newspaper and religiously watches PBS nightly news. He does difficult puzzles, reads non-stop, loves to watch birds and sea creatures out on the porch. He helps my aunt and uncle around the house with the dishes, minor repairs, and cheers my uncle on at the softball field where he used to play only 10 years ago. He’d still be climbing a ladder and changing the lightbulbs if they’d let him. He’s almost entirely deaf now and laments not having the same memory, strength or agility that he used to but he still always has something insightful or witty to share.

I asked him for some 98 yr. old wisdom and he said being 98 feels like being just like you and I. He’s just an adult living in this interesting, complicated world trying his best navigating it all. He also said lead your life by following the golden rule, treating people with the respect and kindness you’d want, eat salad and exercise every day. Later he told a family friend that instead of making fun of her husband’s white hair she should worry about hers. 🤣

I feel blessed to share genetics with him and with my other grandmas, one of whom lived to 102. But it also leaves me cognizant that I could live well into a ripe age too and I often think about what that means. I imagine Old Lady Liza wants to be spry and stay mobile. She wants to stay mentally fresh. She wants to stay grounded and connected.  She wants to be cuttin’ a rug in a tutu and laughing with glee. She wants to still be climbing a tree picking lychees at 103. Or at least below it with a basket and catching the fruit the little ones drop down to me. And she wants all her loved ones to do it along with her. I know I have decades to go, but I want to make sure I’m keeping her in good working order now so it’s not an uphill climb at the end. 

Since college I’ve been studying the research on the “Blue Zones”, those places where people live the longest lives. The people who live the longest, most high quality lives retain a sense of purpose, they do light movement throughout the day,  they eat a whole, mostly plant-based diet, they engage in stress relieving activities, they have close-knit social circles and strong community, prioritizing time with friends and family.

I know our world has gotten so wild that planning that far into the future seems like we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We live in a YOLO culture that prioritizes instant gratification and “treating ourselves” by consuming more than our bodies can handle. But if we’re lucky enough to have genetics and circumstances that give us a high quantity of years of life, I’m hoping for all of us that those years are high quality ones.

I hope in sharing these lessons from my grandpa, it compels all of us to follow in his footsteps, honoring our potential for vibrant, meaningful years ahead, guided by wisdom, laughter, and a deep appreciation for the simple joys that make life truly extraordinary.

<3 <3 <3

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