A Few Lessons on Life from my 92 Year Old Best Friend

By Ally O'Connor

    Since I was born, my grandparents have played an important role in my life. I have always considered them my second set of parents and two of my closest friends. Sadly, a little over a year ago, at age eighty-seven, my Grandma Sophie passed away. The experience of losing someone I loved so much is nothing I could put into words, and not a day passes that she doesn’t come to mind.

    Today, I am still very close with my Grandpa Ed. His life is vastly different than when Sophie was alive, but he has been resilient and successfully independent since her passing. Because of my experiences with my elderly grandparents, I enrolled in a class this quarter entitled “The Anthropology of Aging.” One of the class’s larger projects involves an interview with a man or woman over age seventy, so I was thrilled to have this opportunity to ask my grandfather some questions that have always made me curious.

    Although the professor asked that we speak to our interviewees for only ten minutes, my Grandpa Ed and I spoke for forty-five minutes, and went on to have dinner and more discussion afterwards. He explained to me that he feels fortunate every day to have lived so long, because when he was young, people were lucky to live to be seventy. He also relived both his and my grandma’s experiences with lung cancer (they were diagnosed about two years apart in their seventies). Although I was afraid to bring it up, I asked my grandpa if he had worried about dying. He said he’d genuinely feared losing his life, and prayed for more time. Grandma Sophie, he said, was very emotional when she received her diagnosis; she had hoped to live a few more years to see my First Communion, and wound up seeing not only that, but also my high school graduation. My Grandpa Ed said they valued the many “extra years God gave them” after their battles with cancer by worrying less and always remembering to be grateful.

    He told me that getting older is not always easy, but the lifetime of memories are his greatest possessions. Unlike my Grandma Sophie, he didn’t always move with the times, and still doesn’t own a cell phone or computer, but he is definitely getting better at taping Giants games on the television and playing with the Amazon “Alexa” that my cousin bought him for company. He divulged that he understands he’s in the “last mile,” but is aided by his religion as each day goes by; he isn’t afraid, but is “ready.” My grandpa appreciates each day he is able to spend with his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and feels fortunate to believe that when he passes on, he will be with my grandma again. Our interview really made me realize that he thinks about life from a different perspective than I do at nineteen, and that I have much to learn.