He's Turned 100 Years Young. Because He's Not Old.
Age is truly a mindset for him.
I remember Uncle Ken telling me that he wouldn’t let my grandmother call herself old until she reached 100. That prompted me to ask what he told her when she did get to 100? He laughed. Grandma passed at 101.
Today — November 19, 2021 — Uncle Ken turns 100 and he’s lived by that same rule. He doesn’t consider himself old and he doesn’t complain about old age. Don’t try to call him ‘old’, he’ll tell you he’s not. In fact, I’ve rarely heard him complain about anything that would be associated with aging. I don’t get to see him as often as I’d like but we stay in touch by phone, often long phone calls.
Recently he asked me if he’d told me about his new ‘wheels’. Knowing Ken’s love of current cars, my mind went immediately to a new car. I was a bit confused, I responded that I thought he’d given up his licence. Ken delivered the punchline that his new ‘wheels’ was a walker he’d decided to start using. He then reminded me, he’d not given up his licence, he’d let his car go because he wasn’t using it. Yes, he’s a legally licenced driver.
An Ageless MindsetOne thing that has always stood out with Ken in our conversations is his positive mindset. He doesn’t look at the glass half empty, he looks at what to fill the glass with. He doesn’t worry about tomorrow, he wonders what it will hold.
He loves taking photos, a hobby he started when we still took rolls of film to be developed. When they stopped producing film Ken didn’t give up his hobby. He first bought a printer to print his photos on. Then he realized that attaching it to a computer would allow him to do things with the photos before printing them. Once he had the computer, the grandchildren got him onto Facebook so he could keep in touch. I noticed this morning, he posted on Remembrance Day (November 11th).
Embracing TechnologyI remember one of our conversations where Ken told me he’d bought a new camera, a new laptop and an iPad. The keys on the laptop lit up, which he liked in case he was in a room where the light was down. I listened to him telling me about his purchases thinking, “keys that light up? I didn’t know about them.”
I figured out later that he’d bought a gaming computer. Smart thinking on his part. There are many times I wish my keys were lit up when I turn the lights down in the evening. Maybe my next computer will be one. As for the iPad, when I later asked him how he was enjoying it, he smiled and told me he’d not used it. His girlfriend Jessie had thought it was a gift for her and he happily left her to enjoy it.
My Early Memories of HimKen is the last surviving sibling of four: Evelyn, Grace and my dad, Don. Our family didn’t do a lot of visiting when I was growing up. I’d likely met him sooner but my first actual memory was the day he drove into our yard. I was at the kitchen window and looked up to see this guy walking across the lawn toward my parents who were out in the vegetable garden. When I saw how much he looked like dad, I realized this was my Uncle Ken.
Many years later I was visiting Grandma at her retirement residence and saw a picture of Uncle Ken in Legion uniform. I asked her about it and she told me that he was a Legion President. At the time I had just been elected President of the local branch. Ken is a veteran of WW2. Was pretty cool we had the Legion in common.
Common Ground With HimI was having a few drinks some friends from work later on and got to thinking about us both being Legion members. I called his place and my aunt told me he wasn’t the Branch President, yet. He was at a meeting when I called. I had to pass by the branch on my way home, so I finished my drink and headed out.
It had been so long since we’d seen each other it took a little bit to first recognize each other and then do some catching up. We had a great visit and Ken was delighted to find I was involved in the Legion. That was the start of us keeping in touch on a more regular basis. I’ve enjoyed our many conversations over the years and look forward to many more.
The World in the Context of A LifeI know that it would be appropriate at this point to write a bit of a biography about Ken. I may do that in another post. In thinking about who Ken is as a person, I’ve looked at the context of living 100 years.
When he was born in 1921, the world was just three years past the end of WW1 and barely out of the last global pandemic, the Spanish Flu. The world was still transitioning into one fuelled by oil and gas.
Cars were starting to take their place in our lives but the horse and wagon were still in use. When Ken met his future wife, he was driving a bread wagon. Not a station wagon, a horse drawn wagon to deliver bread to homes.
Ken was raised during the roaring twenties when it looked like spending and wealth would never end. Until it did. In 1929 the good times gave way to the dirty thirties, the Great Depression. That period gave rise to the conditions that would lead to WW2 and take Ken and Dad to Italy in 1943 serving Canada in the Italian Campaign. In December 1944, he was badly wounded.
He returned to Canada and his then young family, recovered from his wounds and built his life. Around him, the world was changing. He’s watched television arrive as the next marvel of communication. The space program take humans to the moon. Systems of government change, attitudes toward others shift for good and bad, computers evolve phones move from tethered to the wall to tethered to our hands.
He’s seeing the first stages of the transition away from oil and gas and our changing climate. He’s living through another global pandemic. When I look through that prism, the life of one person spanning 100 years, I realize the huge changes that have taken place in such a small window of human history.
Choosing How to View LifeYou’d think that would be enough to make someone like him jaded and cynical. Nope, Ken doesn’t sweat the big stuff that’s out of his control He takes note of it and puts his attention on getting great pleasure out of brightening someone’s day.
He would have loved a big party today. Caution means there will be small gatherings now and a plan for a larger one in the Spring. If we still need caution then, we can move the party outside.
Happy Birthday Ken, as you often tell me, “Keep smiling”
NOTE: Header Image - Ken with his daughter Marlene Skitch, Nov. 7, 2021. Image used with Marlene's permission. Greeting on right created by author.
Shadowspub is a writer from Ontario, Canada. She writes on a variety of subjects as she pursues her passion for learning. She also writes on other platforms and enjoys creating books you use like journals, notebooks, coloring books etc.
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