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Living Long, Living Wise
by Paula Lonergan
Vol 2 Issue 3

A few days ago, I called my Uncle. Well, actually he is my great Uncle. He is 92 years old and lives in New York. I have never met him face to face. He has lived in New York for many years. His brother, my Grandfather Isaiah always lived in Norfolk, Virginia.

Once, I did get to meet Grandpa and Uncle's sister while visiting New York with my family when I was young. I think her name was Alice. My father says his car was broken in on that visit to New York while visiting great Aunt Alice. For some reason we didn't get to see Great Uncle Thomas on that visit.

It's funny when I talk to great Uncle Thomas, he sounds so much like my Grandpa. He enjoys telling stories and talking about the past like my Grandpa did. My Grandpa died several years ago when he was 96. So longevity in the genes, I hope it didn't skip me. However, at the way I'm going and the way I'm feeling sometimes, I have a sense it did. But, I hope not.

Uncle Thomas is blind now, but says he can still count his money. He rides on his stationary bike every morning, but doesn't go outside much anymore. Except when, as he says, he is taken out in an ambulance. He doesn't complain hardly at all, just talks about how old he is and how he isn't sure how much longer he will live.

I remember my Grandpa talking very similarly to me on the phone in 1986 after my Grandmother died. However, Grandpa lived on well past that time.

On my last visit to my Grandpa's with my family, by this time he was in a convalescent home. He was so happy to see us. He wanted to play dominoes and we did. He liked dominoes very much. It's what we always played with him whenever visting him. He laughed and patted us on the shoulder when he beat us.

It hurt me very much when my Grandpa died, more so than my Grandmother for some reason. It was in December and I went home for the funeral. Seeing him the casket, he looked like he was sleeping and would pop up any minute to tell me to get the dominoes out of the buffet drawer.

It's interesting though to talk to older ones. They seem to have a build in tenacity and inner strength. Case and point, is an older gentlemen, born in 1918, I visit in a convalescent home nearby. He is the only one in his family still alive as far as he knows. He had a sister, but lost track of her a long time ago. He has a son somewhere who never visits him, shamefully.

I have visited Mr. Talley for years now. He talks kind of low and holds his head down most of the time, for lack of strength I think. He still reads his Bible daily. He never seems to tire of my youthful inqusitiveness about his life and growing up in White Pine, Alabama, I think is the name of the place.

Last week, I asked Mr. Talley if he had ever been to New York. He said, "Oh, yeah." I told him I was going to visit my great Uncle in New York in a few weeks. I'm really looking forward to the trip and seeing my great Uncle, who sounds so much like my Grandfather. I think he looks like him, too.

I want to find out all I can about my Uncle's past, his relationship with my Grandpa, and other little tidbits about life, which might help me in life. When you live that long I'm sure you have to know a little about life and world. That's an understatement, of course. With so many young people dying unnecessarily by violence and other reasons, it's great to see and talk to the survivors of so much in their lives, who have come to a ripe old age with their mental faculties in tact. They have so much to share and I'd like to learn as much as I can.

I'll share with you what I learned from Uncle Thomas when I get back. Maybe he'll give me some tips on how to live long like him.

July 11, 2003
Copyright 2003 Paula Lonergan.
All rights reserved.