My dad is 91 years old and unstoppbable.
He travels alone, drives, and plays tennis.
He's obviously gotten older but shows no signs of aging, and I hope it's genetic.
Right now, my father is taking pictures in Oaxaca, Mexico, where he vacations each winter. He does this alone. No frills, no fuss.
He plays tennis, drives with New York City acumen, and walks almost everywhere. This is not the case for most of my friend's parents.
But this is my dad. He is 91 years old. From the Bronx and unstoppable.
I'm not sure what the genetic cocktail is, but my father makes me less afraid to grow old. Perhaps, if I am lucky, I might turn out just like him.
He's had health issues
It's not as if his life is without hardship. He has suffered a heart attack, had cancer, has leukemia, and is a recent widow. But you'd never know it. I keep waiting for the shoe to drop, to see him slow down, but each day, I am amazed.
While I may struggle to remember a friend's name, his memory remains untarnished. Rattling off names, street blocks, and moments of nostalgia, I find it impossible to recall. And then it hits me. He is 91. He is here in a world where so much has changed, and so many of the people he has known are gone, but he still goes on.
He took me on a tour of his life in the Bronx
Last year, after his 90th birthday, a celebration filled with gourmet New York-style deli and egg creams stirred meticulously by Aunt Mary, I realized I wanted to know more about my father and where he came from. While my mother spoke endlessly of her family and her past, my father barely mentioned a word. This time I asked him what it was like growing up in the Bronx. He said, "Well, I'll show you."
A few days later, he took out a small piece of paper where he etched three of his previous addresses on. As he unfolded them, we placed each one into the phone and began our journey in his Camry. No, his memory wasn't that precise, but he did, however, recall an application he filled out for the military that listed his old addresses, and this we began our journey. He drove, of course. Cutting corners, making U-turns, squeezing into parking spots, all with a city precision I have yet to master. We arrived at each spot, where we walked over broken glass and bottles to tall apartments, sometimes abandoned buildings.
"This is the first one we lived in, then a few months later, we moved here."
Pointing out buildings with the only view being the Cross Bronx Expressway.
We walked further and saw the lots where he used to play. He recalled each store and each activity perfectly. And then he stood for a rare moment of reflection. It occurred to me that he was probably one of the few survivors of his time. His parents and sister were both gone, and the friends from the schoolyard probably as well. But there he was, running up and down the streets with his daughter, both of us with cameras in hand. Photography is a passion we shared.
We continued to some of his old schools when, alas, we ended at The Luber, the last place he lived.
"My mother took in a border," in that room, he said pointing at the window. It was hard to imagine growing up in that large Victorian home where he would have had such little space. He didn't seem to mind.
We ended our visit with a luxurious lunch at a noted restaurant on Arthur Avenue. We shared a meal. Drank some wine, and he even paid. That is one of the rarest things of all. I mean, he did grow up in the Great Depression, after all. Money is not something he will ever take lightly.
I am not certain what has kept him so spry all these years later. Maybe it was the growing up in the Boogie Down Bronx, having to work for everything, always using his hands, his love of tennis. I am not sure if it is purely genetic. But I know that even though he has technically gotten older, he shows little signs of aging. His father was the same way. I hope that, too, will be my legacy.
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