Monday, March 07, 2005

Happy Birthday

This weekend I had the honour, and that's not a word I use lightly, to celebrate my grandpa's 90th birthday. It was a really terrific occasion. Grandpa booked a table for 20 at a lovely Kosher-Chinese restaurant. I describe it as 'lovely' so that Londoners will be able to pinpoint which of the two London Kosher-Chinese restaurants I'm referring to.

Grandpa was there with his girlfriend. Yes, you read correctly. My 90-year old grandfather celebrated his big day together with his girlfriend. You can imagine how I felt: 30-something not-bad-looking still-in-my-prime and single, sitting opposite by 90-year old grandfather and his girlfriend. Mind you, she's just a slip of a girl at 70-odd.

Grandpa looked wonderful, as always. You'd never imagine by looking at him that he's 90. He's the healthiest nonagenarian I've ever met. He swims, plays golf, takes day trips to the seaside. And, of course, he plays Bridge. I asked him how the Bridge was going. He told me it was fine but hard work because he always has to make the tea. Apparently, of the four people in his weekly Bridge game, he's the only one who can walk and carry a tray at the same time.

There were four generations of my family at the party. And Scrappino was delighted to be the only great-grandchild present - the others were all tucked up in bed. On the way to the restaurant, we talked about what life was like when Grandpa was born, in 1915. "When Grandpa was born," I told him, "there was a massive war going on". "Isn't there a war on now, in Iraq" replied Scrappino. "Yes, but that's different. Kind of". It's hard to explain. "What else was different?" he asked. And so we discussed how Grandpa would have experienced being 7 and three quarters. There was no tv, no playstation, no burgers, very few people had cars, if you wanted to go on holiday to America it took 6 weeks to get there, by boat, and so the list went on.

As we were discussing how times have changed in the last 90 years it suddenly struck me. I've never had this conversation with Grandpa. He sometimes mentions the Second World War or life as a doctor pre-NHS. But generally, he is not a man to dwell on the past or talk about how things used to be. He's neither a "good old days" nor a "you've never had it so good" person.

And I realised that maybe that's why he's reached the age of 90 in such amazing health, both physically and mentally. He's spent his life looking forwards, not back. And I don't mean that in the Blairite sense. He's always moved on, with the times. He hasn’t hankered after a past that's been and gone, nor complained about slipping standards and rising crime. He's been much more interested in the future. He's kept up to date with new developments in medicine, long into retirement. He has retained an interest in current affairs, both globally and locally, when it would have been so easy to lose himself in the past. And on a personal level, it seems he was always more interested in what we are doing now, than in what he had done, then.

Even yesterday, as he celebrated his 90th, he was looking forward to his 100th birthday. "If I reach 100" he said, "and I get a telegram from Queen Camilla, I shall send it back!"

And so there he was yesterday, looking terrific at 90, with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And we partied like it was 1915…

Happy Birthday Grandpa!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahhh, warms the cockles of your heart! As they say!

5:04 pm  
Anonymous baldricka said...

oops that wasn't meant to be from anonymous, it was from me!

5:28 am  
Blogger R.x said...

Ah, that was you! I was wondering who it the way, I went for strappy sandals in the end rather than the matching shoes. I would have posted them on the main blog, but it's really a girl thing...

9:43 am  

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