Thursday, November 7, 2013

Oldies But Goodies

When I started teaching at San Jose State in 1969, I was thirty-three years old, and the majority of the students were around twenty-one. There were one or two who were my age, including Dan from Philadelphia who was working his way through college selling plastic bags for $12 each. After my divorce in 1970, I occasionally dated some of the older female students, but even with just a relatively small difference in our ages, we were living in different worlds.

By the time I started teaching at Central Michigan University in 1984, the majority of the students were still around twenty-one and tried to look either like Farrah Fawcett or a mustachioed Tom Selleck. Some of the females, who were undecided, took on Tom’s appearance. I was now forty-eight, and under the right circumstances, some students could have been my children, and I did not socialize with any of them outside of the classroom.

After returning to San Jose State in 1986, I lasted until I retired in 2008 at the age of seventy-two. The students were still around twenty-one, and could have been the age of my grandchildren. We had even less in common as they texted, phoned, and spent up to six hours a day surfing the Internet for nothing in particular.

These children kept me on my toes trying to be up-to-date on their electronic narishkeyt (nonsense), but I found more comfort being with people older than I.

Tonight I will be calling my cousin Edith Tarjan in Australia to wish her a happy ninety-ninth birthday, and in February, I will do the same with my cousin Isabel Hart Cress, who lives five minutes away from me here in Santa Cruz. The conversations are always interesting, stimulating, and enjoyable, since they both have a wonderful understanding of the sometimes ridiculousness of life.

Joseph and Sarah Hart of England, had twenty-one grandchildren, including my father, and Isabel is one of two who are still around. Her younger first cousin Chrissie Shay, is also in her nineties. 

In January, I will be going down to Florida to be with younger friends whom I first met in the 1950s and are now in their late seventies. I will also be having lunch with cousin Hilda Gordon, who was eighty-nine last July, and writes a wonderful blog. Cousin Joyce Christian in Bay City, Michigan, will be eighty-seven this month, the same age as Bob Johnson, with whom I worked in San Francisco in 1960, and lives in nearby Hayward.

When I went to a Holocaust survivors meeting last month, I was heartily embraced by Bill Rooz who calls me “Habibi,“ who at eighty-seven, regularly speaks to school groups about his Holocaust experiences. It was also wonderful to talk with Emery Fabri who is now ninety, and he shook his head in wonderment when he announced his age to me.

Gordon Greb, a former fellow professor of mine at San Jose State, turned ninety-two in August, and had yet another book published in 2009 entitled Google Brain. He will probably be adding even more credits to his extensive Wikipedia page, now that his iMac is running again.

Later this month in San Francisco, I will help celebrate the eighty-sixth birthday of my friend Zora Kolkey, who is still one of the feistiest, stand-in-a-picket-line women I have ever known. On December 11, my friend Herb Rossman will also be eighty-six, and plays table tennis twice a week at the Santa Cruz club. In October, Herb won a bronze medal in his age group, in a national table tennis tournament.

Finally, there are my good friends in the Japanese-American community in San Jose, including eighty-nine-year-old Katsumi Hikido, who was a regular speaker in my classes, talking about the Internment and the role he played as a soldier during World War Two. Jimi Yamaichi, the titular head of San Jose’s Japanese-American community, was also a speaker and politely shortened our conversation on his ninety-first birthday last week, because he had work to do at the Japanese-American Museum. “Work” was not sorting file cards, but probably supervising or building a new exhibit.

All of these people have had a positive attitude, and are trying to stay as active as they can. My Great Uncle Samuel Goldsmith who lived to be more then one hundred, remodeled his bathroom at the age of ninety-five. When it was done, he stood back and said, “That should last a life time.”

A few years ago, a good friend and Holocaust survivor Adam Cintz died one month before his one-hundredth birthday. When he was in his late nineties, young reporter asked him to reveal the secret of such a long life. With a grin on his face, he replied, “Don’t die.”

You can find earlier blog posts by going here.

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