Last weekend, I arrived in Asheville, North Carolina to visit family. And boy, was I tired.
The last two months have been chock full: traveling from Central Europe to Crete to Istanbul to Iran, back to Istanbul, Germany and finally to a series of family visits up and down the east coast of the United States.
But I’ve been feeling a little spent. It’s not only the movement, but also my head, to the brim with fresh experiences and quite frankly deprived of the time and space to properly process them all. Amidst the fatigue, I began to wonder if perhaps I had reached some limit in what I could do, what I could take on.
Then I began to listen to my 95-year-old grandfather and his pals telling stories at their retirement home. They offered me a lift and a few lessons about life and determination.
These days, the world tends to look to youth for inspiration. But don’t count out the gray hairs, for there are many things we can learn from them, too.
Here are just a few lessons to learn from nonagenarians.
You are never too old to learn.
Andrew, one of my grandfather’s colleagues from when they both worked in India in the 1960s, now lives in my grandfather’s retirement complex.
He had to give up his violin lessons when he escaped Hungary in 1937 as his family began facing persecution for being Jewish.
“It had been 75 years since my last violin lesson. I wanted to play violin again, but I sounded awful. I decided I needed lessons.”
Andrew taking violin lessons anew after a 75-year break.
Earlier this year, he began taking violin lessons again. We asked how things are going.
“I’m progressing pretty well. It’s fun to play again,” Andrew chuckled.
He’s scheduled to play a Christmas concert this week. I imagine there are many more in his future, too.
Enjoy the moment.
We didn’t meet Liz Talmage, the woman playing piano in the video below, but heard her story on our first night in Asheville. Liz was 101 years old when this video was taken one evening of her and her nephew playing a duet of She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain.
Later that evening, she played an encore of My Only Sunshine.
The next day, she took a nap and never woke up.
Enjoy the moment. You never know when you – or those around you – are going to go.
Keep on playing.
“I now play what I played in high school. The pieces from college are too difficult for my hands to reach the octaves,” my grandfather explained as he sat down at the piano.
He went on to play a challenging classical piece he’d memorized 80 years ago. He sounded great for any age, really. More importantly, he was having fun.
Even if you can’t do things quite the way you did in the past, it doesn’t mean you should stop. Continue to do what gives you joy. Daily.
Ask questions. Be curious.
One thing continually strikes me about my grandfather and my Oma (my mother’s mother): they never stop asking questions and they are always curious. They wanted to understand what we were up to, our plans for the coming year.
We tried to keep up with their questions.
“Now why are you going to Egypt again? What sort of conference is this?” they both asked about a travel and tourism conference in Cairo we are headed to this weekend.
Try to explain the life of a nomadic travel blogger to your 95-year old grandfather who has never even known email, much less the internet.
It gives you perspective.
Keep on moving. Be determined. Always.
”I can’t run up steps as fast as I used to,” my grandfather now explains, as if he must.
He may not be able to scale the stairs as fast as he once did, but that doesn’t prevent him from charging them anyhow. Sure, he might be a bit wobbly, a little slow. But he doesn’t complain. He’s still rather upright, too.
May we all charge our own sets of stairs with as much determination and grace.
One step at a time.