Here Are All Of The Lessons I Have Learned From A Legend Who Just Turned 86

Pete Longworth
Pete Longworth

We all know we’re going to die, and yesterday I saw what that might look like.

The ghost of Christmas future visited.

His name is Hank, and he’s my grandpa.

Hank just turned 86, and to celebrate, we had a small family gathering at the community where he lives. We ate bagels and laughed, told stories and reminisced. It was nice, but it was hard because Hank is not who he used to be. He falls down sometimes and there are bruises amongst the sun spots on his arms. His legs ache, and yesterday it hurt him to stand for too long but when he sat, his calves cramped up and gave him pain.

He’s a hero of mine, but even heroes change.

I remember when I was a kid, my grandma had cancer, lung and then brain. It spread and she slowly declined as her memory faded and her body weakened. Moved to a hospital, I only saw her once right before she passed away. I remember the day though, being afraid to enter after walking down the long hall to her room, the smell of sterile walls. I stood in the corner and stared at tile floors and bedposts and at the lady who used to look like my grandma.

It was confronting and confusing, and I didn’t speak too much.

I just watched and I thought.

What happens next and why does she talk like that? How does cancer know when to begin to be bad?

I think it started with a car crash.

My parents were divorced and worked full-time, so my grandma used to pick my sister and I up from school. On the way home one day, we drove right into the car in front of us. It was nothing major, but for a 10-year-old kid a car crash is kind of a big deal, so I told my mom about it, but when she asked my grandma, my grandma didn’t remember any of it.

It’s funny what we don’t forget.

When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me that her car wouldn’t start unless my seatbelt was on, that my eyes changed color when I lied to her, and that grandma got sick because she smoked cigarettes.

I promise you: Good lies exist.

Some lies even make people better, and when people get better, the world does too, and that’s the truth.

Are you confused?

Me, too.

Me, too…

I don’t understand so many things it makes my head spin.

Do butterflies reminisce what it’s like to be a caterpillar, where do they hide in a thunderstorm, and what do they think about when lightning comes?

Why is gravity such a bully, always pulling everybody down, and do you think shooting stars ever never want to move around?

How can floating fire burn so bright the light hurts my eyes when I stare too long and too hard at the sun, and what is it about the glare in my lover’s hair that helps my heart come so undone?

How much do sun rays weigh, and if light could fight the night to a draw, would either side claim they won?

Why is equality never enough, and where are the words to bring us more love?

Why can my grandpa slowly lose his mind, but still keep that shining twinkle in his eye? Will the lucky penny he gave me in 1999 ever not work like it should and if it stops and I’m cursed, what do I do then? Can I trade lucky pennies for more warmer friends? Where does our sense of humor live, and would we need borders if war didn’t exist?

I don’t know much, but I wish I did.

All I know is all I have is my health and this breath, the food I eat and the thoughts I think. I am here now, right now, and I take that seriously.

I hold this world in the palm of my hand and it’s on me to decide where I leave my fingerprints.

Privilege and responsibility are synonyms. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Jeremy Goldberg is trying to make kindness cool, and the world better than it was yesterday. Follow him on Instagram for daily inspiration!

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