Column: Senior citizens appreciate life and living

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 20, 1998

By Harold Keller / L’Observateur / April 20, 1998

When people reach the age of 40, it’s been said that they are over the hill.

At the age of 55, one qualifies to join any senior citizen group.

Recently, I asked a man at a funeral home how old he was. “Too old,” heanswered,then gave his age at 68.

What is considered “old”? To me, it’s not the number of years, but the way you’ve lived those years.

A few months ago, I asked Henry Stein Sr. of Reserve, age 93, what washis secret to a long life? In only the way Mr. Stein could answer, he said,”Just don’t die!” (That’s good humor.)I stopped to see a friend of mine a few weeks ago and he was telling me about a lady in her 90s who called her son to come over and fix the lock on her car trunk. When her son arrived, he was puzzled as to how the lockcould be so busted up. “Mama, what happened?” he asked. She replied,”After I finished cutting the grass (a pretty big yard) with the riding lawn mower, it got stuck in the ditch. I tied a rope to the trunk and tried to pullthe mower out of the ditch and the trunk lock broke.” (I imagine in herlifetime she’s heard all the cliches about getting old, but just didn’t pay attention. That’s wisdom!)Wednesday morning, I was talking to David Foster at McDonald’s and aske dhim if he knew a man by the name of Thomas Foster. “That’s mygrandfather,” he answered. “He’s 93 years old.” “Is your grandmotherdoing OK?” I asked. “She’s just fine. They are both doing well,” he replied.As David left, I told him that I would stop by one day and visit them. I thendecided to do so that same morning.

When I arrived at the Fosters, I called out to Mr. Foster and he said, “Comein.” “Remember me?” I asked him. (I was their insurance man in 1959.)”Sure, Mr. Keller,” he said. “I remember you. You were our insurance man.”Mr. Foster looked so good!I continued, “I understand you’re 93.” He smiled and said, “As of March27.” “How’s Mrs. Foster?” I questioned. He called her and she came intothe room. “Are you still active?” I asked him. He answered, “Still make agarden and raise hogs. My wife cooks a big dinner every Sunday for any ofthe children who want to come and we always have a house full.” Theyhave nine children, 15 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

“Do you still go to church, Mr. Foster?” I asked. “Yes,” he answered. “Samechurch since 1916 – the Zions Travelers Church in the back of the track on West 24th Street.” Smiling, he continued, “I got baptized in theMississippi River. I was saved by the Blood of Jesus and the old man waswashed clean in the muddy Mississippi.” Again, he smiled.We talked about his work. He shared that he retired from the I.C. Railroad,worked at the Lyons Lumber Company, the San Francisco Plantation and the Graugnard-Guidry Plantation.

His wife just listened and only joined in the conversation when asked a question.

“Mr. Foster, how long have you been married?” I asked. “Seventy-twoyears last July 28”, was his reply. I continued, “Let me ask you somethingpersonal, sir, if I may?” “Go ahead,” he answered. “Do you still love yourwife as much as ever?” I questioned. He smiled and said, “I love her morethan ever.” “Ask her what I gave her for my birthday.” “For yourbirthday?” I replied, a little puzzled. “That’s right,” he said, “for mybirthday I gave her a gift. Go ahead. Ask her.”I did and Mrs. Foster said proudly, “He gave me a diamond ring.” “Why didyou do that on your birthday?” I questioned. “I want her to alwaysremember me and to remember how much I love her,” he answered. (Now,that’s love!) Before I left, I had to walk through the house, go into the back yard and then into his garden. He had potatoes, shallots, cabbage, tomatoes, garlic,eggplants, sweet peppers and corn planted. As I was walking through thegarden, he said, “Watch yourself!” (He’s 93 and I’m 63 and he was worried about me, and rightfully so!) I asked him if he prepares the ground himself. “Yep,” was his reply. “Doyou have a tiller to work the ground?” I asked. “No,” he answered. “That’smy shovel over there.”Of course, I also had to see his three hogs.

As I prepared to leave, I got a big hug from each of them and we prayed together. What a blessing to have visited that godly couple!Next time you think you’re getting old, think about Mr. Stein, the motherwith the broken trunk lock and the Fosters.

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