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A long and happy life

| Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Last Saturday night, instead of singing karaoke at CJ’s, I was surrounded by 15 of my family members all sitting together around a restaurant table. Appetizers were passed, champagne was poured and memories were made. The night all culminated in a loud — and probably not polite for inside a restaurant — singing of “Happy Birthday.” The guest of honor? My grandpa, affectionately called Papap. Despite the huge dinner, he helped himself to the biggest slice of rich, chocolate cake possible, because this was his birthday party, and at 80 years old, all cares are thrown out the window.

Can you imagine 80 years? I’m 21, and it already seems like I’ve been walking this planet for a while. I mean, it feels like it’s been forever since I was a little kid running around watching “Blue’s Clues.” 80 years is practically four of my lifetimes so far: practically infinity.

Papap is doing pretty well for 80 — he still has his memory, and he hasn’t fallen ill. He walks about the house, maintains a circle of friends, drives himself, plays golf. All of these things we take for granted at 21. But at 80, independence is no longer guaranteed.

I can’t help but wonder what I’ll be like when I’m 80. Will I still be as likely and kickin’ as Papap? Will I still rejoice in the little things, like a big slice of cake and a gift card to JCPenny’s? Will I still have my wits about me? Will I remember those times of watching “Blue’s Clues?” Will I remember my golden years at Saint Mary’s? Will I still own the class ring I flashed on Instagram? Will I even still have Instagram?

Really, I’ll just be thankful to have made it to 80. Think about it: to be blessed with 80 full years of life. That’s incredible. Not many people reach such a high age, and those who do should be proud.

I think about how much I’ve endured, battled and learned in just my short 21 years, and I realize how wise and learned Papap must be. He’s seen it all, from WWII to the invention of computers. He lived the events we experience only through documentaries and textbooks.

Not to mention the hardship that comes with living so long. Papap watched his family both grow and shrink, as grandchildren come but the old generation slowly dwindles away. It takes someone strong, both physically and mentally, to make it through 80 years and still see the joy in life. And based on Papap’s childish smile and sarcastic wisecracks, he still sees the bright side.

So, when we sang “Happy Birthday” and he blew out his “80” shaped candles, we didn’t celebrate just any birthday. We celebrated a milestone most only dream of achieving: to live through life for 80 years, and still come out with a smile.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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