Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Another birthday coming up this Friday: 93!  Inconceivable for most of my life, especially when I was in my teens and twenties and couldn’t see myself “over 30”.

Now it seems no one is amazed except me. Wherever I go, people shrug — “Oh, I know someone 95”, or “There’s this lady just wrote a book and she’s 105.”

Anyway, I continue to be amazed! And no matter how many are as old or older than yours truly, I count the many, many more, especially my dear ones, no longer with us.

(maybe more than you want to know)

Lucky as I am to be in relatively good shape, Mother Nature rarely lets me forget that nonagenarians are really very old. Aches and pains, though tolerable, are always there. My eyes aren’t serviceable enough to read books or newsprint for more than a few straining minutes. Virtually all my reading is on a computer screen or a Kindle. No matter how hard I try, I can’t stay awake through the PBS NewsHour. Worse, I can’t avoid dozing repeatedly at concerts and plays. I won’t give up music, but only an occasional exceptional play is worth the challenge.

Still, I can bend down (slowly) to pick up the morning paper off the ground. With a little well-practiced contortionism, I can put on my socks. I walk the approximately 3 miles around Lake Merritt most Tuesday mornings. I do some cooking and baking. I still have a current events discussion group to facilitate every Friday at the Downtown Oakland Senior Center. And I still blog more or less often about what’s on my mind.

    “But especially the people….” *

What makes it all worthwhile? It’s the people I love, many gone, some thankfully present. It’s the many struggles and hopes we’ve shared that shape my life from its beginnings through nearly a century. I’m very lucky in my family, my friends, my comrades. I won’t list my comrades here, but the older I get, the more deeply they’re embedded in my heart and memories. My family, from my parents to my grandchildren, has always been true to values that connect with people everywhere who commit to equality and social justice. I couldn’t be fonder or prouder of my children, David and Carla. The hardest thing I’ve had to bear was the loss of Carla, a rare and wonderful person, taken by breast cancer at the prime of life.

I’ve been very lucky in love. Roz and I were as together as any couple could be for 67 years, until she died in 2009. I was alone for one miserable year. Then Gail came along and life is rich and enjoyable again.

Maybe there will be more birthdays coming. Maybe my next birthday message will be more typical of me, a bit more “political”. But for now, let’s just stick with the “personal” and soak up all the warmth and love we need.

From the song, "The House I Live In", written by Abel Meeropol and Earl Robinson in 1943


  1. OH, please! Many more birthdays! For those of us who love you and enjoy your company, you are ageless (no matter how you feel), and we want to keep you. I am one of those who know people older than you, but none as vital and mentally sharp. And certainly none with your perfect moral compass.
    Love, Sally

  2. From two or your admirers who feel lucky to call you our friend, we send you many good wishes on your birthday. Hoping that you continue to enjoy them for years to come. We know few people who are as creative, active, and involved in all the areas that continue to challenge all of us as you. You are truly a treasure and we feel blessed to know you.

    Diana and Ted

  3. You are an inspiration to us all! Bless your genes and your mind that continues to enjoy so many things!
    You will have to “imagine” the hug I want to give you,
    Much love,

  4. Leon, 93 is just 39 upside down or sideways, right? I am thankful for your presence in the world and for your wise and thoughtful ways that keep us learning and sharing at our Friday group. Reminisce for sure, but also celebrate! -- Karen Engel

  5. We are SO glad those birthdays 'keep coming!' You have so much yet to share and teach us. Love your reflection...Here's to many more.
    Elaine and Steve

  6. Leon,
    Age is just a number. Keep the numbers coming. You are an inspiration to the Friday current events group, and keep us on our toes( if we can rise up). Because of you, we look forward anxiously to the meetings. Keep on trucking and walking the lake.
    Belated birthday greetings from Gloria and Don Z.