WATCHING HERBIE HOROWITZ
Being in the presence of a 100 year old WWII Veteran is a force to be reckoned with. He is old. He is shrinking both literally and figuratively, as his stance does not command the height it once did, nor does his appetite. His sleep patterns have reverted to an infant as he is on a three hour schedule of fitful and inconsistent patterns that are a recipe for exhaustion. I have threatened him, jokingly of course, that to keep him awake during the day, I would wipe cold wash cloths on his forehead to get him back on a schedule of night time rather than day time routine. But he is not an infant and I am not his mother, but a granddaughter who is deeply in love with her grandfather and can’t imagine my fifty three year old life without him. This is an emotional response, not the pragmatic one he has taught me over all of these years of banter and instruction from my role model and mentor, Herbert H. Horowitz.
Herbie, my grandfather whom I have written about so often and has inspired me in business, parenting and life is winding down. It isn’t sad to watch, he has led an incredible life filled with all of the ups and downs that not many people can say happen in a one hundred year span of time. I just reminded him to remember to call his sister, who is also still alive and who also still lives on her own. She is his older sister, Helen Hurwitz, two years his senior and I just suggested between naps that perhaps they were in competition to see who could outlive each other.
Some of the dialogue we have about end of life likely shocks Herb’s more conservative caregivers. They seem to shy away from mentioning the word death like it may wish away his life. I don’t share this thinking and neither does Herb or the rest of my family for that matter. We are after all a pragmatic lot who has lost both my brother and my father too young. In some ways one might say I am desensitized, but in truth I am a realist. I don’t wallow. I do cry. I am sad, but as Judaism says, we keep the memories and this is really a celebration of a good life lived. We are all going to die, some younger than others, it is what we do with the life while we are living it that really matters. Herbie has done this with his own life and as a result done it for ours. We are the lucky ones here because we get to be in his tremendous life watching him wrap it up slow and steady and patient, just like the way he is.
This is fitting and I like the neatness of this. How his exit matches who he is ultimately and it makes me wonder if this is part of the overall plan from birth to death, how we lived is how we die? That can’t be true actually as I consider all of the young people we have lost, they didn’t have time to live so forget that silly esoteric thought. I will just keep this one for Herbie’s life. It is an apropos way to see it and I cherish the view. Just like I cherish my grandfather, every single day this week of my visit when he graces me with his unique presence and outlook.
Watching someone wind down is an honor that so many of us don’t get to see up close and personal. As I watch him take his fourth nap at 12:30pm today after he binge watched Pinky Blinders on Netflix until 4:30am, (yes my grandmother is rolling over in her grave no doubt), I am so happy I added extra days on to my time here. Not only did I get to spend my 53rd birthday on Siesta Key beach but I also got to spend it with one of the men I adore most. I am so used to leaving with the assumption that another trip is around the corner, next month, next fall and so on, but when someone is 100, you just never know. When I say every moment is a gift, just hang out with a 100 year old and this will be closer to the truth than any five minutes of mindful meditation. Every time.