Diary of a 100-Year-Old Man

Dreams of My Mother, and a Visit From My Grandson
All things elderly.
Sept. 10 2008 6:53 AM

Diary of a 100-Year-Old Man

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I cannot live alone anymore. I have a capable, congenial caregiver, Tom Penados, five days a week and a good replacement on weekends. With that arrangement I can continue in my co-op apartment, still about the same as when my wife died last year. Without them I would have to find a nursing home.

Lately, I have been thinking often of my mother and dreaming of her. Why? My caregiver, who leaves my thoughts alone, cares for my dressing, hygiene, and food, as my mother did in my early years. So, I think of her often.

Today is the day for our co-op's annual garden party, for which residents prepare a table of delights. My 24-year-old grandson, who is a culinary artist and expert, prepared an attractive appetizer.

His presence in the apartment is itself a delight. Loss of a cherished spouse is irreparable, but the presence of an upbeat grandson helps my mood. My grandson's presence is a welcome home "activity."

Another pleasurable home activity is listening to Radio Classique as it comes from Paris through the Internet. The music is agreeable, but I am intrigued over and over by the commercials, the discussions, and the news reports. What fluent French! What wonderful French accents! How rapid! I thought I knew French. I listen to it now, attentive, and chastened but hopeful.

I wrote the authorities to suspend my lawyer license until my vision improves enough for me to read adequately. An illusion! At the garden party, a fellow co-op resident recalled my being seated at a table in the county law library with a pile of books and a yellow legal pad in front of me. I don't know how to use the present tools—computer, Internet, Google, etc. I have to let the law license go!

Thanks, FDR, for pushing Social Security, and thanks, LBJ, for Medicare. I wish I were mobile and could knock on doors for Obama, where needed in adjoining states. I spent much of many campaigns knocking on doors, and it hurts that Illinois is so solidly for Obama that I don't have to work here, and can't do so elsewhere.

Leon Despres represented Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood as an alderman for two decades. He is the author of Challenging the Daley Machine: A Chicago Alderman's Memoir.