99 Years

My grandmother died last night. She was 99. She was very active right up until her death. She had a very good life.

Aside from the obvious sorrows that I have, the historian in me thinks about the past. Not just my memories with her, but all the things she has seen in the last 99 years. I simply can’t imagine her life.

She was born in Munich and raised with I believe six siblings. She was the last to pass.

She lived though both world wars. The Great War she was in Germany and her whole family almost starved, but they managed. Her dad was a cobbler – a great one. Legend has it that he fixed shoes for some of the Habsburgs although I have no proof of that. She fled Hitler in the thirties and watched WW2 from Chicago where she met my Grandfather, who emigrated from Latvia.

I simply can’t imagine what she thought about even the things that I take for granted today, like my Blackberry, coming from a rural community without electricity. They raised rabbits for food.

What about antibiotics? Cars? Indoor plumbing?

What a century this has been.

17 thoughts on “99 Years”

  1. May she rest in peace. There were many of her generation still around in Munich back in the 70s, when I used to visit the city quite often. If you could start them talking, they all had fascinating stories to tell of the Great War, the Third Reich, and the turbulent times in between. It was like listening to so many very dark fairy tales, only they were all true. Our own times are a great deal more pleasant, but bland by comparison.

  2. Sorry about your grandmother, Dan.

    It is amazing to think of what she saw. Glad she was able to emigrate between the wars.

    Also glad your grandfather made it out of Latvia. Arguably it was worse to be there than almost anywhere else because of what happened to that country as it switched between the Russians to the Germans and back again.

  3. God rest her soul.

    America has been a lifeboat for so many people. My grandfather escaped from the Bolsheviks. We are so lucky to be here, so lucky to have the life we have. We stand on the shoulders of people who worked and suffered to build it up. Let’s never forget that, and let’s keep it going for the next 99 years.

  4. My mother lived in three centuries. She was born in 1898 and died in 2001. Her older brother died two years before she was born from pyloric stenosis. He was two. The cure for that condition, the Ramsted operation, was developed in 1912. Her other brother died of mitral insufficiency in 1926. Her father had died when she was 9 months old of pneumonia.

    She wrote letters to doughboys in WWI and remembered the sinking of the Titanic when she was 14. Her sister’s husband, before they were married, had been taken to England on a lengthy vacation by his parents. They were not happy about his plan to marry a Catholic girl, especially one with no money. They were booked on the Titanic coming back but it was overbooked and they were bumped. They came back on the Olympic, instead.

    What history they saw ! She was in good health and in complete possession of her faculties until about 6 months before she died. She reluctantly gave up her own apartment 6 months before her 100th birthday. We had a huge 100th birthday party for her. They saw an amazing century. It sounds as though both had wonderful lives.

  5. My sincere condolences. I hope you can take comfort in the thoughts expressed in your very nice post.

    As you note, she had a heck of a good run.

  6. “I simply can’t imagine what she thought about even the things that I take for granted today, like my Blackberry, coming from a rural community without electricity.”

    Probably she wasn’t too impressed by blackberries and such. I’m thinking about my 95-yearold grandmother. I don’t think that technological change has impressed her very much in few latest decades. I’m sure that she finds
    C-cassettes and remote controlled tv’s very convenient, but she probably isn’t excited about things like that. The ability for being impressed by anything one sees is probably usually spent out by the time one turns 60 or 70.

  7. Condolences. My grandmother died last week at 97.
    It is amazing to think of how much history passes in that many years. As a schoolgirl she heard Charles Lindbergh give a speech about his transatlantic flight. Less than 60 years later she was flying on the Concorde.

  8. And she is your link with the past. As Burke said (and this one he really did say or write):

    “As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.”

    May she rest in peace.

  9. The posts above are touching and are written with such thought. I, too, offer my sympathies to your family for the passing of this old lady who, let’s say it, had quite a ride. My thoughts are the same as those who wrote (and to you, too, Lord Somber). I also agree with Paavo Ojala. I’ve never known an old person impressed with anything new. We think, “Oh, she was born 99 years ago, she must be so amazed at my Blackberry”, but of course, she had seen 100 years of incremental changes. Why should she be amazed at another one? She wasn’t regarding them from the point of view of 1910, but of the time she was actually living in.

    I wish her Godspeed.

  10. To her, Godspeed and God bless her.

    Just think – radio, television, the internet. Telephones everywhere and now even unwired. Airplanes, jets, rockets – Men on the Moon. No measles, whooping cough or Polio. Fruits and vegetables in the winter, apples from NZ, grapes from Chile. Fresh lobster in the middle of the continent. The changes in past 100 years have been staggering, I only wish that I could see the changes in the next 100 years.

  11. My mother had a tracheostomy on her mother’s kitchen table by the pediatrician. It was for diphtheria and she was two. I wonder how the vaccination hysterics would have handled that event. They may get the chance to find out.

    I tried to give her a computer although they were not as user friendly in the 1990s. She did accept a word processing typewriter. She had been a legal secretary for a while and she could type so fast that I could dictate my high school papers to her at normal conversation speed. Of course she was only 56 then. She was 40 when I was born and I was her first child. My birth certificate gives her age as 29.

    She was distrustful of airplanes and came to California on the train for visits until the 747 started flying. That, she decided, was a reliable airplane.

    Those were the days !

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