I made an extra trip to the nursing home to visit him on his hundredth birthday.
I knew from the nursing home staff that four generations of extended family were gathering for a surprise party. We had gotten to know each other during the eight years he had been my patient there, and had evolved a friendship well beyond our patient-clinician roles. We talked about music and books, science and religion. He told me about his travels, war time adventures, and a wide range of careers. My favorite stories were about his family, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet the people he talked so much about.
I was not disappointed. It was a fascinating couple hours, and I heard confirmation and additional detail about events and relationships he had described during our monthly conversations. I also heard things he had not shared, adding several dimensions to an already fascinating man.
Before I left, I told him what a lucky man he was to have such an army friends and family actively involved in his life. He responded that one could do a great deal in 100 years. “Just wait,” he said. “You’ll see.”
I told him I didn’t think I wanted to live to be 100 years old.
He smiled at me. And said. “It’s not that I don’t believe you. And I won’t be around to find out. But I wonder if you will still say that the night before your hundredth birthday?”