Earl was over 100 and still rocking. He would walk in (and eventually roll in in his wheelchair) to the dining room where I worked as a server in a plaid button up shirt and cardigan. It was like his uniform and I loved how classy he looked.
He'd always greet you with a smile and usually a little joke. He was so positive and friendly. Earl is one of those people who I looked forward to seeing each day and brought a lot of joy into my life.
I also loved talking to him. Sometimes I'd work as the front desk assistant and I'd have more time to interact with the residents. I loved sitting down and talking with him about his life. He had grown up in the area and could tell me stories about our downtown with dirt roads and women hiking up their long skirts to keep them from getting muddy. He'd tell me about going into town in a little buggy with his family. He told me about going on dates and you're dad would give you ten cents to take your date out for ice cream and a movie. He told me stories about his wife Vivian, their life together, and the twenty years they spent living in Colorado.
I stopped working at the assisted living home a while ago and while I always meant to stop in, I just didn't do it. I'd give myself excuses like "Oh they won't remember me" (which they do and I get told to stop in) and "I'll just do it next weekend when I have more time." So when he passed away in November, I shed a few tears and was truly heartbroken. I feel so guilty now that I didn't make time to stop in and see the man who influenced me so much. I just always thought there would be more time.
Today would be his 103rd birthday and I can't help but think about all the great memories I have of him. He was a great man who inspired me to be more positive, look forward to aging instead of fearing it, and a man who I truly loved to see each day. I'm so grateful that I got to know him so well and that I've had someone in my life who has had such an impact on me.
I also want to encourage you not to make the mistake that I did of assuming there will be more time to visit grandparents and loved ones. Time is precious and it's important to spend that time with the people who are most important to you. Even taking 15 minutes out of your day to go visit or call will make a difference and brighten up both of your days.
I also can't recommend enough the benefits of volunteering or working at an assisted living or nursing home. The people there have lived great lives and have so many stories and advice to give you. You can always volunteer to visit a resident at one of these places who maybe doesn't get visitors often because their family lives far away or are busy - we can all use more friends whether we're young or old!
Do you have anyone like Earl in your life? Who's been a huge influence in your life?