On Friday my great aunt Leona became the third member of her family to reach her hundredth birthday. Her brother Sylven, who was still driving a tractor up til age 98, died in April at age 102. And my grandma, Annie-Bananie, got within a few weeks of 101 when she died three summers ago.
Last month the “baby” of their family, Great Aunt Jokie, turned 90. She became the 10th sibling out of 14 to make it to that milestone. Almost everybody who made it into the “90 Club” lived several more years. Minnie made it to 99. If Great Uncle Gauis hadn’t been killed in a motorcycle wreck at age 94, he would’ve been a good candidate for hitting the century mark as well.
On the one hand, all this longevity just seems like another larger-than-life anecdote about a giant family that looms large in my imagination. (I’ve written before about how hearing stories about the Gerber family often felt like listening to episodes of “The Brady Bunch” meets “Eight is Enough” on the set of “Little House on the Prairie” – like the time Gauis cut his foot with a scythe and his parents hauled him in to see the doctor via horse and buggy, only to have little brother Alvin fall out of the hay mow and break his arm while they were gone.)
But I like knowing that I share at least part of the same DNA as these folks. I think that’s part of the reason why, instead of feeling like I’m over the hill at age 51, it feels more like I just came out of the locker room at halftime, re-energized and refocused and ready to tackle the second half of my life.
That may be nothing but an illusion (or even a delusion) as far as analogies go, but it makes me want to take care of my health so I can stay active as late into the game as possible.
For those who are interested – primarily a few relatives who check out this blog from time to time – here are a couple of more bits of recent Gerber family trivia:
- The last three surviving siblings are sisters who married brothers – Leona Schwartz, Alice Schwartz and Jokie Schwartz. (Grandma and her brother Ed also married siblings, Ervin and Viola Isch.)
- When my son Ben graduated from Norwell earlier this month, it turned out that he was among six members of the Class of 2016 who are all descendants of the Jehu and Lydia Gerber family. Nobody realized it until the crowd was starting to dissipate, or we’d have arranged to take a picture.
- Of those six graduating seniors, two were left-handed pitchers on the baseball team (Ben and Carson Gerber) and two are future college roommates (Ben and Avery Taylor, who both plan to attend Trine University in the fall.)