Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Carl G. Becker: 20 Years Ago

The following is a paper I wrote in college dated October 3, 1991. The assignment was to interview an older person I admire. I think the instructor gave us a list of questions to ask. I considered using parts of this in the eulogy, but instead I'm going to print a few copies for people to read at the wake.

I interviewed my grandfather, Carl Becker, age 66. He is a successful insurance salesman with no intention of retiring. “I could retire if my wife ever stopped shopping!” he joked. He has three daughters (all married) and two grandsons.

He first said he liked “nothing” about his present age, but after a laugh, he said, “I like the fact that I'm comfortable in life, that I've accomplished what I wanted to, that I have no financial worries.” He also enjoys having his family grown and spending time with them.

Grandpa doesn't consider himself old. When asked what he liked least about his age, he replied, “I dislike when people remind me that I'm over 65 because I don't feel over 65. I feel like I'm still 45 or 50.” He considers himself healthier than most men his age. He walks three miles a day and eats right. He cited two health concerns: 1) his job involves a lot of stress, and 2) Grandma still smokes (he quit about 20 years ago).

That is something he would like to accomplish in his life – to get his wife to quit smoking. She was in the room. “Did you hear that?” I asked her. “I hear it every day,” she responded stubbornly. As for other goals, “I'd like to take up the piano or the organ and learn to play, if I ever got the time.” His wildest dream is typically family-oriented: “I'd like to win the lottery so I could open the Becker Community where all my family could live. Everybody could eat breakfast together on Sunday mornings. We could get skyboxes for the Cubs and Bears...”

Grandpa's most surprising answer was what he would change if he could “do it all over again.” “I'd like to be a pastor, be in the church. Those people get more out of life than anybody else does because they help other people.” Grandpa goes to church every week, but I didn't know he felt that way. His other response was less startling: “I would want more education. I would try to get as much as I could.” Perhaps that is why he has always been supportive of my educational pursuits.

Grandpa is not afraid of death. “I don't particularly worry about it. Everybody dies so there's nothing you can do about it.” He added, with a smile, “I'm not in a hurry, though!”

“I think as long as you're healthy and you enjoy life, then you want to live. But if you're not healthy, then... Well, I wouldn't want to live if I was really suffering.”

His philosophy on aging was very positive. “You're always learning something, you're always looking forward to the things you can accomplish in the future. If you're always setting goals for yourself, your family... Then that's what keeps you young.”

“I hate when people say, 'I don't care about anything anymore. I'm ready to die.'”

“We always complain that we're too busy, but the worst people are the ones who have nothing but time. They have nothing to look forward to. I see them walk past my office all day.”

I enjoyed doing the interview. Grandpa was an easy interviewee. Sometimes I had to coax him a little, but his overall attitude was very positive. The hardest part was probably trying to get Grandpa's answer before Grandma answered the question for him!

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