If he were still alive, Bernard Wisener, my paternal grandfather, would be 127 years Dec. 23. This year marks the third decade since his passing. He was 97 when he died of pneumonia. His health history was remarkably free of diseases and ailments during his long life. In fact, my father — who is 94 — can remember only one time when Grandpa was hospitalized. Grandpa was in his early 50s at the time and the supervisor for a county work crew that maintained roads and bridges. While lifting an oak timber, two inches thick, by 12 inches wide and 24 feet long, Grandpa developed a hernia, which required surgery.
The first time I heard that story was just last week when I was filling out a medical history and had to ask my dad for information on Grandpa’s illnesses or hospitalizations.
Grandpa was born in 1881 — long before antibiotics and stringent infection controls practiced today. Yet he lived a healthy life almost unheard of today when most people take several prescriptions by age 40.
As I filled out the medical questionnaire, I found myself puzzling over this conundrum.
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With all our super drugs and high-tech treatment options, few of us are as healthy as my grandfather.
That thought led me to consider how his life was different from ours. For starters, Grandpa walked to most places he wanted to go.
Second, he spent most of his day outside, breathing fresh air, pushing his muscles to the limit with physical labor. I would be willing to bet that even the highest trained aerobic fitness instructor today would have trouble keeping up with Grandpa in his prime.
Third, he ate a lot of grains, fruits and nuts. He always had a garden. During the depression Grandpa and his sons rented a portion of a community garden. Their plot was the size of a city block.
Fourth, Grandpa liked to laugh. He liked people and he sought new friends.
Fifth, Grandpa was a man of deep faith. He never bought insurance because he believed that if you put your trust in God that is all the insurance required.
Sixth, Grandpa prayed before each meal. He never forgot the connection between the world and its creator.
Seventh, when Grandpa went anywhere, he wore a shirt and a tie. His attention to dress and manners were as much a reflection of respect for others as for himself.
Eighth, Grandpa always wore a hat — to my knowledge he never had a suspicious mole despite the long hours he spent in the sun.
Ninth, a part of Grandpa never grew up which was why he could relate so well to children.
Tenth, Grandpa stood tall. His posture never drooped. He treated his body as the temple of the soul he knew it to be.