Turning 99

grandpa 99 mum revised

My grandfather is turning 99 this week. For those of you not good at math, that means he will be 100 next year.

I was raised by my single father. Grandpa and Grandma were the go-to babysitters when my dad needed a break. Which, given my disposition, was probably a lot.

My grandmother died in 1995 the day after their 55th wedding anniversary. I was very fortunate to not be working at the time of her death and was able to visit her often as she convalesced at home. I gave my grandfather a break each day from sitting by her side and willing the pain away. Hers and his. I am very grateful for that time I had with her. I was planning my wedding and she was able to help with the guest list. We were also planning a move to Australia and she pursed her lips and seemed unsure of our decision to leave. I also knew that that expression meant she was proud.

Each day she would say something funny. And I knew, despite the hospital bed in the living room, that she was still my grandma. (You have no idea how much I am crying right now. I am totally relying on my touch typing skills. So excuse the typos–which there are likely none of. I am that good.)

I took a breather and I’m back.

Now I get to the man of the hour. Grandpa. Seriously, you would love him y’all. On his 90th birthday, we had a party which I flew in for. After the formal event, we went back to my aunt’s house for dinner and cocktails. My grandfather’s cocktail of choice is Wiser’s whiskey and tonic. It used to be club soda until he talked to his doctor (as the story goes). You see, grandpa suffered from nighttime leg cramps (as do I) and the doctor said, “Eric, what do you drink?” To which grandpa replied, “Milk. Rye and Soda.” The doctor helpfully said, “I prescribe you a switch to tonic and your cramps will go away.” He did and they did. Now his happy hour is ‘medicinal’. I even made him a clock once that had the words “happy hour” printed at each number location to be sure he took his medicine.

turning 99 mum revisedBack to the party. Grandpa had imbibed and he started putting on his show. He first did the full lotus position and proceeded to walk across the room on his knees. Then he did headstands. Finally, and this was my favourite, he sat on his shins and put his shoes on his knees pretending to be (and this is not PC) a dwarf (he probably thought he was being PC). The entire time my aunt was screaming, “Stop it, dad. You are going to break a hip.” He didn’t.

Here are ten more things I know you would love about my grandpa.

  1. Shaggy once commented to Grandpa that if he ate more carrots he wouldn’t need such thick glasses. Weeks later Grandpa called Shaggy to tell him that he doesn’t need the glasses anymore because he took his advice. (He had his cataracts removed on a completely unrelated note.)
  2. His favourite joke is about falling off a 20-foot ladder and not getting hurt. He was on the first rung.
  3. He was shot at by Russian revolutionaries when he still lived in Finland because he and his cousin looked out the window at the horse noises. He was one and the bullet hole is still in his family home.
  4. His first English words were “Kiss my ass.” Grade school kids are awesome.
  5. He invented a family game called ‘The Wizard.” The Wizard can be called from any gathering (he was called at my grandmother’s wake) and he will guess the card the person on the other end of the phone is holding. It works every damn time. Only a few of us know how to play but I have done it many times and it stumps everyone.
  6. He had to take his driver’s test again after getting caught cruising a stop sign. He was about 93. Every time he went the adjudicator would give him a temporary licence. Meaning, it was like he was back to square one. Zero alcohol tolerance. No passengers. No highway. He thought it meant he had his license. He kept going back and finally he got someone (a man) who was too frightened to do the road test with him so just passed him gave his licence back. “Krissy, I finally got someone who knew how to drive.”
  7. He has a girlfriend 10 years his junior.
  8. He has single-handedly wired houses for Habitat for Humanity well into his 80s. He even received an award for ‘Best Looking Panel.’
  9. He will call you a pussy if you are afraid to touch live wires.
  10. I was taking a selfie with him recently and he was waving to himself in the camera.

I really have 99 stories of my grandpa. He has been a huge influence in my life. He embodies hard work; giving back; the importance of family. He believes in loyalty and generosity. Damn, there go the tears again.

Happy birthday, Grandpa! And, welcome to your 100th year.

I would like us to all celebrate the elders in our families. Tell me a story of someone close to you. 


  1. I’m not great at math myself, but I know that 99’s not just a birthday, it’s an achievement!
    I have two grandmothers (well, technically they’re Sean’s, but I’m their favourite), one is 94 and the other will be in December. Grandma for some reason loves me even though I’m the black sheep in their conservative family. She’s always praising my new ink and pink hair (or whatever it is this week). Granny is a strong-spirited woman who dresses exclusively in purple. I always wonder: exactly how old do you have to be to start doing that?

    Happy birthday to your grandfather. It sounds like you have\had some really wonderful people in your life.

  2. You are very fortunate!!

  3. This is an awesome post Kristine! What a lovely tribute to you Grandfather. I would love to meet him. If I’m ever in Canada you must make this happen. Sadly, all my grandparents have passed away. Sometimes I still miss them desperately. Enjoy ever minute and second that you have with your beloved Grandfather.
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  4. I LOVE this post, Kristine!! Happy 99th to your Grandpa! He sounds like an amazing man! I adore his sense of humour (and now I know where you got yours!). The photo of him on his head..omg! Impressive! You are so lucky to still have your Grandpa here (and I know you know that). I am lucky too. I have my 89-year-old dad, my 88-year-old aunt, and my 83-year-old mother still here with me. I am thankful for each day I still have them here with me. My aunt in particular reminds me of your Grandfather. While she is not as funny, she is so wise and still full of all the family stories from way back. She can also talk about anything in today’s news. She’s up on all the latest music, celebrities, politics, etc. I love her for that! She’s pretty cool. Thanks for such a heart-warming story! Give your Grandpa a hug for me!

  5. OMG. I grew up without grandparents from a very early age and he totally rocks. I’m jealous! Don’t we all want to be a cool old person? And I cannot sit like that right now and I am 50!

    On a totally unrelated side note: You are the only person in the world that can look good in a head tilted back, up the nose shot.

    Yesterday would have been my mom’s 79th birthday, so I’m kind of weepy too. 1937-2013
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  6. Your grandfather is not just an extraordinary guy. He’s a role model for us all. We should all be doing handstands and touching live wires and pretending to be dwarves at 99.
    PC be damned.
    He’s seen some amazing stuff. We should all be so lucky.
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  7. I still call him Father as he is that special to me. Yup tearing up as we type – a family trait. 🙂

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