Notes for Ninety

I was a teenager when asked to help stage this photo for my grandparent’s 1967 Christmas card.

I recently ran across some speaker notes that I used almost 30 years ago on the occasion of my grandfather’s 90th birthday (1994). I recall that a large white party tent had been set up on a backyard lawn and was filled with four generations of my grandparents’ descendants and their remaining lifelong friends. Here are my comments for that day.

I’ve been blessed by not only knowing, but sharing in my grandparents’ lives for many years (I am over 40!)  Many of my friends and colleagues do not even remember their grandparents.

They told me I would be speaking at this gathering, but did not tell me what to talk about, so I just picked something that appealed to me.  I’m going to tell you a little about an activity that my grandfather undertakes each and every year and we are all the beneficiaries of—their annual Christmas greeting card.

He’s been making photographic Christmas cards for over… well, I don’t know how many years.  I was planning to make copies of some of the great ones over the years as a slide show, but then I found out that this party would be in the afternoon, outside! 

So instead, I made some posters, and if my assistants will help hold them up I will describe them… 

I had a small hand in some of their photos over the years—especially when I was a teenager.  I would get invited over to take their picture.

I think this was for two reasons—I was quite interested in photography so it made sense to ask me– I always learned something from Ted in each of these sessions.  And because I was anxious to learn about lighting and cameras and film and so on, I was the only one who had the patience to make it through one of these productions.

I have heard others describe my grandfather as being a perfectionist.  Well, I can confirm that assessment.  Let me tell you about the picture we took in 1967.

The idea was to get this nice view as they peered out the window of their cozy home.  But doing that shot from outside would never work (I learned), so we assembled a prop consisting of a spare window clamped onto a set of sawhorses.  The glass panels were carefully removed to avoid reflections from the multiple light sources we set up.

Finally, in a rare last-minute editorial decision made on the set, we installed Christmas decorations around the window frame.

This took the larger part of a day and a full roll of film, but we got the shot, and my reward for hanging in there was to enjoy one of my grandmother’s great dinners and to have the pleasure of telling you this story 25 years later!

Ted’s other grandchildren all have stories of their activities with their grandparents.  And now even great-grandchildren are gaining experiences with them that may eventually become fond but faint memories.

This is one reason I’m very pleased that my son and his cousins could be here today to share this celebration.  Maybe they can talk about this party at show-and-tell next week.

Finally, I want to tell you about a typical evening at my home.  It isn’t unusual for my phone to ring after 11:00 at night.  When it does, I know it is either my brother, calling from a distant time zone, or it’s my grandfather, who is calling to ask me a question about his computer!  He is also a night owl and knows I’ll be up to answer his call.  All I can say is I hope when I am 90 that I’ll be curious enough and active enough to do likewise.  Happy Birthday!

Another anecdote about my grandfather and computers:  when he asked me to help him choose a computer, I explained about CPU clock speed.  He immediately selected the more expensive, faster option, explaining that he didn’t know how much longer he would be around, but he certainly didn’t want to be waiting on a slow computer!

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