A Seaman’s journey
He had just celebrated another birthday with an afternoon of cake, friends and family ” which actually turned out to be quite a sizable shindig.
After all, by the time you reach 98 years old, chances are you’ve made a fair number of friends and, if you’re lucky enough, have been blessed by a bunch of babes bearing your surname.
So there was Maurice Seaman, back in January, celebrating number
98 with no less than five generations of his loved ones. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the photo that landed on my desk awhile back could fill a book.
There, around his Lazy Boy, Maurice is joined by his daughter, Alice, and her daughter, Debbie, and her daughter, Lesley, and her son, Braydon ” Maurice’s great-great grandson.
Ask him about his family and he just smiles at you – and that’s not because he’s a bit hard of hearing. What else can you say when you seem so content with your life, when all the love you could ever need is right there in the same room?
That love only seems more valuable over the years, as you watch family and friends pass. Just last month, he said goodbye to the love of his life, Edna, who died after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Old age can seem cruel, at times.
But, the way Maurice seems to look at things, it also offers more time for more fun.
At 98, his legs may move a bit slower ” though when he walks he seems sturdy as an oak ” and his ears may not hang on your every word, but he’s still sharp enough to jab at you with his sly sense of humor.
And, apparently, he’s open minded enough to try new things.
After the punch-and-cake portion of his birthday ” two years short of the century mark ” Maurice stood from his chair, stretched his arms, surveyed the smiling faces surrounding him and said “Hey, everybody, I know … Let’s go kayaking!”
OK, so it didn’t happen exactly that way, but he did get to hit the water that day after sliding into one of his kids’ kayaks. The family picked up the sport not long ago. Maurice typically went along for the picnics on such trips to the lake, but apparently this time he thought “Why not?”
Kind of makes you wonder what he’ll do for his 99th.
“I’ll have to get there first,” he dead-panned.
Maurice, apparently, has long been the adventurous sort, whether he was a 60-something water-skiing across Rollins Lake on a broken leg, a 70-year-old rubbing fenders at the wheel of a stock car circling the old Ernie Pursell Speedway or even when he was just a 14-year-old kid, kick-starting an Indian motorcycle and twisting the throttle all the way up to Nevada County to find a career in the timber industry.
Eighty three years later, after that long drive from Ontario in Southern California, Maurice is still home in Grass Valley.
“The town didn’t change any,” he said, with a subtle shake of his head before pointing to what has changed. “Traffic, cars and there’s too many stoplights.”
He said he doesn’t mind the growth of Grass Valley so much, as he says “everybody has to have a place to live.” And besides, for the most part, he spends the majority of his time at home, where he lives with his daughter Alice and earns his keep — and then some — with his impeccable gardening in the backyard.
“Even when it rains,” Alice said, “he’s still gardening.”
As he shows me his work late one afternoon, he stops the tour to bend over at the waist and pick up a single pine needle. A few steps later, he’s sweeping his foot side to side to brush a few more from an otherwise spotless sidewalk.
“He considers gardening his job,” said Tammie, his granddaughter. “He’s always saying he has to go out and do his work.”
“Well,” Maurice shrugs, “it’s the last thing I can do.”
His quick-witted comments seem to come easily and with the true timing of crafted comic. For example, his son in law, John, asked Maurice how he was feeling the other day:
“He said he wasn’t still feeling better, so I told him that he had to have patience,” John said. “He looked at me with this big smile on his face and said ‘Hey, I’ve been being patient for 98 years.”
When he’s not gardening three to four hours a day, he’s working on word searches and crossword puzzles or reading poetry and newspapers, anything he find to get him thinking. He apparently subscribes to the “use it or lose it” theory.
And believe me, the guy’s still got it.
“He reads everything he sees, signs on the road or words on TV,” said Tammie. “He reads The Union front to back several times a day.”
Scooting a bit closer to make sure he would hear me clearly, I told Maurice that The Union has a special offer for him. Each reader who subscribes for 70 years gets a front-door visit from an editor to hear his complaints in person.
He laughed, before placing an order for more motor racing and more San Francisco Giants, two of his favorite things.
Then I asked him, in all of those 70 years, if the The Union has gotten any better?
He laughed again, this time slapping his knee twice and turning to look me right in the eye.
“Not one bit,” he said straight-faced, before resuming the knee slap amidst a family room now full of laughter.
“Well,” Alice said, “that doesn’t stop him from every morning, going out and getting the paper at a quarter to seven.”
With that kind of commitment being the case, Maurice, I’ll promise you this much.
We’ll keep trying to get better, just as long as you keep reading us.
Brian Hamilton is sports editor at The Union. His column appears each Saturday. He may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 477-4240.
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