The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

April 18, 2009




Today, that is Saturday, April 18, my buddy Jaring will almost certainly break some world records in masters swimming.

He wanted me to be there, but I can't, I have to drive my kids here and there (well, not THERE) and everywhere.

Jaring is the most gentle of souls. I can't recall just how I initially found out about him, but I think he was 96 or 97 at the time. I called him up, we met, had some photos taken for the story I was doing.

He appeared on the front page of our newspaper that next day.

Because who doesn't love longevity combined with commitment and excelling at something people half his age couldn't or wouldn't even consider trying?

I wrote about him again in today's paper, and that link above takes you to that story on our website.

He joked with me the other day that I have singlehandedly made him famous.

I've written about him now three or four times. He's just an amazing man that people love to read about, young or old.

I've been to his apartment, seen all of his medals, sat down beside him and listened to his tales.

He is very physically affectionate, he wants to touch you innocently if you're patient enough to listen to him talking slowly. He is gentle, deliberate and so honest and gracious.

I've met his wife Gladys, who I was saddened to hear had suffered a stroke since the last time I saw him and is basically out of it, withering away in a downtown hospital. I think she's about 93.

Before that happened, Jaring called me this winter looking for help in contacting the organizers of the 2009 Canadian Masters Swimming Championships in the Toronto area.

I found their website, contacted them, told them about Jaring wanting to enter and that he would be 100, and they were thrilled.

They contacted him and helped him fill in all the entry forms.

We only talked on the phone this time around, and he expressed disappointment I couldn't be there to see him break these records today.

But beyond that, he sounded different, like some of his zest, his excitement for life, had been taken from him.

He told me more than what I put in the story about it, but he said Gladys's head was drooping and she was unresponsive.

And as the story says, he finds it lonely in his apartment without her in a senior citizen's highrise in the west part of town.

It was Christmas when I was last there, she was all excited about the season and the levy that was going on during my visit on the main floor of their complex.

The organizer of the masters meet told me it's common for people to die while they're swimming at some of these events.

And I think that's what Jaring was saying when he told me he wouldn't stop swimming, that he'd do it until he dies.

I hope that isn't soon. But he's lived for 100 years. He's a beautiful man.


  1. It sure felt good to read this. Thanks.


  2. I'm so sorry to hear about Gladys.

  3. Gautami:

    I feel good if you feel good. :-)


    Yeah, I met her once when I was at their place...very gracious, but shy. What a shame for them both.

    But I guess it's life.

  4. What an inspiring story! This is why I luv grand sports venues, like the Olympics, because not only do see amazing feats of human strength and skills, but you also learn about some of the most incredible stories of the athletes who've overcome staggering obstacles for one chance to make it on the world stage.

    This gentleman is a true athlete, and his story is fantastic! Despite all that has happened, given his age and changing family situation, he keeps on living life to the fullest. That kind of gusto makes me want to do more, to enjoy life as much as I can, to never give up when things get tough.

    You have a great career that lets you talk to some of these inspiring people, and you let them know that the world admires them and finds hope in their efforts. Great article!

  5. Eroswings:

    Yeah, he's quite a guy...and he broke those three world records and actually broke the first record he set again.

    So he had four world record swims on Saturday. I talked to him after and wrote another small story, he was pretty excited.

  6. Inspirational!

    but to be honest, i dun wanna live that long lol!


  7. He is remarkable!

  8. isn't he lovely :)

  9. Keshi:

    Nice to see you again.

    I don't think I'd want to live that long either, but I'm sure you'd still look great at 100!


    Isn't he?


    He sure is...

  10. Beautiful....... truely beautiful..


  11. That's just lovely, thank you :) It makes me realise just how much attitude has to do with health and happiness - my grandfather is 95-ish, and has been a "grumpy old man" ever since he was 40 by all accounts. His health has never been great, and he's rarely seemed happy. So it's just wonderful to see a 100-yr old like your Jaring keeping so well!! Astonishing :)

  12. Toasty Warm:

    Yeah, I think he's cool. He's so gentle to talk to, so understated about his own achievement but excited at the same time.

    An amazing human been, he is. Well, he's still a human BEING. It's a beautiful thing.


    And here you are, on the verge, shortly, of bringing another astonishing person into the world.

    Isn't that just kinda lovely in a way to think about it like that?

    Your grandfather may be a bit grumpy, but who isn't at times? He must be doing something right.


  13. This is a beautiful story, but it also has great sadness to it. I have this thing for older people. Perhaps it is because my grandparents were the ones I ran to when I needed someone. I loved the stories of my grandmother and my silly granfather who stood 6'6", my grandmother was a mere 5'6", but she would chase him around the house becsause he would go behind her and pinch her backside. I loved them dearly. This post brought me to them again. I thank you for that.

    Soft love,

  14. Tara:

    Teasing and pinching and having fun extends our lives.

    It's not the same thing as your story of your 6-6 and 5-6 grandparents, but I used to pinch the butt of my 4-11 grandma, who lived with us.

    She'd pretend to fly off the handle and throw things at me...but she loved it.

    She loved the playfulness about it.


  15. Anonymous12:22 a.m.

    I think I'm doing well swimming at least 2kms, but this delightful fellow has 36 years on me!
    When you next speak, tell him I'm inspired to equal his run.

  16. Dinah:

    If I'm swimming 2 kms a day when I'm your beautiful age (the Beatles!!!), let alone swimming 20 km a week when I'm 100, I'll be a lucky man.


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