The People in My Neighborhood: Grandpa Kenny

This is my neighbor, Kenny.

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Kenny turned 100 in August. I suppose this is where I’m supposed to write something about lessons learned in 100 years of life, but I think I’d like to consider this from a different angle.

What Kenny will do now that he’s 100?

Here are the things Kenny does now:

  • Walks every day, around the block, with his walker. “Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes, sometimes it takes me 45. But I like to go outside.”
  • Greets everyone he sees with a smile and a wave and a pat, if you’re four-legged and hairy, like Sprocket.
  • Lives with his son and daughter-in-law, who have grown kids of their own. Maybe Kenny will have great-grandchildren relatively soon.
  • For lunch every day, Kenny has two hot dogs and a Pepsi.
  • Kenny follows dog racing and, up until last year, drove himself to the track. So I guess that’s not something he does anymore, but I couldn’t resist telling you the bit about the driving.

What else? Kenny is referred to by someone else in my neighborhood as being “an absolute jewel of a man.” We were told that when he heard we were moving into the house we’re living in now, which had been stone-cold empty for 20 years, his first comment was, “Gee, I really hope they don’t have problems with the plumbing.” (Kenny was a plumber when he still worked.)  “How are you?” is a common refrain for all of us, but coming from Kenny, it seems more meaningful somehow, perhaps because you know he really wants to know.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we live, and how we influence others. I’m sure that Kenny’s kind demeanor and longevity owe something to his upbringing, but I think it’s more likely that he’s the way he is today because he’s used to being a kind, generous, inquisitive, active person.

Kenny’s first job paid him a quarter an hour. He bought his first home for $6,000. A lot has changed between now and then for Kenny, but I like to think that Kenny spent the years in between tinkering, in the background, with varying degrees of kindness and endurance, until he settled on this, which works for him. We all have to find what works for us. If “what works” makes people want to be around you, if it makes people want to stop and talk to you and take a few steps with you on your daily journey around the block, what works for you is probably working for others too, and you’ll never be lonely.

Nothing’s likely to change for Kenny now that he’s reached this milestone. This is a good thing. Here’s to two hot dogs a day, for years and years and years to come.

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Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

7 Responses to The People in My Neighborhood: Grandpa Kenny
  1. Kelly says:

    Two hotdogs and a pepsi–sounds good, Kenny! Happy 100.

  2. Joe says:

    What a cool guy. Happy birthday to him. (Kinda glad he’s not driving anymore, though.)

  3. what a genuine sweet portrait of a sweet person, who — as you say — has practiced his kindness for many years. May we all learn from such a practice!

  4. This is just lovely. Kenny sounds like a wonderful man, and you are a wonderful person for noticing and appreciating that, AND a wonderful writer for bringing his story and wisdom to the rest of us who aren’t fortunate enough to know him in real life. Thanks. :)

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