“My history is unique.” This is the first thing Mark says to me when we meet. “Some people say that their own lives are ordinary, but in reality that is never true.” Mark and his family were European Jews who came to the United States from Belgium. He grew up speaking French at home, but for the most part his parents wanted to leave their European background behind. “My parents always said they came to America to be Americans. It was deeply impressed upon us that the U.S. was our home.” According to Mark, coming to the U.S. was an “overwhelming experience,” but he embraced his adopted country by learning its history. “I wanted to know especially about the South and the black experience,” he says. “It’s very important.”
Teaching and education have always been important to Mark. “My mother was an extraordinary teacher, and somebody really special. She was a tremendous influence on me.” Mark went to Queens College. He continued his studies after graduating, eventually becoming a physics professor in Indiana. Mark’s former students, now professors themselves, still keep in contact with him.
Married for many years, Mark becomes very emotional when talking about his wife. “[My wife] is an important factor in my life. She’s a very beautiful woman. An extraordinary woman.” Mark and his wife both love traveling and meeting new people. They once spent a year in Italy, living with a host family as part of an exchange program. “I still remember the family we stayed with. We kept in touch for many years.” These days he doesn’t get to travel very much, but he enjoys music. Although Mark was taught the violin as a child, according to him, “it failed.” He ended up enjoying singing a great deal. Mark tells me his favorite songs are those by the Beatles, and spirituals from the American South. Mark is also a foodie, and enjoys playing games. “When people come to visit, I get out my walker and I play games with them.”
He decides not to open his Gramsly box right away, instead saving it for later. Among other things, it contains some gourmet snacks and a Domino set to entertain his many guests.
At our last meeting, Mark says he is continuing to enjoy life. “I’m not ready to give up yet,” he says with a big smile. At the end of our chat, he leaves me with a quote:
“My life has been good, and it’s not over yet!”
This post is part of our Meet a Senior blog series, in which we showcase senior citizens and tell their stories. All of our subjects receive a customized Gramsly box as a thank you for their participation. If you know a senior (including yourself!) that wants to participate, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.