Senior Lifestyles: Christmas came early

Published 3:06 pm Monday, December 18, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! What a joyous time of year for both young and young at heart. People are happier and seem to be even friendlier, and that’s delightful.

By the time you read this, I will have returned from visiting my son, daughter-in-law and six grandchildren. While this may not seem like a very big deal, since many of my readers have family close by or certainly within a few hours by airplane, that’s not the case for me. My son, his wife and my six grandchildren live just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, and that’s not an easy trip to make.

Under the best of circumstances, a nonstop flight from Atlanta takes almost 17 hours. I learned from previous experience that if I fly more than eight hours I have to do so in business class. Yes, it’s costly, but as a senior, I can tell you that it isn’t just a luxury, it’s a necessity because of my bad back and good common sense.

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As I searched for a reasonably priced flight I found that if I was willing to forego a nonstop flight and make at least one stop, I could save quite a bit on the plane ticket. In my case, I flew business class in a fully reclining seat, and my one stop allowed me to spend almost an entire day in Zurich, Switzerland, a country I’ve never visited.

Of course the best part of the flight was at the Johannesburg airport when I saw my son and the six kids – ages 4 to 15 – all screaming “Poppy, Poppy, over here” when I exited passport control. It was amazing. I don’t know if you have ever experienced six youngsters, four girls and two boys, trying to hug you and talk to you all at once, but it’s sort of a combination of being “mugged” and listening to competing school pep rallies at the same time. As you can imagine, the drive to my son’s home was loud and a bit chaotic.

It’s always amazing to see how grown up the kids had become, and notice how each one has a different area of interest, talent and skill. The oldest girl is 15, and in addition to attending private high school, is taking courses at Cambridge University’s extension school in Johannesburg. Each of the other girls showed her talents: one as a photographer, one a musician, and the youngest a budding artist. The two youngest children are typical rough and tumble little boys interested in sports.

This was my third trip in four years, and I’m getting to know each of the children as young, blossoming individuals. The bonds we formed, now that they’re older, are stronger. I was also able to reinforce the fact that they carry some of the traits of my parents and grandparents, and while they will never meet or know their ancestors, a little piece of each of them runs through their blood as a growing part of a legacy of two families, one American and one South African.

The trip was good, and the children were fantastic. We hugged and laughed and shared a special time. Children have a way of receiving and giving love unconditionally, and I can only hope that you, too, know how good that feels.

I plan to go back again, but like you, I don’t know for certain what the future holds. I spent every day with the kids living in the moment, and soaking it all in. If for some reason I cannot make the trip in the future, I can honestly say that this visit will forever hold a special place in my heart. The best Christmas presents I received this year, once again came in the form of six grandchildren who gave me the best gift ever – their love.

I hope you too have a wonderful holiday season.

Ron Kauffman is a consultant, expert speaker on issues of aging, Medicare and Obamacare, and the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease” available as a Kindle book on He may be contacted at 828-696-9799 or by email at