Aging gracefully: The story of my 103-year-old dad

It’s a bit hard to reach my 103-year-old father. Not that he’s doddering or anything. He’s just busy.

When I called him from the Fox London bureau at his home in Garden City, New York, he had just returned from his weekly Senior Knights of Columbus meeting, one of several activities of his week.

Now he’s on a “book tour” of sorts.  Out next week, “Aging Gracefully,” a compilation of striking photographs and profiles of 52 centenarians around the world, by noted German photographer Karsten Thormaehlen.

Edward Palkot

Edward Palkot (Photo by Karsten Thormaehlen)

My father is one of four amazing people on the cover of the book.  He also wrote the book’s foreword, in which he notes, “The first hundred years are the hardest. After that you just roll along.”

Dad is featured in an article in Long Island’s Newsday newspaper and others. I asked him how celebrity life is.

“It’s tremendous,” he said and noted, jokingly, “Now I understand why movie stars shy away from reporters!”

Fox News viewers might recall the wonderful interview Martha MacCallum did with my father on America’s Newsroom, on his 100th birthday.

“Aging Gracefully” by Karsten Thormaehlen Chronicle Books

“Aging Gracefully” by Karsten Thormaehlen Chronicle Books

Since then, dad‘s kept it up, living on his own, staying active with his own family and his girlfriend, Alice. He’s also stayed very much “plugged-in” to the 21st century via email, Facebook and even Twitter.

“The second 100 years is so much better,” he confided to me, “we had so little back then,” recalling his upbringing in Pittsburgh.

I asked photographer Thormaehlen what he learned from the centenarians he met with, from Japan to South America, from Italy to suburban Long Island America.

“They’re all the same,” he told me by phone from Germany. “They share the same secrets about living: generosity, humor, happiness, and being satisfied with what they’ve achieved.”

Pop (who will be 104 in August) confirmed all of that and then some.

Dad when he was 2 months old.

Dad when he was 2 months old. ((Family photo))

“You have to forget about mistakes,” he told me. “Everyone makes mistakes.”

He went on to say, “You have to think about positive things. If people are ‘crabby’ that’s going to wear on you. So you should look for people who are pleasant.”

Dad, who is an active member of his local parish, concluded our chat with one last bit of advice.

“People talk about yoga,” he said. “I think going to church and praying is as good as yoga, and thinking about the Lord”

Amen, Dad. Love ya!

“Aging Gracefully,” by Karsten Thormaehlen (Chronicle Books) goes on sale next Tuesday, March 7.