I met some wonderful people during my time as an undergraduate English major, but one of the greatest has to be my friend Hamilton, who turned 97 this year.
You read that right. Dude is NINETY-FREAKIN-SEVEN and still going
strong- reading, visiting with family, reading, talking to me on the
phone every few months, and READING. The man loves books.
I first met him in a fiction workshop during my second semester, and I
wasn’t very surprised to hear that he was auditing the class. Many
seniors (as in 50 years old and over) did just that, spending their
retirement learning new things and interacting with professors and
younger students; basically, what I hope to do when I’m ninety-freakin-seven years old.
The next semester, we were in another class together- perhaps Modern
British lit? He and I and some other English-major-dork friends started
chatting before class, and next thing we knew, we were forgetting that
sixty years separated us. He told us about his time in the army during
World War II, his life afterwards in the publishing business, his wife
and kids, and his experiences auditing English classes. An avid reader,
he craved in-depth discussions about the books that he read, and knew he
could get that by taking classes. Hamilton audited a wide range of
English courses because he always wanted to read something new and learn
about writers he’d never encountered before. He inspired me to
diversify my own reading.
Over the next several semesters, Hamilton and I took more classes
together, even meeting for a snack in the student union beforehand each
week. We hung out like we had been friends for decades, and I appreciate
how he looked past my 20-year-old immaturity and naiveté.
Even after I graduated and left Pennsylvania, we kept in touch by
letter and by phone. Whenever we go back to the east coast, my husband
and I try to stop by and see Hamilton, who looks thirty years younger
than his birth certificate claims. I tell myself that all of the reading
he’s done has contributed to that!
So here’s to many more years of talking about books with Hamilton. I’m lucky to have him as a friend.
(first posted on Book Riot 1/31/16)