Thelma lives across the hall from me. She and I are buddies.
Thelma is a lovely octogenarian with a cheery disposition and a passion for life that outdoes most. She is involved in a plethora of activities including a daily swim, weekly folk dancing and an annual sojourn to a creative writing camp. On top of all this, my buddy has wanderlust which takes her around the world.
So, when Thelma is in town, she and I schmooze regularly about our lives. When she is going out of town Thelma asks me to take in her delivered copies of the Canadian Jewish News and the Toronto Star. Her requests to do so have begun to wane, however, as I am dopey as hell when it comes to such menial tasks and I ended up throwing out her Toronto Star by accident.
Don’t know why, but once I read it, I believed it was garbage.
One day my dear friend, Thelma told me about her 106-year-old friend, Kitty ‘Leah’ Cohen. They had been friends for many years, and she was going to make a Shabbat-Friday night birthday party for Kitty. Immediately, I asked Thelma if I could stop by the party and meet Kitty. The idea of meeting someone who had lived so many years was huge to me.
Thelma agreed and seemed delighted at the idea of introducing the two of us.
The Day I Met Kitty for the First Time
Sure enough, a week later, Thelma held a fancy schmancy party for Kitty. At the designated time, I walked across the hall and knocked softly on Thelma’s door. Thelma answered. I hugged her and made my way inside. There sitting at the table was Kitty “Leah” Cohen; the oldest person I’d ever met.
I was overwhelmed! I was in a state of awe the way a child would be upon seeing Niagara Falls for the first time. Seeing Kitty, I felt as if I was in the midst of something very Godly, very special, very holy.
I sat down and looked at Kitty. Perhaps I was staring. Her face was etched with the lines of age and joy. Her wrinkles were less pronounced than I would have thought. She had beautiful skin and her sharp blue eyes twinkled. I couldn’t imagine what those eyes had seen.
I sat at the table finding it hard to contain my questions. Normally, I am curious, and then some. But, in that moment, questions poured out of me, more so than ever; like bullets from a machine gun, pah, pah, pah, without stop. I spoke to myself saying, “slow down Avrum. Match yourself to Kitty’s energy. You’re going to overwhelm this poor woman. Let her breath.” And so, I did.
I asked Kitty how old she felt inside. I queried her on what her earliest memory was. “Is the world doing a good job?”, I asked Kitty.
Then I asked her the big one. “Would you be my guest on HatRadio!, Kitty?”
The spirited woman, responded ever so sweetly, “yes, I’d be delighted.”
I couldn’t contain my excitement as doing an interview with Kitty would be unique and ground-breaking. I thanked her, wished she and her daughter, Bernie well, as well as Thelma’s other guests. We exchanged co-ordinates.
The day I Interviewed Kitty
The day came and Kitty arrived at my home with her daughter, Bernie. I was honored to host them. I had set up the table with tea, cold water, cookies and paper and pen. I fidgeted around and noticed I was speaking louder than Kitty required. Eventually my level of speaking found it’s proper volume.
The interview began. I wanted to know from Kitty about her growing up years; how the wars and anti-Semitism affected her. We discussed her adoption of the name Kitty, and her passion for dance.
She and Bernie had told me I could ask any thing I wanted so I questioned Kitty about sexuality and whether she believed a good sex life could help a person live longer. Kitty was obliging. She was fun. She was joyful and thoughtful. This powerful and driven woman was so incredibly honest, and she had the youthful spirit only an octogenarian could have. You could see her brain working as she considered answers to my questions.
We concluded the interview expressing our appreciation for one another. I topped off our time with a bonus interview with Bernie – a 10-minute short-schmooze about her feelings for her Mom.
A week later Noah, my son and I, visited Kitty at her senior’s home. She told us she’d be travelling to Jamaica the next day to visit her son who had a resort there. I asked her if it was a wise to travel at her stage of life. With enthusiasm for the moment and an unbridled love of life, Kitty basically told me she was 106 and if life should end in that tropical paradise, well there was no tragedy in that.
Two Weeks Later | The Day I Found Out Kitty Had Passed Away
Sure enough, Kitty flew to Jamaica the next day. She sat on the beach in her pink bathing suit and posed for pictures, one of which I received. A few days later, Thelma knocked at my door and told me there was bad news. Kitty had become sick with pneumonia.
A couple of days later Kitty was gone. This beautiful person who had gifted me with one hour and a half of her life, finished her days, in Jamaica, the way she lived it – with joy. I felt so sad but incredibly elated.
I left Bernie a message. I told her I was honoured to have been given time with her mom and felt so good that Kitty schmoozed with me about her life. For a number of weeks afterward I thought about the gift I had been granted by having this podcast, HatRadio! and hear from someone who was a gem of a human being and graced our world for 106 years.
I felt I might have contributed to Kitty’s legacy, or at least in some ways, archived her days. God bless Kitty’s soul. Thank you for coming our way Kitty – you sweet, adventuresome, beautiful woman!
HatRadio! Podcast – the show that schmoozes with the young and a 106-year-old.
About HatRadio! Podcast | The Show that Schmoozes
The HatRadio! podcast was created by Avrum Rosensweig. Avrum spent over a decade on commercial radio including Toronto’s CFRB and Talk 640 co-producing and co-hosting quirky and delightful food and restaurants shows with Hollywood stars and singers like Michael Bublé, prolific chefs, restauranteurs, servers and of course foodies from all over the world. He is also the founder of Ve’ahavata, Canada’s only Jewish humanitarian organization, a writer and a dad.
HatRadio!’s Tagline is “The show that schmoozes”. Avrum’s intention through this new and refreshing podcast is to create an environment that reflects an honest and earthy midnight talk amongst friends around a bonfire where ideas and feelings flow freely and the participants have many honest and often courageous “Aha” moments. Avrum is hoping these interviews will reflect positive human behaviour and inspire many to pursue greater goodness and kindness.
If you have any suggestions on people you feel should be interviewed or would simply like to get in touch with Avrum, please contact him at this link.
HatRadio! The show that schmoozes.