Grandpa's 90th Birthday Wisdom on Independence Day (#52Ancestors week 27: Independence)
Updated: Jul 30, 2018
It is one of the founding cornerstones of our nation and is widely regarded as a key to the pursuit of happiness. This week’s #52Ancestors topic seemed like an obvious prompt to write an Independence Day story. But this Fourth of July, Eric and I were busy celebrating a different occasion: his grandpa Arthur Wenger’s 90th birthday (July 7, 1928).
Honoring his nine decades of life caused me to take a different perspective on the subject of independence: the loss of it.
One of the most unfortunate consequences of growing older is a loss of independence. 
Over the last year or two, Grandpa and Grandma Wenger have experienced declines (mobility for him, memory for her) that resulted in a move to assisted living and cessation of driving privileges which have severely curtailed their independence. Their children wanted to give him a meaningful 90th birthday gift that would bring joy to their faces. They enlisted our family’s help to make a surprise video, and I think we succeeded!
Arthur D. Wenger grins while watching his 90th birthday video with his wife Mary Kathryn (Heller) Wenger
The first three minutes featured a video birthday greeting from each of his grandchildren and some of the great-grandchildren.
He smiled non-stop and waved back at his youngest great-grandchildren
The second portion of the video, embedded below, was a virtual trip down memory lane to the Wenger homestead farm where he was born and lived for the first three decades of his life. (This is the farm of Christian Wenger, immigrant of 1727, and home to nine generations of the Wenger family). Eric, Nathan, and I received the permission of the Amish family who now resides there before shooting our drone footage. They were actually quite enthusiastic about the project and interested in watching! We also flew over Grandpa's home church, Groffdale Mennonite, where every generation of his direct Wenger line in the United States is buried. The still photos inserted into this section included his grandparents, parents, and siblings.
Wenger siblings Mervin, Elvin, Arthur, and Miriam
A special photo: Elvin died of pneumonia shortly before his second birthday in May 1936
Grandpa Wenger absolutely lit up when he saw these photos and enjoyed sharing some amazingly specific memories. In the photo above, he recalled the title of the book his sister Miriam was reading and even started quoting lines from the story about four kittens.
Here is the video we created of the Wenger homestead farm and Groffdale Mennonite Church:
When the video ended, his oldest daughter asked, “What are you thinking, Dad?”
A few of Grandpa's comments were:
I realize all my blessings that I have. I have been blessed and not just maybe. Five healthy children, grandchildren I’m proud of. Great grandchildren I see a big future for.
The Lord has been good to me, and I can’t overemphasize that enough. And what did the apostle Paul say... I have no greater joy than to see my children walk in truth. I pray for you people every day. It means so much for me just to sit here in this chair and see my offspring trying do me something that I would appreciate and enjoy when I turn 90 years old. You people will be there before you’re ready for it. I can’t believe that I’ve lived long enough to be this old!
It was a privilege to work together with my husband and kids to provide this meaningful birthday gift for Grandpa Wenger. The time involved was well worth it when we saw his beaming smile. I hope to produce more virtual "flights down memory lane" in the future.
A key to helping a senior cope with a loss of independence is to help them hold on to the things in their life that they love most. 
 Lori Thomas, “Helping Seniors Cope with the Loss of Independence,” SeniorAdvice (https://www.senioradvice.com/articles/helping-seniors-cope-with-loss-of-independence: accessed 5 July 2018).