Another birthday has come and gone for our dear friend George "Pop" Rockett. If you've been to Deer Run, odds are you've met him (or at least heard him blasting his golf cart air horn), and if you read this blog or follow us on Facebook, you've at least heard about him. And, if you are lucky enough to live in the lower Keys or Marathon, you likely know Pop.
|Pop blows out the candles on his |
I've posted several stories about Pop through the years. It seems just like yesterday that I met him, but it's been several years. The Reader's Digest version of my meeting Pop is that one day shortly after moving here, I was driving down the street and saw an old man loading palm fronds into trash cans at the edge of the street. After I passed him, I backed up, rolled the window down and asked him if he needed some help. Pop looked up, drenched in sweat, gave me a look and said something like "where were you an hour ago?" reply. I was mortified, but within seconds, he burst out laughing. Pop has a good sense of humor. We've been friends ever since.
|Pop on his 104th birthday.|
What a radiant smile!
Through the years, Pop has shared a few stories about his life. I spend a lot of time with Pop. I drive him once a week to his golf games (he still does all the calculations with a pen and paper, refusing to use a calculator because he says this helps keep his mind sharp, I would agree), do some errands for Pop, and visit with him on a regular basis. So, I do hear stories, but I have to ask for them. Pop doesn't seem to talk too much about himself, I never really asked why. Mostly I think it's because there's a serious humility factor involved. Pop doesn't think he's special. I mean, he thinks he's special in the way he thinks everyone is special, but he doesn't seem to think he's remarkable. I would tend to disagree. To this day, he still lives by the rules taught him by his mother. He eats a responsible breakfast, does a puzzle every day to keep his mind sharp, doesn't watch too much TV, is a voracious reader, and still exercises every day.
Seems to me when you're 104 a few things happen. One is that no matter how sharp one's mind may be, our body will not always cooperate, so we must slow down. This is a lesson that Pop talks about a lot. He constantly has to remind himself to take his time and not rush through things. This extends to every aspect of life. I know he gets frustrated, who wouldn't. Sometimes he'll forget to put the gardening gloves on, and end up with a scrape or something because his skin is just so thin, and then he's reminded and next time the gloves are on.
Another thing that happens when you're 104 is that you lose your filter quite often. There is nothing mean-spirited about Pop, not at all. Pop simply has a very wry sense of humor, and isn't afraid to show it. The story about us getting stuck on the 7 Mile Bridge a couple weeks ago is a good example of that unfiltered humor. No harm, no foul.
One of the most amazing things that has happened with Pop is that his world continues to expand with every passing day, whereas with so many of us as we age, our world shrinks. Pop wants to spread joy and love. He believes that is his mission. After he lost his wife... the love of his life, he could have retreated to a more solitary routine. He did not. He was able to carve a beautiful path for himself where kindness is king, and love is what matters. He sits outside on his golf cart and waves to anyone walking, biking, driving, or running by. He has a bit of encouragement for every single person... I've shared the pearls before "keep on keeping on!" "you rascal!" "that's the way, you can do it!" and dozens of other gems. Trust me when I say, you have not lived until you've gone buzzing down the street on an electric golf cart with a very loud air horn controlled by Pop "hang on honey.... LET'S GO!"
Pop's mother lived to be 104. He told me almost from the day I met him that he had a goal to outlive his mother, and as with pretty much any goal Pop sets, he meets that goal. Now I haven't asked him what the next goal is, but I do know quite for sure he continues to look ahead. He just bought a new car, and says that the motor vehicle people told him he's the oldest person in the Keys to have registered a car. Pop really does have angles watching over him. About one week after his brand new car arrived in his driveway, the tornado blew through. It's parked openly in his driveway, where the winds whip through from the ocean across the Bight. Not a single tree, nor branch, nor any other flying debris damaged his car. Nothing. I like his new car because he's comfortable in it, and it brings him another sense of pride and accomplishment. I broke-in the car radio by blasting 80's tunes as we crossed the Bridge the first time I drove it. He didn't seem to mind, although another tidbit if you didn't already know is that Pop loves to sing... he makes up his own songs, and also often will burst into a hymn at a moment's notice. If you know me, you'd realize there's a bit of irony in that too.
All these little things add up to just scratching the surface about our friend Pop. He had about 5 different birthday parties, was interviewed on the radio on his birthday, was in more than one newspaper with articles, photos and greetings. I baked a cake for Pop for his "neighbor party" a really big dark chocolate blackout cake with non-dairy whipping cream filling. By the end of his party, he was covered in chocolate, and proclaimed the cake "Pop-worthy."
He's put his order in for next year.... "chocolate cake honey, with a side of kisses." It's the same order as last year, the year before, and all the others. It's the most important order I take all year, and I cannot wait to see him covered in chocolate at 105.
Happy Birthday to our friend Pop. Many happy returns. We love you.