ALWAYS SMILE — Hamburg resident Harold Raab has been volunteering for Meals on Wheels for more than 20 years and recently celebrated his 93rd birthday. Photo by Alicia Greco.
HAMBURG — After my interview with Harold Raab at the Lackawanna Senior Center, I drove back to the office a little more enlightened, moved to tears and filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude.
Raab is 93 years old and has been volunteering for Meals on Wheels for more than 20 years. He was born Oct. 16, 1920 in the city of Buffalo and has lived in Hamburg since 1941. He had built a house on Lakeview Terrace, but was unable to maintain it. “Sometimes, I wish I could’ve kept it,” he said. He worked as a service manager and forklift mechanic until his retirement in 1980.
His son, Wayne Raab, lives in North Carolina, where he owns a cafe with his wife. Harold Raab’s other son, Tom, is in a touring barbershop quartet.
In Harold Raab’s spare time, he watches TV, specifically game shows and “cowboy pictures.” He said that Buffy, his cat, is “the boss of the house.”
He used to personally deliver food for Meals on Wheels but, because of mobility issues with his legs, he is now limited to only driving.
“I got stopped by the cops a couple times, checking me out,” he laughed. “I hope I can do it a few more years.” He said that he enjoys every aspect of volunteering, whether it be with the people to whom he is delivering or the jokes he plays on the helpers who ride along with him.
“I love it,” he said. “Teaching people and talking to people. I just enjoy being around people and having a lot of fun.” The smile never left his face, as he spoke to me about his outlook on life.
“Life’s too short to get too serious,” he said. “I just hope that people get along with each other and enjoy each other.”
With a mere 71 years separating us, I found myself reveling in the idea that he has been able to maintain that hope for so long. I feel honored that he shared with me the story of his wife, Doris.
When he first spoke about his love, I could see the sadness in his eyes; Doris passed away in the late ‘80s.
“We had a good life together,” he said. “I’m sorry I lost her.” I asked him to tell me more about her, and his face lit up.
The couple met at a church meeting and, as he put it, “We just got together. A year later, we got married. She put up with me, I should say,” and he laughed.
I asked him if he considers himself young at heart.
“Yeah, definitely. Yeah.”
My eyes were opened to one of the secrets of life; an idea I feel I have always known. There is no purpose to trudge through days with a heavy heart. Nothing will come from a sorrow-filled mind and thoughts of regret.
After my visit to the Lackawanna Senior Center, I was reminded that we should appreciate the good things in each moment of each day.
A stranger once looked at me and said, “I feel like you’ve seen some things.” Sparing the details of my disparities and darkest moments, I have been graced by some of the most beautiful people and surreal memories that bring me joy and will remain golden in my heart, forever.
I have always lived my life with whole-hearted emotions, because there is a chance I may not make it to tomorrow. Raab, who is 93 years young, made me realize otherwise. He encouraged me to live by the same code, but to not be weary of the possibility of an end; to be completely grateful and ecstatic in the present.
“Sometimes, people think I’m nuts,” he said. I laughed and told him to not worry; people think the same of me.
Sitting down and speaking with our elders is a significant tradition that those in today’s culture need to maintain. Technological advances and communication are all well and good, but let us never forget our roots. The fulfilling emotions of love, joy and the pursuit to live in happiness have transcended time.
Let us remember that.