As I write this my father is five days short of being a hundred years old! Born in 1876, he is half as old as the United States.

What happens in the course of a hundred years? One harsh word covers a lot: deterioration. Wooden steps leading up to a house sag and finally rot. The roof begins to leak, and plaster falls out of the window frames. Bricks tumble down the chimney. Plumbing rusts and clogs. Lands become drained of their richness, lakes and rivers become polluted, and nations loose their basic value systems and ideals. Deterioration.

Human bodies change. What is my father like? His mind is clear, and his memory is amazing. He can still speak Chinese, which he learned at the turn of the century as a missionary going out under the China Inland Mission, and he can still read the Bible as well in Greek and Hebrew as in English. He can tell you stories from his school days in Pittsburgh and his football-playing days at Westminster College, as well as discuss recent sports events and the news he reads in the large-print edition of the New York Times. But his ears cannot catch all you say to him. With one eye blind and the other growing dim, he can read, with the help of a magnifying glass and large print, only a tiny fraction of what he would otherwise be reading.

Father looks at his cane and his swollen ankles and shakes his head as he tells you how dizzy he feels at times. “When I think of how I used to run and tackle great big fellows a foot taller than myself on the football field, it seems impossible that I can scarcely walk across the floor now without feeling that I might fall.” He looks at his gnarled hands, and you know he is remembering the hands that learned to write at the age of six, to brush Chinese characters ...

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