Celebrating Older American’s Month: This Trail Blazer Still Pursuing Dreams
Davida Rosenblum left her native New York City and moved to Beverly at the age of seventy-eight. Despite some familiarity with the North Shore through previous summer vacations in Rockport and having a daughter and son-in-law living in Beverly, essentially she knew almost no one in Massachusetts. At the time, Davida was not looking to move out of Manhattan. However, while accompanying a friend who was newly licensed as a North Shore real estate broker to help her acquire experience in showing a home, she walked into her current Arts and Crafts home and within minutes decided she wanted to own it. It seemed like a viable option considering her age and finances and the fact that she was alone since being widowed twice. Her family had for some time suggested she move to Massachusetts to be closer to them.
Davida was already accustomed to change and independence. Starting over in a new location when she was alone would hardly be her biggest challenge given the difficulties she had encountered along the way. Today, at the age of eighty-nine, Davida continues to set the pace as a true trail blazer.
Davida has made her home of the past eleven years an oasis of tranquility, filled with art and nature. We sat in her backyard admiring the shape of her Japanese maple. Despite its loss of a substantial limb from winter’s ravages and her initial disappointment in the damage, she now views the shape as improved and perfect. An “incurable” optimist, it is understandable that this would be the only way she would see this tree. “My father was always the optimist and I was annoyed at him for that. I resented it. Well, I turned out to be like him in that respect. Now I see his optimism as funny and touching.”
Davida’s life has spanned a rich variety of careers. She has been a pianist, piano teacher, lieder and folksong singer, speech pathologist, college professor, playwright, and published writer. One gets the distinct impression there is more yet to come. Davida’s quest for learning and challenging herself seems insatiable.
Six months after moving to Beverly, Davida was feeling isolated and began looking for things with which to get involved. Davida discovered Salem State University’s Explorer’s Institute for Learning in Retirement ( http://www.salemstate.edu/explorers/). There are over 300 Lifelong Learning Institute (LLI) organizations in North America. Members join in active peer learning to share their knowledge and experience in courses that range from lectures and discussions to hands-on workshops. “Explorers” is run by volunteers who pay an annual membership fee which allows members to take up to ten classes over the course of the academic year.
Along with participating in courses, Davida has taught a class in film editing called “When the Shooting Stops”, which is the title of her late husband’s book. Ralph Rosenblum was a film editor, director, and Columbia University Professor of Film and Davida credits Ralph for all she learned about film editing.
“Explorers” keep Davida very busy. She is out of the house usually a full three days per week during the semester. “The courses range in just about every topic you can imagine and are intellectually stimulating. I just don’t have enough time for other things when I am taking classes.”
It has been Davida’s ability to throw herself into new opportunities that opened the door to making many new friends at an older age. Her love of music connected her to a choir in Andover where she drove every Monday for four years, regardless of the season. About a year ago Davida found that her short-term memory was not reliable enough for her to be fully prepared for concerts and although she truly loved belonging to this choir, it had become anxiety producing. “It broke my heart to finally realize this was something I had to give up. Giving up choir is the first time I have bent to my short-term memory issues. I miss it.”
It was Davida’s thirst and love for learning that initially brought her to a career in speech pathology. Due to her son’s delayed speech development, she became interested in language development. She enrolled part time at Columbia University in a Master’s program in speech pathology. Upon completion of her Masters she worked as a speech therapist for ten years in the school system in Connecticut. After that point she decided to complete her PhD in speech pathology and then went on to teach at the college level.
On the topic of aging Davida feels that since battling colon cancer fifteen years ago, she has not given much thought to aging. “There’s so much to be enjoyed – unexpected things can happen, not just illnesses. Somehow I am able to accept the fact that my years are numbered. I seem to have a love of life, despite the fact that I’ve had some very difficult years.” Her early years included economic poverty, a domineering father, a sick brother, and a frenetic pace of full time work, motherhood and pursuing two advanced degrees within the confines of an at-times very difficult marriage.
“I am so delighted to still be here at eighty-nine. I’m just so lucky. I won’t feel why me or think about how much more I want out of life because I think I’ve had just about everything you can get out of life. I feel there’s little more that I can still go through that will make me any happier. If I’ve ever had any regrets about my life, they no longer exist. I could, for example, regret the need for me to leave New York…..But I have bonded with my house and my community more strongly than I ever thought possible…I have been more than compensated for the unhappy times by the multitude of blessings I’ve received….”
By all accounts, Davida has a very full life. She is thrilled to still be writing and has plans this summer to write some fictional short stories to add to the novella she has recently revised. She herself expresses surprise that at her age she can still be making new friends. It is of no surprise to me however. She is someone anyone would want to have as a friend. Her enthusiasm for learning, music, art, nature, and her positive energy and delight in sharing her passion is a magnet drawing people into her life.
Davida is a trail blazer whose pace one can only dream of matching at any age; much less near ninety years of age. Davida shares the best thing she ever learned from her father. “Everything is possible so never stop dreaming. It doesn’t cost a penny more than giving up.”
You can read more about this dynamic trail blazer in Davida Rosenblum’s book, “Reflections: A Memoir” in which she recounts her life touchingly and humorously.