Editor's Note: Jessica Ann founded The Candied Yam, a Grand Rapids restaurant serving Southern cuisine, in 2016. She is also the owner of JA PR Group in Grand Rapids. As a philanthropist, over the past 12 years, she has been able to award over $115,000 in scholarships to high school and college students. She has been in West Michigan for about 25 years. Born in Lansing, Jessica Ann lived in a foster home until she was 7. She found her forever family at 8 in Kalamazoo. She is married with a daughter who just graduated high school and an adult son. She lives in Kentwood.
Reverend Leonard Gant is my oldest and dearest friend.
I believe he is between 92 - 97 years of age. It has yet to be confirmed because he has never shared his actual age with me. I have asked on several occasions in the past. I use to get a blank stare. It was always a bit awkward. I stopped asking years ago.
Now, every year we just celebrate his life - without the numbers.
We first met when I was 22 years of age. I was a single mom who had weekends child-free, so after I was done with my jobs (I had three of 'em), I would volunteer a couple of hours on Sundays at a local soul food joint called D’s Kitchen.
Their food was nothing short of amazing. Reverend Gant would often stop in for dinner on Sundays after church.
I loved waiting on him because he was always so kind. He would always give me the sermon in brief. We would talk about what was happening in his day, my day, his family, my family and anything happening in the community.
My father often visited Grand Rapids. I introduced him to Gant over dinner one Sunday. Oh man, did we have great conversation.
It was so nice because they both have so much in common. They are both war heroes that proudly served this country. They are both bible scholars. They both grew up in a different era.
My father is now almost 90. This is another way I know I am on the right track with Gant’s age.
Anyways, throughout the many years there has been a gazillion more dinners, much conversation and memories have been made.
What in the world does a 40-something-year-old have conversations about with a 90+-year-old person.
Haha, yeah, let me tell you.
If you don’t find value in the life stories and wisdom of senior citizens, then you are possibly missing out on the best part of a friendship.
They have probably lived through what you were trying to get through. Senior citizens are full of wisdom and I frankly find excitement in their life stories. When my husband married me, he received the bonus of a senior friend. I LOVE the fact that my hubby gets how important Reverend Gant is to me.
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If it’s a snow blizzard, he will take me to his home just to make sure he has all the necessities he needs - of course he has everything because he always does! I just need to see for myself.
If we are out shopping and I see a beautiful floral bouquet, we will drop by Gant’s home to deliver it.
Seniors also have ‘a way’. They can get grumpy and demanding. They also don’t mince their words. None of them.
If he thinks I am doing something wrong, he will let me know!
Reverend Gant is still very much his own person. He still leads a very active life. He drives himself everywhere. He comes into my restaurant just about everyday. He has the exact same routine. He sits in the chair closet to the counter and he never pushes it back in when he leaves.
Gant can come into the restaurant and ask for special meals or just about anything he wants from me .... except my heart, because he already has that!
I am praying that he will be a supercentenarian - the longest-living American. It is very selfish of me, but I am OK with it because Leonard Gant is MY very dearest and oldest friend.
American supercentenarians are citizens or residents of the United States who have attained or surpassed 110 years of age. As of August 14, 2020 the Gerontology Research Group (GRG) had validated the longevity claims of 782 Americans. They list the oldest living American as Hester Ford who was born in Lancaster, South Carolina, August 15, 1905, aged 114 years, 365 days.
My Rebound: See all of Jessica Ann's blog posts
The longest-lived person ever from the United States was Sarah Knauss, of Hollywood, Pennsylvania, who died on December 30, 1999, aged 119 years, 97 days.
I am blessed to have Gant in my life and all of the conversations of wisdom he has shared with me over the many years will never be forgotten. I still find myself implementing some of those nuggets as I continue to grow older or, as I like to say, ‘more mature’.
Some say diamonds are a gal's best friend. I say senior citizens are and should be cherished even more than precious stones.