Secrets of a Long and Happy Life

My father, Max, died last week. He was almost 96 and quite a character. Max had several closets full of clothing, and he prided himself on wearing some of the weirdest combinations. In his mind, however, he looked spiffy. As an entertainment lawyer, his claim to fame was his involvement with clients like Nina Simone.

Up until last year, he swam every day at a public pool in NYC. He was like the mayor of the facility -- he knew everyone, and he had a smile for most folks. That was just my dad. He made the daily trip up what felt like 100 steps to the pool for years, along with reading the New York Times from cover to cover. Just last week, he told my 22-year-old son that Romney would not win the election... and Dad was a registered Republican! He had an opinion about everything.

We had our struggles in my youth, but in the 10 years since my mother's death, we had become very close. My parents were together for over 50 years, so the family was pleasantly surprised to see how well he cared for himself after she died. In fact, the day he passed would have been their 69th wedding anniversary. Coincidence? I think not.

Here are a few things I learned from my father and his boundless excitement for life. I hope you can benefit from Max's wisdom as much as I have.

Don't focus on the negative. "It'll get you every time," he used to say. When you find yourself spiraling, stop it.

Go forward, not backward. "Straight ahead" was his favorite phrase, cropping up on cards and letters as well as in conversation. In fact, several members of our family now sign off this way.

Keep your sense of humor. We would often find Max whistling and talking at the same time, even up until the end. At parties, he would dance and sing along to the music (his favorite move being "the cha-cha-cha"). He also used his creative side to produce a few records and off-Broadway shows.

Be a mentor. Dad was always looking to offer help to those around him, and young people would flock to him in search of his advice.

To Max and his legacy! Dad, I hope you have just as much fun in your next incarnation.