An Enduring Optimist

Ninety-three-year old Lou J. Rubin opens the door to his North Bethesda, Maryland apartment sporting the wide grin of a Cheshire cat. Beside him stands his loving wife of two years, Zeny, who smiles just as broadly.

Long life, says Lou, is mostly the result of good luck. “People who have money or marital problems aren’t going to live a long life,” asserts the former judge. “I just haven’t had those hardships.” It’s simply his nature to be content with the good things in his life and unembittered about the bad.

Lou’s positive nature shines through as he chronicles his many life experiences, from his origins as the son of struggling Orthodox Jewish New York immigrants to his present status as the fulfilled husband of a devout Catholic Filipino wife.

After the death of his dear wife, Frieda, thirteen years ago, Lou never even thought about re-marrying. “Sometimes I’d get lonely,” he admits, “but most of the time I managed.” He had a social life, including visits with nearby friends and with his daughter, Sarah, and her family in North Carolina. “It worked out okay.”

But after meeting Zeny four years ago, he was impressed with “what a fine person she was.” It was he who proposed. “At first Zeny was reluctant because of our age difference of over thirty years -- but we talked about it and decided to do it.” They married in their home state of Maryland and then went to the Philippines to have a church wedding with Zeny’s family.

“I’ve been very fortunate throughout my life,” he reflects. “I had good assignments in the army, and I was satisfied with my work for the government. Now being retired and living with Zeny, I’m so happy.”

He is not without medical issues. He has arthritis in his back, is getting hard-of-hearing, and is legally blind. The only way he can read is with the use of a machine that enlarges everything twenty to forty times. He can no longer read the newspaper but gets his news from TV and the radio. Yet Lou is razor-sharp in his awareness of both historical facts and current events.

He promotes being active: “I think the best thing you can do is to be working, to be doing something,” he says. Even when Lou gave up all work, he volunteered one day a week to give his week structure. “I always knew Thursdays I was working. Otherwise I’d go nuts.”

Lou doesn’t see his two grown grandchildren, Emma and Danny, much anymore since they’re busy with their own lives, but when they were little he had fun with them, playing cards and picking blueberries together. He has always maintained relationships with people younger than himself, a fact says his daughter, that keeps him young at heart.

He does things in moderation – his consumption of foods, coffee, or anything is tempered. His father-in-law, who lived into his 90s, may have influenced him: “Everything in moderation,” his father-in-law used to advise. “It keeps you healthy.”

“I had a much better memory at one time,” Lou muses. “I used to do the New York Times and the Washington Post crossword puzzles and finish them in a few hours. I have to admit I was very good at it and at Scrabble.” Lou’s ability to calculate math in his head dazzles his wife and his daughter. “You’re the first lawyer I ever knew who could do math,” Zeny laughs.

Lou says he never consciously made a goal in his life. If he did have one, it was to make more money, get a promotion, or find a better job. “If you lived through the Depression, you knew what was important,” he points out. “Just surviving and trying to improve your situation were all that mattered.”

When he reached the top – becoming a judge – even he was surprised; he never expected to get that far. “I got there with the help of a lot of good people.”

Lou doesn’t dwell on the negative. “I did experience anti-Semitism, in and out of the army, but I don’t think it ever really hurt me.” Many times he was denied jobs because of being Jewish. But Lou says he never tries to figure out motives; he deals with it at face value and moves on.

He insists he doesn’t think about the future. Sarah remembers a time years ago when her father was dismayed to learn that one of his friends was growing depressed worrying about dying. Lou thought that it was ridiculous that anybody would be thinking about that.

“You just have to work it out for yourself,” Lou says in summation. “In my experience, being satisfied with your work, managing financially, and having a happy marriage --these are the keys.

Lou Rubin