“Though talents may be given, they need to be cultivated” from The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers

Gord Harness by © Jeannette Breward

“I was very excited to be able to include my grandfather as one of my portraits for this project. Today he is turning 94 years old, which is impressive all on its own! But he is a far more impressive man than that. Despite being legally blind, and having deteriorated hearing, he can still play beautifully on all of the instruments he learned during his youth – piano, guitar, mandolin, accordion, harmonica.. the list goes on from there – as does his impressive collection of instruments! And, he taught himself to play them all by ear. I knew I wanted to take him to this beautiful painted piano in Cobourg, Ontario for his portrait. He even played a bit for me before I snapped his picture. I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to have this man in my life for so long. He is always quick with a funny story, or a tale from when my brother and I were just little, or an anecdote from his own youth, when he was trained as a pilot for the war. He even wrote a song for my brother and I after I was born. He truly is an amazing man – and I certainly hope his longevity genes run in the family!” – Jeannette B

Image © Jeannette Breward

An Interview with Gordon

Q. What is your best memory/moment from one of your past birthdays?

A. My daughter and granddaughter had a surprise party for me with all the residents at the retirement home for my 90th birthday, complete with a cake with my portrait on it and ice cream. They were all gathered in the dining hall which had been decorated and it was a great surprise.

Q. How about the worst? And why?

A. I can’t remember a worst.

Q. What was the present you’ve received for your birthday that most surprised you?

A. The surprise party I’ve mentioned before.

Q. Is there one food or dish that you insist on eating during your birthday celebration?

A. Dare I say ice cream?

Q. What do you believe is the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday?

A. I like to get together with family whenever I can, so birthdays are good for that.

Q. Do you/your family/culture have any traditions/rituals/ceremonies that are performed to celebrate birthdays? What is it?

A. No traditions.