A Birthday Cake With Lots of Candles

This geriatric care manager has been to birthdays parties.  Some for the very young, you know, those who are very proud to announce their age….“four, five, eight and three months.” and then those who boast of their age as they enter their eighth or ninth decade.  In between, there have been those “special birthday parties.”  Jack or Jill has reached that “special age.”  You’re not quite sure what the special age is, other than it ends in a zero. Well, I recently attended a birthday party where there was no denying the age and the birthday girl was damn proud of it. Triple digits. My Cousin Sally turned 100.

At the party, Cousin Sally was surrounded by friends, all younger. No wonder, just three years before she gave up her daily game of tennis. She was afraid of falling knowing what the consequences could be. Nevertheless, her tennis coach was in attendance as well as the many tennis partners she has had through the years. A younger generation of cousins, myself included, were also in attendance. Some of us had not seen one another for many years. Cousin Sally had brought us together.

The morning after the birthday party, I had time, or I should say Cousin Sally had time,  to chat with me.  With failing hearing her only impediment, I spoke slowly and in a low voice. There was much I wanted to know about our family, questions I would not have thought to ask decades earlier.  I was too young then to think about what I now want to pass on to my children. Her recollections were vivid. I got to know about my uncle who never saw adulthood.  She told me of their aborted walk, each age seven, across the Williamsburg Bridge (connecting New York City with Brooklyn) until they were picked up the police. Stories of holiday gatherings intermingled with family personalities. Most amazing was a Veterans Day parade she viewed while perched on her father’s shoulders. In an open car sat veterans of the Civil War.

I left California, Cousin Sally’s home for the last thirty plus years, not only with a renewed feeling of connection to her and cousins, but a reminder of what it is that makes for a good life. Health, friends, interests, resilience during challenging times and in Cousin Sally’s case, a drink with a special friend at four each afternoon. So again, happy birthday Cousin Sally. It was your birthday, but I was the one who received the gifts.