When I visited her last month, I said to Grandma, “Next time I see you it will be at your birthday party!”
“I won’t be there,” she responded with little expression.
“Well I hope you will be,” I said, smiling, though not able to crack her stern gaze. “100 years is a long time. We want to celebrate with you!”
And so on Saturday, we did, and she was there, thank God! There, and from what we could tell, taking it in as well as she could for someone who seems halfway between this world and the next.
A few years back, Grandma started showing signs of a forthcoming departure. Yesterday, she said something about not wanting another 100 years. I told her that soon enough, she’d be with those she has missed so much and for so long. Most of her friends have already gone, of course, and many other dear ones, including her husband, my Grandpa Joe. I asked her to greet them all for me when she gets to where they are. I want her to be eager for what comes next because her liveliest years are behind her now.
And yet it’s not everyday someone you love reaches triple digits. Maybe once, if you’re lucky.
I’ve had a lot of — too many — friends die young. This started in childhood. Funerals of children were not uncommon in my growing up years. And later, in young adulthood, I experienced the fleetingness of life again when so many of my friends, mothers of children, began leaving.
It gave me an appreciation for life, a stark reminder of how short it can be, and why each day is truly a gift. When God bestows longevity, it is a blessing, to the soul given that gift, and maybe more, to those that soul has touched.
This was as much a gathering for those of us who exist because of her, who have been the recipients of her love, have swirled around her through the years, dancing around the life that helped start off this brood.
It is very hard to imagine life without Grandma. Since age nine, this is the only grandparent I’ve known. My paternal grandma died before I was born, and my grandpas were gone by my 4th grade year. Grandma Betty has endured through all of this and is something of a living miracle, a witness of how much God loves us to bless us with her presence for so long.
This daughter of a lawyer/judge and teacher, who became a teacher herself for a time, married, then lived for her family, became a philanthropist, swam thousands of miles at her local YMCA, played bridge, entertained, told lively stories we will forever cherish; this only child who always had a bit more spunk than the next kid, who survived being widowed and never remarried, who loved traveling, who raised three daughters and loved six grandchildren and their 11 children – her great-grands – is a century old.
Born June 15, 1914, she’s lived 100 years and loved me for 45 of them.
Happy 100th dear Grandma. You have lived an amazing life and we are so honored to have been part of it!
My sister’s husband took the above shot, and each time I look at it I love it even more. It’s grandma, looking at a photo of herself at age 20. She didn’t say much, just gazed mostly, but how I wish I could have known her thoughts at this moment. The photo was taken 80 years ago!
After the party, the sky ushered us home with its beautiful, early-evening preview of what would be a downpour later. It was brilliant and breathtaking and affirmed everything about the day being a complete blessing.