I have a wonderful family. Most of them live in Minnesota. Oddly, we don’t talk much. It’s not that we don’t like each other. It’s not that we’re mad at each other. We all get along just fine. We just don’t. Talk.
Maybe it’s because we’re WASPs. (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants) We tend to talk to each other when we need to. Don’t ask me why. I guess it’s a WASP thing. (I’m sure I’ll be getting angry emails from WASPs who do talk all the time. Sorry.) Maybe we forget because life tends to keep us occupied. We do all get together, but very rarely. Usually it’s because someone dies. We all got together for my Uncle’s funeral, my Mom’s funeral, and my Dad’s funeral.
Last weekend Ellin and I flew out to Minnesota for another big get together. The only difference was this time it wasn’t for a funeral. It was for a birthday. My Aunt Helen’s birthday.
My Aunt Helen’s 100th birthday! My younger brother Todd from upstate NY came as well as my older brother Roger from Ohio. Helen’s two children were there along with their children and their children’s children. She knew there was going to be a party and that the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were going to be there.
But they didn’t tell her about me and my two brothers. That was the surprise. My Aunt Helen and my parents had this odd thing about surprises. When we were growing up, the only place we ever went to on vacation was out to Minnesota to visit my aunt and my uncle. More often than not, we just showed up unannounced. Surprise! We’re here for a week! Now, my cousins and I have always thought this to be really strange. If you show up unannounced most people will not only be surprised, but also more than a little annoyed.
But not my parents or my aunt and uncle. They loved it. It was their thing. So that’s what we did. And she loved it. The look on her face when her three nephews walked out to say happy birthday was worth the trip.
She’s gotten pretty frail and her voice is very soft and sometimes the words she wants to say have a hard time coming out. After getting over the shock of seeing us the first thing she said was. “I never thought I’d see the kids again”.
The kids are 62, 64, 65, 69 and 74. The next day there was an official party for her at the home where she lives. All sorts of friends showed up as well as four generations of family.
The secret to her longevity? I don’t know. She’s a tough old bird. Maybe it’s because her granddaughter Erica told her years ago when she was a child “Grandma, you have to live to be 100”.
Maybe it’s because she has at least one beer every day.
Maybe it’s because she always said it was her goal to make it to 100. When we reminded her of that she said. “I guess I have to come up with another goal. Do you think 105 is unreasonable?”
Hell no Aunt Helen. It’s not unreasonable at all.
See Ellin’s view of this celebration: IT REALLY DOES TAKE A VILLAGE BY ELLIN CURLEY