Today I received an incredible gift. I spent the afternoon with my Great Aunt and her daughter. My Great Aunt is ninety-nine years old. Yes, ninety-nine years old. After greeting me with a huge hug and her unconditional smile, she immediately apologized for the condition of her hair - she will be getting a permanent next week she informed me. We had tea and coffee cake and our conversations travelled through the past, the present and the future seamlessly, as though we were actually walking down the path of her life.
She wanted to know everything about me and my family - does my son play sports and what are his interests? What does my daughter like to do? How is my husband? And without fail, she listened and commented on each and every answer. Every topic was discussed in detail and with a smile. We talked about each of her family members - the great grandchildren - and how she loves each one of them, her granddaughters, their families, and how she admires each one of them - all in her humble way.
We talked about current political candidates, recent flooding in parts of Minnesota, the state of our environment and how the world continues to change. We laughed our way through memories of family gatherings that occurred during my childhood and how we loved to have our whole family together for picnics and sing-a-longs. We laughed about the time one of the grandchildren announced, "Uncle Fish caught a Frank!"
Every so often, she would interject a memory of something that happened eighty-five to ninety years ago. We talked about the Dust Bowl and how one year her father gave she and her sister the choice between one pair of shoes or one pair of boots for the year. We talked of the time spent mending silk stockings and her dislike of potato bugs. She explained that she and my grandma's sheets were made of muslin and had to be stitched together. Therefore, the seam separated the bed they shared into two sides - and woe be to the sister who dared to cross as much as a pinky toe across that seam! Then, with a contented sigh and a glance out the window, we would slide right back into the present and talk about her son's newly built home and his plans for more travelling abroad and her daughter's love for her job coordinating figure skating programs. It was an amazing afternoon.
I was unable to attend her 99th Birthday Celebration in July. By all accounts, it was truly a beautiful celebration. I told her of my sadness of not being able to be there. No matter. She told me all about it and how touched she was by each loved one's memory and sentiments shared with her that day. Earlier in the day, as I was making my way across the metro to see her, I was afraid that the moment I saw her - thinking that it may be the last time I see her- I would burst into a flood of tears and not be able to hold a conversation. I continued to worry as I pulled up to her home. The door was ajar when I arrived, and just as I began to knock, I heard, "Come in! Is that my Julie?" No tears. Just joy - an entire afternoon of smiles and laughter. We spanned a century of memories in two and a half hours.
The way I see it, she receives the birthdays...the rest of us are blessed with her gifts.
Thank you, Aunt Glad.