What’s In a 100th Birthday?

Aggie sitting at table with a lovely corsage, Anne stands beside her.
Aggie’s 98th Birthday – at Sole.

As my Aunt Aggie nears her 100th birthday on June 8th, I have been thinking a lot about birthdays and what they mean to different people. There are those who shun their birthdays as they’d rather not face the annual reminders that they are aging. Others awake bright and cheerful on the mornings of their birthdays. For them it is a special day and they want to enjoy everything the day brings their way.

Our attitude to our own birthdays was likely ingrained during our childhood birthdays. At home we learned how a birthday should be celebrated – or not. Some families make little fuss over birthdays and forgo the gifts and the cake. Others always celebrate on the day or on the closest weekend, complete with dinner, cake, music, and even games.

Aggie sits in an upholstered chair opening gifts.
Aggie loved to open her birthday gifts!

I am a firm believer in our need to be positive and have happiness in our lives. So any event we can look forward to in our daily lives is a plus. For me, a birthday is a positive event that I should feel good about. I have always tried to instill this value in my children down through the years. I learned this from my parents, grandparents, and my second mother – Aunt Aggie.

Aggiemsurrounded by her sister Mae, Anne and John, and their three kids.
Aggie’s 90th party in our back yard. Surrounded by Dominic, Dan, Dianna, and Anne – the children she helped raise.

Aggie was never married but all the years I was growing up and later, she always hosted a big family birthday ‘picnic’ party in her back yard. She always chose a Sunday to celebrate – often the Sunday prior to her birthday. The fact that her 100th birthday this year falls on a Sunday brought tears to my eyes as I remembered all those Sunday birthday parties of Aggie’s. Significantly, all of her nieces and nephews never fail to remember her birthday. Aggie’s parties were special.

Aggie and Dianna sitting together smiling.
Aggie on her 90th with her Goddaughter Dianna.

Aggie has raised the issue of her birthday party this year to me several times in the past few weeks. Somehow, despite the ravages of Alzheimer’s, this lady knows that this one is special. Last week she confided in me that God called her to Himself the night before. She told me that she refused – that she wasn’t ready. She told God that she wanted this one last birthday party to say goodbye to her family. Aggie so loved her parties! She’d open her gifts with excitement and pleasure, wringing every last drop of joy from her special days.

Dominic and Aggie posinmg at the restaurant table.
Aggie posing with Dominic at Sole on her 97th birthday.

The staff at The Westmount Long Term Care home love Aggie deeply. Like us, her family, they fight back the tears as the topic of her birthday surfaces. They know how important this birthday is to her, but like us, they fear she may not make it. She rarely eats anything and this past weekend, the doctor put her on oxygen.

I hold on to hope as I keep in mind that Aggie has a very strong spirit – the strongest I’ve ever known. She’s in bed when we visit now, dozing much of the time. She has some lucid moments. This morning she spoke to me about having a baby. She wanted to know if it was painful. I’ve often wondered if she regretted not having her own children. She raised me from a baby and she helped raise our three children. So, today I reminded her that she was always a mother to me. She smiled weakly and said, “I know.” Children and animals were always important to Aggie.

Aggie's dessert plate with "Happy 95th Birthday" etched in chocolate around the outside.
Aggie’s dessert plate decorated for her 95th birthday.

My Aunt Aggie has lived as full a life as anyone, and she has given of herself more than anyone I know. She has a special place in my heart and always will. I wrote this poem for her…

 

A face. An elderly face, creased and gnarled by the years

Her face – a big thick book – turn the pages of time

Laughter, worry, fears, all mapped in tears

A century – a hundred years.

But the years have been gentle and kind

Her inner spirit has come through her mind

Her eyes and caring smile

Linger on for a long while

She is tiny – but her spirit indomitable!

Aggie has lived almost a hundred years –

A wealth of experience of living she’s had

Sharing all the family joys and tears

Matriarch of our family she’s been

Never wed, but all of us her children

Our troubles and trials she took to her heart

Guiding us always to home and to hearth.

Aggie you have been a boon to us all

Your family, we stand so straight and so tall

We love you for all you are and have done

Have a great 100th birthday – and lots of fun.

Birthday balloons - one says "Happy Birthday" the other has "100".
The balloons say it all!

 

 

 

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Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (http://fiorabooks.com), to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.