Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Aging Well

We have just celebrated my mother’s ninetieth birthday.

This singular event has been in the planning for some time, ever since last summer when the family vacationed together, discussing how we might want to recognize this special day. After all, it’s not everyone who becomes a nonagenarian!

For some time now, my brother John, and his wife Lynne, have been vacationing each summer at a cabin in Maine. A number of years ago my wife Isaura and I began making this trip with them. Our sister, Joy, joined us more recently in this trans-continent journey. And, of course, our mother, Christine, would be there, not wanting to miss out on the gathering of her three chicks, not to mention the lobster feasts we would have at the cabin.

We would fly from California to spend a few days in Virginia with my brother before driving to Maine. Admittedly, golf is one of the prime ingredients on such a vacation. It could probably be said with a straight face that John and I would rather play golf than eat. If you are not nodding your head with understanding at this moment then you are obviously not a golfer, and no amount of explanation will suffice.

A few months ago I scanned a lot of family pictures into my computer which I dutifully sent to John and Joy who were working on several ideas for the big birthday. This was also a birthday that was a family “command performance.” This military term means you will be there, period! This meant all grandkids were to escape whatever responsibilities they had and were to make their way to Virginia. Our girls, Laura and Jenny, including Jenny’s fiancĂ©, Josh, flew out with us, followed shortly by my sister’s kids, Holly and Ryan. John’s kids, Abi and Joshua are already close enough. Abi lives in Washington DC, about ten miles from John’s home. Josh is a Marine captain, flying Cobra helicopters out of New River, North Carolina. Mom, who lives in my home in California, had already flown to Virginia in May as part of her bi-annual visits to her eldest’s home.

So, here we were last week arriving at the various airports around DC, descending on my brother’s home. The “adults” stayed at John’s home. This included our mother, Joy, Isaura and me, and of course John and Lynne. The “kids” stayed at John and Lynne’s best friend’s home about a mile from John’s. Larry and Lynne Simmons have a lovely home with lots of room, and a swimming pool. Many an hour was spent lazing around the pool. (I put adults and kids in parentheses because the grandkids are all adults. Jenny is the baby at twenty-three.)

The first of several events was a dinner hosted by the Simmons last Thursday night. It was a delightful evening. It was the kind of evening where you have filled up on hors-d’oeuvres before you ever sit down for dinner! On Friday evening my brother hosted a dinner for family and friends at the Riverbend Country Club. It was here that the biggest surprise occurred. As we were sitting at the dining table on the patio overlooking the first tee box and the ninth green, John stood behind our mother’s chair to make an announcement. Acknowledging her ninetieth birthday, he then introduced a special guest. Walking in from the shadows was Emogene Mize, mom’s first cousin from East Texas. This tiny little lady, using a cane, beamed with joy, and was greeted with great enthusiasm. She and mom hugged, and then were seated side-by-side where they began an endless conversation that continues even as I write this on Monday!

Emogene is five years older than mom to the day. As the story goes, Emogene was having her fifth birthday party in her home in Lone Oak, Texas (there actually is such a town!) while my mother was being born in the house next door. These two precious ladies are the granddaughters of the Reverend Daniel Thatcher Lake, one of the last of the circuit-riding preachers during our nation’s formative years in the last half of the 1800s. I’m presently writing an historical novel about his life.

Not done with all the festivities, Saturday evening was actually the day we’d planned to have the birthday party at John’s home. Friends and family once again gathered for a wonderful time. John’s wife, Lynne, had a timeline banner put together which we hung on a wall which began with 1915 up to the present. Besides the family events, many historical events were listed. It was a great history lesson. Joy had put together a beautiful video tribute to mom which had many pictures of family members living, and those who have passed on. Of course the house was gaily decorated with streamers, paper lanterns and flowers everywhere.

As it turns out, John had planned for Emogene to fly out several days earlier, staying with her granddaughter Christi, who lives in Annapolis, Maryland. Christi and her two kids, Jason and Stephanie, came to the party on Saturday. (Husband Ken, was not able to make it but we’ll hook up another time.) We’d never met them before. In fact, I didn’t know we had cousins here. My wife, Isaura, is Portuguese, so she has a firm grasp on family relations, such as second and third cousins, etc. I’m lost once you go past first cousins. If I have it right, I’m Emogene’s second cousin. Her kids would be my third cousin, making Christi my fourth cousin, and Christi’s kids my fifth cousins which would mean my daughters are sixth cousins to Christi’s kids. I may have this all wrong, but we’re related.

Regardless of what number cousin we are, it was all great fun and a blessing to meet family which was previously unknown to us.

Proverbs says, “Children’s children are a crown to the aged.” I’d have to conclude that mom’s ninetieth birthday is a testament to the importance of family and raising your kids well.

Happy 90th Birthday, mom! Let’s do this again in ten years.

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