This February my grandmother turned 90. It’s not so much that we are shocked that she made it to this age, we are more in shock that she actually told us how old she is! For years, she would never tell anyone her age. In fact, she lied about it all the way up until last year, when her and my mom where at a doctor’s appointment and my mom finally made her come clean. At that point, though, she had been believing her own lie long enough, that she couldn’t remember if she was telling the truth or not! Now that I think about it, maybe that is the key to her longevity.
If you know my family, we are always taking advantage of reasons to celebrate with family and friends, and my grandma turning 90 seemed to be a reasonable occasion. This year is also a significant year for me because my husband and I will be celebrating our 10 year anniversary. So many cool things have been coming up in relation to that. My girlfriend is getting married in Bali this year, where we honeymooned. And, my grandmother chose to wear the same lavender knit suit as she wore to my wedding to her big party! Boy, did she look fabulous.
Time changes things. Ten years ago, my grandfather was alive and well. As were my Great-Aunts and Uncles, many of them attended my wedding. Those memories are priceless to me. It was the last time the people that I loved my whole life, and knew when I was a little girl, were all present in the same room, doing what we all do best…dancing, drinking, singing, laughing, hugging…no matter what the circumstances of our families, when it was time to celebrate, we put on our dancing shoes and let the party begin. It is the one thing I am most proud of as our family legacy. My family knows how to party. We know how to love life. When people talk about whether or not they should have just taken the money spent on a wedding and put it into a house or savings, I always disagree. For me, my wedding was more than a beautiful dress and a fancy hotel, it was memories. Memories I am so glad I have now, no house or college savings fund would ever in a billion years be worth the dividends my wedding returned for me.
As I looked around the room that night at all the people who had travelled from all over the country to be there with her, I got all choked up. It didn’t seem right that my grandfather wasn’t there, but the love and joy and comfort that filled that room made up for it. I thought, this is a changing of the guards. My own children and nephews are taking over for the grandkids, while the grandkids are taking over for the parents, and the parents taking over for the grandparents, and so on and so on. And, there, leading the pack, looking over us all, was my 90 year old grandmother. What else was amazing to me, is that even though my grandfather is no longer with us, his side of the family had a strong showing at the party. I know they are reading this and saying, of course, it’s Aunt Marie! But, you know, I don’t know how many families would think otherwise. It’s just a given in our family, and I wonder, will we (my siblings and cousins) continue that tradition, that unconditional love, that legacy with our own kids and future generations?
While all this emotion and thought was flooding over me, I was watching my grandmother analyze the room. She was so happy. The happiest I had seen her since my grandfather had passed away. A smile never left her face. She wanted to take pictures with every person in that room, and I’m pretty sure she did. The great grandkids said the dinner prayer, my brother and mom and uncle toasted her, and we had a video montage of her life playing in the background with all her favorite songs. She had special song requests, and she danced! I’m not kidding, if I live as long as she does, I certainly hope I am blessed with her spirit for life.
A few days later, she was still talking about the birthday celebration. Her only living sibling, our Auntie Ev, flew all the way from Rhode Island to celebrate, along with several of my grandma’s nieces and nephews. As a special surprise, my grandfather’s nieces and nephews and their kids came in for the party as well. She had a glow about her for days, thinking about the party and the company. The other night she was visiting me and the kids and said, “I told everyone I wasn’t going to dance. I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t think I could, you know? But then, I thought of your grandfather coming up to me at every song (he LOVED to dance) when we would go out and he would have that look on his face and he would be bouncing to the music. And my feet would start tapping, and I would start moving, and I couldn’t help it! I had to get up and dance!”
Oh! And we danced! My grandmother’s side is Italian, so there were many traditional Italian song and dances played, like the Tarantella. The kids were impressing us with their break dancing moves, and lots of Electric Slides were going on.
After the toasts had been made and we were thanking the guests, she was looking out into the crowd, and she turned to me and said, “Can you believe what your grandfather and I did here? We did a pretty good job of creating a nice, big family.” Yes, May, yes you did. And, we are so grateful to you.
She ended the night with a resounding, “I will never forget this night. Ever. I will remember it my whole life.” And so will we.
A special thank you to my mom, dad, aunt, uncles, siblings, cousins and my cousins from Rhode Island and New York who helped pull this event off without a hitch! Thank you for making memories for our families to share for a lifetime.