Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ninety-Seven

Today my Auntie Blanche turns 97.

It's hard for me to write about her without thinking of a time when we won't be celebrating her birthday. Of course she stopped going to the dentist when she was 80 because she didn't like it and she didn't figure she'd be around long enough for it to matter and then had to go back and get extensive dental work at the age of 85 (and 86 and 87) to reverse the neglect so there's really no telling. There have been plenty of other changes since her 80th birthday as well. The picture above is from a trip to Wa1-m@rt in May where the aides helped some of the residents of Auntie Blanche's home to try out the powered shopping carts. She had a great time and told me later, "It was nice to be able to drive again." Apparently she only ran into one display and it was at a very slow speed so no harm done. She learned from it and moved on. Years ago when I was first driving she told me how she learned to drive a car. She bought her first car and insisted that the salesman give her a lesson before she departed. Way before the whole mandatory driver's ed stuff we have now.

I gave Auntie Blanche a call today. She'd had mom and Judi visit last night with a dozen yellow roses, a birthday tradition that Auntie Blanche started before any of us was born. This morning someone had brought her to breakfast at Friendly's. One gentleman took her to the hair dresser. ChemE's dad had already paid for her wash and set and the stylist gave her the trim as a birthday gift. Judi picked her up and took her back to Friendly's for lunch then they went back to the home to partake of the spoils of the monthly ice cream social. ChemE's dad was coming to get her at 5 to take her to a nearby town for a BBQ at another adopted family's home. One of the things that was hardest for Auntie Blanche to adjust to when she moved into this home a few years ago was the way they make you get up in the morning, every morning, for breakfast. She's always been relatively late to bed and late to rise. We joke about it now that she's adjusted even though she still doesn't like it. Today I said, "I hope they let you sleep in tomorrow after all this excitement." She said, "I can't! I have to work!" She runs a rhythm band for the other residents and they meet every Friday at 10am and birthday, even one's 97th is no reason to slack off. She is, I believe the oldest resident so she's compelled to set a good example.

Auntie Blanche has always, above all, set a good example. She's proved to us that one doesn't have to be a parent to raise children and that a blood relation isn't the only or sometimess even the strongest connection one can have. She is, I realize now, a master at balancing the work one must do with the work one loves to do. She wanted to go to college and she wanted to be a music education major. With her diploma in hand and the country in the midst of a depression it was another ten years before she landed a teaching job in a school. When I asked what she'd done for that decade she alluded vaguely to living with her parents and teaching piano lessons and helping around town. Her sense of humor has remained intact throughout a life peppered with both successes and setbacks but lived happily on her own terms. One little woman in tennis shoes (she still walks about a mile a day) has taught, touched and improved more people than I could possibly list.

And she's not done yet.

1 comment:

  1. Kizz, this is beautiful. Just beautiful.

    I don't even KNOW Auntie Blanche, and I love her through you.

    Happy Birthday, Auntie Blanche!

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