img_3151Aunt Jean’s Ninetieth Birthday Party

September 29, 2016

The day after Aunt Jean’s 89th birthday, I started thinking about how to celebrate her 90th. When I asked her what she would like, she said, “I don’t care. Just don’t have one of those cake and coffee deals here. I hate those things!” I asked, “What would you think of having a party with wine and hors d’oeuvres instead?”

“Not here!” she replied, referring to the active retirement community where she lived. I thought about it for a few months, and then one afternoon it occurred to me that it would be great fun to have a party at a local winery. We could invite our family members and her closest friends to an elegant event in a gorgeous location.

She said, “No! That’s too much trouble and too much expense. Besides that, I’m not old enough to have that kind of a party. People here don’t get any special recognition on their birthdays until they reached 100.”

In June, we finally agreed on having a big family gathering at our home. I called my three brothers, who all live in Kansas, and told them to mark their calendars for the end of September.

As the date approached and my back pain increased, I realized I would not be physically able to host a party for 30 people, so we simplified. My three children, their spouses, and two granddaughters, along with my brother Greg and his wife Deb all met at Jean’s favorite restaurant. It was a happy, raucous affair with lots of hugs, laughter, funny cards, and gifts.

It wasn’t the party I wanted to give her, but she loved every minute of it. The next morning, I left for the airport at 5:30 a.m. for my last speaking engagement of the season. With the aid of massive doses of Advil and Tylenol, I sailed right through it.

The following Sunday, Alex and I took Jean to the Allison Inn in Newberg, Oregon for a very elegant brunch. She was beaming. She said her ninetieth birthday was the best birthday celebration she’d ever had. Then she told me I could do whatever I wanted for her hundredth. When she said it, I had every reason to believe that she would be with us for another ten years.