The not uncommon club: Mom’s 90th birthday
A little over a week ago my family celebrated my mother’s 90th birthday.
She’s joining an increasingly popular and not uncommon club. Walking the loop around the lovely pond at her retirement community later in the week, my mother and I ran into a tall and vigorous Mennonite leader, Simon.
At one time he was on the board of the organization I worked for as Mennonite Board of Missions. I greeted him enthusiastically and told him we had just feted my mother for her 90th birthday.
Simon said smiling, “You’ll have to run to keep up with me. I’m 91.”
Ninety is the new 80 is the new 70 and so on.
Two months earlier, I joined mom for her friend Cora’s 90th birthday party, where we kind of got some ideas about what we’d like to do or not do at Mom’s. They had a fantastic brunch which looked like a huge amount of work. We stuck with cake, ice cream, nuts and punch, and invited two very willing helpers to assist us from Mom’s church North Goshen Mennonite: Rachel and Ruth Ann.
If they sound Biblical, they are in terms of being gracious servants—in fact Rachel had made it a practice for a period of years to plan 90th birthday parties for a total of 14 people from her church or family. Ruth Ann is amazing because she had survived a brain aneurysm a few years ago, and was privileged to interview her about for a short-lived radio program (you can read or hear her program here).
With my sibs and Mom: me, Mom, Pert, Nancy and Terry.
However, tempering my joy in helping mom celebrate this big milestone birthday, I had to think of those so much younger whose lives were snuffed out before they could see their kids graduate from high school, before they could see their daughters married, before they could jiggle a grandson on the knee. Why do so many reach the age of 90, 100 and even 105 and up, while folks in their 50s and 60s are succumbing to cancer, heart attacks, brain tumors? Mom had just survived her own cancer scare with major surgery two months earlier. Why was she living at age 90 and my pastor’s husband did not live to see 60?
Cousin Miriam greets Mom at the party.
The whys are unanswerable and they give pause to all of us. When big birthdays roll around, the celebrations remind us to just be grateful for the present, pull our loved ones a little tighter, let loose of old arguments a little quicker, and reach out with all the love and compassion and attention we can muster for those going through the difficult times that do come to us all.
Those who gathered for Mom’s evening pizza party for family. Mom’s great granddaughter Asa, sitting on grass second from left with head on her sister Eve’s shoulder, also celebrated her 5th birthday that evening! Asa said the prayer for our pizza.
The day after Mom’s party, she wanted two things: a Ferris wheel ride and a boat ride. She had heard about Indiana Beach Amusement Park, a smallish, older style park close to Lafayette which had reasonable weekday rates. To her, the park was huge, overwhelming. She was thinking of the amusement park she and Dad went to in the 40s when they were dating. Would she be able to keep up with toddlers, teenagers and her kids, just two months out from surgery? With the help of a wheelchair, she could and did, and a grand time was had by all on a comfortable Indiana day.
Mom said she was reading the last chapter in Ecclesiastes the day after her birthday, which she found fitting. It’s good to excerpt here:
“Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them’; before the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath returns to God who gave it. ‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Teacher; ‘all is vanity.'” (Ecclesiastes 12: 1, 6-8 NRSV)
Go Mom. We are grateful, for each and every day.
Who is the oldest person you know personally? How old would you like to live to be?
We gave our helpers each a copy of Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations, (now with new dust jacket) which seemed like a fitting book for their efforts. If you’ve never checked it out or the blog it comes from, head over here for the blog and here for the book.