What do you say, upon turning 100? Yesterday, my husband and I had the honor of attending Dorothy T.’s 100th birthday celebration. We are friends of her son and daughter-in-law, we are an emergency phone number for Dorothy when they travel. We joined a group of family that filled two long tables in a back room of an Italian restaurant. Wine bottles, ceramic plates and copper kitchen tools lined the dark walls, pink tulips and buckets of fortune cookies enlivened the tables.
Dorothy looks like you might imagine Mrs. Santa Claus to look (except Ms. Claus wouldn’t have a spine curved like a comma.) Twinkly eyes behind round glasses, curly silver hair, round cheeks and chin. In fact, she also looked remarkably like her baby photo, set on a small table with a few other photos. Do we return to our baby features as we age? Is there a distilled version of our faces, and it is found early and late in our lives? And how interesting to have only a few photos to mark your life. Yourself as a baby in long white christening gown, the family- four little girls lined up in descending heights, lace-up boots and white petticoats, father behind with mother pregnant with the last child and only boy- a beloved brother yet to be born. A glossy snapshot of the husband in front of an old car.
The luncheon was a reunion of cousins of sorts. There were six, five present, who had grown up within three blocks and frequented each other’s houses for pancake dinners, played princess and knights and wicked dragon together, and vacationed together at the lake. The one absent was talked about- the moody one, peculiar one, unsocial one; loved but difficult. Don’t we all know about that one?
I was listening to understand Dorothy’s life. I didn’t get a synopsis, didn’t hear anything dramatic or shocking. What I got was a mild humor, graciousness, gentle curiosity and appreciation for the blessings of mundane life. Dorothy did not have an easy life, was not rich. Her mother was widowed young and Dorothy was the eldest, so we can imagine she worked hard to help. Her husband fell into dementia with Alzheimer’s long ago, before that disease even had a name, and she took care of him for decades until his death. She has lived a modest life, a constrained and giving life.
So, to answer my question- what did Dorothy say? Thank you for coming. I never expected- nor did I ask the Lord- to let me live this long. I am happy to see what the next generation is doing. I am thankful for my wonderful sons and for the wonderful young women who consented to be their wives. I am glad to see relatives here meeting one another.
Wishing you the best, Dorothy, as you enjoy this 101st year unfolding.