I was at my Aunt Jan's birthday party last night, with my wife and two of Jan's daughters. According to Jan, it was the best birthday yet.
Aunt Jan turned 97. Or 79. She wasn't quite sure. I'd like to do 79 like she's doing 97. She is sharp and with it, has a great sense of humor, and an even better attitude.
Jan's outlook on life could only be described as POSITIVE. She is a glass-half-full kind of person, even when she is not feeling well or is struggling with getting around in the winter. She is a woman of deep faith and for her birthday, received an annointing from Father Dan, at Joan of Arc Church.
I told her I wanted to sit as close to her as I possibly could in case her holiness was leaking. She gave me a whack.
I only really got to know Jan after my mother died. My Dad would come for dinner twice a week and I thought it would be good for him to have family and contemporaries for company. What I hadn't reckoned on was what a good friend, and teacher, Jan would become to me.
She is interested in everything. She stays abreast of the news of the day, the doings of her extensive family and her network of friends, although dwindling.
On her 97th, her daughters took her shopping at IKEA. She hadn't been before and thought it was a wonderful outing. I don't know about you, but wandering around IKEA makes me exhausted. I want to lie down on one of their bed displays for a nap ten minutes after entering the store. Jan was just fine. She was happy to use a shopping cart for support and wander around the big box store looking for a good pillow for one of her chairs.
She told me one time over dinner that she never really got interesting until she turned 60. She was too busy looking after her seven kids, she explained.
I took that as a hopeful sign for me.
At 90, she went to Rome. I had suggested she might like to see the Vatican, as she had never gone. Not only did she go, she mounted a family expedition and went with several of her kids and in-laws. Wow!
Our society does a very bad job of honoring its elders. For the most part, they are ignored or patronized. My Aunt, and those of her generation survived depression and war and did so with courage and resourcefulness.
Like her annointing, I'm hoping that a little of that rubs off on me.
© Patrick O’Neill 2011. All rights reserved.