Thank you for your email, where you told me how you go to Puerto Rico every year to honor the anniversary of your mother´s death. I know it is painful, especially because you´ve move to another country. Every time I go and visit my mother I don’t know if it will be the last time. At least I know she is well taken care of. Here is one of the experiences I´ve had with an elderly person in my new life.
Have you been to a 100 year-old´s birthday party? We were lucky to go to one last week. It was in Blairstown, New Jersey, just across the bridge and thirty minutes from the Poconos. Who could have guessed that we would find an old friend’s of my husband´s so close to our new home? That never happened in the city!
When Jane was born in 1913, women couldn’t even vote yet (the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1920 giving women the right to vote). On birthday day Jane looked feisty and beautiful with a pink outfit and a pink corsage of flowers on her suite.
Even though she sat in a wheelchair, she was in total control of the day. Weeks before she had ordered her daughter, Karen, to change the party time from noon – already listed on the invitations, to 1:00 PM because she felt noon was too close to breakfast for her guests. During the party she also made a point of telling each of her granddaughters how good-looking their men were.
Jane surrounded herself with family and friends, balloons and a huge cake with three candles spelling out “100.” She blew them out (with the help of her daughter). I thought of my own mother who lives with my brother in Barcelona. She´s in her late eighties and sometimes cannot remember my name.
One of the wonderful things about coming to Jane´s party was a sense of connection with a family of several generations. As a friend of my mother’s, who visits her every week, says: “I come to visit your mother as mine is far away living with my brother. I do for your mother what I can’t do for my own:”
Another reason I felt so wonderful about Jane´s birthday may be that I relate her feistiness and zest for life to my long-time friend, Rose, back in Barcelona. Rose turned ninety the same day Jane turned 100. She is an American who retired to Barcelona in her mid-sixties. She is still bright and joyful and involved in a whirl of social activities and partying. I can never keep up with her. What a mystery is aging: Some people seem to live well to the very end, and others suffer terribly.
Beyond the chance to encounter with an inspirational, elderly person, the real joy of Jane’s birthday party for me was meeting four generations of her family. These are the people she loves and they were in all the photos that I remember having seen year after year when my husband and I dropped by Jane and her husband´s apartment for short visits. Now I finally got to see them all in person: children and grandchildren and great grandchildren and husbands, wives and boyfriends and friends.
Being a new immigrant that has left family and friends behind, I appreciate when generations of families get together and welcome us as part of them. I feel the best of what we can do is create new families at the same time as creating new friendships.
Thanks for reading, more next week, your Latina Poconovian. Have a happy day, Christina!
PD… I will post this letter in Spanish in a few days!