80th Birthday

Last weekend (I know, I know – what took me so long to get this blog out, right?  Allergies!  Horrible, awful allergies!) I went to the birthday party of one of my mother’s cousins (I’ll call her “Auntie” for ease of blogging), who I don’t really know.  I wasn’t technically invited, but heaven forbid my mother should go to anything on her own, so she invited me.  (Yay!  I get to crash the birthday party of an octogenarian and all of her cronies!)  So, I got properly dolled up and went to a party where I knew exactly three people – only getting to sit with one of them!  Ugh!

Apparently, the invited party-goers were instructed to come up with their favorite memory which had to do with the birthday girl.  Ugh!  Kill me now!  Inside jokes were told, touching memories which meant nothing to me were shared, and it was an all around snooze-fest for me.  The birthday girl enjoyed most of it, if her laughter and tears were any indication.  After all, it was about her (not me – what?!)  As I sat there, I wondered why I had gone.  To support my mother, to make a showing, and to let the family know that I do want to be a part of them, even if I almost never see them (weddings and funerals, right?)

At one point, all of her grandchildren lined up (as per their parents’ demands) to share their favorite memories of their grandma.  I almost felt badly for her.  What they almost all said – they remember the food.  That was pretty much it.  She cooked and baked well and lots.  Yikes!  I hope I mean more than that to my grandchildren (if I ever have any).  I hardly knew my grandmother and never really spent quality time with her, but I can say that she taught me how to crochet and make candies.  Not just that she fed me – she shared her knowledge with me.  Don’t get me wrong – she fed me too, but I cherish the skills she instilled in me far more than her Shrimp Aspic (I’m still sad that nobody else likes it, so I have no reason to ever make it.)

And then a co-worker stood, hands shaking, breath unsure.  It was obvious that she hated being in front of that mic, but something compelled her to do so.  She began to tell us of a devastating loss she suffered at one point of her life.  With tears in her eyes and a hitch in her voice, she informed us that Auntie had single-handedly “held her together” during that time.  Not that she saw her through it – she actually kept her intact as a person.  That said so much to me!  She ended her tale by saying that she wants to be just like Auntie when she grows up.  Okay.  I’ll admit – that touched me.  That’s a really great legacy to leave behind.

Another non-relative stood up a while later to tell her story.  She spoke of a time when she was volunteering at a church event at which Auntie was also volunteering.  At said event, nothing was going right, which made things chaotic and frustrating.  She said that in the midst of all of the chaos and frustration, Auntie handled the situation with grace and patience unlike anything she had ever seen before.  She said that even now, 20 years later, that moment still shines within her as an example of how she should treat others.  Okay – I’m really glad that she shared that with us.  It spoke so much more highly of Auntie than the food-crazed Nanna her grandchildren had portrayed.

And then a man stood up (fairly certain it was one of her sons) and amended what the grandchildren had said.  He said that it wasn’t just about the massive quantities and the amazing quality of food that Auntie had shared with her family – it was the welcome.  He said that anyone who needed a meal was always welcome at her table – whether it was a hungry football player whose own family wasn’t as able to satisfy his teenage appetite, a displaced family who needed a meal and a bed on Christmas Eve (and for whom gifts magically appeared under the tree in the morning) or just someone who needs a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.

Okay.  Maybe the food thing isn’t so bad.

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