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Happy 90th Birthday Mom! (#1127)

Topics/tags: [Autobiograpical(index-autobiographical)

The other day, Michelle said something like, Do you realize Thursday would be your mother’s 90th birthday if she had lived?

Mom always assumed she’d live to at least ninety; after all, her mother had [1]. But, well, that didn’t happen. She’s been gone for nearly twelve years. I teared up a little [2]. And then I thought about what she might have been doing for the past twelve years or so.

If she’d known she had more than a decade (and she assumed she did), she would have eventually chosen a big project. Mom always did like long-term planning. I remember when she retired from BU, or maybe a bit before that, when she said something like I have half of my adult life left; it’s time for a second career. I’ll admit that I don’t know what her decade-long project would be; there were so many things that interested her. And she’d been in Grinnell for less than a year, too much of which was in the Mayflower assisted living facility rather than her house.

So I guess I’ll focus on some of the inevitable things.

She would have spent time at the boy’s numerous events, watching them compete in sports, work behind the scenes or act in plays, and perform musically [3].

She would have thrown a lot of parties. I appreciate that when she was in the assisted living facility, she found ways to have McNally’s deliver wine and cheese so she could throw her own little parties. Once she was back in her home [4], she would have continued doing so. Mom was nothing if not social [5].

She would have been politically active, particularly during the Trump administration. She might not have been able to march, but she’d have been handing out water bottles to those who marched. She’d be writing letters, donating money, building coalitions, speaking out, and more [6]. I assume she’d also have been active during the Obama administration; I know many progressives felt betrayed by a variety of his decisions and actions.

She would have been writing poetry. I know how excited she was about the Mayflower poetry group.

She would have written a book. What book? I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it would be something like Life in retirement communities: Thrive and survive. Maybe we would have gotten back to that book we planned to write together, although it would no longer be by a combination of an experienced teacher and a new teacher".

She would have written letters, letters to friends old and new [7], letters to politicians, letters to the kids, even though they were nearby.

She would have found a way to give talks. She loved giving talks. And people seem to learn from her talks.

She would have taken advantage of all the College has to offer: Classes [8], musical and theatrical events [9], the museum, talks, and more.

She would have traveled, at least if she could.

She would have spent too much time at the casino with Kathy. Maybe we would have had Kathy here for longer if she had.

She would have argued, discussed, considered, analyzed, and more.

Would she have taken up another instrument, or returned to one of her primary instruments (cello, voice, and recorder)? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure she would have continued to sing, and probably would have joined the Oratorio Society.

And she would have done things I can’t even imagine, or don’t want to imagine [10].

In the end, I hope she would have had fun doing all the things she loved and being with people she loved [11].

Happy ninetieth birthday mom! I’m glad you were able to do so much during your more-than-a-decade in Grinnell, at least in my imagination. I hope you’re having a fantastic celebration, wherever you are.

[1] Did my grandmother live to 92, 93, 94? I can’t remember. I do remember that we weren’t quite sure of her age.

[2] For those of you who’ve lost a parent recently: It does get better. But it always hurts a bit. (Having finished the first draft of this, I can say sometimes it still hurts a lot.) (Having finished the second draft, I can confirm that.)

[3] One of the benefits of living in a small town is that folks don’t think it strange when you cross the traditional high-school cliques.

[4] I’ll assume she could make it back to her home.

[5] At dinner the other night, the conversation turned to the 90th birthday shindig she’d already started planning when she moved to town. But we decided that she might just have easily said It’s Thursday! Let’s have a party.

[6] I can’t find it right now, but there was a great newspaper article around her 75th birthday that said something like this.

Rebelsky’s dentist once asked her about her activism. You spend all this time protesting, writing letters, fundraising. Yet the world is still filled with troubles. Why waste your time? Rebelsky replied, Just imagine what things would be like if I weren’t doing all that.

Maybe she was more right than she realized.

[7] I can still hear her singing Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.

[8] She’d started attending David Campbell’s class.

[9] I know she would have loved the Met series. I think that means she would have found a way to sneak into Kelly Maynard’s classes. But she also would have loved all the concerts in Sebring-Lewis, particularly when Middle Son was performing.

[10] Sorry, mom; sometimes you were a bit too open about your private life.

[11] She loved a lot of people, but I’m pretty sure the kids, Michelle, and I were at the top of her list [12].

[12] Dad, too. And her sister, nephews, other relatives, and more.

Version 1.0 of 2021-03-07.