Tag Archives: Celebration

Grandma turns 104 today

Centenarians are rare. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there were just 53,364 people 100 or older living in the United States. Nine years later, nearly all of them have left this earthly plain. A new, and probably larger group of centenarians has replaced them. In the period 1980 to 2010, the centenarian population experienced a larger percentage increase than did the total population, meaning more Americans than ever are living to this triple-digit age.

I found these and other facts in Centenarians: 2010, a publication of the U.S. Census, and I bothered to look them up in honor of my grandmother, who turns 104 today.

Me and Grandma

Me and Grandma two years ago during a visit a few weeks after her birthday. Note the scarf: Always fashion conscious.

One-hundred-and-four! Can you imagine? Even she can’t imagine. She has said more than once she doesn’t know why she has lived this long.

As a white woman living these past four years in an elder care facility in north-central Minnesota, Grandma typifies what a centenarian looks like in the United States; 82.8 percent of American centenarians are female, and 82.5 percent of centenarians were white. Almost unbelievably, about a third of centenarians live alone in their household; the rest live with others in the household, in a nursing home or in other group quarters.

Minnesota is No. 10 among states with the highest number of centenarians as a percentage of the population, at least back in 2010. The states with the most as a percentage of the population? North Dakota is No. 1, South Dakota is No. 2, Iowa is No. 3 and Nebraska is No. 4. Go Midwest! The states with the most in raw numbers? Not surprisingly, it’s some of the states with the highest overall populations: California, New York and Florida.

When Grandma turned 100, I wrote a blog post with 100 pieces of trivia about her and her life (click here to read it). In summary, she’s a 100% German American farmer’s wife with four children and a host of grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. She’s got a great sense of humor, is a gracious host and has just enough vanity to have kept her in good shape for ten and half decades. The most impressive fact about her this time of year is that she has lived through 104 Minnesota winters; other Minnesotans impressed with their own toughness might tell you frozen storage is why she’s lived so long.

I exchanged letters with Grandma for many years, and I inherited 25 years worth of her daily diaries. She rarely wrote anything emotional or introspective. Mostly, she stuck to the transactional events of her day. Here’s an example from her diary 10 years ago when she turned 94:

Happy Birthday to myself. Woke up in plenty of time to go to church; rode with [a friend] Harley. Got home at 9:20 so took a nap as we left for [daughter] Mary’s at 12 for my birthday party. Very nice. All three [grand]babies born in ’08 were there. … Big gifts. Was home again at 6:30. Was hyper so couldn’t relax but really tired when I went to bed. [Son] Bob called from Hawaii to wish me a happy birthday.

Not sure what “big gifts” meant, but I’m guessing it was gourmet jams, stationery and postage stamps. This sort of encapsulates her formula for longevity: Spirituality, lots of sleep including a daily nap, loving family and gratitude.

Happy birthday, dear Grandma!

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In observance of Ash Wednesday, I was asking big questions about life and death this week on Minnesota Transplant. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, a six-week season during which Christians focus on the life and, in particular, the death of Jesus Christ. Check out my entries on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Tomorrow, I write about repentance–or the lack of it–on my Monica Lee author blog.

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A celebration of 50 wedded years

Most people celebrate the longest day of the year on June 21.

My parents have been celebrating their wedding anniversary on June 21 for 50 years.

Yesterday, my sister and I and our families celebrated with them by walking around the Minneapolis sculpture garden (we questioned the thinking of some of the modern artists), going to a Twins baseball game (they won) and eating copious amounts of pasta at an Italian restaurant (it was delicious — and loads cheaper than the fare at Target Field). It was delightful.

Fifty years of marriage certainly is worth celebrating.

Fifty years ago, the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” wasn’t even an idea yet, let alone a hit song. The MacIntosh personal computer may have been an idea, but it was decades away from becoming reality. The pomegranate was a rare fruit in the Middle East, not the basis for a trendy, good-for-you juice. My dad remembered he could bring Mom and a dollar to dinner at the first McDonald’s in the Twin Cities and come home with full bellies and 12 cents in his pocket.

A lot has changed in 50 years, but summer comes every year, and Mom and Dad are still together. In fact, in my mind they’re barely mutually exclusive; they’re “Mom-and-Dad” in all things. Are Mom and Dad coming? What did Mom and Dad say? How is Mom and Dad’s house/camper/garden?

As I pondered the weekend while mowing my lawn this afternoon, I came to the conclusion that to decide to marry is a decision made when everything in a relationship is going right. To decide to stay married is made every time something goes wrong. That’s commitment.

And my parents have it. It’s awesome.

best mom and dad

“For me, optimism is two lovers walking into the sunset arm in arm. Or Maybe into the sunrise — whatever appeals to you.”

~ Krzysztof Kieslowski

Celebrating the man who shares his gifts every day of the year

Today’s birthday: You’ll entertain many this year. In September, you’ll make a sale, as well as forward a personal interest. October brings you face to face with someone you’ve long wanted to know. You’ll handle a rush of business in December and go into the new year richer. March interests lead you to a fun group of friends.

I don’t put stock in astrology (but then, I don’t put a whole lot of money in the stock market either), but I get a kick out of reading my daily horoscope. Today, I had the excuse to read astrologist Holiday Mathis’ prediction for my Beloved, whose birthday is today.

Words like “you’ll entertain many,” “you’ll make a sale” and “fun group of friends” fit him to a T (him, and probably 10,000 other horoscope readers, but work with me here). He’s a gregarious salesman who loves to surround himself with interesting people, and as his wife, I get to go along for a ride (I also appreciated reading he’ll “go into the new year richer” since, as the barnacle on the ship, I’ll get to, too!).

Life is never boring with him. I always say he’s the sort to go big or go home because we seldom do things halfway.

We don’t have an old RV — we have a sparkling clean, completely operational 1983 Pace Arrow.

We don’t do weekend getaways. We getaway from winter by spending two months in South Padre Island.

We don’t eat teeny-tiny steaks from the grocery. We grill 24-ounce rib eyes or mammoth tenderloins from the butcher he knows by name.

He doesn’t go to lunch with a friend. He goes camping for two days with his friends and packs a menu, clean bedding and three kinds of adult beverages (and he cleaned the camper himself when he came home! He’s a Virgo through and through).

We don’t tend a couple of grape tomato plants. We have eight 8-foot high monsters planted so close together it’s like a game of Twister to pick the little jewels.

On the other hand, the birthday cake he got today was a pecan coffee cake with breakfast. And candles. And he liked it.

I love him so.

Happy birthday, sweetheart.