She mentioned the old days with obvious nostalgia, when women were invited to people’s homes for luncheons and teas. The younger woman, B, listened intently. The older woman described how special it was–the friendliness, the sharing, the carefully-planned and prepared food.
The sincerity and vivid recollection made an impact on the younger woman, whose lifestyle included a thirteen-year-old, two college-aged children, and her two difficult aging parents.
The older woman was Sr. Advisor, R, my m-i-l, a remarkable woman whose wisdom, sayings, diet, and way of living life have provided material for many posts. Recalling times gone by and their sweet moments, these recollections still brought R happiness–more than half a century later. B was moved by the conversation.
That’s the background for the most perfect and meaningful birthday celebration I ever attended.
R didn’t want a celebration for her 95th birthday. This year was different. B, in her 40’s, planned a 96th birthday luncheon. 11 guests (ages 13-96). The hostess’s 13-year-old daughter wanted to be there as did her 25-year-old sister (with a recent ankle fracture).
The large dining room table, simply and beautifully set, was extended to seat all the guests. Stemmed glasses, hand-decorated by the hostess with each guest’s name, replaced place cards. The delicious luncheon was buffet-style prepared by the hostess and the thirteen-year-old. Personal touch and caring were evident from beginning to end.
No commercial gifts–something more priceless: memories, spontaneously requested by the hostess and shared around the large dining room table. A 50-something-year-old guest expressed how fortunate she felt to live across the street, saying after her mother died, she turned to R for understanding and wisdom.
Another shared a time her husband and son were having difficulties and R suggested writing a note expressing her thoughts, instead of entering into an argument creating heated emotions. It works!
The 13-year-old said R was responsible for her New York trip with her class, when her parents were uncertain about financing it. R explained to her mother why it would be a worthwhile experience (and gave the child a bit of spending money for the trip). R was as dear to these younger and older women as they were to her.
Many old women wouldn’t merit this kind of luncheon, but there are also many who would. R lived a long time, making the effort to remain involved, always thoughtful with words and deeds. Living in the same home since the 1940’s, she welcomed many young families and babies to the neighborhood–always with a small gift. The babies have graduated high school and college and new families (like B’s) have filled those homes.
R successfully spanned the generations. There was wisdom and a solid connection to what matters when she talked with you. No wonder she was a surrogate grandmother, mother and wise friend to young and old. (Who else would have a turkey dinner sent to a neighbor’s son at college to share with friends who couldn’t be home for Thanksgiving?)
If we’re fortunate to have a lovely elderly woman in our lives, who values the old days, is this kind of luncheon an option? Don’t many elders prefer a larger mid-day meal (allows time for a nap). And the informal buffet style works. R knew the buffet choices, was asked what she’d like, and someone brought the plated food to her.
And how thoughtful is that–as we try to help parents and the elders we care about age well!
Sr. Advisor R, who died in June, would have been 102 tomorrow.
Related: Celebrating Elders’ Birthday Ideas–To Do and Not to Do (A Once-a-Year Chance)
Celebrating Elder’s Birthdays–What They Want. Not What We Want and Why
Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities. respected professionals and selected publications–to help parents age well.
Thank you for a wonderful idea. We’re celebrating my MIL’s 95th this coming Saturday with a family and friends buffet luncheon. As a result of reading this blog entry, I’m going to add a memories bowl for everyone to record and drop-in a favorite memory for MIL to read at her leisure, or, should she like, read out loud.
Thank you for writing, Diane. It sounds like a wonderful buffet luncheon birthday party–taking place today! Love your idea for a memories bowl. If you get a chance let us know how it worked. You sound like a terrific DIL. With Happy Birthday wishes for your MIL along with wishes for a healthy year ahead.