“Gran, it’s a selfie.”
“It is? Hi, everyone!”
“It’s just a picture, we’re not broadcasting live.”
“Just smile, okay?”
“Okay! Hi, everybody!”
Today would have been Gran’s 100th birthday.
Not that anyone EVER believed her when she told them her age. That conversation I just shared? That happened just last year when she turned 99. She never looked her age, and she sure never ACTED her age.
Which I think was the real secret to her longevity.
Each year we’d celebrate birthday month, operating on the extremely accurate assumption that none of us know how long we’ve got, so why not have fun? One of our traditions was kicking it off with lunch at Nick’s, where this conversation happened just last year.
“So we started out going for a blood test and we ended up on the deck at Nick’s with two guys from North Carolina buying us drinks.”
“Never a dull moment, Gran.”
“You’ve got that right.”
“To be fair, I think it’s because they overheard me telling our server you’re about to turn 99 and we’re celebrating birthday month.”
Gran loved to travel, and as she got older she really enjoyed going on cruises. A few years ago, I drove mom and Gran to the cruise terminal. On the way, they bickered back and forth about the best way to sneak alcohol onto the ship.
“I locked mine in my suitcase.”
“Are you joking? Locking it only makes it look like you have something to hide.”
“No, locking it makes it harder for them to randomly check it.”
“No, no, no, you leave it unlocked and they figure you couldn’t possibly have alcohol in there.”
“But then all they have to do is unzip it!”
“Well, we’ll see who gets theirs through, won’t we? Anyway, it worked last time.”
“Last time you hid it in the mouthwash container.”
“So? Worked, didn’t it?”
I sat there, mesmerized (but not remotely surprised) by the lengths my relatives would go to sneak scotch onto a cruise ship.
My mother texted me updates throughout the day:
No luggage yet.
On deck at the bar, not sure what’s going on with the luggage.
Only the small luggage made it to the room, getting worried.
Luggage arrived with “Contains Liquid” stickers on them.
And finally: Scotch made it through. See you when we get back.
After every cruise, she’d swear it was her last one. “I’m getting too old for this,” she’d say, often whole weeks before booking the next trip with mom.
“Guess what? I got a pedicure for my cruise. Can you believe that? My first pedicure at 98 years old. I used to be self-conscious about my feet but now? I just don’t care. So I’m sitting here watching the football game and admiring my toes.”
This is why she was all ready to go on a cruise last October. They were headed to Florida, and we’d decided to chip in to get her a shore excursion for her birthday.
“Oh my! A shore excursion for the upcoming cruise!”
“Happy birthday, Gran! Can you read what it is?”
“An airboat ride through the Everglades! Wow!”
“Alligators hardly ever attack people, right?”
“I read that recently.”
“I think you’ll be fine.”
“I’m keeping my feet inside the boat, just in case.”
Of COURSE Gran was ready – at the age of 99 – to go on an airboat ride in the Everglades. She was ready to do anything. That’s what made her Gran. That’s what made her awesome.
Gran’s been gone a little over 9 months now. It would be easy to feel sad, and to miss her. But that wasn’t who Gran was. Despite losing so many people she loved throughout her life, Gran focused on the present. Did she get sad? I’m sure she did. But she managed to put that aside to be present for those who still surrounded her, and she did it with grace and laughter and heartfelt joy.
Wherever she is, I’m certain she’s celebrating with loved ones, feeding Sophie endless treats, laughing on a beautiful cruise ship and drinking champagne. Or a glass of Dewars. Or both.
Maybe she’s playing Yahtzee. Maybe she’s playing poker. Maybe she’s accusing someone of wanting to take her to a place called Testicles for her birthday. One thing’s for sure: whatever she is doing, it’s not boring.
And so I hope you’ll join us in raising a glass to Gran. Let’s celebrate her incomparable capacity for fun and kindness and love, and her unwavering willingness to seize each day and make it count.
We love you, little Grandma.
“And I love you too, my darlings.”
Bonus: Some photos of Gran from her younger years. Just because. xoxo