Have you ever seen a 98-year-old’s eyes light up when you ask them a question? It is an amazing thing! I know it has never happened to me before, mostly because I’ve never had the immense pleasure of being around anyone who is 98! My Aunt turned 98 on Monday and although she has 6 living children, none of them live close, so I was able to take her out for her birthday! She picked the restaurant and the activity in the afternoon and was very happy when I replied, “whatever you want, it’s your day!” She smiled more and seemed more relaxed than I have seen her in months. When we arrived at the restaurant, I told her about a book I am reading. It is about four murders that happened in a town near where her father and in-laws lived, and it happened in 1912. That is when her eyes lit up! She said, “you mean the Pflanschmidts! Yes, I heard about that a lot. My mother-in-law used to visit with Mrs. Pflanschmidt on Thursday afternoon, which was visiting day in those times.” She continued to talk with animation that I have not heard for a long time. She told me what she heard had happened, what everyone thought about the guilt of the son and why and how it affected the community and her mother-in-law. I was thrilled to know the information, of course, but more importantly, I was so very happy to see her face light up with excitement and enthusiasm! She suggested that we go out and “see where all that happened,” so she could show me how close her mother-in-law lived and how close her grandparents and father lived, also. She then said her grandmother talked about it too, but she wasn’t as close to Mrs. Pflanschmidt.
After lunch, she chose to go for a ride in the “country.” Now we live in a relatively small town, so there isn’t far to go to get to the “country,” but she always wanted to live on a farm and raise her family on a farm. Due to her husband’s health, she was unable to do so, but she still talks about that having been her plan. I let her choose the route and off we went, with my aunt pointing out who “used to” live there and who built that barn or that house. My only regret is that I can’t write and drive at the same time! Well, I can and I have, but not with her as “precious cargo.” I drove over 100 miles that day, which when I lived in a large city was very typical, but for this small town, that takes some doing! I only wish it would have been 200! It was such a beautiful, wonderful, enlightening day!
She talked about a lot of things that she has had on her mind and she said she just wanted to make sure I knew “how things should be.” It got a little sad, as of course she was talking about her funeral and her estate. And yet, it was hopeful, in that she believes and knows she is going to a better place. She talked about her husband who died 34 years ago and her son who died 19 years ago, how hard that was and how she dealt with both. She also talked about how much she missed them both and how much she thinks about them. She said,”you know when you get old and can’t do as much, you have a lot of time to sit and think about things.” I agreed with her, as I do this a lot also. It surprised me that she talked about all of this, as we are from a strong German heritage, and we just don’t talk about feelings! Although now that I think about it, she does. She always tells me how she feels…about her anxiety, her worries and her fears.
As I write this, I realize how truly honored I am that I close to my aunt. And I am also very fortunate that none of her children live in town, as that has allowed the two of us to become closer. Of course it has its scary moments, like when she calls me and tells me she’s “in trouble,” and when I get to her house, she is having a heart attack. (No, she wouldn’t let me call an ambulance!) Or when I get a call at 9pm that no one can get ahold of her by phone and would I go check and make sure she is alright. Those times, however are heavily outweighed by days like Monday. The days that we get to spend together when her eyes light up and she is relaxed and happy.
She is truly an amazing woman! Happy 98th year Aunty…can’t wait for 99!!!