Two Years ago when Mom was 98, she did her 2nd annual Marathon walk ( 5 K) with 35 of her family from all over the continent. This was in the month of May in Ottawa . The 1st annual was held in Nova Scotia, the year before, where we did the 10K walk together. Always followed by an after party with medals, laughter and lots of celebratory toasts, this was not a race for us. This was walking to the pace of the slowest walker and having a chance to be together and visit, while being active. Several of us would go on to walk and run the 1/2 and the full Marathons the next day. So much fun. And the point here is, if it were not for Mom, this wouldn’t have happened. There was little interest in doing this crazy thing the first year a few of us brought it up. Until everyone heard that Mom was coming and she would walk. Everyone who was available said YES. And it began like that.
I love these photos below of Mom during the last three years. The ages are 97; 98; and the two in blue are from three weeks ago and two days ago. Mom surprised herself by enjoying the Birthday greetings from the Queen and the other blue one was a screenshot during a video chat on google duo, two days ago, with her 50 year old Grandson Rob.
A song for Mom: Somewhere Over the Rainbow and It’s a Wonderful World by Israel ‘IZ’ Kamakawiwo’ole. It’s long, about six minutes, but it sums up her outlook on life.
The Gift of Years
So here is the thing. I know that many people like to show the youthful photos of their Mother and I love that idea too but I really want to celebrate my Mother’s successful ageing. She has lived 100 years and you can see her good spirit, love, and joie de vivre shining through. When I once asked what she thought about her life, she said, “It was so much better than I had expected.” Anytime I tried to pin her down to her best year, she would always say, “this one.”
“I go to bed happy and I get up happy, ” is her common refrain.
So what is it about my Mother that we all adore? There are many things but I think it comes down to these:
“She has the gratitude thing going,”
as my friend Meredith always points out. “Life doesn’t have to be easy for your Mother to be grateful.”
In fact my Mother believes that things will get better around the corner and she goes looking for exactly that. And guess what? She finds something. Mom continually shines the spotlight of her attention on what is going right and what is good enough about the people in her life, and turns a blind eye to our flaws.
One example was a friend of mine who barely new my Mother but said this. “When I am with your Mother I feel completely accepted. I have never had that experience before and it is the greatest gift.”
Yet, she isn’t a pushover.
She stands up for what is right. When she was 95, a new company bought the seniors building where she lived and she didn’t like the way they treated management. She wrote polite and strong letters; she spoke up at town hall meetings, but nothing changed. So she went looking, for a new place to live, and moved. She wanted to live where all people were treated with respect.
As we all say, her age doesn’t enter into the equation, rather what is controllable and what is not surely does. Bottom line, if she can’t do anything about it she accepts it, without complaint. If there is something she can do or influence she does, without drama or righteousness. She simply takes appropriate action and moves on.
Like the unwanted guest Covid 19, as she said, recently, “imagine a guest like that crashing our big party. But my Birthday will still happen; I still turn 100. And now we get to have a different, once in a lifetime party.”
Life Long Learning
Today we are hosting a Birthday party on zoom by Time Zone. It starts in Atlantic Canada at lunch time (breakfast time on the west coast) and goes across the continent. By 7:00 PT, we will wind-up on Vancouver Island and eventually close down the day. Many people are baking cakes; others are having celebratory dinners in her name; one grandson is cycling 100 km in her honour; this is my 100th blog, which actually blows my mind; another cousin is biking for 100 minutes instead of 60.
One rather quiet cousin(tongue in cheek) leaped to the challenge and said he will talk for 100 minutes. (I gave him his own private zoom link in order to do so.) There will be plenty of breaks as we make our way across the continent and even a surprise or two that I can’t mention, since my Mother faithfully reads my blog.
And Eileen Grace McNutt Wilson will have her Birthday alone in her suite instead of a four day celebration at the Union Club in Victoria. Disappointed, yes, but no complaints; rather, she invested time and effort into learning and practicing video conferencing and video chat tools so she can be with her family online, if not in person. None of us have ever once heard our Mother say, “I’m too old for that.” She does every single thing she can do, and with grace and appreciation accepts a hand if she needs it.
Love of Family
Her love of family is without measure. It is the number one most important thing in her life. She beams out love like the brightest star and it comes with no strings attached. No guilt trips; no complaints; just so happy to be with her family and we all count. The 52nd cousin once removed is still important. Well that is a slight, but only a slight exaggeration. And you don’t have to be related by blood. You can be related by heart. The golden thread that runs through all of our lives is not reserved for blood relatives. The connections in our family life run deep and wide. Family has a broad definition.
To have a Mother like ours who is filled with love, generosity, gratitude, curiosity, initiative, creativity, resourcefulness and the wisdom gleaned from her long life, is to be inordinately blessed. How to thank her for being there forever? There are not enough words! My goal is to be more like my Mother as I live longer. Her adopted children- Sheila and Jim, from England have declared her a National Treasure and my sister Gabriole and I are delighted to share her with all of our friends. Mother has enough love to go around. May it continue to be so.
Happy, happy, birthday Mom, from the bottom of my heart. Your 100 year legacy is unbroken and you inspire us all. You make the world a better place.
Mom’s Pearls of Wisdom
The most important thing is the support of family and friends.
Keep some younger people in your life; especially the children.
Don’t hold grudges – leave past disappointments and hurt feelings behind.
Don’t hurt others by word or deed and apologize immediately if you do.
Don’t be jealous of others.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but don’t expect too much.
Lend a helping hand whenever you can and be kind to others especially those who are having difficulties.
Do your best to stay healthy: eat well but don’t deprive yourself of a treat.
Exercise is important every day – either aerobics or going for a walk.
Never be afraid to try new things and continue to learn new things.
Concentrate on the positive and don’t grieve over things you cannot do anymore.
Be grateful for what you have and enjoy every day you are alive.
Note 1:) Pink and white dogwoods are Mom’s favourite and I thank Shutterstock for having what I needed.
Note 2:) This is you Mom, one in a million.
Note 3:) Thank you Mom, for being a faithful reader of these now 100 blog posts. And thank you dear readers for being part of my Mother’s special 100th Birthday. She would love you all. My heart is full to over flowing as I reflect on the good fortune of having been loved by, and having the great privilege of getting to love this incredible woman. She is my hero. The one I admire most.
Note 4:) Hey, we need some balloons on this page. Thanks Meghan for carrying on the tradition of balloons, and Shannon, my exuberant cousin who helped her blow them up.