It was a long day before the highlight, a party for my grand uncle Howard’s 90th birthday, started at 6 p.m. I left NJ at 10:40 a.m. Scarsdale, NY to pick up my parents. Then, we drove back to my house in New Jersey. After a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts and a gas station, I handed my mother her birthday card and the three of us were off to Bowie, Maryland.
At the end of one of my longest solo drives since I had two strokes more than six years ago, we arrived. I discovered my mother had forgotten one of her bags. So, I hopped back into the car and headed to Burlington. I grabbed everything she needed and was back in less than 15 minutes.
We got downstairs to the birthday celebration as people grabbed the microphone to say what Howard meant to them. They also reminisced about the loved ones who hadn’t made it to see his age or the party honoring him. It was bittersweet. I thought about his wife Helen, my grandmother/his sister Alice, granduncle Spurgeon, my aunt Debbie and so many others I visited as a child in Virginia and North Carolina.
While they spoke, I scanned the faces in the room for familiar ones. Most of our closest relatives were the other side of the room but my mother didn’t have the strength to walk over there. One by one they migrated over to see us, including the guest of honor.
Within a short amount of time, it was as if we’d gathered all more recently. The hours passed effortlessly as we told stories and snapped photos. However, the long day had taken its toll on my mom. She went upstairs at 9:30 happy after feeling and witnessing so much love. And, I retired to my room knowing what Richard Bach said is true, ”the bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”
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