Certain birthdays I remember well. When I turned sixteen my mom allowed me stay home from school and she took me to get my drivers license (What a cool mom, right?). I celebrated my thirtieth birthday in Las Vegas with my parents. At the time I was living in Los Angeles and my parents had come to visit me. On a whim we decided to drive to Las Vegas for the weekend to celebrate my birthday. My mom and I wanted to see the Cirque du Soleil performance, Mystère, at Treasure Island so we left my dad in the casino with two buckets FULL of quarters. When we came back they were empty. For my fortieth birthday, we rented an old fashioned streetcar in Dallas, Texas. We bought pizzas and wine to take aboard with us, and even a homemade cake that my husband made himself. But there was a surprise that came later - an Elvis impersonator that my husband had hired, joined up with us on one of our stops and provided us with entertainment for thirty minutes or so. It was so much fun and I have to say, it came as quite a surprise. My husband can be a sly devil.
However today happened to be an extra, special day for someone very close to us. My father-in-law turned ninety years old. Looking at him you wouldn’t guess that he is ninety years old. He actually looks more like he is in his seventies. For birthdays in Sweden there is this lovely tradition of waking the birthday person up early in the morning. Yes, I said lovely tradition. Of course no one really likes to be awakened extra early but on birthdays it is actually a nice way to start the day. A tray is set up with juice (and coffee at our house), a birthday treat, a vase of flowers and candles. The birthday greeter then takes the tray into the birthday person’s bedroom while at the same time singing a special, birthday song. Most times the birthday person expects it but on occasion it is truly a surprise. This morning my father-in-law was surprised with three birthday greeters. After the singing, hugs and congratulations we all sat around visiting with him while he opened cards that had come in the mail from friends and family. We’d had a special party the evening before at one of my husband’s sister’s homes and he received most of his presents and cards then.
Later over breakfast I asked him how it felt to live ninety years. It is a difficult question to answer. Life just happens and suddenly you find yourself turning forty, or sixty, or ninety. Ninety years. What an amazing thing to experience. So many changes occur in a society in a ninety-year span. I think of how wonderful it must feel for him to have experienced such a great life thus far. He has three beautiful children, four wonderful grandchildren and he and his wife have had the opportunity to travel and see the world. Longevity runs in my family as well. My own father turned eighty this past December and both of my grandmothers lived into their nineties. I hope I am as fortunate to live a long, healthy and happy life.