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happy 98th birthday mom!

happy 98th birthday mom!

by Andrea
January 25, 2016

Today is my mother's birthday. Born January 25, 1918, in a small town of western Massachusetts, she is now 98 years old. That is a lot of years and a lot of life experience! Born 10 months before the end of World War I, and 2 years before women had the right to vote, the world has seen enormous change in 98 years—from the industrial age to the digital age, through World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and countless other massive historical events, all of which have shaped and transformed the world we live in today—my mother has lived through it all. And at 98, she is one of a rare few, as only about 2% of Americans live to this age (although that number is on the rise). Think about it...how many people do you know who were alive during World War I? So whenever people hear how old my mother is, they are amazed and blown away. Even if she can't remember all that she has lived through, the fact remains that all this history is an integral part of who she is. She is a treasure trove of 98 years of life on this earth, and that is something to be celebrated!

And so we will. As I've written in the past, every year my family gathers together for my mother's birthday and this year will be no different. In the past we would go out to dinner together, but as the family has grown from the original 9 to over 50 (spouses, grandchildren and their spouses/partners and great grandchildren now added to the tribe) we have long outgrown restaurants. We now celebrate at one of our houses, and for the past few years my husband and I have hosted—as we will again this year on Saturday. 

Each year that my mother is here with us on her birthday is a gift, and these celebratory rituals carry ever greater weight and meaning. I start thinking and planning well in advance, and I start talking about it with my mother well in advance too. It's not that my mother is big on parties at this point in her life, but she is big on her family. So these conversations are fun and full of heart—who will be there, how excited we all are to be together, how proud and grateful we feel to have her for our mother, etc. The party itself will be relatively short-lived, but these conversations stretch throughout the whole month of January and can reveal some little treasures about my mom and how she feels about her life.

For example, while my mother never forgets the date of her birth, she may not necessarily remember how old she will be. So in our chats about her upcoming birthday, she usually asks how old she will be. 

One day the conversation looked something like this:

Mom - Bob wants me to tell you that he is excited to see you and everyone in a couple of weeks at the party.

What party?

Your birthday party - at our place.

Oh, my birthday? January 25?


How old will I be?

You'll be 98 mom.

She gasps, laughs a little.

Says, that's terrible!

Terrible? Really? Why?

That's so old!

Yes, it is, and how incredibly lucky for all of us :-)

On another day it was more like this:

Mom I saw Ali and Olof this weekend in NYC and they are super excited about coming to Boston for the party.

The party?

Yes, your birthday party. Remember?

Oh, yes. How old will I be?

Take a guess mom.

Oh I don't know - 100? 

I laugh. I love this one. 

Pretty close mom. Almost a century. That's a lot of years and life experience, right?

I guess so. We both laugh.

Here is the most recent - and the best :-) 

Hey mom, we're all going to be together soon at my place, the whole family.

Oh that's nice. What's the reason?

Your birthday!

Oh, my birthday. How old will I be?

Can you guess?

Oh I don't know.

Can you try?

She hesitates, needs some help.

Well, on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 couldn't be worse and 5 couldn't be better, how do you feel in your body?

Pauses. Says 4.

Wow, that's great mom. 

It is?

Yes, not a lot of people could give that answer, even at my age.

So I take this further and ask, on a scale of 1 to 5, how happy are you? 

Pauses but not for long, says 4 again.

Wow. That's great mom. 

It is?

Yes, it is. I feel it's true and accurate. It reveals how content you are in your life. This is such a great gift to all of us mom.

She smiles.

I ask again, so how old do you think you'll be on your birthday?

Pauses, says 70? 

I laugh and say, perfect! We are truly as young (or old) as we feel in body and spirit!

So there we have it—a little window into how my mother feels at 98 years old! Not bad at all :-) Below are a few photos spanning the years. Enjoy!

my mother in 1918

my parents in 1941

my mother (front center) and most of the hurley family tribe in 2015

happy 98th birthday rita hurley!

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