A special birthday: Heading for 100
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          The every day events get to be somewhat misty when one reaches the mellow age of ninety nine.
          The components of living have a tendency to separate into the important versus the mundane when one approaches the anniversary of living one hundred years.
          A few days ago lovely Mary celebrated the ninety ninth year since her birth. Her family gathered around her and offered their love, affection and respect. After all, Mary came from the old world; from a part of Italy that still lives the old way, respecting and honoring the wise ones – those that have lived and learned about life.
          Mary spends much of her days now with memories of her own childhood in Italy, coming to America, marrying and raising her two sons and two daughters. She reflects on the years spent with her husband, Jack. She sees those years of working together in their family business and providing for their growing family.
          In the storehouse of her mind she remembers the years spent with her parents and brothers Joe and Frank and sister, Frances. A sudden sadness comes over her when she remembers the early loss of an older sister, Josephine. The warm memories resume when she thinks of the closeness of her three siblings. Through all the years past they have remained living within a few miles of each other. From the green, rolling hills of Calabria, in the south of Italy to the cold winters of Syracuse, New York to the mild beauty of San Jose, California the family members have chosen to be close to each other. Sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, children, grandchildren, even great grandchildren, all live near each other and near their beloved Mary.
          Nowadays Mary needs a hand around the house. Her son, Robert lives with her and cares for his mother with remarkable tenderness and devotion. Daughter Jacki lives but a few miles down the road and comes to her mother’s house every day to care for her. There are no hours, no days that Mary is alone. Her children have devoted their lives to her. They care because they love her so deeply. Because they know the sacrifices Mary has made to give them better lives. They know that this lovely woman who sailed from Italy so many years ago devoted her life to making sure that they had good and prosperous lives.
          Life wasn’t always easy for her. From the first year of her marriage she realized that her husband was losing his eyesight. She became his eyes.
          Anthony, Mary’s oldest son, lives but a few, short miles away. He comes often to pay respects to his mother. Youngest daughter, Marilyn, comes from San Diego to sit with her mother. All of her children long to see their mother’s magical smile.
          Most of Mary’s days are spent in her comfortable chair, reading, watching television and looking out the window as neighbors go for strolls down the sidewalk in front of her house. The neighborhood is friendly and comfortable. Many of the residents have lived in their homes since the 1950’s and 1960’s. On Mary’s birthday many of the neighbors come to Mary bearing gifts to help her celebrate her special day. It is as they are paying allegiance to the revered matriarch of the area.
          Mary’s birthday dinner found her surrounded by her family. Mary sat at the head of the table and bore that Mona Lisa smile that broke into a brighter one when the birthday cake was brought out. She glanced at each person around the table, meeting their glances. Her smile said thank you to each.
          Everyone’s eyes were on Mary all evening. Everyone watched her.
          Mary thought back to all that had gone by. From those days, long ago, in Calabria. To the long boat journey to America. To the days in Syracuse, the marriage, children, the long journey across America, to settling in San Jose.
          How many years? So long ago. So many things have happened and now she sat, looking in the faces of those she loves. Those who love her.
          They sang “Happy Birthday” to her and each thought ahead to what it would be like next year when they gather around this same table for Mary’s one hundredth birthday party.
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