Monday, April 16, 2007

Happy Birthday Grandpa!

My father-in-law shares his birthday with Pope Benedict XVI. Today the kitchen was bustling with activity as we prepared food for his special birthday dinner. I made potato salad, prepared a cheese and sausage tray and a fruit tray. Fresh pineapple, green grapes and whole ripe strawberries make a beautiful combination for a fruit platter. Lee requested the same fruit for his First Communion lunch. The evening was nice and as usual conversation turned towards the past. A few of the memories even brought tears to my father-in-law's eyes. Once home, DH commented about the tears and the reminiscing and felt bad about it happening. I remarked that talked about memories shouldn't always be the happy ones. Why not ask our elders to share some of the difficult stories? Not so they cry or have a miserable evening, but to share their real life with us. The real stories that make us who we are. We are a result of the trials and successes of our relatives' past. Then ask about their early birthdays, funny things they did with their siblings as children, what they bought with their first $1.00.

I am not a fan of older folks. I clam up, I don't know what to say and I definitely don't know how to joke around with them. My 55 year old mother just moved into a Veteran's Home and I am having to face my fear of the elderly head on. She loves the people and wants to introduce me to them, wants me to sit and chat with them. I am uneasy, but getting used to it.

Recently I picked up the book by Jennifer Chiaverini, An Elm Creeks Quilt Sampler. Three novels all wrapped in one hard cover, it is the stories of many women (and their men). The women are of all different ages, yet they find a way to be friends and respect each other. The stories have made a deep impression on me. I want to talk with my mom about her story. I want to ask her the important questions so that I may begin to really know her as a woman, not just my mother. I want to talk to those old folks at the Veterans Home. I want to know their story. I've realized that a few good questions is all that's needed. I won't have to clam up, just listen as they reveal their story.

Back to the birthday. The kids all made grandpa a Happy Birthday banner that we taped to his cabinet door. They all pitched in and drew smiley faces, hearts, balloons and 4-wheelers. We took him a couple of bottles of red wine.