We had a family reunion in Dallas, Texas, to celebrate Granny’s upcoming 90th birthday.
My mom and her sister, their husbands, kids, grandkids, were all in attendance. There were 21 of us and three dogs.
If you’ve never been to Texas in August, let me make a few suggestions before your first trip. Don’t bother showering because the sweltering, humid heat will leave you drenched in sweat before you even step outside.
Spend most of your time in the swimming pool, drink crazy amounts of water, and lather on the deodorant. Did I mention it’s hot? Seriously, I’m pretty sure my eyebrows were sweating — gross.
Despite its brevity, our time together was memorable and jammed packed. We ate too much, laughed, cried (some more than others), managed to squeeze in a professional family photo (the photographed above), and properly celebrate Granny’s monumental birthday.
The Italian lunch was satisfying and my cousin’s homemade German chocolate cake was scrumptious. The sign my brothers made for Granny’s walker worked to grab attention and garner smiles.
But it was my mom’s idea to build Granny a flower bouquet that transformed our family party to a celebration of life. Each member of the family handed Granny one flower and shared a special memory or thoughts about her.
My aunt talked about the time she made her famous pumpkin pie and forgot to add the sugar. Mom spoke to her adaptability and genuine heart that draws complete strangers. The son-in-laws referenced her home-style cooking and acceptance into the family many years before. The grandchildren spoke to our memories as children, those summers we spent with Granny in the house Grandpa built.
I bawled as I recounted the walks to the corner store for boxes of cereal; Granny always let me pick any box I wanted. It was usually a toss-up between HoneyCombs or Fruit Loops because heaven knows we never got bowls of that sugary greatness at home.
After plentiful laughter and streams of tears, we had created a colorful floral bouquet. But most importantly we had shared a magical moment as a family. We retold and for a short while, relived nearly 64 years of family legacy. My grandmother is not a highly emotional woman, at least not externally. Yet, I was certain upon the last flower, she had been touched in a very special way, surrounded by those she loves the most.
Later that night I thanked my mom. I thanked her for giving us a creative way to say the loving and meaningful thoughts we would have otherwise probably shared at Granny’s funeral. In one hour, we gave Granny her eulogy. I recognize the morbid dichotomy of speaking of eulogies in the same context of birthdays, but when a person reaches the age of 90, the obvious eventual outcome is evident.
I pray we celebrate many more birthdays with Granny! But if we don’t, I will take comfort that she departed knowing full well her family’s love, admiration, and gratitude for her.
Doesn’t it seem more appropriate to say these sorts of things in life, rather than death? I should say so.