‘Can’t remember her being young, but I know she was. Our father assured us of this long before he died…young. Nor frankly, do I picture her smiling —even then. But she does, you know, when the stars align. Let’s just say she was and is unique—one of a kind— and, as Maynard Newman, one she terms “almost a relative” has often remarked (when speaking of the lady’s….. let’s just call them nuances): “You fellas are sitting on a goldmine!”

People laugh when he says that, of course. Still, the longer we live the more we sense that what he dubs our goldmine is a treasure.

— And today our treasure’s 100 —-

       “…She was 15 for a moment
      Caught in between 10 and 20…”

Easy it couldn’t have been for a shy, immigrant girl in a still overtly anti-Semitic America. Imagine further having a Torah reader father with old-world thoughts of women and growing up in The Depression with nary a sibling ‘til puberty. Not the perfect storm and my guess is our aunt’s twenties weren’t roaring.

“…She was 22 for a moment
And she felt better than ever…”

How could they be? High school ended and with it her education. FDR urged his New Deal but for the female half of the populace it was still Raw Deal: No need for college, she was told. Just nurse, type or teach and keep smiling…

       “…She was 33 for a moment
       And 45 for a moment…”

When (I wonder) did her frown become default mode?

       “…Time passin’ by
       Chasing the years of her life…”

The journey was challenging, especially for a shy, moderate-looking woman in Eisenhower’s world. By the time her maverick brother had kids she was entrenched in her thirties, eyeing a future uncoupled — learning all too well that no matter how dutiful a daughter she was … no matter her intellect…no matter her self-sufficiency…the masses viewed her as damaged goods.

       “…Half time goes by
       Suddenly she’s wise
       Another blink of an eye
       67 is gone
       The sun is getting high…”

To her sixties she’d work. Uptown in a record store, downtown at a magazine—walking, busing — retiring only in lieu of learning the electric typewriter…

And then to her seventies, when her brother would die. Eleven years her junior, he would wake up dead and she would age. Overnight.

She hit her eighties, to be sure, with her mom still around. This too would pass— and with it, so too would her last embers of spirit.

If you ask me, that’s when she began to mail it in.

And the rest is history: living history. The grin that had never quite been a smile became even rarer. Friends she’d known and relatives she’d clung to were withering like autumn leaves, dropping like flies, evaporating…

A modest world was getting smaller. Forever gone were the days with Ma and Pa… the nights at Severence Hall. Forever lost was the agile body playing piano and fading yet was the fertile mind that didn’t rest.

        “…She’s 99 for a moment
        And trying just for a moment
        Just dreaming —
       Counting the ways to where she was….”

Staring out her window today, endlessly, our aunt is a Twentieth Century Fox embracing nineteenth century values in the new millennium. She listens to opera, hums to the symphonies and worries for family.

And at 100, valiantly, she looks to the future.

       “And there’s never a wish better than this
       When you celebrate the hundred years you live….”

(With apologies to Five For Fighting, as adapted)

2 Responses to “100 YEARS”

  1. alan wieder says:

    This is a very special piece — loving, funny, clever and again mostly loving. I can’t even comprehend 100 — can you?

  2. Up From Dysfunction says:

    Comprehend 100? I’m happy to be in field goal range of understanding 64.

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