Last night, my daughter Emily and I were talking about her grandmother, my mom, and all the things she saw, witnessed, and lived through in her 99 Years. Short answer . . . a lot! A whole lot.
Born in 1914, she watched her mom vote for the first time in the election of 1920, the first time women could vote in the United States. Probably too young to realize the importance of it all, but still, a witness to it. Born just after the first automobiles were built, I know she lived a long, long time before her family could ever afford one. A lot of their farm work had to be done by hand, by foot, by horse and mule. I know her family wasn’t well off, so many of the household chores, like laundry, had to be done by hand.
Lived through Prohibition, also in the 1920s, both the banning of alcohol and then the reinstatement of it. She drank a little, smoked a little. Gave up smoking once, picked up the habit again much later in life, and then gave it up for good. Up until a few years ago, she enjoyed a glass of white wine before bedtime.
Lived through the Great War, the “War To End All Wars” only to live through it all a second time, while raising her family along the way. Lived through the Korean Conflict- not technically a war, though there seemed to be quite a bit of bloodshed and bombs bursting in the air. Lived through the Vietnam War, and worried when one of her sons served over there for a year or two. He made it out in one piece.
Lived through the racial unrest, the March On Selma, listened to Martin Luther King’s great speech. Mostly listened to the radio, but had a black and white television, and then one that broadcast in color. She traveled the country in a station wagon and a Winnebago travel trailer. Before that, a good, old-fashioned green canvas army tent with a dirt floor and cots.
Seen a lot. Did a lot. Lived a lot in 99 Years.
Last night I received a call from my brother that mom wasn’t doing very well. Not well at all. We had hoped she’d make it to 100 Years, but now we don’t think she’ll make it next weekend.
My sister, Judy, was with her when my little brother, Jeff, called. In the course of the conversation, mom told him she was sorry. Said the same thing to my sister, Mary, when she called. Said the same thing to Judy just before she left for the evening.
99 Years, and Sorry.
Hmmm . . .
I guess she, like we . . . each of us . . . have things to be Sorry about, to be Sorry for. Never perfect lives, though we do try. Maybe in that striving to be perfect is where there really is the need to be Sorry . . . for those we’ve wronged, including ourselves, along the way. Sorry for those we’ve pushed aside, trampled over, in our efforts to be perfect. Rather ironic, I think.
So, 99 Years, and Sorry.
So when I heard mom said that to Jeff, to Mary, to Judy, made me realize that mom is coming to an end, to a close. She’s making amends, as best she can, in the best way she can, using the best words she can. And I think to myself, I’m Sorry too. A lot to be Sorry for. A lot.
My family is already making plans. Phone calls have been made, will be made again. Notices sent and given.
For each of us to appreciate, to celebrate a life filled to the brim in those 99 Years. To pay our respects, for each of us to say, we’re Sorry.
And finally, for each of us to say, Goodbye.
Only for a little while. More of a “See you later, alligator.” And I can hear her answer, “In a while crocodile.”
99 Years, Sorry, and Goodbye. Mom.