Reaching 100 is quite a milestone. And still having all your marbles and living in your own home are even more reasons to celebrate. My mom, Jean Wilson, turned 100 on July 13—Friday the 13th, no less.
I don’t ever go to Bakersfield California, in the summer, because it can be sooooo hot, but for this momentous occasion, I had to make an exception. I also don’t write about events in my life in this blog that aren’t associated with Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges or my new books or the towns where I’m marketing the book, but again, I’m making an exception. And I’m sorry, to be two days late in posting my blog this week.
Last April, when I drove to Bakersfield on my semi-annual (April & October) trips to be with family, my brother, Harry, and my sister, Edna, and I planned Mom’s birthday celebration. We tried to include her, but she said emphatically, “No, surprise me!” So we did over and over again.
My sister had arranged for an article to be in the paper under the weekly Applause section that would be coming out on Mom’s birthday. I wrote it and sent a photo. It was supposed to be 250 words but I didn’t know that, so I sent 348 words. A friend of Edna’s edited the text to fit. Then there was a computer problem and it took a tech person to get the photo and text sent to the newspaper, and I think that took more than one try. Sometimes it takes a village.
I just didn’t want to drive to Bakersfield in the heat of summer. So when I researched ticket prices to Bakersfield, the least expensive deal I could find with two stops was more than $700. Too much! So I decided to fly Eugene to LA and take the airport shuttle bus to Bakersfield. The price was closer to $400 plus the $54 shuttle round-trip fare. Of course, not so convenient! The shuttles are every four hours and, of course, my flights were scheduled such that I’d have nearly a four-hour wait on both ends in LA.
As it turned out, the flight out of Eugene was late and had cabin pressure problems. When a request was made for volunteers to be bumped to a later flight, I was first in line. Later, when I got to San Francisco, the new connecting flight was also late. But I still got to LA in time to catch the shuttle, which was also running late. After leaving Florence at 7:30 a.m., I finally arrived at my Mom’s in Bakersfield at 10:30 p.m. It had been up to 106 degrees that day and was still in the 90s. It didn’t feel like Mom had had the AC on at all. So I slept on the couch in the den under a ceiling fan. Didn’t get much sleep!
My mom was thrilled that I had come. Once we got the AC on (when it started heating up the next morning) and made a trip to the store for a fan for me at night in the guest bedroom, I became a little more thrilled about being there.
That first day, we had a good friend of the family over for lunch. It was a surprise for Mom and she really enjoyed herself. The only problem was that she had so much wax in her ears that her hearing aids weren’t working, and she couldn’t hear. So the conversation was a bit loud, slow, repetitive, and occasionally words were written down. There was also quite a bit of hand movement and lip reading going on. (This was to become the routine for the next several days.)
The next day, we had nothing planned. But a mid-morning knock on the door heralded a delivery from a local florist of a huge floral arrangement from “a secret admirer.” Mom was dumbstruck! It was gorgeous and couldn’t have come on a better day. We spent the afternoon playing gin rummy, and Mom won nearly every game. I think she was inspired by having a secret admirer. From where she sat, she had a great view of the flowers.
Friday the 13th arrived. I sang Happy Birthday to her as she walked into the kitchen. After breakfast, she normally sits in the den and reads the paper, but this day, she was so keyed up, she just kept talking. Also, my brother was coming to take her to an appointment to get the wax out of her ears. Finally, I said that there was something in the paper she would be interested in and to try and find it before Harry came. It wasn’t long before I heard a loud shout of surprise. She was dumbstruck once again! She just sat there reading it over and over and telling me that “they” got a couple of things wrong. Apparently, it wasn’t a USO dance where she met Dad, as I always thought, and it wasn’t 18 years but 24 years that they lived in the Kern River Valley. Oh well!
Unfortunately, the wax was so totally impacted, that they couldn’t get it out. But that was the only damper on the day. I cheered her up when I told her where we would be going that night––the Belvedere Room at the Padre Hotel, one of the nicest places in town to eat. What I didn’t tell her was that we would be going in a stretch limo!
Edna and I spent quite awhile helping Mom decide what she should wear. By the time we were done, her bedroom had clothes scattered all over. Mom was like a teenager before her first prom. Finally, the decision was made. She decided on a Chinese top that Dad had given her in Hawaii before World War II that would go nicely with a dressy pair of black pants. Talk about quality vintage! That top was still beautiful and had to be at least 71 years old.
By 7:15 p.m., we were all ready to go. Besides Mom and I, there was my sister and her son, Jason, and my brother and his fiancé, Jane. Mom kept asking, “Who will I ride with?” and we kept looking out the window, watching for the limo. It arrived a few minutes early. So we all headed outside down the ramp with Mom and her walker in the lead. Just as we got to the end of the driveway, the limo slid up in front of Mom. Dumbstruck, again!
Only one of us had ever been in a stretch limo before, so it was a new experience for nearly all. The sight of a stretch limo in a mobile home park was unusual enough that a neighbor just had to come out to find out what was happening. The seated area in the limo was curved around a bar. The car had its own subtle lighting, since the windows were quite dark. It was a bit like climbing into a cave. We were glad that the driver took a round about route, so we had more time to enjoy the ride.
Since the folks at the Belvedere Room were expecting us, we were seated with minimal fuss. We all had fabulous meals with wine and dessert. Couldn’t have been better. Of course, Mom got the dessert with the lighted candle. Then we rode home in style—just the way we had come. And the evening wasn’t over. There were the presents to open and cards to read. Before long, it looked just like Christmas with wrapping paper and ribbon everywhere. The evening had been a huge success and Mom stayed up long after her usual bedtime and didn’t want it to end.
The next day she slept in. Later in the afternoon, we had two family friends and Harry’s Jane over for afternoon tea that Edna prepared at her home and brought over. We had two kinds of scones with various toppings and some wonderful tea. And there were more presents and another beautiful floral arrangement.
That was the end of planned birthday celebrations, but every evening for the next five days all of us gathered at Mom’s for wonderful meals together. Mom got more chances to beat me in gin rummy in the afternoons. And during my entire stay, each night before she went to bed, we put several drops of oil in each ear to help soften the wax. The day before I left, was the next attempt to get out the wax, and it was successful. Mom could finally hear again––just in time for me to leave.
Harry picked me up at 8:10 a.m. last Friday to take me to the airport shuttle. The shuttle and both plane rides were on time, so it was an easy time getting to Eugene—just lots of waiting and reading. I picked my car up at the airport long term parking where the temp was in the comfortable 60s just as the sun headed behind the clouds. I headed west to Florence, arriving just as the last vestiges of light disappeared shortly after 10 p.m.
As I sit here writing about my 11 days in California, I can see that in spite of super warm temps and stubborn earwax, it turned out to be a wonderful and memorable 100th birthday celebration for my mom––just as we hoped it would be.
TO BUY CROSSINGS
Crossings: McCullough’s Coastal Bridges can be yours for $24.95 plus $4.99 shipping. Order from Pacific Publishing at http://www.connectflorence.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. It is also available on the coast in bookstores, museums, and gift shops; in Eugene at the airport, the historical museum, and several bookstores; in Portland at Powell’s and the Oregon Historical Society; in Made in Oregon stores throughout the state; and more and more bookstores, libraries, and museums in western Oregon.
The half-hour interview with Dr. Veronica Esagui for the “Author’s Forum” program on public access TV in the Portland Metro area ended it’s two-week run June 1-14, 2012, but can be seen on YouTube in two parts: Google Judy Fleagle YouTube.
September 29, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Florence––2nd Annual Florence Festival of Books–an authors and publishers fair held at the Florence Events Center (715 Quince Street, 1 block east of Highway 101). I’ll be there with two books! (If all goes according to plan.)
October 13, 11 a.m. Oregon City––The historic Arch Bridge designed by McCullough reopens in Oregon City on the weekend of October 1314. I have been asked to be part of the festivities and will be giving my PowerPoint presentation at the Museum of the Oregon Territory on Saturday. The actual bridge reopening celebration will be on Sunday.