Kelly, Kyle, Dad, and I are staying outside Newton, New Jersey, where today we celebrated Auntie Connie’s 100th. While her actual birthday was last Tuesday, the four of us couldn’t travel out here until the weekend, gathering together with Gaby, Chrissy, Maria, Anna; Gus, Chil, Justine (with her dog Lola), Matt; Bong, Malu, and Rafael.
My experience is limited so I am only supposing: for those among us who have the fortune to reach the century mark, our personalities become tumbled by life’s currents, our rough edges worn away until what remains is a polished essence of our souls.
So you could be looking out the window upon a gathering in your backyard, making out one of your brothers with your keen eyesight, holding in your warm soft hand the hand of that brother’s son, smiling as you recognize and remember both of them, your expression changing abruptly as you remember that brother’s twin has died. But a few minutes later you could be struggling to recall the name of your beloved husband, who served in the Navy and had the foresight to provide for you for decades after he passed. Or you could be seeing the balloons that spelled out “100” and not know those balloons are there for you.
You are living the second childhood Jacques describes in “As You Like It.”
The years can play out in different ways. At a diner afterwards, we met someone who is 99, wearing a cap indicating that he himself served in the Navy during the Second World War. Dad at 91 clearly recalls the names of everyone in the three families who lived with him in the jungles of the Philippines during the war, hiding from and fighting against the Japanese occupation. It helps to have a photo, a rare photo from that time and place, somehow developed by my father’s father.
In that photo, Auntie Connie is standing straight, tan, confident, smiling.