Friday, November 16, 2012

100 Years... and Counting & the Party That Almost Wasn't!

On November 5, 2012, my Mam-ma Polly celebrated her 100th birthday! To mark the occasion, we planned a "small," family-and-just-a-few-friends get-together on Sunday, November 4th, in the parlor at the Assisted Living Facility (ALF). When I say "small" and "family" in the same breath, I am talking upwards of 100 people! I knew that Mam-ma would be overwhelmed, and with her inability to speak more than a few words, having an "open house" for all of her church family and the community at large to come and go would be entirely too much for her. So we invited family, her Sunday school class members, the pastor and her deacon, and one or two others.

Two weeks before Mam-ma's birthday, the stomach bug hit our community with a vengeance. It coursed its way through the ALF... at least twice. As far as I know, Mam-ma only got it once, but my sister, who is a nurse's aide at the ALF, brought it home to the rest of us. Timmy got it at our house, and then my husband and I got sick. In fact, we were still so sick by Halloween that we had to forego inviting trick-or-treaters to our house. So all we have is photos of our little ones in their costumes, provided by my mom and niece. We had enjoyed watching Timmy play in the lion costume I made for him several days earlier... but we didn't get to put treats in his bucket on the actual holiday.

Thinking everything was over, we ordered the birthday cake on Thursday before the party was to be held on Sunday.  On Friday, I visited Mam-ma at the ALF... and the nurses halted me in the parking lot to warn me that "the bug is back!"  They were frantically disinfecting door knobs, hand rails, salt and pepper shakers in the dining room... anything they could think of that residents touched in the course of a day.  We debated what to do about the party.  Mam-ma was gaining momentum... working herself up to a top-level excitement for her big day.  We decided we could not disappoint her.  We had to notify everyone of the circumstances, put out big bottles of hand sanitizer, and try to keep people confined to the parlor near the front entrance of the ALF.

By Sunday, my niece and almost all of Timmy's family was sick again with the bug. My mother was sick with an upper respiratory bug that was also circulating. A few family members and friends opted not to join us and risk catching something. In total, some 45 people braved everything to wish my Mam-ma Polly a Happy 100th Birthday. And Mam-ma outdid herself. My sister and I arrived early and dressed her in one of her nicest suits. She donned her rhinestone earrings, and we applied her face powder and lipstick. We fluffed her gorgeous white hair, and she provided the trademark smile... and she looked like a million bucks - and nowhere near her 100 years of age.

For two hours, friends and family circulated, ate cake and drank coffee, lemonade and soft drinks, and I snapped photographs while greeting the guests. Mam-ma received over 75 birthday cards, both during the party and before and afterward. I have read every single word of each one to her, and she has loved them.

Mam-ma Polly and her best friend, Ruby.

My husband, Greg, Mam-ma Polly, and me.

Mam-ma Polly and her Sunday school friends.

Mam-ma Polly and her deacon, Hal Caid.

Mam-ma Polly with one of our cousins, Carston O'Dwyer.
More cousins... Haley, Grayson, and Jack O'Dwyer with
their dad, Kevin, and Mam-ma Polly.
The day after the party, Mam-ma received flowers, balloons, and more.  The ALF went "all out" to make her feel special.  I anticipated a huge letdown afterward, but so far, she has not done too badly.  I know that she was one tired little lady for several days, and maybe she is still recovering.  Meanwhile, the "bug" seems to have moved on, and all is routine again.  I am splitting my time between caring for my niece and her family and three little ones, and seeing after Mam-ma's needs.  Neither is easy, at times... and I've learned that keeping a three-year-old, 18-month-old, and three-month-old by myself for a few hours makes this great-aunt very tired!

I don't know what lies ahead for Mam-ma.  My sister and I will join her on Tuesday for the ALF Thanksgiving luncheon.  One of her table mates passed away last month... and another is declining rapidly.  And this worries her.  I assured her that the LORD will take care of her ailing friend... and her.  After all, isn't this what she has always told me?

Happy Thanksgiving!