“Don’t Blink”

On Tuesday, my co-worker and I flew to a neighboring village to celebrate the birthday of a very special lady.

She was turning 100 years old.

I first met “Grandma Lena” last year when she was passing through town. I got to spend some time visiting with her, learning that she was once a midwife who delivered over 100 babies in her village, loved to bead, and most importantly was in remarkable physical and mental shape to be (at the time) 98 years old.

I was immediately smitten with and inspired by, this remarkable woman. I also made a promise to her and to myself that if it was at all possible, I’d spend her 100th birthday with her. Even if it meant I had to fly to her village.

Which is exactly what I did. My boss gave me his blessing and even allowed a co-worker to come along.

After we arrived at her home and I appeared in the doorway of her bedroom (where she spends a lot of her time now), her face lit up and she held out her arms to welcome me. I strode over to the bed and allowed myself to be enveloped by her frail yet strong arms. “Happy Birthday, Gramma” I said into her shoulder as she squeezed me tight.

“Thank you” she said through her big smile.

I checked her over and made sure she had everything she needed to be comfortable, and then I told her I wanted to paint her nails for her birthday. (I made a mental note a while back because everytime I visit with her, she’s constantly tending to her nails.) Her windowsill held an assortment of varied and sundry colors of nail polish. I pulled them down and asked her which color she wanted.

She gave me a mischievious grin, raised an eyebrow, and reached for the drawer in her nightstand and produced a bottle of powder blue polish with just a hint of glitter.

We smiled at each other.

Of course she wanted this color. It was different and special and she was 100 years old. It was the perfect choice.

As I gingerly held her hand in mine, her skin as delicate as tissue paper, dipped the brush in the polish, and smoothed it over each nail, we talked about her favorite memories, the best being the birth of her children. We talked about how the world had changed so much since she first arrived in the world. We laughed and giggled like two teenagers at silly stuff and I listened intently when she spoke of serious issues.

It was one of the most profound moments of my life. Here I was, sharing an intimate moment with someone who’d lived 100 years. And was still doing quite well. I felt grateful, my heart swelled with joy and admiration.
I eventually left so that she could take a nap before her big potluck/birthday party and so that my co-worker could have her own individual time with her as well. Later, we both joined the entire community in celebrating with her. Sentiments were expressed. Food was eaten. Photos were snapped. Video was captured. Hugs and kisses were doled out in abundance.

Finally, we heard our plane fly over..signaling the end of our visit. We began saying our goodbyes and when it was my turn, I hugged her again, and she thanked us all for making the trip over to see her.

“I love you, gramma” I said when I pulled away and looked into her eyes.

“I love you too” she said as she stroked my cheek.

As my travel companions and I made our way to the airstrip to meet our plane, my co-worker said through watery eyes: “What a wonderful day…I’m so glad we spent her birthday with her.”

“Indeed.” I said, as I choked back my own tears.

Don’t blink
Just like that you’re six years old and you take a nap and you
Wake up and you’re twenty-five and your high school sweetheart becomes your wife
Don’t blink
You just might miss your babies growing like mine did
Turning into moms and dads next thing you know your “better half”
Of fifty years is there in bed
And you’re praying God takes you instead
Trust me friend a hundred years goes faster then you think
So Don’t blink

Alaska 2009 200.jpg

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