88 years and counting

by Katie on March 13, 2009

I’m not sure if Friday the 13th is a good day for someone to turn 88, but today is MeMe’s birthday.
My family has often joked about MeMe’s “nine lives”. She has survived breast cancer, a stroke that paralyzed her left side, two amputations, diabetes, high blood pressure, and two six month rounds where we were convinced she had dementia – then one day she was suddenly her old self again, both times.
She has spent the last 7.5 years in a nursing home, due to the stroke. The statistics say only 8% of female residents who were 75-84 years old when they were admitted stay longer than 3-5 years. But with her “nine life” history, MeMe has never paid much attention to the statistics.
She is quite fond of Brandon. After the second time she met him (the first time was during one of the rounds where she was crazy, and has no recollection), she asked when I would bring him back, because “He smells good!” …If she only knew what things were like now that he’s farming. But every time we’ve gone to Texas, Brandon has packed his cologne “for MeMe“, certainly not for me.
She has regularly written me letters since I moved to Arizona, and one of the most recent ones contained this:
“Can’t wait to see your house. I bet it is pretty – Bet it is as pretty as Brandon.”
I had never really thought of comparing my house to my husband’s looks, but I guess it worked for her.
Needless to say, she really lights things up, and has always been a ball of fire. 88 years later, that is still the case.
It’s really enlightening to think about all the things our grandparents have witnessed. Since she was born in 1921, MeMe has seen
  • The U.S. enter six wars (WWII, Korean War, Vietnam, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq), and the tension of the Cold War
  • Attack on Pearl Harbor
  • Assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., to name a notable few
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • Terrorism on U.S. soil
  • The rise of radio, television, the Internet, fax machines, cell phones, and the Blackberry my 15-year-old brother carries around now

And while there are so many people complaining about hard times now, we should talk to people like MeMe, whose youth was marked by the Great Depression, where people were selecting which meal to give up in a day, not still driving new cars, talking on cell phones, and watching satellite TV, while their home forecloses.

It’s neat to see how far we’ve come in the past 80+ years as well. In the year MeMe was born:
  • The first radio broadcast of a baseball game hit the airwaves – now we watch them livestreaming on the Internet
  • Warren G. Harding was inaugurated as the 29th president (in the first election women were allowed to vote) – we’re now on the 44th (where a woman ran for election in the primaries)
  • The U.S. formally ended WWI and declared peace with Germany
  • Insulin was discovered – good thing, since MeMe has diabetes
  • The first Miss America was crowned – fitting; MeMe was crowned “Miss Golden Years” of the greater Houston area her first year in the nursing home
  • The Tomb of the Unknowns was dedicated – and has been guarded 24/7 since
This is a short clip of MeMe at Christmas and an example of the humor and life she brings to our family gatherings – right after she insisted on opening her presents first:

Happy birthday, MeMe.



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