Ninety Years Ago

My grandmother celebrated her 90th birthday yesterday.

She celebrated in with quiet style. Friends stopped by her house to surprise her (though I do suspect that at some time during the past 90 years of her life, she may be on to this “surprise” thing.) She has quite the stash of bouquets, candy, cakes, I heard. (Um … no, she is not diabetic.)

She’s in New York. I’m in Florida. Despite our 57-year-age difference, we look very much alike.

Presidents used to be sworn in on the fourth day of March.

As a child, I remember my grandmother’s face lighting up with excitement when she told the story of how she and her sisters gathered around the radio and the whole family, some neighbors, and their tenant listened proudly as Franklin Roosevelt was sworn into office for the first time in 1933.*

“That was my tenth birthday.” She would end, a smile of excitement still on her face.

I always remembered the 20th Amendment through her birthday.  I always remember that by 1944, in his last election, my grandmother voted in her first election for the man she had attentively listened to on the radio as she grew.

During World War II, however, most of her thoughts were with my grandfather, who was stationed in the Pacific Theater of the War, and was busy engineering “works” in Burma.** She was an active social worker in New York City, so I know that kept her busy.

When my grandfather finally could call her after years of not hearing each other’s voice, he was so overcome by emotion that all he could say was “Speak to me.”
Her response: “We’re going to get married on March 2nd.”

I started thinking about all the changes that happened in her life. How much the world has changed.

And how much the world and we, the people of the world, haven’t changed.

My feisty 90 year old grandmother thinks we’re doing all right; of course, she has suggestions on how we should improve, most notably the question she’ll ask every time I visit.

“Do you want ice cream for breakfast?”

Here’s to another decade, grandma!
*1933 would be the last time a US President was sworn in on the 4th of March.

** (My grandfather spoke little about the war. He would only tell us funny or poignant stories when we begged him.)


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