90 year old napkins

My grandmother turns 90 soon and to celebrate, we’re throwing a party that will send her to an early grave. Just kidding, 60 would have been an early grave. This party might send me to one, and that would be early but also deserved. 

When my grandmother turned 80, we threw her a big catered affair, attended by a great number of friends who are not invited this time because they are dead. It was quite a party, I’m telling you. 

A lot changes in a decade, especially once you make past 80. She said to me the other day on the phone while we were in an actual fight over this party “You don’t know what it’s like to be 90.” What could I say?

I forget sometimes that she’s not 80 anymore. She got all worked up before that party too. She’s a perfectionist and a worrier and a real force to be reckoned with. I remember spending a day driving around with her to shop for party supplies and how tiny the glass of wine seemed at dinner, how ordering another seemed pointless because that wasn’t going to do it either.

And then an hour before her party started, a kitchen cabinet fell off its hinge and smacked her in the head. She was okay – just a little shaken up – but another family member remarked later it had been like a Wizard of Oz moment. Before the head bonk, her party loomed like a terrorizing tornado. After the head bonk, the air felt oddly tranquil, my grandmother sedate in silver sequined slippers.

The fight her and I got in about this party, like most fights, wasn’t really about the party. It was about something that will be hard to remember 10 years from now. Already it seems silly and sad that I chose to get upset and react. Usually when I talk to her, I keep my emotions in a separate box, locked from the inside, and they understand well enough to lay low. This time Hurt Feelings heard me on the phone and said “I’m hungry.” Righteous Indignation heard and said “Yeah me too…let’s go ask for a snack.” 

Probably my lowest point in the argument with my 90 year old grandmother was when I told her we probably shouldn’t be planning this party in the first place. We should have just taken her somewhere nice for dinner instead. She never asked for a party in the first place, but it was already too late to call off and cruel of me to say, even though we both knew it was true. 

I had a dream about the party the other night. It was something about tiny, delicious sandwiches and I hadn’t ordered enough. Good lord, I am not a party planner. I don’t even like parties when all I have to do is show up. But I said to a friend a few weeks ago, before things got so crazy, that the difference between this party and her 80th is I’m sober now. Theoretically I have more energy and focus, though much less free time. I just wanted my gift to my grandmother to be a nice party. I am not giving up. 

Yesterday I called to go over some details with her. She told me she picked up napkins specifically for a 90th birthday party. I asked where on earth she found those and half-jokingly she said “I don’t even want to talk about it..this is all your fault.” She then talked about wanting to make this special cranberry cake she used to make all the time and last made for her 80th birthday party. I told her not to buy any more anything for the party and to skip the cake and put her feet up instead.

The difference between 80 years old and 90 years old seems to be less physical and mental stamina to do all the things you still think you should be able to do. I told her about my dream and the tiny, delicious sandwiches being just out of reach and she laughed and said “See, you worry too much too.”

Before we got off the phone, she got in a quick reminder that I shouldn’t vote for the candidate I’ve known I’d vote for since I was a little girl. Righteous Indignation paced behind the closed door but did not come out. (Hurt Feelings was stuffing her face with tiny, delicious sandwiches.)

My grandmother’s party is just before the election. Some moments I don’t know how we’re going to make it, how it’s possibly going to work out that either side will be happy with the outcome. The divide between perspectives is so vast it’s like we’re looking at two completely different landscapes.

If I think back to her 80th party and the days leading up to it, it felt the same then. And that party turned out wonderful overall. Because, my god, nothing is ever perfect, but we have to look at the big picture and remember it’s about the people at the party. When my grandmother complained about the state of her yard, I said no one is coming to this party for the view or the food or decorations. They’re coming to see and spend time with you, to offer congratulations and well wishes on turning 90 years old. 

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23 thoughts on “90 year old napkins

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  1. My favorite scene here is how the air felt oddly tranquil after the cabinet fell off its hinge, that’s good. It’s strangely realistic and cartoon-like, I hope the party is less “Oz” and more My Little Pony, perhaps. I don’t know, couldn’t insert a better cartoon analogy there. But good to avoid the tiny glasses of wine, they don’t do much for anyone. Maybe see if you have any friends who have prescriptions and can help you out. That’s not good advice either. But would be more “My Little Pony,” at least.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You tell the most beautiful stories – especially when you talk about your Grandma. It’s how I feel when Christy talks about her mom. Makes me wish I could have known all of in a space other than cyber.
    And now, all I can think about is “tiny delicious sandwiches.” I know the party will be fabulous – simply because you two will be together. Loved this!!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. It’s the little stuff you’ll remember most. These phone calls, the laughs, the weird divided feelings, the smiles of family at a party vs the food or the party itself.

        Makes it not so little stuff, after all.

        Recording it and remembering it and passing it along to your girls….priceless and irreplaceable.

        We’re so blessed to share in your stories with you. ❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The love you have for her keeps shining through this lovely story of planning her 90th birthday party. We had a surprise party for my mother on her 80th but unfortunately nothing for her 90th. She was not well then and died a few months later. But your grandmother seems to have quite a bit of life still in her. God bless.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. If you would have called me I would have come out to help you with the party ;). No matter how many good intentions everyone has, events are usually always stressful. Heck, I am a party planner and it gets stressful even for me.
    I love how you mentioned “Hurt feelings” and “Righteous Indignation”. And your grandmother saying “this is all your fault”….she sounds priceless.
    xo

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Nothing like a good old family sit down eh? Mine are always event full too. And as for the political climate, you nailed it. I am voting for a third-party. Probably won’t win, but if a third-party gets enough votes, it will receive federal funding And may put a third candidate in the debate circle next election. Can you imagine if just someone with decent morals and a good plan was in these debates?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. She sounds like my 91 year old mom!
    Parties are NOT my forte!
    The last one we had for my mom was really simple, just a family affair, catered, which worked out well. She lived in another state, so we were planning from afar.
    But, I felt guilty not inviting her friends.
    xo
    Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is always something to feel guilty about but her party sounds wonderful! To be surrounded by family sounds like the best possible thing. Planning from afar is a real challenge but it’s also probably good for me.

      Liked by 1 person

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