One Hundred (Incredible) Years

I found myself in a local drugstore this weekend, standing in the greeting card aisle, picking out a birthday card.

The selection was limited.

Limited, not because the store was lacking in birthday cards, but because there was only one option with the correct age number printed on the front: 100.

While we’ve spoken on the phone numerous times, I hadn’t seen my grandmother in person for well over a year. This, even though she lives a mere dozen kilometers away in a care home near the neighbourhood where she lived most of her life, a fifteen minute drive away from my front door. Fluctuating restrictions due to the pandemic have had us teetering on the knife edge between “probably shouldn’t” and “definitely cannot” go for a visit.

Yet for a birthday celebration, her with double-dosed vaccinations and us with one each, we spared a bit of caution and met her in the grassy courtyard for a sunshiny visit and a cupcake.

It’s not how any of us imagined celebrating a century of life.

One hundred years is such an unfathomable span of time for most of us that to tell folks that a loved one has reached the milestone evokes reactions ranging from clapping and cheering to dropped jaws and gasps of astonishment.

“One hundred?! Really?” They say. “That’s incredible.”

Because it is incredible.

Within some of that hundred years I’ve had plenty of overlapping time to experience the influence of this woman I call my grandmother.

She loved to walk and did so every day of her life, until she couldn’t anymore, and then still tries to walk as much as she is able up and down the hallways of her care home. I don’t know that she was ever a hiker or explorer, per se, but I can’t imagine that she ignored those countless trails running through the creek ravines near her old house, some of the same trails I now run.

With the exception of a small patio, her entire backyard was a vegetable garden and my oldest memories of visiting her in that house were of my grandparents fussing with weeds, and tinkering with soil. The rhubarb plant now growing strong in my own garden was a cultivar of her plant and after fifteen years I still consider that I’m just minding it for her.

And as long as she was in her own home she never fell for the trendy upgrade to an electric stove, remaining in my mind the one and only cook who stuck by gas and her good sturdy kitchen tools. I missed out on the family cast iron collection, a regret I’ll have for a long time because the culinary gene skipped a generation (right over my mother) and all credit for my interest in making food goes back to that lineage, pots, pans, and genetics all.

But there it is. I don’t know how to celebrate a century of life in these times other than to acknowledge it. Just say, wow.

A piece of cake.

A conversation in the sunshine.

A card with a giant one-zero-zero on the front.