Our friend’s mother had made plans several months ago to celebrate her birthday, which was last week. She planned a menu, and I think there were 20 people on her invitation list, which I find remarkable since the birthday she was looking forward to celebrating was her 100th Birthday. But the virus had its own plans and an in person party was not possible. Family members and staff made noises like, “when this is over..,” but Alice didn’t fall for that. Once you’re about to turn 100, you don’t put much stock in future promises. 

Since we live down the street from the independent senior living facility where Alice lives, I couldn’t stay out of the situation. I insisted on decorating my husband’s convertible with a banner and balloons like I’d seen the high school seniors in our community do for their graduation celebration in the spring. The facility was telling the family that Alice would be on her 3rd floor balcony at noon and they could arrange for us to come into the yard underneath and wave to her. This was a pretty big challenge for the lettering on the banner. Elders don’t have that good of eyesight, so I made it it’s message, “Happy 100th Birthday Alice” as big and bright as I could. 

But hey, it worked out great. Long distance family members were able to Face Time that morning and someone in authority decided that having her come to the ground floor with all of us, including her, wearing masks and physically distancing, we could hold a celebration. Alice was surprised by us and the banner that we could hold close enough for her to see it. Her sons brought iced donuts packaged so she could share some with women in her complex. She said more than once, “I don’t know how to tell you how much I appreciate your doing this.”  And then she added, in a kind of whimsical voice, “It’s great, that with all the trouble going on, we can still celebrate. Given how I felt the rest of the day, the celebration wasn’t just good for her. I felt proud of everybody who helped figure out how to make it happen.   

And what kind of present can you get a woman turning 100? Given the situation that interfered with her birthday plans in the first place, I was fairly certain she might enjoy a fashionable mask. Later when we spoke on the phone she told it’s the only one she wears now whenever she leaves her apartment.