The little girl born on September 5, 1922 in Waltham, Minnesota, could not possibly have imagine how time would stretch out before her and that a full century later her entire family would gather in Santa Barbara, CA to celebrate Phyllis’ 100th birthday.
Daughter-in-law Jean created a timeline of Phyllis’ life and chronicled the panoply of historical, medical and technological changes that have occurred in her hundred years, not the least of which is that she has observed the terms of eighteen different U.S. presidents!
Fewer than one percent of Americans live to be 100, which puts Phyllis in a very elite category. I suspect that many, many fewer reach 100 and still manage to defeat all comers at bridge and Rummikub. Her capacious memory is a thing of legend, as is her talent for the unexpected riposte. As party guests extolled her virtues at the party last weekend, she loudly remarked “What is this – my memorial?”
She has lived long enough to learn the value of a sense of humor. As she shared with the family, her childhood was less than perfect. As a young woman, she met her future husband, Lyle, and they began their married life amidst World War II. Their fortunes varied, as did their places of residence, criss-crossing between Minnesota and California a few times as they raised their three children.
Steven, Mark and Gail reliably provided a never ending succession of parenting challenges, which Phyllis met with what they universally recall as mild exasperation tempered with loving resolve and endless dozens of homemade sweet rolls.
Losing Lyle in 1995 and embarking upon widowhood required all the courage Phyllis could muster, but she carried on with grace and made a new home and life here in Santa Barbara. The bittersweet side of a long, full life is coping with all the losses along the way. While Phyllis has had to say goodbye to many dear friends through the years, she continues to draw new ones to her with her equanimity and optimism.
She insisted on two requirements for her 100th birthday party. First, a coconut cake:
And second, musical performances by her children and grandchildren.
Which is how we ended up with a death metal rendition of Happy Birthday from Taylor:
Cousin Nick serenaded her on the cello:
And Mark, Daniel and Gail will be taking it on the road any day now with their newly formed trio:
And, of course, the real icing on top of the cake for Phyllis was being surrounded by her five “greats”:
It was most certainly an event to remember. When asked earlier in the week what her secret is to such a long life, she replied “Prayer. And wine.”
With that wisdom in hand, onward we go to the 101st!