On April 22, 2021, Margaret Vanderbeek Barstow, Meg, my wonderful mother-in-law, celebrated her 100th birthday. According to what I could find on Google, that is something that less than two-hundredth of one percent of Americans will achieve. And she did it in the midst of the Covid virus pandemic. Not surprisingly, she also came close to celebrating that monumental birthday in her own independent-living apartment at a senior residence in Hartford, Connecticut. Alas, she broke her hip a month before the big day and was now at a nearby long-term-care facility.
Fully vaccinated for two months, Cedar, my wife, and I decided to drive Tessa, our three-year-old red Tesla Model 3, from our home in Boulder, Colorado, to join Meg for her birthday. As I like to put it, we went from the Colorado Rockies to Rocky Hill, Connecticut—a road trip of 2200 miles. We also went down from a mile high to perhaps 100 feet above sea level. (One hundred seems to have been the theme of the trip.) As older drivers we spent a mere six hours a day on various Interstates and tried our best to stay no more than five miles an hour above the speed limit as less powerful cars whizzed by. As a result, the trip out took us six days, with a lovely one-day rest stop at our good friends the Millers in Columbus, Ohio. Our trip home, which begins tomorrow, is planned for six days without the rest stop.
We were joined at the birthday party by Cedar’s two younger brothers, Dave and Dan, and their wives, Linda and Eva. There were thus three sibs and three “spice,” or if you say “mouses” then “spouses.” Jefferson House, Mother Meg’s nonprofit care facility and a division of the Hartford Hospital system, had kindly arranged for our celebration to take place in a screen-off part of what appeared to be a staff lounge. Four of the staff that take care of Meg attended as well as did Dan’s first wife, a longtime Connecticut resident from Colombia, who had been kind over the years to Meg. Masked as we all were, we even sang some of Meg’s favorite folk songs under the leadership of Jefferson House’s staff music therapist, Laura. Despite the lack of food and drink, a casualty of the pandemic, we—and most importantly Meg—had a good celebratory time. During our six days in Connecticut, we sibs and spice had the job of cleaning out her apartment. This job consisted of taking some keepsakes, throwing out other things, and basically preparing the space for Jeannette, whose business it is to clear out and clean up seniors’ apartments when they no longer live there or, in many cases, live anywhere else on earth. We were also able to visit with Meg in her new home three times and share meals and fellowship with what must be the most harmonious set of siblings anywhere. This last, I’m convinced, is owed in large part to who their mother was and still is. Happy 100th, Meg! You are an inspiration.
Meg with the Sibs and Spice at her Big Party