Way back in the oughts, sometime not long after I began this blog 15 years ago, two readers became my friends. I'm pretty sure they were my first online friends.
They both were (and still are) my elders. Back then, I thought it would be nice to celebrate birthdays of TGB readers online, and I started with these two “first friends”. Then I realized I couldn't possibly do that without making TimeGoesBy a birthday-only blog, and I surely did not want that.
So I didn't add new birthday celebrations but I kept these two, Millie Garfield and Darlene Costner, celebrating their birthdays each year.
Today is Darlene's 94th birthday. Think of it – 94 years. Earlier this week, I mentioned that I'm getting to be fairly old-ish, 78. Yeah, right. Both Darlene and Millie have always enjoyed pointing out that compared to them (they are the same age), I am just a kid.
Poking around the bookshelves here looking for something to quote that is better than I could write for the birthday of someone who has made it this long, I ran across my collection of books by essayist and former U.S. Poet Laureate, Donald Hall. I know many of you are familiar with his work.
This is a vignette from Hall's 2018 collection, A Carnival of Losses: Notes on Nearing 90 - that Darlene might have written herself. Not the biographical details, of course, but the tone, the attitude and understanding of achieving great age that, according to this excerpt, began in Hall's life before he had reached that point himself.
This is from an essay titled, “Five of Them” - referring to his grandchildren - and recounting his grandmother Lucy's 90th birthday:
”Jane [his wife] and I...arrived as scheduled on April 22, 1993. We had arranged in secret for her grandchildren to bring her great-grandchildren for a visit the next day, a surprise on her birthday.
“Andrew and his wife, Natalie arrived first with two daughters and a son, closely followed by Philippa with two daughters. I preserve the gathering in a huge photograph stuck to my refrigerator.
“Jane posed us squeezed onto a sofa around my mother and her perpetual caftan, babies and children and grown-ups, everyone smiling, my mouth wide open. “We had brought a birthday cake. After a joyous hour, I noticed that Lucy was exhausted, sagging into her seldom-used sofa.
“At my urging the visitors packed up and departed while I steered the ninety-year-old to take a nap on the reclining mechanical chair – where she lived out the late track of her life, where she wrote many letters, where she listened to the radio Red Sox, where she read the same Agatha Christies over and over.”
You can learn a lot from a writer as talented as Donald Hall.
Happy Birthday, Darlene – and let's all the rest of us here today join together in singing the traditional Happy Birthday song: