Monday was my grandma's 88th birthday. Eighty-eight. Eleven times eight. Seventy-five plus thirteen. Thirty-five plus fifty-three. Eighty-eight. Eighty-eight calls for something special.
Unfortunately, Monday was parents' night in Thomas' class and he needed us to be there. He doesn't love school and he's not exactly excelling there right now. It just seemed as though we needed to be there as a family. So, I called my grandma last week and asked if I could take her out to lunch on Monday to celebrate. I couldn't tell if she liked the idea or was disappointed that it wasn't dinner.
Then I suggested she invite a friend. I could feel her warming.
Hoping to get her excited about it, I said, "Or maybe two or three friends. Whatever you think would be good."
She paused, and then said, "Well, I'm not sure I could choose between Jo and Alice."
Now we were getting somewhere. That is how it came to be that I escorted my grandma and her two good friends to lunch to celebrate her eighty-eighth birthday.
I arrived at my grandma's at 11:30 a.m. sharp. It's pretty typical for me to be a few minutes late everywhere I go. I'm not proud of it, but am cognizant of it. Monday I was right on time. Right on time of course still meant that Grandma and Alice were already waiting outside, with Alice already buckled in the backseat of Grandma's car, which I was set to drive downtown.
We left Grandma's and headed east, to pick-up Jo at her retirement community. I started to head there on 15th Street but was quickly informed that Grandma and Alice usually take 6th Street when they visit. Sixth Street it is!
We arrived at Jo's and I followed the directions I was getting from the passenger seat on how to enter the circle drive. As I proceeded, my backseat passenger said, "Oh, Jo isn't going to like this! She likes it when we come in the other way."
With my third passenger safely buckled, we headed out. I delivered my companions to the restaurant and we enjoyed what I thought was a delicious lunch. Jo and Alice both ordered Ruebens and our good friend Ben says you can never go wrong with a Rueben. I hope Ben's right.
Grandma was intrigued by the "Veggie Melt" on the menu. It's the kind of place where the menu gives you little to go on in terms of what exactly you're ordering. I guess it's an attempt at making a veggie sandwich worthy of the white tablecloths? She did exactly what a good grandma and lunch companion does, which is rave about it. I think it could have been cardboard and she wouldn't have admitted it because she was the bravest orderer at the table and was proud of it.
We had a leisurely lunch. That was partly because there was no place we had to be and partly because that's how they roll. I am fairly clock-conscious. I have to be that way at work, because the person who signs my paycheck is, and outside of work it seems that if I'm not, we don't accomplish all we should to keep our household on track. But that day I made a conscious decision to ignore my watch and just let it happen. I knew I was leaving work early and would be returning late. The interesting thing is that when lunch was over I was genuinely surprised by how late it was. The old saying is true.
I was amazed by the friendship of these three women. I had met both of grandma's friends before but was guilty of never having had a real conversation with either of them. Alice has five children, fourteen grandchildren and soon-to-be-fifteen great-grandchildren. Jo has lived all over the country. Who knew? I learned that they gossip about their retirement communities the same way my friends and I do about our kids' schools. They compare notes about their doctors the same way my friends and I do about our doctors and they discuss their neighbors the same way we do as well. It's just fast-forwarded fifty years.
Grandma, Alice and Jo have only known each other for a few years, since moving into the same living community. They never knew one another's husbands. They never knew each other as working women, which they all were in one way or another. They just know each other in the now. And in the now, they support each other just like my friends and I try to do. They take turns driving to card club. They take turns hosting. They bring each other treats unexpectedly and they share books. They are like my bunco group, book club and lunch buddies all rolled into one. They have a bit of collective wisdom.
After we shared some mango sorbet and carrot cake we loaded up and headed back to their respective homes. They made plans for who would host cards on Thursday and they thanked me profusely as we parted ways.
We all have lessons we can learn from each other and I firmly believe that we have certain people in our lives for certain reasons. It occured to me that because they're eighty-eight, they've reached a place in life where they can be lots of things to each other. There was no pretense between them. They don't seem to choose to make time for it and there's certainly a lesson in that.
I returned to work 2.5 hours after I first left and my absence had been noted. It's funny how much I didn't really care. I don't think Jo and Alice and Grandma would advise me to worry so much about the clock.
Today I received a thank you note from Jo. It was handwritten and it came to my house. What a treat. It was definitely me who should have written the thank yous.