Susan and I are back in Nashville after a weekend in The Villages. The Villages is the world’s largest community for 55+ adults. There are over 100,000 retirees living there. My father is one of them. He turned 90 this past week and his family gathered to celebrate this milestone birthday. We had a great time in two short days. I think my Dad really enjoyed the experience.
Most of the weekend was spent talking, reminiscing, and catching up on family news. We also made sure the younger family members were up to speed on important and/or humorous family history. Every family has those stories that need to be passed down as part of an oral history. It’s even more fun when the stories are embellished with quasi-facts as each generation hears them.
The actual birthday party was Saturday night at a local hotel. We had food and drink brought in, including large amounts of excellent beer donated by my nephews’ craft brewery.
Before dinner, my sister had arranged for a team of dance instructors to give all of us a quick swing dancing lesson. The plan was for the adults to practice what we learned on the square in the Villages where live music would be playing that evening. This plan was interrupted by water: the rain outside the hotel and the fire sprinklers inside the hotel.
Yes, a hotel guest (not a family member) had started a grease fire in her room trying to fry chicken. (Who fries chicken in a Marriott?) The fire alarm went off, followed shortly by sprinkler water pouring through the ceilings. Fortunately, the hotel was able to clean up our event room so the party went on without the dancing.
I had prepared a slide show of 120 family photographs depicting my father from infancy to recent days. I then converted the slide show to a private Youtube video with music. (This is very easy to do by the way. Just go to your YouTube account, click “upload”, select the “photo slideshow” option and follow the instructions.) I played the video on a large screen television during our party. My father loved it. After the party, I shared the video with everyone in the family. Next time you celebrate a milestone birthday, this is something worth doing.
A special part of the evening was when family members openly shared stories with all of us about my father, some funny and some serious. The stories captured important characteristics of my father and demonstrated how lessons he taught us in our early years have guided and stayed with us to the present day.
I was very proud of all of my family members for making the effort to travel and be present for this special event. A life extending for 90 years and beyond is truly a milestone worth celebrating. I’m so glad that Susan was willing and able to join me this weekend. She was very brave in agreeing to meet 34 new family members over the course of 48 hours.
If you have a chance to organize and/or participate in a celebration of a milestone birthday of a senior family member, I encourage you to go for it. Gather all of the photos and stories about the family member and present them at the party. It is a fantastic opportunity to educate distant family members about important family history and to bring everyone closer together in spirit.
I’m already looking forward to my Dad’s the 100th birthday celebration.