As a culture, we recognize milestones. We count the years with class reunions, wedding anniversaries, or years logged since a cancer diagnosis. It has been a few months, but I bet the majority of readers can tell me how many years it had been since the Chicago Cubs had last won the World Series.
As parents, we carefully record that first step, first tooth, first time rolling over. At least we do for the first baby; the second, third, fourth… maybe not quite as detailed. This month, I’m celebrating a birthday that ends in a 9. This is a milestone in a way, a preamble to a new decade. To be completely honest, it’s more about clinging to the final year left in my current decade.
My sons had a great-grandfather who was meticulous in keeping track of each great-grandchild’s birthday. He carried a pocket calendar around and recorded every date in his precious, shaky handwriting, making sure to not miss a single date for each of his 12 great-grandkids. It was so touching to me, and I made sure to never miss that World War II veteran’s birthday either.
Today we are reminded of birthdays and anniversaries through social media. Facebook has made me a much better friend because I never would have put all of those dates into a traditional calendar. I could not keep up with sending something as old-fashioned as a card via something as truly antiquated as the mail. With just a few clicks, I can send a birthday cake emoji with a couple of exclamation points through cyberspace and am on top of things.
Some milestones can be bittersweet, like the first holiday after a grandmother passes away or a 75th wedding anniversary that never happened because one of the spouses is no longer with us. I toasted the 100th birthday of my grandmother even though she left us at 94 years old.
Do you reach out to your elderly family and friends when special dates pop up on the calendar? These dates don’t have to be completely solemn occasions. Reaching out to remember a wedding anniversary with a widower can bring back happy memories of a beautiful marriage, not to mention the fact that you have taken the time to call or visit with this person and recognize the importance of the day.
You may not want to just send an emoji to your great grandmother. Take the time to send a card and handwritten note or better yet, stop by for a visit.
Can you imagine how you would feel at 29, 39, or 49 if your important milestone wasn’t important to anyone else? Someone 79, 89, or 99 feels exactly the same way.
Here is an idea. This February, make an elder your valentine.
Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.