It was Wednesday, July 5, 2000. Relatives I hadn’t seen since I was a child had gathered at my sister’s place in the early evening of the day of my mother’s funeral. I sat beside Dad, a plate in front of him, empty except a few scattered crumbs playing hide-and-seek with a crumpled paper napkin.
It happened in one of those conversational lulls that experts say occur approximately every twenty minutes when people converse in groups. It had been a horrible day; worse for the man next to me, her husband of fifty-seven years. When my father turned to me and asked, “How are you doing?” I had no idea what to say.
Gradually I became aware that not only had everyone in the room stopped talking, but everyone in the room had turned toward Dad and me. It was more scrutiny than I could bear. I said the first thing that popped into my head.
“Today wasn’t very much fun,” I said, looking only at my father. “I’m not doing this again any time soon. That settles it; you’re living to a 100.” (He would turn 85 that October.)
I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I can still see that quiet smile of his in response to my remark. I didn’t think anything more about it. Little did I realize that I planted a seed.
Several months later, back in Vancouver while talking to my sister in Winnipeg, I asked how Dad was doing. I explained I had spoken to him several times since my return, but we both knew that all I would get was “Fine” or “Good,” whether it was true or not. After giving me a more realistic update, she joked, “Yeah, he’s telling everyone that his elder daughter says he has to live to 100.”
We began to realize that Dad was really serious about becoming a centenarian when he kept mentioning he 90th birthday, and how his family forgot to request a milestone birthday greeting from the Prime Minister of Canada. If he was going to live to 100 years of age, my sister and I had to promise that we wouldn’t forget this time. We promised.
As it turned out, he was only four years short of his goal.
~ Happy 100th Birthday, Daddy-O ~