This past Saturday, my sister, Marie, my cousins, Jeanette, Jeanine, Ann, and a dear family friend, Jewell, celebrated my Aunt Doris’ 91st birthday. We carried cake, balloons and gifts and surprised her. She had no idea we were coming, much less bringing a birthday party!
Aunt Doris is in a nursing home where she has resided for so many years that I’ve lost count. When she first went there, she was well, walked everywhere on the property and was the life of the party. In those days, “assisted living” residences didn’t exist, and even if they had, my guess is that she wouldn’t have been able to pay the astronomical monthly cost to live in one. But she loved where she was then and now. She would visit the other residents who were not able to “get about” like she could, she went to the dining hall for every meal and had her hair and nails done at the in-house salon every week. She went to the church service held there every Sunday, and she played Bingo every Friday. In 2010, she was crowned as Mrs. NRC (initials of the name of the residence) and the sash proclaiming that fact hangs over her bed today. She loves angels, evidenced by the fact that there are angel figurines everywhere in her room, gifts from those who love her. There are cards and pictures of family members and her room is always decorated for the season. A Valentine’s heart is already hanging on her door.
When it got a little more challenging to walk, she used a wheelchair. Every day, she was dressed, hair and nails done and up and down the halls she went, scooting along in her wheelchair, visiting the other residents.
If you asked her, she would probably say she’s had a good life. And in many ways, she has. For as long as I can remember, she’s been a Christian and demonstrated her love for Jesus in everything she did. I can remember when I was a child, she was the Vacation Bible School (VBS) Director. Every morning of VBS week, she would stand outside with her beautiful smile, and she would call all the children to attention by saying, “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.'” And we would come to order and follow her inside the church to begin the day’s activities.
She had her beloved husband, Lonnie. She always said, “Lonnie spoils me.” He did and she deserved it.
When we were gathered in her room on Saturday, several of my cousins talked about how she always dressed beautifully and how many of her outfits were by Jonathan Logan (a very well-known dress designer back in the day). Jeanette remembered that she didn’t have a dress to wear to a school dance. Her momma, my Aunt Grace, brought Jeanette to Aunt Doris’ house, and Aunt Doris loaned her one of her Jonathan Logan dresses. Jeanette said she “felt like a princess” at that dance.
When I went to say goodbye to Aunt Doris on Saturday, I reminded her that she and I were the February birthday girls. Many, many years ago, Aunt Doris gave me her birthstone ring. It remains in my jewelry case today. (Unfortunately, it no long fits.)
Aunt Doris’ health is very poor now. In fact, she gave us quite a scare on Saturday when she seemed to lose consciousness. The nurses were able to wake her up and we visited for a few more minutes.
As my sister and I left we both agreed that we were very glad we visited.
From left to right: Me, Jewell, Jeanette, Aunt Doris, Marie, Ann & Jeanine