My mom's Aunt F. is almost 88 years old. She was one of something like 11 children, and grew up on a farm in rural Wisconsin. She became a school teacher, so she's still got that tough-as-nails thing going for her when she employs teacher-voice (usually when one of us tries to take her out to lunch or dinner for a change -- "No, I invited you. It's my treat and that's all there is to it."). She gets up at 5 every day, can bake a cake, whip up two batches of cookies or jar 30 quarts of pickled brussel sprouts before 10 a.m., and never skips jury duty. She gives blood at every drive, goes to church every Sunday and has never once forgotten any of the birthdays for anyone in my immediate family, not to mention what our favorite kind of cake is. In short, she's your all-purpose senior-citizen superhero.
This is what was written on the inside of my birthday card this year from Aunt F. You can tell she grew up in a time when newsy correspondence was the thing to do.
"[A friend of the family and his daughter] are here blacktopping my driveway, so I'm home bound today. I weeded in the garden this morning so I'm ready for a rest.
"It's so dry everything is drying up, even the ever-bearing raspberries. My cucumber plant is doing well. I picked over 30 cucumbers from it already.
She's never once said "I love you" in so many words, but it's in every hem she ever let out of my jeans growing up, every jar of dill pickles she sends us in the summertime, every tin of home-baked and frosted and sprinkled Christmas cookies we get each December, every tear that stands in her eyes as we leave after a few weeks' vacation at her house in July.
If, when I'm in my 80s, I can look back on my life and see a life of service even half as dedicated and giving as hers, I will be satisfied. "The greatest generation," indeed.