Celebrating 88 years of life

Sadie is an incredible person. On this Saturday evening, the short, silver-haired Sicilian is surrounded by her loving family at an Italian restaurant just outside of Cleveland, where she has lived her entire life. In a few days, Sadie turns 88, and she had requested her immediate family come together and share a meal in celebration.

The appetizers—calamari, fried zucchini, mozzarella sticks—are circulating. Sadie, of course, ordered them. And she insists on picking up the check for all nine people, who are at this moment talking about their myriad health issues.

“Your grandmother does not like taking pills,” Sadie’s daughter, Josie, says to her own two sons. “She won’t even take a Tylenol PM.”

Sadie's other daughter speaks up. “Well you know how I feel about them—better life through chemistry.” Most people at the table nod in agreement, many of them dependent on medication to alleviate the symptoms of chronic pain and general aging, and all of them decades younger than the woman of the hour.

“I’m with grandma,” Sadie’s grandson says. “All these meds can’t be good for anyone’s health.”

“No, you misunderstood me,” Josie says to her son. “She doesn’t like taking pills.” Sadie, the focal point at the table, then motions at her throat, tightens her face, and mimics the displeasure of having to swallow medications. Everyone has a good laugh.

Sadie has been independent for a long time now. Her husband of 62 years passed away on Thanksgiving in 2007. Even then, he had lived in a long-term care facility for years before his passing, and Sadie was forced to be independent for the first time in her adult life. The family feared for her well-being.

But when life had dealt its roughest hand in the twilight hours of life, Sadie seemed to become a stronger individual, her resolve an inspiration to loved ones and acquaintances alike.

So it is no surprise that on this night, her 88th birthday party, Sadie is ordering the food, paying for dinner, rousing the conversations. She is a special senior, an incredible person, and the force that holds this tight family together so closely. And everyone can’t help but wonder what birthday number 89 will look like.

By the way, Sadie is my grandmother.

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