Happy 90th birthday, grandma.

When my grandmother, Hazel Case, celebrates her 90th birthday this weekend, she will have surpassed the combined lifespan of both of her parents.

Hazel grew up the oldest of seven children on a farm east of Hardtner, Kansas. By the time she was 22 years old, she had lost both parents. As a 13 year old girl, she watched her mother, Cleta Mae (Yates) Myers die at 35 from cancer on the farmstead. After that she assumed her mother’s role. By the time her father, Harry Myers, died of a heart attack at 45, she had already married my grandfather and was living in Alva, Oklahoma. She would also lose a younger brother, Forest, at 19 under suspicious circumstances.

We never know what kind of adversity we’ll face in this life, but I do know one thing: my grandmother experienced her share of it. Her husband, my grandfather “Red” Case, died of cancer at 58 after an extended illness. He was a smoker and died that way. My grandmother told me that as a naïve young boy I tried to get him to quit several times. My grandmother never smoked and has consumed very little alcohol. She has educated herself about health eating and dietary practices. As late as last summer she worked daily in her yard. I suspect that her diet and her active lifestyle have contributed to her longevity.  

90 years, even 100 years, is becoming more and more commonplace in the world today, but it’s still worth celebrating. 90 years equals a lot of history, a lot of losses, a lot of both joy and sorrow, a lot of life.

Hazel is my remaining grandparent. I’m grateful that I live close enough that I can visit her regularly. Happy birthday, Grandma Case, and here’s to more healthy years.