Tag Archives: 90th birthday

Ninety Years Young

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, photoshops the symbol for Anonymous Female from Facebook instead of a photo of her 90 year old friend who is online dating.“I may be 90 but I’m not dead,” my friend Juliette said. It was her birthday. To celebrate, I’d brought over the requested tuna-on-rye with onion and lettuce, a tiny cheesecake, and my camera.

“Oh good,” she said, eyeing the camera. “I’m considering going back to online dating and I need some photos.” I looked at her in awe, never having gathered enough courage to go through with online dating myself. She had over five years of experience.

“But you already have a boyfriend,” I said, trying to hide my jealousy. “Are there really guys online, looking for women in their 80s and 90s?”
“Oh, yes,” she assured me. But there were problems about dating in one’s Sunset Years. “Mostly related to geography,” she said. She mentioned health issues and scammers as well, but decided the biggest obstacle was the physical distance between herself and her admirers. If you no longer drive and your sweetheart lives hours away, there is never enough time together and each meet-up requires the aid of family or friends to transport one to be with the other. “That’s why I’m going back to shopping online to find a congenial companion who lives within 10 to 20 miles.”

“So, what’s your ideal man like?” I asked. She responded with her list: Gentle. Affectionate. Good command of the English language. Someone to go to ethnic restaurants with, who likes to play word games and cards, enjoys listening to classical music, … happy to share coffee in the morning. I wondered, how early in the morning? And if that implied they would spend the night together? Not wanting to pry, I didn’t say anything at first. But finally, because these days I’m trying to be more forthright in my communications, I asked, “Is there sex at 90?”

From her shiny red motorized wheel chair, Juliette looked up at me through knitted brows, and lowered her voice, “Well, you’re not supposed to advertise that fact.” That’s when she said, “I may be 90 but I’m not dead.” Right then, I knew I’d found my story of the week.


Creating Rituals

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, makes rituals and toasts with sisters on their mother's 90th birthday.“What kind of rituals did you do?” a friend asked, peering at me from the corner of one eye, like I was talking about voodoo or séances. But there’s nothing mystical about rituals. They are simply small acts done to honor someone or to remember an event. We do rituals all the time. Like lighting candles on a cake and singing happy birthday. Like raising the flag. Feasting on Thanksgiving. Graduations and marriages are rituals. Rituals can be private or public acknowledgements. They can follow age-old traditions or be unique responses to mark a special moment. There are rituals of joy and rituals for healing. To create a ritual, you just do something to make a meaningful connection to whomever or whatever you want to commemorate.

“Well, the whole trip to the Rocky Mountains was a tribute to my daughter who died,” I told my skeptical friend. “I threw her jewels off the highest cliffs I could find, sang her songs, and blew bubbles into the wind. I read my manuscript aloud to her, a few chapters each day, by a lake. There were chocolates. Candles. And on the last evening, I stood watching the sun set over the elk field as I listened to the CD she left me.”

Long before my daughter died, my first rituals were funerals for dead birds. The neighborhood kids shared solemn words as we wrapped small creatures in Kleenex with shriveled dandelion buds, and buried them in the tiny space between the back of a garage and my mother’s rock garden. Later, rituals focused on the changing seasons. In the fall there was apple picking, pumpkin carving, the annual cooking and freezing of hearty soups, and traveling the countryside to view the fall colors.

The beginning of October is the time for the bittersweet annual ritual of closing the season at my mother’s summer home. My sisters and I gathered in Massachusetts the past weekend. I packed up the old philodendron plant that lives on the porch during the warm months and returns with me to Ithaca for the winter. My sisters raided the closets for cold-weather coats. And then we all made the rounds to say goodbye to Hoadley Gallery, the Shear Design Hair Salon, and Chez Nous Bistro. Until next summer.

“Cheers!” We raised our wineglasses and clinked them heartily. For three days we feasted and toasted. It was our mother’s 90th birthday.