On Saturday we celebrated my grandpa’s 90th birthday. I loved that the day of the party fell on his actual birthday. I flipped through the pictures on my camera and picked out a few favorites to share here, but am still sorting through pictures to share with family. I didn’t have a picture of the big group shot on my camera with everyone who came (there were a lot of us), but I shared one with Grandpa with his kids. The party was at my aunt and uncle’s house, a place I love. Yesterday I wrote about childhood memories and I certainly have an abundance of those from their house. They had the biggest and best yard for games of croquet with the cousins, and for Easter egg hunts as well.
Before we went, I told Bracken that there was a swing there when I was a little girl and that perhaps it would still be there. It was, much to his delight. My uncle had recently replaced the old swing in the oak tree, with a new one. That old oak tree has been the backdrop for so many family pictures. My uncle said it’s probably 200 to 300 years old. Seeing it still there was comforting to me, like a familiar old friend. And I smiled when I saw that the stairs over the fence and into the woods were still there. When we were kids, those stairs felt like a magical portal from the yard to the forest. Bracken enjoyed them as well and spotted some white flowers blooming on the forest floor.
Two of my aunts made a book to surprise my grandpa for his birthday, and I was deeply grateful that they did.
Harlan K Baker
The first ninety years
My grandpa never went by Harlan, he went by K. I always felt a special connection to him and my middle name, Kae, is after him. We lived with him and my grandma for a little while when I was young and I have so many wonderful memories with him. The feeling of my memories with him always warm my heart. In 2000 he had surgery for a brain aneurysm and had a severe stroke paralyzing his left side. I was 15 at the time. After that we squeezed each other’s hands to tell each other how much we loved each other. Whenever his eyes lit up when he saw me and he smiled, it was his same gentle spirit shining through, my same grandpa looking back at me.
Luckily, my aunt had asked my grandpa to write about his life and he did that before his stroke. The book they made for his birthday has that story, along with so many pictures. What a gift it is to read his words and get to learn more about his life and get to know him better. There were things I knew and many, many things I didn’t. I finished reading the book on the airplane ride home, with tears in my eyes. When a kind stewardess stopped and commented on the book because she had noticed it walking back and forth, I surprised myself (and her) by hardly being able to speak or answer her question because of the tears that were falling. Part of that was because I wasn’t sure if, when I said goodbye to him, that would be the last time I would see him or not.
I met quite a few of my great grandparents and always felt grateful for that. For Bracken to get time with his great grandparents, I recognize how special it is. I’m glad Bracken got to celebrate his great grandpa’s 90th birthday and that he’ll be able to read stories about his life in the book my aunts put together. When I spoke to my grandpa on his 90th birthday, I told him how much I loved him and how much he meant to me. I told him that he had family that came from all over just to see him and celebrate his life, I told him how very loved he is. I wanted my grandpa to feel so loved on his birthday and I know he did.