Recently my siblings, cousins and I had the pleasure of helping the only surviving member of my mother’s immediate family celebrate his 90th birthday. His wife had celebrated the same milestone birthday two years earlier, and the couple has always been an inspiration to our family. They are a fine example of enduring love and caring for each other through the ages. Both are so gracious and charming when they show up dressed to the nines for our family celebrations. I complimented my aunt on her shiny nails and she told me that she had recently had them done in cerulean blue at her regular manicure session. I felt like putting MY unremarkable hands behind my back as I admired hers! Over 90 years old and still looking mighty fine!

I always find it interesting to ask couples how they met, and sometimes it’s even better to ask them separately, just to get the story from both perspectives. My uncle remembered returning from his service in the Army, securing a job as an orderly in the local hospital and then setting about the business of rejoining the social scene after an absence of four years. He attended a dance at the Grange, and happened to see a lovely girl standing alone. He asked someone who she was, then headed across the room where he asked her to dance. They found that they both loved to dance and did so quite well together. He looked at me then with his twinkling blue eyes and told me that he remembered thinking that he didn’t want to let this one get away and that he was sure he wanted to spend more time with her.

They continued to date for about three months, and one night when he showed up at her house for their date, her mother came out first and asked him just when he intended to ask her daughter to marry him! He remembers being taken by surprise initially, then thinking it was a pretty good idea! His next thought was that he’d have to ask for a few days off from his job if he was going to be getting married, but he had no doubts that he wanted to marry her. I guess Mom decided it was time, and so it was!

My aunt, on the other hand, had a few reservations. She remembers thinking that it was just a short time that they’d known each other and she wondered for a bit if it was too soon to be taking that big step. Apparently Mom’s question was a surprise to her, too, but they started making plans anyway. They tied the knot on my uncle’s day off, and they’re still a happy, beautiful couple almost 70 years later!

I’m sure they had some rough patches as they raised their three children and dealt with whatever health problems came their way, but they kept their union strong through everything. They were one of the founding members of the Belles of St. Marys square dancing group, and their love of dancing led them to many competitions and new friendships. They enjoyed cross country skiing together and both of them eventually worked at the same hospital where they advanced in their jobs as the years went by. Each had their separate interests, but there were shared interests as well. Wow! What an inspiration!

After the meal and a chorus of Happy Birthday and sharing the cake, they made their way around the table, chatting with each person and thanking them for attending. It was a real conversation going on, a treat in an age when the majority of people prefer sending a quick text or email rather than having an actual conversation either by phone or in person.

Contrast that birthday party with a family gathering of my paternal cousins several months ago. One cousin whom we had not seen in many years attended with his wife and two children. After he briefly introduced his family, we all sat down to visit and order our food. Both of the teenage children as well as my cousin’s wife got out either an IPad or an IPhone and were engaged with their devices even while eating, and never once attempted to join in any conversation. They were in their own little world, which obviously was much more interesting than we were!

Are we headed for a place where social interaction and conversation don’t happen anymore? People often take out their devices, put on headphones and are taken out of the real world into their own digital world. I wonder if some even have an addiction to texting and being connected to the internet doing one thing or another most of their waking hours. Don’t we have to teach our children about interacting with others, using some manners and social graces, and insist that there is a time and a place for the wonders of the internet to be enjoyed?

I am so impressed with the charm and manners of another older woman I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in the last few years. I’ve invited her to various holiday family meals at my house, and she always arrives with a lovely hostess gift. It could be some of her hand crocheted items or maybe a bouquet of flowers, plus she usually brings something to contribute to the meal. A few days later I often receive a hand written thank you letter in the mail, expressing her gratitude for being included in our gathering. What a joy it is to be with her and to experience such gentility! Can we expect the same graces from our children if we don’t teach them what it’s all about?

Let’s put down the devices and rejoin the world with some real conversation and enjoy some genuine social interaction. You never know what you might learn in the process!

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