With black Magic Marker I hand printed a 5 page speech for my 84th birthday party, a family dinner. The food was a wonderful mix of Indian and Moroccan dishes, good wine, a sumptuous chocolate birthday cake. My three children are all gourmet cooks, a constant reproach to their crock-pot oriented mother.
I spent many hours carefully shaping the inch sized letters on the page and ruling heavy black lines.
It was as my mother used to wistfully say about such futile efforts, “Oisgevarfena gelt.” (Throw away money.) Then I dug out the tarnished WWI silver bugle I’d played in a marching band during my adolescence. I polished that old horn happily and afterwards I practiced “Reveille” till my lips ached–I wondered what my neighbors were thinking of my music. No matter. I knew my young grandchildren would be entertained. They might like to try the bugle. I’d loved playing it.
But I, obviously, have not yet come to terms with my blindness: macular degeneration. One particularly rotten feature of it is its unpredictability. Suddenly I see clearly and I’m flooded with hope and joy, and then it’s gone; no, no it’s back–only to vanish once again. All my days are governed by these alternating currents, joy and despair. It doesn’t matter that I remind myself of its transience; seeing is happiness! My heart rejects what my mind insists. Stay cool, Sheila; it’s only a lucky fleeting glimpse. Shut up, Spoil sport! You never heard of miracles?
So I rose to give my speech at the party, but I could not read it. I tried it positioned under various lamps and ceiling lights. Backlight often works. Alas, no luck. We made the best of it glossing over disaster with encouraging chatter.
I talked a bit about being a writer and my first publication, a limerick, when I was in third grade. The poem appeared in PEN AND INK, the school magazine.
Mrs. Astorbilt once had a poodle
She fed him on apple strudel
He became temperamental
Wouldn’t eat beans or lentils
So they shot him right through the noodle!
How happy I’d been. Tone deaf, not athletic at all, I was a writer! I recalled that several years later, I entered a contest run by Stuhmer’s Pumpernickel. I had to merely finish the line “I like Stuhmer’s Pumpernickel because….” There were cash prizes, but I won a consolation prize, a large pumpernickel! Which I carried home triumphantly, unwrapped, so the neighbors could see! Thus began my meteoric writing career!
Too soon it was late, time to go home. I would have played “Taps” but there were sleeping neighbors all around.
The best part of the celebration–after the food, of course–was the bugle. The kids really loved it. That’s what they’ll remember from Grandma’s 84th birthday party.
It makes me smile to think of it and I know how much my dear late husband would have enjoyed it as well.