This Wednesday, April 20, my wise, unpretentious, courageous, empathetic, stubborn, hardworking, appreciative and absolutely gorgeous mother will be 95 years old.
Although Flo herself would never say this, her life has not been easy. Our father, Ed Finke, died when he was 47 years old. My oldest sister Bobbie is 20 years older than I am, and she was already married by then. The six of us younger ones were still at home. Flo found a job at a nearby bakery that allowed her to bring us little girls along to work on days she couldn’t find a babysitter. Once all of us were enrolled in elementary school, Flo studied, got her GED, and found a job as an office clerk. She worked there 20 years, burned the mortgage on the house, and retired at age 70.
Our father’s early death taught us a lot of things. One of them? Never take birthdays for granted. We’ll be celebrating Flo’s 95th all week long, and we kicked it all off last Saturday morning. My sister Cheryl drove Flo to downtown Chicago, Marilee flew in from Florida, Bev took a train from Michigan, and we all met for brunch at, where else? The 95th Floor of the John Hancock Center. My sisters wisely placed me with my back to the windows. Flo got the spot with a panoramic view of the Chicago skyline, but if you ask me I had the best seat in the house: directly across from the birthday girl.
Flo had never been to the John Hancock Center before. She was absolutely tickled. Our nephew Brian Miller flew back from South Korea that afternoon. His cousin Ben picked him up at O’Hare so he could join Marilee and Bev for a sleepover at their Grandma’s. Marilee had to fly back to Florida Sunday, Bev and Brian will be here until Tuesday, and on Wednesday Harper is guiding me to the train station to take a ride out to Elmhurst. I’ll meet Cheryl and Flo at a wine shop for a toast to the birthday girl. Harper’s work ethic has been improving since I published that last post, and if my sense of joy and exuberance on Flo’s birthday Wednesday wears off on Harper, I know he’ll get us all the way to the train station without balking once. We’ll all toast to that, too!.
During the car ride home from the Hancock Center Saturday, Flo thanked us over and over again for her big day out. “This sure was a special birthday celebration,” she said, and after pondering that for a moment, she added one last thought. “All of my birthdays have been special.” We agreed. Happy birthday, dear Flo. And many, many more.