I gave no special thought to my 70th birthday, but as it neared, Melanie asked if I wanted to do something special. That question caught me off guard because I did not think that entering my eight decade warranted any special consideration. But the more it crossed my mind, the more I thought about doing something out of the ordinary like going to Martinique or to Quebec. It’s been many years since I visited either place, Martinique as a young assistant professor on a scholarship from the French government and Quebec as an undergraduate student in an intensive summer language program at McGill University in Montreal. So the time seemed ripe to return. Paralysis and indifference prevented me from looking into travel details. But Melanie persisted in her inquiries about what I wanted to do. Frankly, I had no answer. My elder son, AJ also thought the day warranted special attention. Finally, it occurred to me that spending my 70th birthday with my 91 year old mother would be ideal. She would be happy to see me as would my siblings. Luckily, I found two airline tickets at half the cost of what they were two days earlier. So off we went to New Orleans. My two sons and their families came from D. C. and Las Vegas to be with us, a very special treat indeed.
And what a happy occasion it was! On Palm Sunday, the day before my actual birthday (April 10), my siblings and Melanie arranged a huge party of about forty people – sons, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, grand nieces and nephews, cousins and friends. As typical of any New Orleans festivity, where the good times roll, there was plenty to eat — delicious crawfish bisque and gumbo prepared by my younger cousin Sherrie whose cooking rivals that of her mother, and sundry other dishes of baked macaroni and cheese, ham, turkey, jambalaya, mixed vegetables. green and potato salads. The tasty birthday cake from Haydel’s Bakery decorated in Mardi Gras colors of purple, green and gold, had my name in the middle and Rhaoul’s and KT’s in each of the top corners. Rhaoul, who falls short by four days of being one year younger than I, celebrated his birthday on April 6 and KT’s, my daughter-in-law, on April 8. Call it a family affair! By the end of the day I was full of mirth, merriment, and a very full stomach.
On this Bacchanal note, a visit to New Orleans would not be complete without dining in a city known for its culinary pleasures. During our week-long visit we ate po-boys at the iconic Parkway Bakery and Tavern with my son, Paul, and, daughter-in-law, Katie, had dinner at Cava’s with brother, Warmoth and sister-in-law, Laurie, and dinner at Muriel’s, just off Jackson Square with good friends and former Xavier colleagues, Tom and Judith Bonner and Ann and Johnny Barron. And at my mother’s, Teresita and I enjoyed a mound of crawfish.
As I get older, I realize more and more the importance of family and friends. I’ve not always kept in touch as often as I should or would have liked. It’s not out of neglect or even laziness, it’s just that life has many detours that lead to new adventures. Because time is fleeting, it’s more important for me now to maintain those relationships with family and dear ole friends. I was particularly gratified to spend time with my mother, who at ninety-one is in relatively good health, but showing signs of aging. As I sat on the sofa near her we laughed at tales of my youth repeated many times, and in the telling of them new twists and embellishments were added. I imagine it is this way in many families.
God only knows how much longer my mother will be with us. My siblings and I are fortunate to still have her involved in our lives. Our mother is a deeply religious woman whose morning and night prayers are pleas to heaven to watch over her family. As my mother says, she begins with Alfred, his wife, his children and grandchildren, repeating this pattern down the birth order of siblings. In my estimation, she is a saint. She is and has been a blessing. To be with her, to hold her hand and to give her hugs and kisses was the best present a seventy-year old could ever want. Thank you Teresita for the loving care you provide for our mother.