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A big day in a long life

by Ron Walker

By 9 a.m. I am on my way to the Gallery Bakery in Yerington to pick up my birthday cake. My birthday bash is about to begin.

My son Randy and his daughter, Jenelle, are wracking their brains to come up with a safe way for all of us to congregate together. They are from Reno, and seriously impacted by the challenge of staying healthy. Living here in sparsely populated Smith Valley, I am a bit cavalier about the threat of disease transmittance. But one thing is certain, turning 90 is no time to poo-poo a potential danger. (It’s like not knowing if the kitty up ahead with the stripe down his back is actually a kitty, so best you wait until you hear it purring.)

Mission accomplished. Strips of ribbon hang from tree to tree, clusters of tables are placed hither and yon, and towering poplar trees have turned a wide curve in our driveway into a perfect party location. Kim Aynedter arrives with two trays of barbecued ribs, a wheelbarrow full of potato salad, and a Caesar salad. My lemon-flavored birthday cake is given a place of honor and the festivities begin. Mark, Jenelle, Tony, Randy, Rosemary, plus three perky great-grand-daughters have come all the way from Reno, and Tom, our other son, has come from Napa. The mode of food distribution is discussed at some length, a decision is made, and we all hunker down for lunch.

SHOWTIME. My three intensely pretty great-grand-daughters prance out from behind an enormous bush, dressed in sparkly glittered costumes that mommy has made. Mommy is also their choreographer and musically infectious “Dancing Queen” from ABBA is the music she has chosen.

Rosie, the middle girl (6 years), decides suddenly that the pressure of performing is too much and hides behind Mommy. This deters in no way the show from proceeding. The music is cued and “Dancing Queen” fills the air. Lily knows exactly what to do, she is the oldest, she’s eight. Tiny Violet, the youngest (3 years), cares nothing for choreographic integrity, smiles and glows with satisfaction, reveling at all the smiling faces turning her way. Lily is caught up and surrenders herself to the music, adding subtle touches to her movements. This thrills me of course and I start, ever so subtly, at first then with greater freedom. Instead of hearing “Dancing Queen,” it’s “Dancing King” I now hear. I mirror Lily’s moves: our arms flaying, shoulders rolling. This is no time to hold back. It’s a pas de deux, even though I’m chair bound. The number ends to great applause.

Turning 90 is like breaking the sound barrier. You have no idea of what is it is like on the other side. For me it’s a time to reflect. I have a wonderful wife, and adult kids who are a part of my life no matter where they are. Marla, emailed earlier today from Fredonia, Kentucky. This morning she saw a herd of 12 bucks, including a 10 pointer and a young one with nubbins in the high pasture above her house. It’s a good life.

Ron Walker can be reached at walkover@gmx.com