Today is a day my aunt Marga (or Marge) has been anticipating for years. Today she's 90 years old.
Along with her sister with whom she shared the birthday - though not the birth year, they are two of the relatives that influenced me most.
When I was a child I wanted to be like her, organized, decided, relentless, generous, elegant, cultivated and intelligent. I wanted a house like hers, with a fireplace and a green patio and that incredibly homey smell, although I thought her husband was a tad aloof and intimidating and I'm not at all fond of dogs. I always found captivating the alluring mystery of a loving adult who at the same time, refused to discuss certain matters with me without being condescending.
Her husband died in 1989, and the couple had only one son who's had many relationships with women but never wanted to have children, so she doesn't have any grandchildren. My sister and I filled that void and looking back I can say that it was a great honor. I find it amazing that she knows exactly who I am, and in spite of the 60 year gap she now treats me like an adult and speaks about things she never wanted to say before. In return I treat her like an adult too, which is not how people usually react with an elderly person.
Next December it's going to be 10 years since my grandmother, her best friend, passed away. Ever since, or maybe it started before but I couldn't detect it, her health has declined. It's something in her brain that wrecks her balance and mobility and her ability of speech. She keeps a routine, dresses up every day, wears make up and worries about her hair looking good. She also makes decisions on what to buy at the groceries' store (even if she forgets the names of about half the products she wants to order), plays chess against the computer (she can't go to her chess club anymore), and reads the newspaper.
Sometimes she remembers one particular thing of her past, sometimes it's another. She was one of the first female graduate architects and when she was a teenager, she volunteered with the Spanish Republican army committee in Montevideo; she once owned a car and she has always been fiercely independent, so her anecdotes are extremely interesting. She might forget names of people, of places (like Uruguay!), or nouns, or verbs, and sometimes it's a whole verb tense so she may speak only in present, so it's hard to jump on a wagon of her train of thought. It's worth the effort, though.
Nevermind what comes and goes, she always makes a point of being "almost ninety", or "one year three months shy of ninety". Being ninety years old has been a goal in itself, and I'm curious of what she's going to do next. Knowing her like I do, I'm sure she'll dive in it with all the purpose and energy in the world. And I'll be with her.
That's what granddaughters are for.