Aunt Ruthie: Birthdays to Remember

The Longeneckers think birthdays ending in 5 or 0 are special. At a Longenecker family gathering in Florida in 2003, we celebrated the birthday of my brother Mark, who turned the big 5-0.

Brother Mark's 50th Birthday 2003
Brother Mark’s 50th Birthday 2003   (Tim Kulp, spouse of grand niece in background)

And also of my Aunt Ruthie who celebrated her 85th birthday at our house at the same time.

Aunt Ruthie Longenecker's 85th Birthday, 2003
Aunt Ruthie Longenecker’s 85th Birthday, 2003

This month on October 4th, Ruthie reached her 98th birthday. That called for two celebrations: one among residents of the home where she receives nursing care and the other with her family at the same facility.


What she said at the first celebration:

It came suddenly and it left the same way . . .


What happened at the second:

The preliminaries: Tao from Viet Nam, one whom Aunt Ruthie sheltered as a young woman, beautifies the table with an autumn bouquet. Her children think of Ruthie as their grandmother.


Then –  family meal with dessert . . .

No 5’s or 0’s appeared on the birthday cake in front of her, but there was a huge number 9 in the calculation – not 98 candles, but close!


She had her drowsy moments during the party, but slowly awakening once, she looked around the table and observed, “It can’t be denied that women outnumber the men here.”


My sisters Janice and Jean, two grandnieces, and a nephew

She didn’t have enough wind to blow out the two candles at first. Neither did I. We all sent her good wishes after 4-5 puffs, extinguishing the two flames.



Special Report: Ruthie Reaction

I promised to give you a postscript to my post Aunt Ruthie Longenecker: Her Life in Pictures.

Earlier in the week, Ruthie with her perky pony tail leaned in, looked intently at my computer screen with eyes wide open.


When we came to the vintage photo of the 1930s family reunion, she began identifying a few relatives she remembered – her aunts, uncles, her father, her mother (“My, she was thinner then, if you know what I mean,” she said with a wry smile, viewing her mother.) Her left hand moved steadily if quavery across the family photo – speaking names of relatives long dead: “Grandma Martin, Grandpa Sam, Uncle Frank, Uncle Joe, Mattie, Bertha, oh, and my brother Ray.” Long pauses often punctuated the name call.

I was thrilled to observe the foggy memory mists lifting and blowing away for a few precious minutes . . .

Remember my promise on the October 5 post? I did show her the post of her life in pictures, including your comments.

They made her smile, smile real big!


“Thank you,” she said.

Madeleine L’Engle’s birthday sentiment:

The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.

Given a choice, what age would you choose among the ages you’ve been?


52 thoughts on “Aunt Ruthie: Birthdays to Remember

  1. Oh my, Marian. What a wonderful post! I’m so glad your Aunt Ruthie had such a wonderful birthday, and that you were able to share your previous post with her.
    (And by the way, you look wonderful!)
    I would never want to be any other age or go back in time. I want to be the me I am now at every time as I live it. I wouldn’t mind having the energy and body of a younger me though. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Merril. I look forward to Wednesdays when we can chat here – you, obviously, starting our conversation first thing in the morning.

      More energy and a younger body would be my wish too. You said it perfectly: “I want to be the me I am now at every time as I live it.” No need to look backward – I’ll stay in ‘forward’ gear too.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I often think of you exploring the many aspects of jubilacion in this special season of your life: contemplating, writing and presenting too. My life now is topsy-turvy and as far removed from yours, observing you from a distance. I would love to obey the words, “Get thee to a nunnery” now – couldn’t do it, but would love to hear it. 🙂

      Living and loving go hand and hand in the best of families. I am honored and humbled to share in all this with mine. Thank you, Shirley.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a lovely post and photographs Marian thank you. A lovely sharp and rye comment noting that the women outnumber the men! How lovely that she named and saw the vintage photos. I love her comment, ‘she was thinner then if you know what I mean’ 🙂 And to share the birthday comments with her. There is joy and happiness in the photographs that have me smiling! Tao – what a lovely name and clearly a lovely person ..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Susan, I have mentioned more than once that Aunt Ruthie suffers from memory loss but the part of her brain that cooks up clever comments is still alive and well. Though she is fading, we continue to enjoy her. I’m glad this post spoke to you, Susan. Thank you!


  3. What beautiful pictures of you and aunt Ruthie two and Mark. Janice Jean and the kids also look beautiful. I had to go back to see aunt Ruthie’s post. I hate when I miss one of your posts. I feel as if I missed a lot. Aunt Ruthie is lovely and fun to visit. She can remember the past. I love asking her questions. She amazes me that she is always happy. I have to get to Pennsylvania. I love my life in my now. I too would love the strength in my knees because energy I have a lot of. Which I praise God for.
    Have a nice day.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You made her day. She looks comfortable, happy and comforted. So sweet the story of her Vietnamese “daughter” and her “grandchildren”. I’m sure they love her deeply. If my foster parents were still living I would be visiting, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I first met you, you mentioned your early life and this comment brings it all back. You are inspiration moving from R.N. to now – prolific author. I hope someone in your extended family can acknowledge your accomplishments. I do!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t remember all Ruthie’s comments, but every time I haul out my computer, she remarks, “Oh, all the new-fangled stuff they come up with these days” or something to that effect. When she saw the 1930s family reunion picture, she was transfixed. A lot of words weren’t necessary as she perused the photo. Blessings to you too, Darlene.


  5. Marian, this is wonderful and I agree, you both look fabulous. It must be genetic!😊 What a special celebration of precious past and present moments for Aunt Ruthie and her family. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for following our family’s antics here, Kathy. I’m glad I could make the celebration. Hurricane Matthew hit and two days later I was on a plane leaving behind a house with a hole in the roof and lots of debris. Roofs can be repaired but family celebrations can’t wait – especially at age 98.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Loved the quote by Madeleine L’Engle at the end of your post! I also loved what your aunt said about the women outnumbering the men! That wry sense of humour, that little sparkle shows us their real self is still there, but just resting a lot more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I couldn’t have said it better: ” . . . real self is still there, but just resting a lot more!” Though she can’t always call my name, she knows I am family. I have two sisters and when we first arrived she quipped, “How did you girls get together to come here?”

      By the way, I was able to post my comment on your last blog. Here’s how: I typically use Safari as my browser, but when I switched to Google, the comment appeared. I hope you saw it, Elfrieda.


  7. Your family and mine definitely agree on specially celebrating all the birthdays ending in 0 and 5, Marian, but I’m pretty sure we also doubly-celebrate any other birthdays when the family can all get together, too!
    For my mom’s 98th birthday we got the 9 and 8 candles put them on cupcakes, and she was most interested when we lit the candles, so we had to be very careful.
    A lovely post, reminding us all that every year–and every day–is a celebration of life. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure you posted a photo of the 9 + 8 celebration. “Never miss a party” is our mantra.

      When we come to PA from time to time, we stay in Ruthie’s house and as I was looking for clean dish towels last week, I spotted the 8 + 5 candles I bought (and she kept) from the party 13 years ago. I’m saving the 9 + 8 and I think you know why.


  8. Marian — I love, absolutely love, the captivated and smiling expressions on your Aunt Ruthie’s face as she looks at your laptop. She is precious!

    I adore being 59, but I would go back to age 32 for a brief moment so I could hug and kiss my mom one more time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, Laurie, you lost your mama so young, but I suspect her attributes live on in your vivacious spirit. How she would cheer you in this book launch. Between you and Joan (Rough) there is a lot of hoopla this fall, and it gives me goose bumps to be part of the celebration.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Love your pictorial birthday history of Aunt Ruthie. I feel like I’m part of the family.
    My favorite age so far is 50. Empty nesters, fit, fun and exploring new adventures.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What a compliment – Since you are a sister/friend, you are part of the family.

      Age 50 sounds like a good balance: Like the fulcrum on a seesaw, one can see both behind and before, with enough wisdom and energy to navigate the rest of the way. Thank you, Carolyn!


  10. Thanks for the update on Aunt Ruthie. I actually got tingles up to my scalp, looking at the photos of her birthday party, and then her hearing the comments of your readers. What a gift she has given to all of us. She shows us the value of aging (sometimes I think I don’t want to ‘get that old’) and how to do it with grace and charm.
    Oh, and Madeleine L’Engle – one of my favorite writers of all time. Have you read her journals? The Summer of the Great Grandmother stays in my mind even though it’s been decades since I read it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aunt R. lives in what amounts to luxury for the elderly. However, whenever we leave the facility, my sisters and I chime in together, “I don’t think I want to get that old!” But who knows, we aren’t there yet, so how can we know for sure? I don’t want to be a crotchety old lady – grace and charm are way more appealing.

      No, I haven’t read Madeleine L’Engle’s journal though I admire her style in other works.. I just checked on our public library website and can’t find it there. So . . . I guess I’ll have to order from Amazon or Goodreads. Thanks for the tip, Pamela!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Her journals are part of the ‘Crosswicks Journal’ series – I just put The Summer of My Great Grandmother AND A Circle of Quiet in my Amazon cart. A Circle of Quiet is the book that encouraged me to become a writer. I read both many moons ago, and now am inspired to read them again. xo

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Such a lovely tribute to your aunt, Marian. I’m sure she was overwhelmed seeing all her family from the past on a computer screen. The world has certainly advanced since she was once young. I’m glad to hear she enjoyed the post of photos on comments, certainly had to be a thrill for her. Hoping she remains in good health. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I did the same with my aunt last year before her time was up. Sadly, she was taken much younger than living a ripe old age as your aunt, but yes, flowers and parties are what we did for her too. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  12. What an amazing lady your aunt is . So lovely to see her birthday celebrations …98 wow .
    For me it has to be 14 when I was a teeny boppa and was madly in love with The Bay City Rollers , don’t know if you remember them . It was a time of joy and belief in anything possible .
    My friend and myself ran away from home to join The Rollers at Birmingham airport …we had a bottle of water , a couple of pairs of knickers and a chocolate bar between us . We were away half an hour and weren’t even missed 😂😀 I think home and supper beckoned don’t you .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your writing always sounds like you’re right there beside me talking face to face. I agree, a bottle of water and a chocolate bar only takes you so far. You are hilarious, Cherry!

      I’m glad you enjoyed (vicariously, of course) the birthday celebrations. Next thing you know it’ll be Hallowe’en, a holiday Aunt Ruthie observed at school with a fun house basement and students wearing goofy costumes.


  13. Thank you, Marian. I love this tribute to Aunt Ruthie. I love that she could look at the computer screen and identify people from her past. I see her smile and her left hand preparing to point. She looks so pleased. You are absolutely radiant. The love shines through and I feel part of it. I’m grateful Aunt Ruthie is surrounded by all those loving (mostly) women..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you feel part of this tribe as I feel about yours. Novelist Jane Howard has written about the necessity of tribes as has Seth Grodin. When I started this enterprise over three years ago, I had no idea I would feel such a camaraderie with other women, mostly writers.

      Aunt Ruthie is in hospice care now, but the art and music therapy along with attention from these volunteers, are placing a halo on this phase of her life. So thankful for all of this!


  14. What a beautiful post and to be able to give your aunt a tribute while she is still able to enjoy it is super wonderful.
    I am happy at the age I am which is 73, yes I am getting up there but just think of all the memories I have stored in my heart and mind. I try to write them down whenever I remember one so I can pass them on to children and grand children. I know they will appreciate them long after I am gone and I will smile a big smile for them. :o)

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Probably the main reason I’m blogging here and writing memoir is to leave a legacy like you. Also like you, I am ascending the ladder of the seventies. The best decade, don’t you think?


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