Happy birthday, Nana!
My nana turned 70 years old Monday. We celebrated her milestone birthday last Saturday with friends, family and lots of barbecue.
It was especially wonderful for me and Gideon to be there, because we hadn’t seen her in person since Valentine’s Day in 2019. That’s a long time to go without seeing the important people in your life.
My family lives in Texas and southwest Arkansas for the most part. Nana has lived in Texarkana for decades in the same house. Today, my mom lives next door to her. They share a yard, a pool and four dogs. I’m thankful they had each other in the early days of the pandemic.
Of course, the pandemic is the reason I didn’t see Nana for so long. We celebrated the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas through video calls last year. The Fourth of July was the hardest holiday to miss, because it coincides with Nana’s birthday and we all have such fond memories of celebrating together by the pool.
I vividly remember a Fourth of July in the early 2000s when all of Nana’s siblings visited for her birthday. It was a full house. We played a long game of pool volleyball, chowed down on hamburgers and hot dogs, listened to lots of classic tunes and showered Nana with love. That was back when my papaw was still alive. It’s still my favorite Fourth of July celebration ever.
Since he died in 2004, we’ve adjusted to celebrating milestones without Papaw. Nana mentioned this past weekend that she was only 53 when her husband died, and she was determined not to lose anything else.
So she worked three jobs, sometimes four or five depending on the opportunities. She kept her house and her vehicle. Somehow through it all, she managed to support my mom during a particularly tough time in 2009. Mom and I moved in with her a few months into my senior year of high school — it was the last place I lived full time in Texarkana before going to college.
Since we moved to Eureka Springs, Nana has helped me and Gideon in so many ways. She gave us her old Mustang so we’d have a second car. We bought it for $10, quite a steal. Then, totally out of the blue, she gave us money to cover a portion of Gideon’s graduate school. She knew I never would have asked for it, so she offered it instead.
We’re not the only ones she’s helped. I’m sure of that. Nana is the kind of person who helps everyone she meets. She’s touched so many lives in her 70 years on Earth and she’ll keep doing that with all the years she has left. That’s another thing I’m sure of — so sure, in fact, that I’d bet all my assets on it.
At her party on Saturday, I took my fancy new camera to get pictures of Nana with everyone who came to celebrate her. Years from now, we’ll look back on those photos and smile, the same way we smile when we see photos from that first big birthday bash at the pool many years ago.
To everyone who celebrated the Fourth of July with loved ones this year, I hope you know how lucky you are to love and be loved. I’m fortunate to have grown up surrounded by loved ones, especially my kind, resilient, hilarious Nana.
Happy birthday, Nana! We celebrate you this week, but we are thankful for you every day.