It sounds lovely, The Meadows. And it is lovely. It’s a retirement home where my wife’s aunt, Lillian and her uncle Hal, currently reside. It’s in Northern California, which is where I’m writing this post. I’m up here this weekend with much of the family and the extended family to celebrate her uncle Hal’s 90th birthday.

Whew, ninety years!

That’s a lot of water under a lot of bridges. A lot of dreams come true and some of them dashed. Promises made and kept, some forsaken. Hopes fulfilled, some unrequited. Children grown and married, now with children of their own.

It’s a lifetime, yes, but there is much life ahead as well. The birthday party today is proof both of the richness of the life Hal and Lil have lived and of the hope they have for the future, theirs and their children, and the world at large.

This is a talking family, a forceful, inquisitive family that cares deeply not only about the friends they’ve had for decades but about the new friends here at The Meadows. Everyone knows Lil and Hal Silberstein. Everyone smiles when Nettie and I say to a resident that we’re looking for the Silbersteins.

“Oh yes,” their face brightens and animation fills their voice, “what dear people they are, they’re in the lounge,” or “in the dining hall” or “on the terrace” or “in their apartment.”

The point is that everyone knows where Hal and Lil are at any given moment. They are not bystanders at The Meadows, they are active participants in the lives of others, listening to the stories from the long lives of their neighbors, sharing stories of their own, commiserating with the daily bumps that life presents, and lending support when the difficult hand of destiny finds them.

And today is Hal’s 90th Birthday Party with fifty people attending. Their daughter, Pam, is the central figure organizing the party along with her mother. Her seemingly endless reserve of strength, both physical and emotional, have made this important event possible. Other family members have of course participated and their presence here is reflected in the beaming faces of Hal and Lil as the tables fill, the lunch is served, and the party gets rolling.

And what is it exactly that we’re celebrating? The achievement of the 90th mark? Hardly. Age alone means nothing, and the older we all get the more deeply we understand that.

Material success? Perhaps just a little. After all, it’s rewarding to know that years of work and effort have provided for yourself and for the generations ahead.

Personal achievement? Sure, who wouldn’t want to win the Nobel Prize or a trophy for the biggest fish.

But really, we know at a very early age what the true meaning of life is. It’s human connection, of course. And that’s what I see so abundantly in this party for Hal and Lil…they are deeply connected to each other, to their family, to their friends, and to the community of the world to which they feel a vibrant relationship.

And let me tell you, I’m delighted to be here today connected with them, with their family, with my Nettie of course, and with the personal warmth and good cheer that pervades this room.

Happy Birthday, Hal!

You are living a life filled with love and respect. Here’s wishing you many more birthdays to come.




10 Responses to Birthday Party At The Meadows

  1. […] A couple of years ago, I posted a blog commemorating Hal’s 90 birthday. I’ve just re-read it, and I wouldn’t change a single word. Click here if you care to see Birthday at the Meadows. […]

  2. Frank Z says:

    Hello all, Thanks for all the kind words and for being there in body or spirit!

  3. Cheryl says:

    Frank you left me in tears and I was there. Thank you for bringing Uncle Hal’s birthday to others.

  4. Anonymous says:

    And then it occurs to me that I should have been there. Very well stated, much love extended to the Silbersteins and family up North!!!

  5. Eileen says:

    What a lovely tribute, Frank! You captured the love and spirit of the party…and the family, perfectly!

  6. Sean says:

    Sorry to have missed the party but you helped us feel what it was like to be there.
    Heartfelt and true!

  7. Rachel says:

    You described two very special people and the sweet family that I love so much so beautifully (as usual.) Thank you & happy birthday Uncle Hal!

  8. Stephanie says:

    Lovely post, FZ. Mazel to Uncle Hal and family!

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