Angel's 50th Birthday Party (or, Reflections on the Generations)

50 Years 50 Angels

Angel's 50th Birthday Party Roll Call!

1. Angel
2. Ricky
3. Rachael
4. Raiden
5. Britni
6. Alex
7. Caitlin
8. Caitlin's daughter
9. Gina
10. Beth
11. Matthew
12. Dad
13. Sherri
14. Wendy

It should also be noted that, although the party, organized by Sherri and hosted at Dad and Sherri's house, was yesterday, Angel does not actually turn 50 until Wednesday. She was born in October 9, 1969. When Sherri was 17 years old, incidentally; so, when Angel had a baby at 15 in 1985, Sherri became a grandmother at age 32, eleven years younger than I am now; and when Brandi had a baby in 2009 at the comparatively far more reasonable age of 24, Angel became a grandmother at the age of 40 (which is young for grandmotherhood but not that young) and Sherri became a great-grandmother at the age of 57. (In case anyone is getting confused by the math here, Brandi was born before Sherri's 33rd birthday in 1985 but Jaycee was born after Sherri's 57th birthday in 2009).

Jaycee will be 10 on Shobhit's birthday, October 30, and given that it's quite easy to imagine Sherri living a lot more than another ten years, it's a virtual guarantee Sherri will live on to become a great-great grandmother. If you played the above video, which I kind of rushed together at the last minute Saturday evening and yesterday morning and barely managed to finish in time before I left for Olympia yesterday midmorning, you might have noticed two different photos featuring women and girls of five different generations. The first one, taken at Angel's wedding to Rick in 1987 (maybe 1988? I don't have absolute confidence in the date; I wasn't there), features five generations, up from Brandi as a two- or three-year old; Angel; Sherri; Sherri's mother, Grandma Rhoda; and even Grandma Rhoda's mom, whose name I cannot remember and who passed away I believe in the early nineties. The second, taken in 2010, goes up from Jaycee as a one-year-old to Brandi, Angel, Sherri and Grandma Rhoda. Grandma Rhoda passed away a year later. In both cases, the eldest women was a great-great grandmother, and I'm certain in another ten to fifteen years another such photo will get taken, each person moving up a generation yet again.

It can be a little jarring to think about such things, though. On the one hand, it's heartwarming to see so many generations alive and together all at once. On the other hand, it's a sobering reminder of mortality, particularly for the oldest person in those photos. In both the two photos that can be seen now, the oldest in it died within one to five years of it being taken. And if it takes fifteen years for another five-generation photo to be taken, Sherri will be 82. From my own perspective navigating middle-age, it never gets easier to get used to the constant reminders of everyone around you getting older. We even talked yesterday about Auntie Rose's apparently relatively rapid decline in the past year or so; she's now 82 herself, and the last time Dad saw her, he did not know she was using a walker and it was a jolting surprise to him. (Auntie Rose, just to clarify, is Grandma McQuilkin's sister, eight years her junior -- Dad's maternal aunt; Grandma herself, remember, also passed away in 2011. Eight years ago, at the age of 82.) I've begun to wonder how well she'll be for our planned visit to Fort Worden State Park for my Birth Week next year, and how many Birth Weeks I have left with her.

And here I have started with the birthday party of my oldest sibling, who is seven years (well, six and a half) years older than I, is turning fifty, and already has three grandchildren of her own, with another three currently on the way!

Oh, I don't think I've even mentioned this part. Brandi is now pregnant with her third, unplanned by the sound of it but she's still excited (although she's commented on Facebook that after this she's getting her tubes tied), due to be born after she turns 35 next year. Apparently doctors literally call this a "geriatric pregnancy" -- something that definitely makes Angel feel old: "I can't believe my daughter's having a geriatric pregnancy!" she said yesterday, more than once. Apparently 35 years old is the starting age of a mother for that classification, and I really don't get that choice of word. I fully understand the increased risks of having children after the age of 35, but geriatric? It makes it sound like the mother got pregnant in a fucking nursing home.

Anyway, to the actual point I was getting at. Brandi's current pregnancy was the first I heard about. But then a few weeks later she posted to Facebook about how excited she was that she was one of three concurrent pregnancies in the family. And I was like, wait, what? I perused the comments and that was how I learned about the others: Rachael is apparently pregnant with her and Ricky's second child -- apparently after trying and struggling to conceive for a while, something I also did not know (not that it's particularly any of my business, I do realize) -- and Alex's girlfriend, who I only saw for the first time (and never actually formally met) at the party yesterday, is pregnant. This young woman, named Caitlin, already has a toddler, a very cute little girl she also had with her.

Shobhit is always exasperated when he hears anyone is having babies because there are more than enough of them in the world and even in our family. Setting aside the global climate crisis that can be traced entirely back to overpopulation, as I have said to him many times over recently: you cannot blame people for being genetically compelled, and have innate desires, to do what they literally evolved to do, which is to procreate. From my perspective, this is far, far away from any Biblical hoo-ha about "go forth an multiply" as ordained by a god I don't even believe in. From a purely straightforward perspective, it's just a scientific fact. Nobody should be shamed for choosing not to have children, we have been spending decades struggling to get society to understand, but nor should anybody be shamed for choosing to have them. It's when they have far too many that it becomes a problem, and to be fair, I have one sibling who had five and another who had four, and in both cases that was far more than their fair share. But even at two children that stays constant at zero population growth, and in the case of my sister Gina, for example, having only one child is a pretty venerable negative population growth. And I didn't have any at all, a choice I am happier and happier with as time goes on. God knows I have a brother and a sister who had plenty of their own to more than make up for it, and I didn't add any more to the already-large list of ten grandchildren Dad and Sherri took on individual trips to Disneyland after they turned seven.

Anyway. I brought this up to Danielle during our trip to Las Vegas last week, and she, as a nurse, had her own counter to Shobhit's misguided arguments: "If you want to blame anything, blame science [not people who have babies]," she said. And this is true: the world's population has exploded not as much because people have too many babies, or any more on average than they did in the past, but because technological advances have drastically reduced our mortality rate. Child mortality, maternal mortality, mortality among aging seniors, you name it. Across the board they are kept alive by modern science in ways they never used to be.

Which is all to say, I don't feel it's my place to sit back and judge any of my nieces and nephews for choosing to have children. Well, at least not in the context of broadly being compelled to do so, like the vast majority of humans have evolved to do. I'm not quite in the realm of judging Brandi but I think there are legitimate concerns about pregnancy at her age -- that said, I totally understand the perspective of a woman who cannot bring herself to have an abortion if she happens to get pregnant, even if she's otherwise pro-choice. That's the whole point of "pro-choice," is it not? Not allowing others to make the decision for you, whether it's to terminate a carry out a full pregnancy? I have to admit, though, I do feel at least slightly judgy about Alex. I don't know him especially well, granted, but I know enough about him that the age of 21 -- or, I suppose, 22 by the time of the birth next year -- is not the best age for him to have his first child. But, well, that ship has sailed. Three of Angel's four children have children on the way, all at the same time, all set to be born in 2020. Into a world potentially set to wipe out humanity in the next century, but we won't get into that right now!

That leaves Britni, who is #3 of Angel's four kids, the one whose wedding Shobhit and I attended in June on the day before Shobhit's and my anniversary. I also learned for the first time yesterday that doctors tell her she can't have children, which she surprised me by sharing with the whole group sitting on the back porch the whole reason for it. It's not my place, obviously, to share those details here. Suffice it to say that I was impressed by her candor and her sensible approach to the issue. I think Shobhit had assumed she would be next to have a baby just because she's the one who just got married, but what Britni says now is that she and David plan to live their lives as they like until she's about 35 (seven years from now), at which time they will consider adoption as an option. And I must say, I was deeply impressed by this perspective of hers -- it indicated a level of wisdom in her that, ten or fifteen years ago, I would never have assumed she was likely to gain, or certainly not before she's even thirty years old.

As for Gina's son David, who is himself 29 years old? He has a new-ish girlfriend who I hear is something like five years older than he is, and she has no children, so if that's at all in the cards with them either they'll be in the same boat Brandi is in now. So, who knows? The great news there is just that David's found a long-term girlfriend, the first of note I may have ever even heard of. They live down in Vancouver, Washington now, and Gina and Beth had just driven back from staying with them at their place for the weekend -- the reason they could not join me for an early lunch with Dad at the Shipwreck Café. They both talked about how David never used to smile at all, he smiles all the time now, indicating how he's very much in love, which is very sweet.

Just a side note: this has all been in the context of the family that lives here in Western Washington, from Dad and Sherri down two and three generations. That's the only reason I haven't really gone into my nieces and nephews from my brother Christopher here; at present my brother has one grandchild, Nikki and TJ's adorable Cheyanna. He has two son-sin-law, both TJ and Tyler, Becca's husband; Tristen is of age but still living with Christopher and Mom and Bill in Wallace (last I heard, anyway); Christian and Braeden are still teenagers and living with Katina in Spokane. None of them made it to the party yesterday, although Christopher was certainly invited; when Christopher declined on the Facebook invite he wrote the slightly cryptic message, I was just over on that side & my anxiety got the better of me so we ended up coming back. Sorry we didn't come see you guys. And sorry for not being able come to your party. Love you all! Angel was kind of disappointed as I think she and Christopher bonded in recent years in a way they had not in decades, when he traveled over to spend some quality time with her relatively soon after his suicide attempt. Clearly he has mental health issues, and in spite of my own complicated thoughts on a long history of him and me as siblings, I do respect that much at least.

Just before I was leaving last night, I asked Sherri, "Does it feel strange to have a daughter who's fifty?" She confirmed it definitely does. Then she said, "Fifty is just such a milestone. And I just turned fifty like ten years ago!" She was half-kidding just as an indicator of how fast time goes by; it was actually seventeen years ago. It's good to note that difference now though, I think, because it means Sherri really isn't that old just yet. Having a child who is fifty, as ever, just means she's a very young mother!


I'm certainly glad I made it to the party, in any case; and Angel was definitely appreciative of my making it. Of all the people who made it, my home is definitely farthest away -- although Gina and Beth, coming straight from Vancouver, get the prize for traveling the farthest to make it. My cold continues, and I was coughing enough overnight on Saturday night that Shobhit really tried to convince me not to go yesterday morning, convinced I was too sick, that I was going to make myself sicker and wind up taking time off work today -- none of which actually came to pass. (He hates admitting when he is wrong, and conveniently just forgets moments like this after time passes.)

He even tried to convince me to call Dad and ask his opinion, should I come if I'm sick? "Sick" is a tricky word, though. I had an intermittent, slightly phlegmy cough and congestion that was coming and going (as it is today); overall I still woke up yesterday feeling better than I did Saturday, and expected to feel better today, and I do. When I mentioned my cold after arriving the house, Sherri quipped, "Oh so you came to share with everyone? That's nice!" But the truth came out when I told her Shobhit tried to convince me not to come: "Well, this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," she said. Indeed. I don't think Shobhit understands -- or even wants to try to understand -- how important something like this is to people.

I had first met up with Dad at the restaurant for lunch, and I also told him Shobhit had tried to convince me not to come. His response? "You don't sound that bad." Granted, apparently Jennifer has a really terrible cold right now too and he had that to compare to: he spoke to her on the phone the other night and I guess she sounded awful. Shobhit asked me if she was at the party yesterday, and I told him no -- the party was pretty well confined to my immediate family plus descendants, although Sherri's sister was also there.

It was not an especially huge group, as you could see by the 14 people I listed at the start of this post -- it was a perfectly comfortable group, though, and in my view appropriately intimate for a family birthday party. Brandi, Nick, Jaycee and Gianni were the only kids and grandkids of Angel's that did not make it, but they live in Phoenix and as I recall had just visited Washington a month or two ago. (I did see on Facebook there's a fair chance they could be moving to Portland at some point, though. Although I didn't think to ask what the status was of that when Dad told me about his and Sherri's road trip plans through Utah, Arizona and California, including a stop to visit Brandi and her family, and that trip is slated for May. So, who knows.)

When I was leaving last night, Sherri commented on how bonded we all are as a family, and I fear I may have sounded more dismissive than I intended, when I said, "We've always been a family." Thinking about it now, though, as much as I do love many of the extended McQuilkin family members that often come to holiday gatherings, there really was something special to this party being just for us, my immediate family plus nieces and nephews. It did underscore how bonded we are, and now that I think about it, actually further supports my thought that perhaps over time we should gradually move away from the extended "Family Picnics" out at Mason Lake and start focusing in on our own particular enclave. It was essentially suggested by someone else already, maybe Angel herself, or perhaps it was Gina -- the idea was broached of doing a weekend getaway for the family, at a place like Fort Worden, where the family spent weekends in cabins several different years a couple of decades ago. (That was how we moved to talking about Auntie Rose, as I plan to visit there with her as part of my "State Parks" Birth Week theme.)

Angel does have a whole host of health issues of her own, not the least of which is arthritis, but by and large she seemed yesterday to be doing pretty well. It sure appeared as though she was having a good time and enjoyed the day. I got a good 35 shots out of it, which you can view all of on Flickr -- I had difficulty uploading the "50 Years 50 Angels" video to YouTube, which immediately blocked it for copyright violation because I included the Fleetwood Mac song "Landslide." The same would have happened had I tried uploading directly to Facebook, so I had to show it to people on my iPad, first from Dropbox and then I saved it direct to my photos app. I spent at least an hour trying to figure out a way to screen mirror it to Dad and Sherri's large Samsung TV but could not get it to work, in some cases because the wifi signal was too weak. So, I had to have people take turns watching it on the iPad. When I showed Angel, Wendy sat on the other side of me on the family room couch. I had already shown it to Sherri, who told me it was going to make Angel cry, and she was right.

Well, guess what? I should have thought of this years ago, especially for a video as short as only three minutes -- it appears Flickr itself does not have these stupid, draconian copyright restrictions in place, and I was able to upload it there with no issues at all last night. That's why it plays with no issues just fine embedded at the top of this post, and that is the link I will post to Facebook on Wednesday when it is Angel's actual birthday.

It's kind of strange even to me that one of my siblings is now in her fifties; two more years and Gina will be too. A year after that, Christopher. Six and a half years and it will be my turn. At least I'm still the only one with more than half a decade until it happens to me!

You know what? I was looking at the photos I took, and Angel actually looks pretty damned good for a fifty-year-old woman. She's still pretty. Not bad for someone who has struggled with drug addiction and a bevy of health issues (probably some related to substance abuse and probably some not related at all). She does live with chronic pain issues, but that aside, I feel like Angel is doing all right. That makes me happy.


[posted 12:29 pm]