Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - October 6, 2023

Sensational 70th surprises!

While turning 70 is a milestone of sorts, I wasn't expecting much for my birthday. Husband Art and I had celebrated our 35th anniversary in France in July. We had barely returned before jumping in the car and heading off to Wisconsin where we spent about a month at our cottage. Another trip was planned for late September. This meant I was looking forward to some quiet time and my birthday was part of that.

During our cottage stay, the mail had piled up and it took some of that quiet time to go through. But among the usual bills and junk mail, there were some nice birthday cards, including $70 from brother Dave, a book about Kansas culture and cuisine from friend Margaret, and a bronze solar-powered lantern with dragonfly cut-outs from friend Deb, who had noted I had admired hers.

More of that quiet time was spent having coffee and conversation with Tony, Nina and Cathy - friends I hadn't seen for awhile. I was a bit concerned Art and I might leave before seeing daughter Mariya and her wife Miriam as they both work full-time, and fall is an unusually busy time for Mariya. I had also mentioned several times in Wisconsin that I was hankering for some of Red Lobster's pineapple-coconut shrimp. Art suggested we'd celebrate my birthday by going to the Red Lobster in Topeka with the gals. So I had kept that evening open, and it was nice to catch up with their news on the drive to Topeka.

But when we entered the restaurant, friends Deb and Lou were at the reception desk!

"What are you guys doing here?" I asked, dumbfounded.

"How many in your party?" the receptionist asked.

Art said there would be 10.

"Ten!" I exclaimed. "Who else is coming?"

At that very moment, Art turned toward the door and his daughter Karen and her significant other Mike entered. They had driven from Kansas City. Friend Dave and wife Susan were right behind them.

We had to wait about half an hour because of a mix-up in the reservation, but it didn't bother me as I had plenty of people to keep me entertained.

It was a great 70th birthday celebration, but it wasn't the end of Art's surprises for me.

He told me on Thursday that he had to run to Clay Center Friday morning to help one of his customers with a problem. At one time, this was quite common, so it sounded perfectly plausible to me. And since I had a coffee date with friend Pat the next morning, I didn't give it any further thought.

Pat and my conversation the next day turned into a several-hour gab session and lunch, so I called Art about noon and told him I'd be later than expected. "No problem," he said. "I'm still in Clay Center."

Around 2 p.m., he called and said he was ready to eat something. I said I had already eaten, but I'd be glad to keep him company. We agreed to meet at Art's work.

He arrived after I did and as I walked toward his car, I noticed someone in the front passenger seat. My first thought was he had picked up Mariya to join us. Then I did a double-take! It was my sister!

The next few seconds were a tad amusing as the curb was high enough that the car door could not be opened when Gaila tried to get out and I tried to get in.

"Get in!" Art said as he pulled away to give more room. "You can hug at Vista!"

When we arrived at the Vista restaurant, we did hug a lot ... and gabbed quite a bit as well.

Gaila lives in La Paz, Bolivia, but I knew she was in the States. I thought she was in Washington, D.C. with her oldest daughter Gabriela and family. She had actually flown to Kansas City on Labor Day to be with her youngest daughter Larisa and her husband. The plan was for them to also meet us in Topeka on my birthday, but the "kids" caught Covid and Art didn't want to take the chance that Gaila might have it, too. He asked her to test over the next few days to make sure she remained negative. When she passed the test on Friday morning, he headed out not to Clay Center, but to pick her up in Kansas City.

Her visit was short-lived because Art and I were preparing for our trip. But I completely enjoyed running errands with her, asking her advice on what to take on our travels, eating Double-Stuff Oreos with milk, having her spend the night, and making plans for when we can actually have some quality time together in mid-October.

Several friends who had turned the big 7-0 told me that somehow that age sounds and feels MUCH older than the 60s. I guess it does feel that way for some people. I did a search on people turning 70 and found a site for how caregivers can help people in their 70s take their prescribed daily medications, do some form of exercise, engage in cognitive activities such as putting puzzles together, have at least one activity a day to relieve emotional stress, and spend time socializing. Heavens! That really emphasized how lucky I am to be healthy and active at 70.

And I hope to remain that way for at least a while. At age 70, Benjamin Franklin was helping draft the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Winston Churchill led the United Kingdom to victory in World War II, Golda Meir became prime minister of Israel, and Helen Hayes won her second Oscar.

I'm not doing anything that important, but I am staying busy, keeping on the move, and engaging with a lot of different people and activities.

Lou had remarked at the restaurant in Topeka, "Welcome to the sensational Seventies!"

I plan to ... and a few surprises were a great way to begin!

Upper-left: Package containing Deb's lantern. Below-left: Surprise supper at restaurant. (l-r): Art, Dave, Mariya, Susan, Mike, Karen, Gloria, Miriam, Lou and my other friend Deb. Right: At Vista with my sister.

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