Frederick Buechner wrote in the introduction to The Longing for Home that he had the fantasy in his middle age that he had roughly as much time left to live as he had lived already. But as Buechner’s seventieth year approached he began to wise up. He said that not just in his mind, but in his stomach he knew he was a good deal closer to the end of his time than he was to its beginning. Then he asked, “Who would want it to be day forever and never night, after all? Who would choose to be awake forever and never get a chance to sleep?” Buechner is 87 and will be 88 in July.
On Friday, March 14, I passed into my 88th year. The celebration of my birthday began on Sunday, March 9 at the Olive Gardens with My Joy and three of her friends. Then again My Joy and I celebrated with an official cake on the evening of the 14th. Luke and Verna Berkey who live next door to “My Joy” joined us later for tea and a piece of cake. They are reliable friends.
On Saturday eve, March 15, our family of twelve gathered at the Olive Garden, a favorite place for Rhoda. When we asked her where she would like to celebrate an event in her honor she would invariably say: at the Olive Garden. Now, the garden in Elkhart is where our family customarily gathers to mourn or to celebrate.
When Luke and Verna Birkey learned that we were going to the Olive Garden, they told us they and its manager were close friends and urged us to ask for an introduction. The wait-staff told us that she was in Italy. Because of her success as their manager she had been awarded a trip to Italy to visit restaurants and collect authentic recipes.
I told the family that I hoped that My Joy would live five more years to be 88, and that I would live five more years and to be 93, and as My Joy said to me quietly, then we could go together. We hope to go to the garden again.