I spent last month in Chicago, dealing with my father's estate, but I just popped back to town for a quick couple of days -- and for a wonderful reason. It centers around the lovely, endearing and joyous Adeline Cohn.
Adeline lived down the hall from my folks, and I adored her. In fact, on my last trip in, she and I had dinner a couple of times. I'm back now because last night her family had a party to celebrate her 100th birthday. And they invited me. Though I'm still catching up on my life and have a lot of estate matters swirling around, there was absolutely no way I was not going to come in and attend.
Adeline is a spitfire. Still sharp and lively, in very respectable health, it's always a bit of a challenge setting up those dinners with her, because she has to check her calendar. Hey, when friends ask me about getting together for dinner, I tend to be more free than Adeline is. She has a social life that remains that active, much of it centered on her deep love of playing bridge. But she has other dinners to go to, concerts -- she has season tickets to the Chicago Symphony and Lyric Opera -- the Ravinia Festival, and other events.
Adeline even still drove up until about a year ago. And though I usually don't find that sort of thing as wondrous as it sounds ("Oh, isn't it great that he's still driving?!!" No, I tend to think, it's not.) In Adeline's case she actually was still a pretty good driver. She only gave it up -- with great reluctance, because she loved the freedom it gave her -- when her daughter Donna convinced her that if she was ever in an accident, "It will always be your fault," no matter if it was the other person who caused it. When you're 98, everyone will presume it was your fault. So, Adeline gave up the car keys.
But she stayed vibrant and active, and simply found other ways to get around and do things. When I was in Chicago last month, a friend came down to visit -- she's a nurse, so she's spent her share of time around the elderly -- and we had brunch with Adeline. "She is the liveliest 100-year-old I have ever met," she said in awe. Though in fairness, Adeline wasn't 100 at the time. She was only 99 years and 11 months...
Her actual birthday was July 1 -- the day after my dad's -- and I telephoned her that morning. "Adeline," I said, "it's not often when I get to say this, but...Happy 100th birthday!" It is a joy to say such thing. (Last year, I wrote about attending the 100th birthday of my cousin Elinor Miller. The pleasure of such things doesn't wear thin.)
It was a wonderful talk, as it always is with Adeline. "Can you believe that I'm 100??" she'd say with wonderment, not just that day but even in the past year or two leading up to it. (She knew she was going to make it.) "And I'm in still in such good health." She's led such a good, interesting, and expansive life. And even though I'd just been in Chicago for a month and had so much to catch up on back in Los Angeles, there was no way I wasn't coming back here to celebrate 100 with her in person.
The evening was wonderful. About 50-60 people were at her daughter and son-in-law's home. I was going to say that most everyone was a family member or long-time dear friend (how I got in there, I don't know...but I adore Adeline, so I guess that helped ), but then pretty much everyone who meets Adeline sees her as a dear friend, and she brings you into her life. ("You're not a friend," she'd say to me, "you're family.") She's no soft-touch pushover, mind you, she's very sharp and observant with great standards. But open, warm and a joy.
One of her actual dearest friends, internationally-acclaimed violinist Miriam Fried, rearranged her schedule to be there -- again, who would miss it, if they had the chance to be there?! -- and performed at the house. So, too, did her grandson Tom Stone, a longtime member of the Cypress Quartet. And some others.
It was a wonderful celebration even without all that. Just being around Adeline is celebration enough. And who knows how the gala will be celebrating the next 100 with her. Knowing Adeline, it's not a completely safe bet she won't be there.
Now, I'm back to Los Angeles. Bu a joy to have come in.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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