Saturday, November 5, 2011

Happy Birthday To ME!

I can’t quite believe I’ve hit the big 65! Otherwise known as the Medicare Birthday. I’m in good company – 1946 was the first year of the Baby Boom, when there was a large spike in births mostly from the return of WW2 soldiers getting back to their wives and sweethearts. When I first started school, teachers had to take on a double workload, with classes in the morning for one group of children, and a repeat of these classes in the afternoon for the second group. Throughout my life, this bulge in population has been a factor for people my age and younger as the Baby Boom continued from 1946 through 1964. Whether going to public school, getting into college, applying for jobs, etc., there was always lots of competition.

I’ve never been reluctant to tell people my age, and I’m pleased when they sometimes show surprise that I’m not younger. But, even if I look my age, it doesn’t bother me. I feel that I’ve earned the “smile lines” (not “wrinkles”) and the silver hair.

Looking back over my life so far, I have few regrets, although there are some things I wish I’d done differently. But since there are no “do overs” in life, I do my best to look forward and enjoy each new day. I try to improve someone else’s day when I can, with a smile, a kind word, a bit of information from something I might have learned the hard way, or even a gift or donation. As a cancer survivor, I know that each day is precious and I try to make the most of every one.

My biggest joy is sharing the RV lifestyle with my loving husband Don. I’ve been so fortunate in being able to land on my feet several times when my life’s plans didn’t come together in just the way I wanted, and meeting Don was no exception. When I was widowed at age 55, I wondered whether I would ever have a special person in my life again, and really didn’t expect that it would happen. I thank God every day for sending Don to me at exactly the time when I realized I was ready for a close, loving relationship as part of my new adventurous life. Solo RVing can be a lot of fun, especially for those who make friends easily and approach challenges with a positive attitude. But it can also be lonely at times. I still enjoy many of the friendships I formed during those 5 years when I was by myself on the road. But I’m happy to be part of a couple again.

I had planned to share this momentous occasion with friends in Benson, Arizona. Instead, Don and I made the most of being in Alabama today. We drove about 40 miles from Red Bay to Ivy Green, the birthplace of Helen Keller in Tuscumbia, Alabama. After a really good lunch at a Mexican restaurant, we took the house tour and wandered through the gardens.

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The home was built in 1820 by Helen Keller’s paternal grandparents. Surrounded by huge trees, some over 150 years old, the house and other buildings have survived the years well. About 85% of the furnishings inside the main house are original, and some are now antiques worth a small fortune.

The cottage below was used by her parents as a bridal suite, and is where Miss Keller was born. She was 19 months old when an illness left her blind and deaf. The cottage was later used as a school house when Anne Sullivan took on the lifelong task of teaching Helen to speak and understand sign language by feeling her teachers’ hands and face. The addition on the left houses Helen’s dolls and playthings.

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Against all odds, Helen learned to speak, read and write, beginning with the moment when as a 7-year-old she learned the word “water” and associated it with something cool flowing over her hand from a well-pump. With an I.Q. of 160, she graduated Cum Laude from Radcliffe College. Her teacher stayed with her through all those years, helping her understand classroom lectures and discussions. Ms. Keller then dedicated her life to improving situations for other blind and deafblind people.

The movie “The Miracle Worker” depicts Anne Sullivan’s patient and miraculous teaching of a sometimes unruly child who lived in silent darkness. The story is re-created in a play performed on the grounds of Ivy Green during the summer. Click the link above for more information about this remarkable woman and her birthplace. Here are some more photos.

Later, we visited a very different house a few miles away in Florence, Alabama. It’s the Rosenbaum House, the only one in the state that was designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

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The house was built in 1940, when Wright was aged 72. In 1948 an addition, also designed by Wright, was constructed to expand the house to accommodate the family’s 4 growing sons. The ‘dormitory’ below shows their bunk-beds and play area. The garden is through the windows and doors on the right.

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The living room includes lots of space for books, mostly collected by Mr. Stanley Rosenbaum, a college professor at what is now the University of North Alabama.

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It was also large enough for the baby grand piano played by Mrs. Mildred Rosenbaum, a former model who was also a musician and artist.

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A small study is attached to the far end of the living room, where Stanley read and prepared for classes.

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The dining area shares a view of the large yard with the living room.

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The original kitchen was quite small, and was converted to a bar by replacing the small stove and refrigerator (on the left) with more cupboards when the addition included a larger kitchen.

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The new kitchen is more than twice as large. The huge stove is out of sight on the right.

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The house was never lived in by anyone other than the Rosenbaums. When she moved to an assisted living facility in 1999, Mildred sold the house and most of the contents to the city of Florence. Due to a lack of maintenance, an infestation of termites, and years of damage from leaking roofs, restoration took several years and a large amount of money. The result is now a good representation of the way the home looked while the Rosenbaums occupied it.

It was a wonderful day, and one I’ll always remember as a ‘landmark’ birthday. And I look forward to many more!

6 comments:

  1. Happy Birthday Many more

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  2. Happy Birthday to you! What an inspiring story you have. God Bless.

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  3. Happy birthday! For many years, I would not say how old I was, now I'm just so glad to be alive and enjoying life at this lovely age (64). I'll tell you what people say about you when your back is turned, "what a nice person"! Quite a compliment...

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  4. Happy Birthday to YOU!! and welcome to this side of the medicare generation!

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  5. Oh, you had a wonderful birthday! How inspiring.
    Thank you for sharing your story, Helen's story and the Rosenbaum's house. What a great day!
    And thanks for all the photos! Hugs, C

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  6. Howdy Sharon,

    HAPPY NATAL DAY TO YOU!!! AND MANY MORE!!!

    You have a good one there in Don, so keep him!!!

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