IMO: Turning 100

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Today was the annual visit for students of mine who are members of Interact Club (Rotary International) to head over to our local nursing home and deliver presents to residents who would otherwise have no family members visiting or likely receive gifts on Christmas.

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We receive the wishlist for fifteen patients, take an afternoon to buy them sweatpants, blankets, books, chocolates, art supplies and wrap them on the last day of school before winter break. Our club members respond warmly to the vis-à-vis exchange. Every year, for me, there is a resident who stands out and makes me think about life and the secret behind having a good one. I know it will happen; it’s divine intervention. The revelation has me thinking of George Bailey from the iconic film, It’s a Wonderful Life, and the life imitating art moment affects me.    

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Mr. Bouffard recently turned 100. He is well liked by the nurses and staff because he is a cheery man.

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Over the summer, he was honored by the mayor and honor guard for serving in WWII. A book was written chronicling his time, and what his band of brothers did. It sits along with his dog tags in a cupboard. All will be donated to the local historical society when he passes.

Armand had me imagining him at age twenty-five. His life was ahead of him; each decade brought challenges, joys, and tragedy. Think of the experiences one gathers up over a lifetime. Here was a man with wisdom. What could he share? This man with ancient skin, a crinkled face, and watery eyes? He, a fragile shell who was once a soldier, a son, a husband, and a father? Now at age 100, he is alone, yet he still smiles. Days go by slowly, but the weeks fly by, and the years even faster. Such is life.

I have a cynical attitude about reaching 100. I look at Armand and wonder how he still smiles? After all, he is alone and not in his home. Who is left to share his life? Not his spouse. No children. No friends. How could anyone want to live to be 100?

What you have is yourself.

Armand gave himself for 100 years. He took chances and loved. He took chances and failed. He did what he was supposed to and a little of what he shouldn’t. At 100, he crossed the line, broke the ribbon, and won the game of life. I would like to believe for what mistakes he made he owned and apologized. If he didn’t, I hope he forgave himself for being human.

Armand Bouffard’s secret? He is proud of himself. He is attended to by compassionate caregivers who do their best to make sure he is comfortable in his final days. He sucks on candy, scoots around in his wheelchair, and says hello to everyone who passes by. He owns nothing but his smile, and it gives me courage. If I make it to 100, I want to feel proud that I caused more joy than pain. I want to wear Armand’s smile like a medal on my chest.

Happy Holidays!

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39 thoughts on “IMO: Turning 100

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  1. A tender and touching tribute to both Armand, and many centenarians, Cindy. I doubt I will make it to 100, but if I do, I will be sure to remember Armand, and your kind words.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. What a beautiful thing you are doing. I have a project to visit a man dying of cancer in a high level care place not far from where we live. Making someone’s day a little brighter is the way things should be done.

    1. Yes, for many, it was the defining moment of their lives. I don’t see many wearing their hats anymore. Gosh they have to be in their 90s-100s. Remember when we were young and they announced there were no more WWI vets left alive?

  3. Like you I’m cynical about living to an old age, but I can’t help but be touched by this post.
    In my job I’m always mindful of elderly people and the fact that I might be the only person they see on any given day. A smile and a friendly greeting means a great deal to people in those circumstances.

    Best wishes to you and yours.

    1. Blessings, Paul. I like to remind my impatient adult children about the golden rule. There was one lady yesterday who had just lost her son on the previous day. When she got her gift she couldn’t stop crying. Tears of joy mixed in with the,sad. She didn’t think anyone would remember her. I gave her a big hug.

  4. Wow! Fantastic article, Cindy. Seriously. Aside from some magnificent prose, rich emotion fuels this ‘essay’. What an incredible idea, first of all. All schools should do something like this. I really enjoyed the picture you painted and the introspective nature. Plus, there’s that whole holiday magic feeling you left me with. I had to Tweet this out 🙂 I really hope this emotionally inspirational and reflective piece of writing connects with a wide audience.

    1. Dan! Wow, you are very sweet to critique my writing and give it an “A”. 🙂 Knowing you are a fine writer and editor yourself, your affirmation made my week. Thank you, my friend, and Merry Christmas!

  5. Cindy, you showed your heart in this warm story.
    I think it is wonderful when people find someone who doesn’t have much to look forward to in the holiday season. I appreciate that my youngest daughter was encouraged to participate in philanthropic projects at her University of Dayton. How much better to come home for Christmas by exclaiming about Head Start students, women in Dayton prison, or helping with the March of Dimes fundraiser? Parents like what you are doing, instead of hearing so much about partying. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Robin. I frequently hear how “bad” teenagers are these days. They haven’t changed; we’ve grown older. I like to showcase all the good they do with hope it balances out prejudices. Merry Christmas, Robin! Looking forward to reading your poems and looking at your photo shots in 2017.

  6. My grandmother died this year at 90 years old and I can’t help but think the last 10 years of her life were barely worth living being so frail and confused. I think often people see a long life as a great achievement but I think it’s a mixed blessing at the end.

    1. Abbi, you and I are in total agreement. My Dad passed in March at 85. It was painful to see him disintegrate. As far as Armand goes, he was an anomaly and his healthy attitude in that frail body was inspiring to me. I am sorry for the loss of your grandmother. 2016 sure seemed full of passings….

  7. ” He sucks on candy, scoots around in his wheelchair, and says hello to everyone who passes by. He owns nothing but his smile, and it gives me courage. If I make it to 100, I want to feel proud that I caused more joy than pain. I want to wear Armand’s smile like a medal on my chest.” Every now and again you remind me you’re a writer and a damn good one. Thank you for your post Cindy.

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