If I say the number 103 to you….I imagine there are a few directions your brain travels.
$103 is just about the price of a 19″ TV at Target.
It is currently just more than the flight between St. Louis and Tampa. (I know – it is a 2002 flight price, but amazing, right?)
103 is just one mile less than the distance between my husband’s home town of St. Charles, Missouri and his college city of Columbia, Missouri, where the University of Missouri resides.
Maybe it is a radio station: 103 FM?
Or a temperature?
If you live in Yuma, Arizona, as I did for the first few years of my television career….103 degrees Fahrenheit is about the average daily temperature for early to mid June.
For my sports minded friends…a score?
Like when the Philadelphia Sixers beat my LA Lakers on December 15th, 2015: 103 to 91?
Or for the baseball minded folks (I know there are many of you….)
There are exactly seven Major League Baseball teams who have ended the season with exactly 103 wins since 1969: the Oakland A’s have done it twice, the Atlanta Braves, and the New York Yankees have done it three times…most recently in 2009.
But infrequently do we measure 103 in years…as in, 103rd birthdays….except in this case, when we are celebrating the brave and beautiful, Patricia Marra Elliott, my sweet grandmother, who turns 103 today.
On the very day she was born, February 15th, 1913, William Taft was president, but Woodrow Wilson had newly been elected. She was born the same year as Rosa Parks.
The very same year Harriet Tubman died.
There was the Great Depression, World Wars, life without television, cell phones or even phones in every home. She never learned to drive or master an answering machine – before they became obsolete.
She knew a world before the polio vaccine, before heart and lung transplants.
Before coffee makers. Before the Internet. Before GPS.
Before the first commercial international flight on January 1st, 1914.
Before the 19th Amendment allowed women the right to vote on August 18, 1920.
She lived through the construction of the Berlin Wall (when she was 48!) and saw it come down (at 76!).
The year my sweet Grammie turned 100 years old, I wrote a letter to her, amazed by the life she had lived, the history she had witnessed, the woman I was lucky enough to know, heartbroken by a turn of a events that prevented my family and I from spending that special day with her.
We were, however, graced with spending her 101st birthday with her. It was both a treasure and a sorrowful time. I was grateful for the fleeting moments of ‘her’. The flashes when I could see the recognition skim across her eyes, when ‘Darlin’…her long-time, pet name for me, would slip from her lips.
Alzheimer’s is a thief of the very worst kind. He attempts to steal the good and leave darkness in its place…robbing you of shared memories, of the beauty of being recognized, of being known.
I work daily to keep this nearly five foot tall powerhouse of a woman, strong and deep in my memories and in the stories I tell.
I wish you still knew me as I know you….but 103 years in….Grammie, you are known, you are magic, and you are loved.