91 years to the day separate my grandson from his great grandmother. Each year that we have the good fortune to celebrate their birthdays with both of them alive is an opportunity to register the difference in the construct and the context of their lifetimes. Not their lives - genetics pulls the thread from one down to the other - but the events, tools and circumstances that will define their individual experience of Earth. Ruth and Louden represent the precious intersection of two vastly different centuries. One inhabits a world that's nearly gone and one lives the promise of the world that is to come.
Cell phones dominated yesterday's party, as those of us more actively straddling the two centuries pulled up photos and websites to illustrate our ranging conversation. Ruth watched us curiously and passed the photos on; Louden played with dinosaurs beneath the table. For Ruth, the twenty-first century seems too hard to learn. She is as apt to shake her head over the cell phone's size and complexity as she is to enjoy the photos it displays. Louden is biding his time. The technologies he will ultimately take for granted in his mid-century adulthood will be beyond my limits to use and comprehend.
We often wonder at the speed of technological and social change experienced over a lifetime by our elders; we have less ability to predict what life will be in ninety years. How can we? Life is about change. It is about renewal and invention. It is about coping and discovery, achievements and mistakes. We can imagine, but we cannot plan.
When my grandson celebrates his 94th birthday, he will do so at the beginning of yet another century whose characteristics and circumstances are thankfully unknown. Undoubtedly, he will feel a little lost and left behind. I only hope there will be a great grandchild to romp beneath the party's table, a precious intersection with the wonders yet to come.