95 on the 95th

This Wednesday, April 20, my wise, unpretentious, courageous, empathetic, stubborn, hardworking, appreciative and absolutely gorgeous mother will be 95 years old.

Flo contemplates her 95th birthday dessert on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Building in Chicago.

Although Flo herself would never say this, her life has not been easy. Our father, Ed Finke, died when he was 47 years old. My oldest sister Bobbie is 20 years older than I am, and she was already married by then. The six of us younger ones were still at home. Flo found a job at a nearby bakery that allowed her to bring us little girls along to work on days she couldn’t find a babysitter. Once all of us were enrolled in elementary school, Flo studied, got her GED, and found a job as an office clerk. She worked there 20 years, burned the mortgage on the house, and retired at age 70.

Our father’s early death taught us a lot of things. One of them? Never take birthdays for granted. We’ll be celebrating Flo’s 95th all week long, and we kicked it all off last Saturday morning. My sister Cheryl drove Flo to downtown Chicago, Marilee flew in from Florida, Bev took a train from Michigan, and we all met for brunch at, where else? The 95th Floor of the John Hancock Center. My sisters wisely placed me with my back to the windows. Flo got the spot with a panoramic view of the Chicago skyline, but if you ask me I had the best seat in the house: directly across from the birthday girl.

Flo had never been to the John Hancock Center before. She was absolutely tickled. Our nephew Brian Miller flew back from South Korea that afternoon. His cousin Ben picked him up at O’Hare so he could join Marilee and Bev for a sleepover at their Grandma’s. Marilee had to fly back to Florida Sunday, Bev and Brian will be here until Tuesday, and on Wednesday Harper is guiding me to the train station to take a ride out to Elmhurst. I’ll meet Cheryl and Flo at a wine shop for a toast to the birthday girl. Harper’s work ethic has been improving since I published that last post, and if my sense of joy and exuberance on Flo’s birthday Wednesday wears off on Harper, I know he’ll get us all the way to the train station without balking once. We’ll all toast to that, too!.

Thats Beverle, Cheryl, Flo, Marilee and Moi.

During the car ride home from the Hancock Center Saturday, Flo thanked us over and over again for her big day out. “This sure was a special birthday celebration,” she said, and after pondering that for a moment, she added one last thought. “All of my birthdays have been special.” We agreed. Happy birthday, dear Flo. And many, many more.

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24 Responses to “95 on the 95th”


  1. 1 Bobbie April 18, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Hi Beth,

    Please tell Flo Happy Birthday from me and from my mom. I have many fond memories from Hillside Avenue and the Finke house!

  2. 3 Gretchen April 18, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Happy Birthday to Flo and what a great group of sisters!

    Gretchen

  3. 5 Annelore Chapin April 18, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Sharing this wonderful event and this rich life story is a blessing to us all. Thank you.
    Your mother looks wonderful and so do her daughters.

    Way to go!!

    Annelore Chapin

  4. 7 jacques foucré April 18, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Happy Birthday Flo, what beautuiful girls you have, just like moi..

    By the way Moi, you really stand out, in the photo., “Lady with the Red Dress on”.

    • 8 bethfinke April 19, 2011 at 9:55 am

      I’ll say it again: aw, shucks.
      Guess I’m assuming that your saying I “stand out” is a compliment, though…?!

  5. 9 Jen April 19, 2011 at 3:41 am

    Happy birthday flow! Enjoy the celebrations :)

  6. 10 Sheila Franklin April 19, 2011 at 6:42 am

    How very fun to celebrate a 95th birthday on the 95th floor! And there is NO WAY your mom looks like she just turned 95! I thank every day that my parents are both 86 and still with us-enjoy the birthday week!

  7. 12 Hava April 19, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Yes she is absolutely gorgeous! I too wish her a very happy birthday and many many happy returns of the day!

  8. 14 Melissa Henderson April 19, 2011 at 8:57 am

    What a beautiful story and such beautiful women. Your mom looks so lovely in the photo with the candle-lit dessert in front of her. The hint of a smile on her face seems a to indicate that there might be a bit mischievous in her. Many, many happy returns of the day.

    Melissa

  9. 15 bethfinke April 19, 2011 at 9:58 am

    You know, if I had thought of it, I would have added “mischievous” to the long list of adjectives at the start of this post. Very observant of you, Melissa, and thanks for the good wishes.

  10. 16 Maria April 19, 2011 at 10:06 am

    How cool…95 years old, and the 95th floor for brunch! Love it. Happy Birthday Flo! God bless…..95!

  11. 17 pnelson@spherion-staffing.com April 19, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Wow, happy birthday Flo! Aren’t families wonderful?

    My Mom died at 92 and I don’t think we missed one of her birthdays!

    Glad to hear Harper is doing better!

    Penn

    • 18 bethfinke April 19, 2011 at 9:01 pm

      Yes, families *are* wonderful. Had to laugh, though, to get this email from a friend today — she mentioned that last night was the first night of Passover, and someone sent her a card which read ” Happy Passover. After 4 glasses of wine, even your family starts to look good”.

  12. 19 Sheila Donovan April 19, 2011 at 11:51 am

    Your mother does NOT look 95. She looks at least 10 years younger. I’m jealous. My mom passed when I was 21. Be sure to get all the details of her early life from her. No one can tell her story like she could. I’m curious. What is her first memory as a child?

    • 20 bethfinke April 19, 2011 at 9:19 pm

      I think I’ve asked her that question before, but….I’ve forgotten the answer! I’ll ask again, thanks for the prompt!

  13. 21 Benita April 19, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    How great that Flo is cherished by her kids and grandkids and that you made a big deal of this birthday. Because, yes, they’re ALL big deals.
    Bethie, I hope you have coaxed a memoir or two or more from Flo. If anybody can, you’re the one!

  14. 22 Amy Robledo April 19, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Beth

    Awesome blog! I have always admired and adored Flo (and her children). I’m convinced a big part of why we are strong, successful (to some degree) and understanding people is because of the examples our mothers set for us. I wish Flo was on Facebook. Please give her a shout out from me “HAPPY BIRTHDAY FLO YOU CONTINUE TO AMAZE AND INSPIRE”.

    Love,

    Amy

  15. 23 nancyb April 20, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Happy Birthday Flo! From Nancy Steven and Hanni

  16. 24 Marianne Kroeger April 20, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    What fun! Birthday greetings to Flo from Eldred & Marianne!


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