Aunt Rose would have turned 100 this month. She died last summer shortly before we left New York. We were lucky to have lived in the same city as she did for the last seven years of her life.
She was too sick for a 99th birthday party, but two years ago for her 98th we joined Aunt Rose, her daughter Sue, and a bunch of Sue's friends (when you're 98, your own friends are dead) at a Chinese restaurant near her old folks home in Battery Park City. I was very glad that I had managed to find her mother's ship-docking record from the Ellis Island records online a few weeks before her birthday. She had forbidden us to bring presents, but she wasn't going to turn down the reproduction of her mother's ship-docking record we brought along! In fact, just about every guest turned up with some sort of non-gift gift that Aunt Rose couldn't refuse.
One of the guests was professor of public health at a local college. She told Aunt Rose she would be reporting back to her gerontology class about having dinner with a 98-year-old. Perhaps Aunt Rose could give her some insight to share with her class about how she managed to live so long? Aunt Rose turned to the professor, gripped her wrist with icy cold fingers, looked deep into her eyes, and spit out, "Bad luck."
A little while later we were opening our fortune cookies. Aunt Rose couldn't read hers because the type was small and the light was low. She handed it to Sue to read out. Sue read out in stentorian tones, "You will live to be 100." Aunt Rose got a horrified look on her face. "It doesn't really say that, does it? You're just torturing me." Sue passed the fortune to me. I concurred. "That's what it says." We strung her along for a while. Finally, we acknowledged it wasn't true. What the fortune actually said was, "Never smell the inside of a hat." That is actually what it said, but by that time everyone thought we were just making things up.
That 98th birthday party was one of the most fun evenings I ever spent in New York.