Great Aunt Essie was 39 for 59 years when she discovered she could brag about living a full century. In her eagerness she was 100 to 103, depending upon how unique she wanted to be. I figured that if the gospel writers could differ about a fact or two yet tell a truth, Aunt Essie could fudge a little on a year or so.
When I was in fourth grade, her third husband told me, in a voice loud enough to be heard during a hurricane, "Essie's going to live to be a thousand because she spits vinegar. She's preserved like jarred pickles. That woman is sour as the devil with a hangover."
All Essie said was, "For Pete's sake, Albert, if you acted like a grown man, I wouldn't need to say nothing."
He answered, "I'm Stanley. You buried Albert. Henry took off while his heart still worked. Your nagging makes prison sound like a vacation."
Then Essie turned to me. "For Pete's sake, child, watch your glass. Waste a lot of good teat tugging when there's milk all over the floor."
When she passed ninety Essie spilled a lot more than I did at age ten. "For Pete's sake, can't they make a cup that stays still for old folk. I'm going to be 102 on my next birthday."
She was 100 for three days when she died. Quick and in her sleep. Sometimes I picture her arguing with St. Peter at the gate. "How can I be ready to fly the clouds when I don't remember dying?"
I'm sure she put on a show, the kind only Aunt Essie could create. I'm also sure St. Peter let her in, considering what a fan she was of his.
Originally published in 1994 in Journal-News