There was another 100th birthday party in the Gerber family over the weekend. On Labor Day 2012 my grandma, Annie-Bananie Isch, was the first to celebrate reaching the century mark before passing on this past July. On Sunday her brother Sylven had his 100th birthday bash at Christian Care, the nursing home which has housed so many of his siblings, though he still lives at home with his daughter, Betty.
I remember when Sylven came to my daughter Rowan’s graduation party in 2012, we were teasing him about still driving the tractor on the family farm. He’s had to give that up now that his eyes are failing, but he still gets around pretty good with the help of a walker.
“Sylvan, you should be out shoveling snow!” I joked when I shook his hand on Sunday.
“Well,” he said in his usual calm voice, “I probably could.”
His 87-year-old baby sister, Josephine, who sat beside him at the party, said that Sylven and Annie-Bananie were the most laid-back of her brothers and sisters. Is that part of what helped them cross the century mark? Maybe. But their sister Minnie made it to 99, and she always struck me as being as frenetic as a hummingbird. All three of them, though, possessed all or most of the attributes in Forbes’ 7 Life Secrets of Centenarians.
There are other siblings still in contention, in addition to Josephine. Leona is 97, Floyd, 96; Alice, 94. (Their oldest brother Gauis might’ve made it if he hadn’t crashed his motorcycle several years ago at age 94.)
At any rate, Sylven is hardly alone in his new age group; according to the latest estimates, there are 316,600 centenarians on the planet.