When Anne Beers’ mother, Annabelle Holblinger, moved in with her and her husband 20 years ago, Beers said she thought it was the beginning of the last years of her mother’s life. At the time, Holblinger was 93.
Now, she’s 113 years old. She’s the oldest living person in Colorado and the 9th oldest in the country.
“We certainly didn't think she'd be living with us this long, but that's the way the dice roll,” Beers said, chuckling.
On Wednesday, Beers, 83, her younger sister, Jean Peterman, and over a dozen friends celebrated Holblinger’s 113th birthday. Twenty-five colorful balloons, donned with “Congrats!”, “Happy Birthday!”, and even one Beers accidentally bought that said, “It’s a girl!”, floated around the house.
Everyone sipped coffee and ate a big carrot cake the two sisters made based on their mother’s recipe. Holblinger, who lives with Dementia and was having a less social day,didn’t say much, but scarfed down the carrot cake, one of her favorite treats.
She loved to bake, her oldest daughter said, and not just carrot cake. Growing up, Holblinger would make lemon chiffon pie, chocolate souffle and angel food cake with what Beers described as “the lightest touch.” She doesn’t bake anymore, but loves babies, too, and knitting blankets for her family.
Holblinger, obviously, has lived a lot of life. She was born March 16, 1909, the sixth of seven children who lived on a farm in the small hamlet of Callicoon, New York. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt had just been replaced by William Howard Taft at the time.
When she was five and baseball legend Babe Ruth was in his debut season, she got a doll for Christmas that she adored. It was a big deal at the time, since her family was poor and presents like that didn’t come around often. The wooden doll with curly brown hair, a pale face and a flapper’s scarf wrapped around its neck is still with Holblinger 108 years later. It sits on a tiny chair in her room.
When she was a teenager, as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was published and prohibition grumbled on, she left the farm for the big city: Manhattan, New York. It was an expectation of women in her family to leave school without graduating and work in order to send money home.
She lived in the city, doing domestic work for a wealthy family, until she married her late husband, Anton Holblinger. They moved to the Bronx for a while, where they had Beers, their first daughter. When Holblinger was pregnant with their second daughter and tired of walking up four flights of stairs while carrying groceries, Beers said, they moved to Valley Stream on Long Island, New York.
That’s where she spent much of her life with her family — embroidering, growing flowers, and repairing and selling electronics and household appliances for work — until moving in with Beers at 93 in Colorado. Holblinger’s husband had developed Alzheimer’s and eventually passed away. She no longer wanted to live alone in their family home in New York.
Over the years living with her aging mother, Beers said she has been taken with her wisdom. As a kid, she never thought of her mom as smart since she wasn’t educated past eighth grade and her dad looked down on Holblinger because of this, she said.
“For a lot of my life, I didn't appreciate my mother's wisdom. But the longer I live with her, the more I come to appreciate her wisdom in every area,” Beers reflected.
However, caring for her mother has been really difficult at times. Neither she, nor her husband, expected to take care of her for over 20 years. There are times when the job gets so heavy, she said, that resentment bursts out of her. That, though, has forced her to grow.
“I mean, this is not what we thought our retirement was gonna be at all,” she said. “So it's been harder than I ever thought it would be, which is good because then I have to learn how to take care of myself better given these constraints.”
Still, Beers is learning from her mom.
Holblinger is on her third stint as a Hospice patient. She survived the pandemic with minimal reaction to the vaccine and just keeps on trucking. Beers wonders what more her mother, and herself, can get out of life.
“What is the lesson that I still have not learned from my mother? And what is the lesson in life that she has not learned yet? Because what else explains it? She obviously loves living,” Beers said.
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