95-year-old Texas woman won't let coronavirus wreck her birthday

Madison Smalstig, Special to USA TODAY

They planned a giant gathering in a clubhouse down the street. Family was going to travel from around the country to laugh, eat barbecue and watch LaVon Oglesbee blow out the candles on her mini bundt cakes – three chocolate, three red velvet, three white chocolate, three lemon. It was supposed to be a special birthday, her 95th. 

But the world changed. 

The stores closed, including Nothing Bundt Cakes and Hutchins Barbeque. People locked themselves inside.

Across the country, other birthday celebrations were cut short because of the coronavirus. In Fort Worth, Texas, a 7-year-old told his mom that this was going to be his worst birthday ever. In Andover, Massachusetts a 9-year-old cried because she couldn’t go on a birthday trip to see a Broadway show. Birthday boys and girls of all ages learned to wave to friends on Zoom and to clap out their candles, and not to blow.

LaVon Oglesbee moved in with her daughter, Lori Oglesbee-Petter, in 2016. They made the drive to McKinney, Texas from West Monroe, Louisiana.

Across the country hundreds of people salvaged the moment with drive-by-birthday parties, where people decorated their cars and drove by shouting, “Happy Birthday!” from a safe distance. A 5-year-old in New Jersey got a parade of fire engines. So did a 3-year-old whose mom, an ICU nurse, tested positive for the virus. A 12-year-old in Massachusetts was serenaded by police officers.

A similar idea struck LaVon’s daughter, Lori Oglesbee-Petter, 57. She went on Facebook and rallied friends. 

“If you can, please drive by our house Thursday, March 26 from 3-3:30. Roll your windows down and yell, paint a sign. Put the kids and the dogs in the car. We’ll be sitting on the front porch. This will be a surprise for her.”

More than 50 cars were scheduled to appear.

At midnight Thursday, McKinney, Texas, was put under a shelter in place ordinance. 

At exactly 12:01 a.m. LaVon wished herself a happy birthday out loud, alone in her room.

Lori canceled the parade.

****

LaVon is used to staying indoors. She has a towering list of favorite TV shows, which includes “The Bachelor,” “Little House on the Prairie” (which she insists is called Little White House on the Prairie), “Dr. Phil” and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” 

She often will watch TV by herself in her own area of the house, even if Lori and Philip are watching the same show. 

Life hasn’t really changed for LaVon. Lori says she is in perfect health.

She still eats Honey Buns for breakfast and adds extra salt to her food and she isnt diabetic or overweight. Despite the fact that Lori thinks her mother will outlive her, she has grown more cautious.

If the hospital has a limited number of ventilators, she said, they probably won’t give one to a 95-year-old woman. So, as of her mom’s birthday, she hadn’t left the perimeter of her yard for 16 days. 

Lori has been canning food for years — she did 400 cans last year — and normally buys things such as toilet paper in bulk. Her friends have joked that her house is the place to be if an apocalypse occurs. Now, some of them pick up cans from her front door. 

So LaVon felt pretty secure in her daughter’s care. The only time she was afraid was when she was down to her last three Honey Buns. 

**** 

“Hey, everybody!” LaVon said, appearing for the first time on Facebook Live. 

It wasn’t a parade, but it would have to do.

She talked about her childhood, picking cotton, picking out a switch and robbing the hives for honey with her dad. She was always Daddy’s favorite, she said. 

She talked about when she mispronounced the word “ambulance” — “am-bu-lanch” — in class and the teacher told her it was wrong.

“Do not correct me in class,” she snapped back.

She talked about her 54 years as a teacher, during which she taught her younger sister, her daughter and her grandson in biology. 

She told the infamous “grand finale” story, where 9-year-old Lori cried and said she wanted to stay at the fireworks show to see the grand finale, to which her dad replied, “I’ll pull over and show you my grand finale.” 

LaVon Oglesbee of McKinney, Texas, had a perfectly nice 95th birthday, coronavirus or no.

Every once in a while, she messed up the timing of a story or forgot a detail. 

She talked about the end of World War II, when she drove the streets with her husband to celebrate and listened to the horns honking and church bells ringing. 

“We danced,” she said. “We were the happiest people in the world.

LaVon was born in 1925, four years before Anne Frank. She grew up during the depression. Her husband died two days after their 69th wedding anniversary. Now, she’s living in the midst of a pandemic.

She has not always had lavish birthdays. She doesn’t expect them. 

A parade would have been nice, but getting online birthday wishes was just as good. The bundtinis would have been delicious, but the sweets delivered to her door were still perfect. A party would have been wonderful, but spending it with her daughter and son-in-law was what mattered.

“God has been so good to me,” she said.

At 3:24 p.m. Lori sang happy birthday and LaVon blew out a single purple candle stuck into a Swiss roll.

****

Back in 2016, Lori reserved a room for her mom at the assisted living facility in her neighborhood. She changed her mind. Now, across the country, assisted living homes are being shut to friends and family members.

If things had been different, LaVon would have spent her birthday alone. 

Fortunately, at the time it was easier for LaVon to stay at the house. Fortunately, she was home when everyone in McKinney was ordered to stay inside. Fortunately, even though the world changed, her life stayed the same. 

She just thanks God every day - not just on her birthday – that she is living with her daughter and son-in-law. 

Truthfully, she got everything she wanted. Salmon patties for dinner, and a family to share it with. Two boxes of Honey Buns delivered to her door.

She also got a handmade facemask, purple. Her favorite color. 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus can't ruin this 95-year-old Texas woman's birthday