Guess what? My mother celebrated her 99th birthday on Friday, and for the first time in my life I feel like I am at NASA counting down for another flight to the moon, as we tick off the days to November 9, 2013. I have never before experienced seeing a member of my immediate tribe enter into the final stretch, heading for the tape to finish a 100-year race; and it’s exciting. Last week, I wrote about the coincidence of remote Bama County in China and Barbados sharing two of the highest per capita occurrences of centenarians in the world, as well as a love for pork. So let me tell you outright that Millicent Lena Gilkes is the quintessential pork mouth. In fact, she was second only to my late father Sylvean who, up to the time of his departure at age 92, was still demanding “a li’l piece of pork”. No double entendre intended. I must say that I have been blessed with very long livers on both sides of the family, as well as among those who have become family by way of courtship. Two Sundays ago, I returned to my paternal roots in Crab Hill, St Lucy, for the celebration by an uncle-in-law, Samuel Yearwood, of his own 100th. My concern now is that with my mother heading towards that mark, I have to do everything in my power to ensure that I am there jumping and screaming when she breasts the tape. She constantly reminds me of her desire to “raise” me and although no man has a say in such matters, I know I have to do everything possible to avoid finishing my own race with life before she does hers with age. As I scope November 2013, I am realizing how very long is one year. A lyric in a song back in the day talked about sitting down and counting the hours. From November 9, 2012, to November 9, 2013, there are 8 760. Don’t talk about minutes. That equals 525 600. So I have a lot of counting to do in order to be around that long for the old girl. In keeping with the family tradition that saw my grandfathers and grandmothers making it into their late 80s and early 90s, and a great-aunt chalking up an almighty 105, I am going to stick even closer to Arnold. I already have with a strong love for vegetables, fruit and ground provisions, and am a healthy eater in that regard. Yet I know that eating is not all there is to good health. Exercise has a lot to do with it, and it’s in that area that I constantly fall down. I am not ashamed to state that the only body part that gets regular and constant exercise is my mouth. Again no double entendre intended. So, with immediate effect, I intend to get back into my previous twice-weekly swimming routine since Batts Rock and Paradise Beach, depending on traffic, are no more than five minutes away from my house. I could walk it for added exercise but, as happened once before, I might just end up catching a ZR van to get back up University Hill. My bicycle is really most faithful. Who else would wait patiently for more than a year for me to touch her? I, therefore, am getting out the pump and aiming to ride her twice weekly as well. Equally as patient are my Bowflex and Total Gym machines and I intend to also change that. So, with a happy 99th to Ma from all the family, I hereby devote myself to doing whatever it takes to be there for her “1double0” as well. • Al Gilkes heads a public relations firm.