Yesterday was Mother's Birthday. I'm thinking that she would have been 86 or 87. But I don't recall what year she was born. I almost forgot her birthday altogether but my friend Jennifer was kind enough to remind me and to tell me she was thinking of me. That was nice. She didn't have to do that. I am always grateful for small kindnesses extended my way. I seem to get a lot of them and I am not at all sure that I deserve half of what I get.
I have been getting a few "How are you doing?" type messages and there are a lot of kind posts on Facebook. Again, my life is abundant with small kindnesses. And I am grateful for each one. So. How am I doing? This is how I'm doing. Pretty good. I've lived a lot of life in the last couple of years. Some good, some not so good. But we are on a definite upward arc.
Granted, yesterday had a strange feel to it. It wasn't sad exactly. Rather, it was-for lack of any other phrase that I can someone forth right now-sweetly poignant. It wasn't grief and it wasn't nostalgia. It was somewhere at the intersection between the two. I guess her birthday provided me with the occasion to look back at the last years of her life and to reflect upon how much I time I spent taking care of her, paying her bills, driving her to the doctor and visiting with staff. Sometimes it felt like a second job.
And even though toward the end of her life as the dementia more fully engulfed her mind Mother didn't know the difference between her birthday and Easter Sunday, I always went to see her on her birthday. Typically, I would bring her flowers. Mother loved flowers and I would never cease to marvel at how, though she occasionally didn't fully appreciate just who had borne her the flowers she held in her hand, she could name each of the various ones. Pretty much up until the end her love of flowers remained hard wired in her head.
And I say all of this by long winded way of explaining that it feels odd not to be able to wish my Mother a happy birthday. Christmas-who cares?-and Mother's Day was almost as big a pain in the ass as Valentine's Day. And the day of her death the last two Decembers didn't really affect me all that much. She suffered greatly. Death, under the circumstances, is merciful. But not being able to wish somebody a happy birthday on this day really has bothered me.
I discovered yesterday on Facebook (where else?) that my Baptist preacher golfing buddy shares a birthday with my Mom. I am not an overly sentimental man and I am not typically given over to magical thinking. But I find it oddly comforting that I still have somebody I can celebrate this day with. Maybe it is because we humans find comfort and meaning in symbols and rituals. Hey, it's worked for the Catholics, Episcopalians and Orthodox for centuries.
Or maybe it's because when you are little birthdays are really big deals and remain thus until after you can drive a car and/or legally buy a drink. And your Mom always made a cake and invited your friends over. In any event, why fight it?
As you may recall, my friend Michele has recently joined me in the Motherless Adults club. It was in that vein yesterday that she suggested that I get a piece of cake and in that way celebrate Mom's life. This is why I love Michele Walter. Because buying a piece of cake would have never occurred to me in a million years. As Michele said, "That's what I'm here for." Again, a kindness bestowed.
I don't have much of a sweet tooth. I have a gin tooth. But I used to take Mother oatmeal cookies from Starbucks. They are soft and Mother could tear them with her hands and swallow them easily. I would take one for me and one for her. And we would eat them together in her room at the nursing home. So yesterday I bought myself an oatmeal cookie from Starbucks in remembrance of my Mom.
Happy Birthday, Mother! And Happy Birthday, Randy!
And thank God for small kindnesses.