This year has been harsh on her. Tough on all of us.
Last year at 89?
|Mom & me on her 89th birthday last year|
But this year?
Wheelchair bound now, post broken-hip fall; sleeping much of the time (her heart not pumping efficiently enough to give her a full day's energy). Living in a nursing home. Still bruised from her latest fall.
Danny and the boys and I came out from the city by train (the car is still in the shop) and my Uncle Walter - my mother's 85 year-old "baby brother" - picked us up and drove us to the nursing home which is just a mile from his house.
We gathered in one of the small lounges, just off the dining room, where there was a table, sofa, chairs.
|Uncle Walter & Mom|
We visited for a while, ate cake, interspersed hugs and kisses with stories. Mom napped in her chair, on and off throughout the proceedings.
|Birthday kisses from Jake|
I gave her a bracelet, a simple string of blue-grey pearls on an elastic cord. Something easy to wear, not too valuable, as things of value are not possible to keep in a nursing home (the sad truth).
I had no idea they would be the exact same shade as the shirt she was wearing today, a bit of serendipity, something cheerful to cut into the sadness that was running a deep vein throughout the afternoon.
Walt told winding stories of their childhood together. Tales of their parents, and the candy store they ran together; of his father's earlier work as a waiter, filling in some details I had not heard before.
(The children were bored. They played video games. Hopefully, someday they will have interest in the currently unimaginable past.)
I hadn't realized Grandpa Joe had worked in high-class joints like the Waldorf, and been instrumental in founding the waiters union, NYC Local 1.
They talked about their grandfather, their father's father, remembered only as Zayde (Yiddish for grandfather), first name obliterated by time. Walt remembered how harsh and bristly his beard was, like razor blades, and how his father had inherited that same rough stuff.
"You have a beard like none other I have ever seen!" declared his barber when Grandpa Joe went in for his twice monthly fancy shaves, "It's tough as nails!"
Walt doesn't have this. Did it die out with my grandfather's generation, or is a steel wool beard in store for my boys when, in a few years, they sprout facial hair?
(This is why I feel it so important to gather these stories now, while those who lived them first hand are still among us and remembering. That world has long faded away, and yet my children walk into the future carrying the genes of their ancestors with their every step. these are their stories too, even if they don't know it yet.)
We took leave of Mom as dinner was being served, handed out the remains of the cake to the folks at her table. She looked so sad, sitting there in her wheelchair, dozing off, waiting to be served.
I had to work hard to walk away without spilling over into sobs, remembering my father's bountiful 90th birthday celebration just five years ago, with abundant food, family and friends gathered 'round; not this paltry, anemic thing we had just done, too slight to be called a party.
|Mom with birthday flowers and cake|
And 90 is still 90, a big deal. Nine decades.
And I know you don't think so, are distressed by how much you now look like "an old woman" but you are still so beautiful, so beautiful to us all.
Happy Birthday Mom! We love you!