Mom was born on April 18, 1928. This year she will be 88 years old. We’ll have a little party for her. My oldest brother will be here and we’ll have dinner together and eat cake. I’ll get the number candles instead of using individuals; otherwise, we may have too many to blow out. We’ll fill her planters with flowers because that is her favorite thing.
We celebrated my birthday a few weeks ago. My sister was here and we had cake and opened a few presents. Mom was very confused. You know that feeling you have when the table next to you in the restaurant is celebrating? The servers come out with a special dessert and begin singing. You might join along with the song or just smile, but either way your dinner is briefly interrupted as you enjoy a fleeting moment of celebration with them. Then you try to pick up the flow of conversation at your table and have difficulty finding the topic. I think that’s how Mom related to the celebration that day.
Last year we had a wonderful party celebrating her birthday. We were all together and made a big to-do over her. She had a special dinner and gifts. We took lots of pictures. A few days later as I was editing the pictures on my computer, Mom wanted to know when I had seen John, my brother. I explained he’d been here for her birthday and she lamented she wished she’d seen him. I showed her pictures from that day and even pictures of her with John. The memories just weren’t there.
When Michael and I were dating, I bought a book called “The Book of Questions.” It was a wonderful book for getting to know someone deeply. Some of the questions were open-ended: “What is your favorite memory from childhood?” Others were “would you rather”-type, thought provoking questions. “Would you rather enjoy a wonderful vacation for two weeks and not remember it or
I always chose the memories. I cherish the time I spend recalling. Michael and I were very intentional about making memories with our kids. Hiking to waterfalls, road tripping all over the mountains, and visiting friends were high on our to-do list. I documented with photographs and Michael carefully put the photo books together. There aren’t as many photo books since the digital camera came into our lives – I’m not as diligent as Michael was about getting photos printed off and in books – but photos on our phones or computer still bring back sweet memories.
I know Mom’s not in a place to miss the current memories. She sees the distant past much clearer than today. Her childhood seems like yesterday to her. There are many current moments that I’m glad she’s not storing in her long-term memory, especially when we bicker over bath time or lunch time. I hope she can store the love, however. I wonder if she knows how much she’s loved by Jean, me, my brothers and sister, and especially Daddy. Maybe she can feel it even though she can’t articulate it, much the same way a baby knows love in an embrace. I’m trying to hug her lots and hold her hand as much as I can.
“Loveliest of Trees” is a poem by A. E. Housman. I’ve been reciting it all spring and it’s especially poignant to me today.
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing while for Eastertide.
Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.
And since to look at things in bloom,
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.
88 years. Many good, full years of health and love and life. More than three score years and ten, but not nearly enough to enjoy all the things in bloom. So, Happy Birthday to you, Mom. May you enjoy many more springs filled with azaleas and dogwoods and cherry trees!