Birthday … celebration?

Mom is 77 years old. Her birthday was Friday, June 6. I tend not to like her birthdays. They are stark reminders of her prolonged existence in this compromised state of being. I don’t want her to die – I feel like I should make that clear when I talk about death. I don’t wish death for her. But I am sad about how long she is living with this disease. There is a difference between those kinds of thoughts about Mom, for those who might quibble. There really is.

It’s been a long time since birthdays meant anything to Mom. Or Christmas, or Mother’s Day. Or my birthday. She was present at the surprise party Patrick threw me on my 40th birthday. She kept the secret, and she bought me a shirt at Kohl’s. About two weeks later, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. What a struggle that must have been for her, to pick out a gift for me, wrap the box and navigate the streets of the city to get to the party at a restaurant Downtown. By my 41st birthday, there was no need for her to even know about it or think about it anymore. I’m 48 now. Birthdays are not that important to me, really. But they obviously generate thoughts of the past, of elapsed time. Of better days, in Mom’s case.

I visited Mom as she was finishing lunch on Friday. I took a caramel Frappuccino for her birthday treat. My sister Laura always gives Mom a Frappuccino when she visits. Mom really enjoys the sweet and cold sensation, clearly. She also knows, when she senses and/or sees the straw hover near her mouth, that she should suck on that straw to get a drink. I find that amazing, that that one physical motion has stayed with her when she really does it very rarely. She can hold a cup, too, but on her birthday she was just a little busy and distracted, so I held it for her. When she neared the bottom, I took off the lid and let her slurp up the remaining watery whipped cream. She knew how to do that, too.

Mom sipping her sweet treat.

Mom sipping her sweet treat.

The weather was really lovely that day and the aides were taking residents outside to the courtyard behind the building. I walked Mom toward the hallway leading to the door to see if she might enjoy going outside. A gust of wind came down the hall, and Mom said, “Oh, no” and held her hands up to her chest as if to protect herself. The activities director was holding the door open and she said, “Sometimes they don’t like the wind.” I have alternating feelings of sadness that Mom doesn’t have any interest in stepping outside on a beautiful late spring day and ambivalence because, well, she doesn’t know anymore what she’s missing. But it’s a reminder of just how much of the old Bonnie is completely gone. She appreciated pretty days, and especially those with low humidity.

Mom got drowsy as we sat and chatted.

Mom got drowsy as we sat and chatted.

We walked briefly, and as we sat, Mom considered taking a nap right then and there. But she pepped up again, and after we nixed the idea of going outside, we just crossed the program area aimlessly. And aide came up and took Mom’s hand. “Sweetie pie,” Mom said to her. I loved that, and I think she liked it, too. It was time for Mom to go to the bathroom and get cleaned up after lunch – she is a frequent soiler of her clothes despite the bib she wears when she eats. And then she was going to be put down for a nap. Made sense to me, since she is always drowsy after meals. But I didn’t know that had become routine. Good to know for future visits.

I put my face right in front of Mom’s and puckered up my lips, and she made a small smooching motion for a quick little goodbye kiss. Another physical memory, somewhere deep inside.

5 comments so far

  1. David Hoover on

    A very poignant posting, Emily.

  2. Gemma McLuckie on

    My dad has stopped talking about his age. He used to say he was going to live to 100, then he started saying he was already 100 years old. Laughed when he said it. Now the idea of birthdays seems alien to him. He’s 89, so who knows — he may reach 100 years after all. And the thought makes me cry. Like you say, I don’t want to lose him. But watching this long decline is so painful. We’re lucky that he still makes connections to the world and loves drives to the Kabota tractor dealership and Dairy Queen. But I haven’t been able to watch the interviews he did several years ago that the Military History Channel reran recently.

  3. Sara Strong on

    Thank you, Emily. And a lovely post from a lovely writer! You too, Gemma.

  4. momsbrain on

    Thank you, David!

    Gemma, I’m sorry the changes in your dad are so difficult for you, but I certainly understand it, especially after having already lost your mother. But I’m glad he still likes to go for drives. And that he laughs. Those are good things. And those interviews he did, I think, will someday be treasures. Just not now. I get it.

    Sara-thanks so much!

  5. dementedgirl on

    Ahhh birthdays – also a source for dispondency in our household as well, though glad she liked the frappuccino!

    This was what happened three weeks ago on my mum-in-law’s “happy day”

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