EIGHTY-NINE YEARS AGO TODAY the mother of my Yard Man was a squalling newborn infant. She was the firstborn for my yard man's grandparents, so I'm sure her birth was an exciting and happy event, though she herself was not aware it was her birth day, of course.
Now eighty-eight times since then she's had loved ones wishing her happiness on the anniversary of that day. Eighty-eight times she has had at least some small celebration of her life. Subtracting a time or two when she was in her babyhood, let's say eighty-seven times she's recognized the fact that this is a special day of days.
But alas, Dear Reader, as her life continues its steady march down the far side of the hill, strange forces have emerged from the wayside brambles. They have sneaked up and cruelly robbed her! This evening, when her four local children and their spouses showed up at the nursing home with an armload of birthday-enhancing goodies, she was no more aware of the special day than she was on that day she took her first breath.
Only partially was this due to the fact that severe back pain had produced an increase in her medications. She would have been pleased to see us, and likely she'd have known that she knew her daughters and her son, even if she couldn't say their names. Minnie would have known these were folks who loved her, and ones whom she loved (I'm sure of this), but as for knowing her age...or the fact that today was her birthday--that was part of the theft of which I spoke, Reader Dear.
The birthday celebration (such a scaled-down version from last year) was not meant to be. This morning, on the very day the balloons went up beside her door and little decorations on the door frame, she fell out of her wheelchair again (she fell last week, too). When the eight of us arrived at her room, she was out. She was actually there--right there in her bed, but she was heavily sedated and medicated for pain. No one said, "Happy birthday, Mom!" or "Look who's here! We're your family and we all came to see you because it's your birthday!"
No, instead we stood around her bed and sadly exclaimed, hardly knowing what to do. One son
-in-law left the room. "Oh, man," he said, "it's so hard to see her like this!" Finally we came to the sorrowful conclusion that there'd be no salvaging of this celebration--the best we could do was plan to try again on another day. So we left behind the cards and the flowers, and we said goodbye (to each other).
On the long drive home through the pleasant countryside, as I watched the birthday shadows lengthen and the birthday sun go down, I wished that annual celebrations of one's life would always improve with the passing of time, in the way of a very fine sunset.
And that everything stolen would always be returned for at least the one day--yes, Dear Reader, the not-always-so-HAPPY BIRTHDAY.