January 28, 2018: I celebrated 60 birthdays with my mom — sixty-one including the actual day I was born, on which my father sent the telegram above to my maternal grandmother. Since Mom’s death in 2016, I’ve marked two birthdays without her physical presence. Even when she was here, we weren’t always together in the same space or location to mark the day she gave birth to her first child, but we connected somehow by phone or by fax when we were continents apart. That’s not possible today.
But it is possible to share some of the joy and fun she and I experienced on two of the last birthdays of mine we lived before she died. We laughed and sang and had wonderful times despite the fact that Mom lived with Alzheimer disease, and despite the neglect and abuse she suffered in ElderJail. Was life easy? No. But it was a lot easier than many others have it. Could things have been better? Yes. But we made the best of it. Should things have been different? Yes. And that’s why I’m a dementia care advocate.
But back to birthdays.
On January 28, 2015, my 59th, Mom was in an usually good mood when I arrived to visit. I had no idea why she greeted me with laughter, but I went with her flow, and we giggled together. I told her it was my birthday, and we joked about how amazingly well I had turned out 😛 (the “slapping” sound is Mom giving me “love taps”):
We liked to joke like that, and have a laugh at our own expense.
On January 28, 2016, after I had fetched Mom from her room, I stopped to convey my wishes to one of the residents whose birthday I shared. On the day I turned 60, she turned 100. In the three years since Mom had been there, I had never seen Mrs. A out of bed or awake. But there she was sitting in a wheelchair in the kitchenette across from the elevator that would take Mom and I to the first floor. There were three balloons tied to Mrs. A’s chair. I stopped to wish her happy birthday. Mom understood every word I said to Mrs. A, and she applauded her centenarian co-resident’s longevity. Then Mom and I got on the elevator, and together we sang She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain on the way down to tea:
There’s no doubt I will have celebrated more birthdays with my mother than without her by the time I die, unless I live beyond 120, which seems unlikely at this point! No matter how much I may have wanted it to be different at certain times in my life, there’s no doubt that we too are one.