Today would be my Mom’s 88th Birthday, and we miss her alot. Anniversaries are hard.
But, I’ve been thinking alot about her 60th birthday this month, since I just had mine. That day –right about this time of morning, on my birthday– was extremely hard for me.
September has always been “birthday month” for us. Especially since Maria came along and joined us twenty-five years ago. During almost every “birthday month” for the past twenty-five, we’ve have the privilege of all three gone to dinner somewhere.
So, yeah, this month is different. And there’s a huge hole.
But I am not only thinking about Mom’s 60th birthday because I just had mine, or because I feel old and miss her. I’m thinking about her because on her 60th she chose to throw a big party and invite all her friends. And that party had a special meaning for her.
She’d gone back to work, for some years at that point. She was a paralegal who traveled all over the country. She had a brand new set of “work friends” that she made in 50s.
Mom never expected to live to age 60. HER Mom, my grandmother, *died* at age sixty. She had breast cancer, and went through horrible, 1960s-era, treatments for the last decade of her life. In fact, one of the things I’ve re-learned about my few, faint, memories of “Mamaw” –they are mostly just feelings of a loving presence– is that she was dying the entire time she knew the little-boy-me. That’s a sobering thing to realize, looking back as an adult.
This early death of her own Mother provided both a deep grief and strong resolve that forever shaped my Mom’s life. It’s a part of what drove her cherish every day she had.
And so…It’s a part of why she wanted to throw this 60th party for herself…to celebrate the fact that she made it, and that she was now standing in a boat, at the edge of a great, unknown, ocean; for which she had no map, compass, or sextant.
That uncertain future lasted almost 28 more years.
A part of my dealing with estate issues has been to look through old family movies. I found the VCR tape –apparently filmed by me– of her 60th party.
Sure the hairstyles are a bit over-the-top. Hey, it was 1994…
You’ll see brief glimses of my sister, Dad, and Dennise. Dianne was in Bolivia, working in the Peace Corp, and embodying Mom’s message to seize every day. There are exactly THREE men present…me, my Dad…and third poor guy I don’t recognize.
The video includes a brief history of her life, written and narrated by Linda, pictures by Linda and Dad. This is well before iPhones and PowerPoint. The audio was a prerecorded cassette tape, and then the attempt was to manually synch to a carousel of slides…designed to play on repeat while folks drifted in and out of a room. The affect in my video here –since it obviously *didn’t* totally synch up– is kinda hilarious. Like I said, pretty impressive for a pre-iMovie world.
And also pre-grandchildren. Maybe the best, and humbling, reminder to me, in my sadness today, is just how much more time Mom had, and how some of her very favorite memories in life (her times with all her grandkids) hadn’t even happened yet.
AFTER this 60th party, Mom had some of her greatest joys, loves, and celebrations. But she didn’t, and couldn’t, know that then. She was just grateful to be alive.
I’ve always been inspired by Mom’s willingness to celebrate life, even in the midst of her sorrow. Which is a part of my I went ahead with my *own* 60th Birthday Party last week.
I felt her presence all that day.
I feel it today, and I hear her message to us all.