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Clio's Temple

Happy Birthday, Mom

I consider myself fortunate that my mother is still living. For most folks my age, "mother" is only a (usually beloved) memory. Today is Mom's 85th birthday. While she will get flowers, cards, and congratulatory calls to commemorate the day, her consciousness of them is a fleeting thing. When the sun rises tomorrow, her memories will be gone. Three strokes in the last six years have deprived her of the ability to do everything she once loved - cooking, sewing, playing the piano, reading. It's this last loss that is particularly biting, at least to me. She taught me to read. Now that a book with my name on it is about to appear, it will make no more of a ripple in her mind than a passing sensation.

We've seen this before. My mother-in-law struggled against Alzheimer's disease for nine years before succumbing. Like my mother, she was a librarian. Like her, she also lost the ability to read and to play bridge. In thinking about life's losses, what is sometimes most poignant is the fact that, before death comes along, we often must surrender some of those things that make us human. In my case, Mom can remember that I am someone she loves, even if she can no longer call my name. Watching her decline brings to mind the mordant wisecrack about how to plan for old age: Have the Hemlock Society on speed-dial.

After we visited with Mom last weekend, my wife and I repaired to a beachfront hotel for some recuperation. Walking along the beach, observing the delight of small children playing, brings back a memory, specifically a picture that is somewhere in my family's files. It was taken sometime in the early 1950s. I couldn't have been more than a couple of years old. It shows Dad, Mom, and me at Panama City Beach: Mom and Dad watch as I devour an Oreo. It's just the kind of memory that, even if the actual memory is gone, seeing the picture brings back something enduring: My belief that love is the most powerful unseen force in the universe. Gravity doesn't hold a candle to it. Although my mother is gone in all but physical presence, she is always with me.

Happy birthday, Mom.

5 Comments to Happy Birthday, Mom:

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Jenny Munro on Wednesday, September 04, 2013 3:49 PM
A beautiful tribute to your mother. I, too, am lucky enough to have my mother living at 97. She is slower, weaker and sicker, but she still gets around with a walker, is able to fix breakfast and lunch and lives in an apartment in a retirement community. Her biggest loss, she says, is the ability to drive. She can't lift the walker in the car (and I don't think she would be capable of driving anyway). But I recently took her to Florida to visit my brother and his family. We celebrate each day - especially today, her 97th birthday.
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Becky Hartzog Cousson on Wednesday, September 04, 2013 5:33 PM
Steve, This is such a sweet note to your Mother. I have a friend who works 11 - 7 at the nursing home and your Mother is her favorite patient. She sits with Ms. Ann as much as possible and makes your Mom very happy by letting her hold her phone and listen to music. I told her that nothing would ever make your Mother more happy than the music. She says as people pass her by Ms. Ann will ask them to stop and listen to the beautiful music. For all of us that know her, we can really appreciate the story and the characters. I am so thankful for people who work with the elderly that really care about what makes them happy individually. Good luck with your book. .........Becky Hartzog Cousson
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Steve Gordy on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 1:29 PM
My thanks to all of you who commented on the post I did for my mother's birthday. She was - is - a special lady who has touched many lives. While I recognize that, to most of us, our mothers are very special, each of us commemorates their lives in our way.
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Dennis on Sunday, October 27, 2013 11:36 PM
That was good post.
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School Excursions Sydney on Monday, February 17, 2014 6:28 AM
Hey Steve, I agree with your feeling for our mothers and I also think the same. I like your thoughts and also want to wish a very happy birthday to your mom.
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