Next week is mom’s birthday. ¡Cinco de Mayo! I have mixed feelings.
If you had asked me in January What are you doing for your mom’s 84th birthday? I would have explained, She won’t be here for it.
But she is.
I’ve written about mixed feelings around mom’s disease and decline before and I’m going to write about them again, because mixed feelings should be normalized.
Mixed feelings are not elegant, graceful, certainly not the kind of trinket you take out for show at a party. They’re the honest scribble-scratch of the heart. We resist them: surely we’re more mature than that! We want to look away, but denying the mixed of these feelings is untrue. Unfair to the heart.
I can be Dammit, she’s still here and not be ashamed because the frustration is not borne of my impatience for the end, but rather of the love and compassion I have for her.
In that very same moment, I can also be, I’m so grateful she’s still here and not be ashamed because my gratitude is borne of the love I have for her and the small moments she still renders, not of any desire to have her linger in this condition.
So yes, I do have mixed feelings. How can anyone in these situations not? Please allow it.
Why is she hanging on?
We can speculate until we’ve used all the words in all the languages, but the truth is we don’t know.
- Sure, she wants to teach us… teach us what, exactly?
- Athlete, yes…. you’re right, of course, she was an athlete, underdog grit, she doesn’t know how to quit.
- Or maybe she wants all of her grandchildren and children in one room one more time for a grand goodbye.
- But what if there’s no reason? What if this is just how she does this?
I’m done speculating. I don’t need to know why. I just need to be present for whatever unfolds.
The lingering and the celebrations
So how do we celebrate the occasions. Do we? Don’t we?
We do. It won’t be the same as before, but we’ll celebrate with mom. In her lingering, she still lights up at familiar faces. It won’t be the same as her 80th birthday open house, but we’ll have another open-house birthday. Gentle flow of friends and community to say hello, I love you. Happy birthday. She won’t greet them at the door, give them big hugs like before, but I think she’ll receive the love.
It’s a little scary, but we’re not scaredy cats. She has a community that loves her, a community that she misses, and this is a chance for them as well, for a hello, some goodbyes, and, hopefully, a little bit of joy and laughter in an otherwise murky puddle of mixed feelings and disease.
©Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2022
You describe this so well. It’s as though I’m there walking with you both, and at the same time I am also sitting with Mom during the last few months of her life when I moved in with her. It was my 50th birthday, we had cake and ice cream, a guilty pleasure for us both. Thanks for evoking this memory. May you find yourself with sweet, if complicated, memories of this birthday.