Last week I flew to Atlanta to celebrate my mother’s 75th birthday with her. Although we’re all still glad to have her with us, the celebration was a subdued one. My youngest sister and her family, along with my mother and my father and me, went to Olive Garden. Mom was having a good day, with no unwanted visitors in her head. She ate her birthday cheesecake with gusto, diabetes be damned.
On my left, dad was quietly downing a glass of wine. On my right, mom opened her birthday gifts. I was glad to be able to sit between my parents; this terrible, awful, no good, very bad disease that has taken my mother’s mind has stolen their marriage as well. They love like porcupines: from a distance, gingerly.
And yet a small part of me cannot help but be thankful for what my relationship with my mother has become. I am, at long last, her golden child. She is unabashedly delighted to see me every time I visit. Her letters no longer contain the critical, dissatisfied undercurrents that once characterized her missives (like a bomb squad on the alert, I was never sure which one would detonate). For the first time in my life, I have the mother of my dreams . . . while my dad and my other sisters grapple with a much harsher reality. And even as I offer up prayers for them (especially my father, who is alone at home battling pneumonia instead of traveling to his sister’s house to spend Thanksgiving), I can’t help but give thanks, even now, for the gift of a few happy days with mom.
And for a husband who encourages me to leave him with the children, and to avail myself of the joy.
And for a new boss, who understands the needs of elderly parents.
And for friends with whom we can celebrate it all.
This year, it would be easy to look over my life and find cause for worry and regret. Even so, I am thankful.