I went to Jackson (Mississippi) yesterday to celebrate my mom’s 80th birthday. I was going to give her a party, but she asked me not to. And when I got to her assisted living home early Wednesday afternoon, the staff had just celebrated her birthday at lunch with balloons and everything. But she didn’t remember. Alzheimer’s is like that, even in the early stages.
But she was happy to see me. And she loved the blouses and slippers. And the chocolates that my friend, Sue, gave her. Sue drove me down so I could keep my foot propped up in the backseat since it still tends to swell when it’s not elevated.
First we drove around our old neighborhood and showed Sue (and Mom) the house we built when I was seven. I think she recognized it. And the school I went to from second through sixth grades. We drove up and down the streets of our old neighborhood. I pointed out the houses where our friends lived. The McCreights. The Sumralls. She remembered their names.
Then we took her to Starbucks for lattes, which she loved. Here she is picking out coffee cake from the pastry counter. And watching the cute little kids in their private pre-school uniforms who came in with their mommies.
Later we picked up some wine and shared a toast with her at her apartment and said goodbye.
On our drive back to Memphis, Sue was asking me about my childhood, and we talked about mothers and daughters. Recently a friend told me that she was really close to her grandparents because her parents were too much into their own drama to pay attention to her. This is kind of like what Kim Sunee says in her book, Trail of Crumbs (which I’ll be reviewing here soon)… about her adoptive mother, being too self-absorbed to care about her. Kim, too, was drawn to her grandparents, who seemed to want to spend time with her. My kids could probably say the same about me. God forgive me.
I found this one, taken on Christmas morning, 1959. God, my mother was beautiful. She was 31. I’ve got on my new red silk nightgown and robe that I got for Christmas that year. My brother Mike and even my Dad have on their jammies. And then there’s Mom, dressed to the nines and looking like a movie-star, first thing on Christmas morning.
She’s still beautiful. And now she takes me around her assisted living home and introduces me to everyone as her “little girl.” And she smiles her movie-star smile.
I just kiss her and tell her I love her.
Happy birthday, Mom.