On my birthday, I went to the Hebrew Home so I could see my mom on my “special day.” Of course, she didn’t know it was my birthday. Even after I told her.
“It’s my birthday!” I said, after settling down in a chair next to her and Kenneth.
“ConGRATulations!” exclaimed Kenneth as he reached out and gave me a firm handshake. He was acting like I’d announced the birth of my firstborn child, and I wondered if he might hand me a cigar.
“Happy birthday!” my mom said. Her eyes lit up, and she reached over and touched my face. Then she kissed me.
My birthday used to be a big deal for my mom. When I turned 16, she marveled at the fact that her youngest child had reached that age. In her early days of Alzheimer’s, we went through the list of key birthdays almost daily so she could write them down (and promptly lose the list). She didn’t want to miss anyone’s birthday. But now, she’s past even trying to keep track, or even remembering that people have birthdays unless she’s reminded.
It doesn’t bother me. I don’t always love my birthday, anyway. But there’s something strange about having to remind my mom about it. As my friend Sharon said to me, birthdays are family affairs; if your family doesn’t remember your birthday, then who does?
“Hey, I don’t have any money,” my mom said. “Do you think you could give me a few bucks?”
Normally, I would put her off. She can’t do anything with money other than lose it. But that day, on my birthday, I reached into my pocket and took out five singles. I gave them to her. She thanked me and put them into her pocket.
As we got to talking about other things, I started to have second thoughts about giving her the money. Five bucks is no big deal, I know, but I started to feel like I didn’t want to throw it away after all. Not on my birthday.
“Hey Mom,” I said. “Today’s my birthday!”
“It is?! Happy birthday!” she said. She reached over and kissed me.
“ConGRATulations!” said Kenneth. He firmly shook my hand.
“I wish I had a gift for you, but I don’t have any money,” my mom said.
“Sure you do, Mom,” I said. “Take a look in your pocket.”
“Ooh,” she said. “Five dollars!”
“That’s perfect,” I said.
She peeled off a couple of bucks.
“Here you go,” she said. “Is two enough? I should keep the rest in case I need it.”
“Sure, Mom,” I said. “Thanks for the gift.”