Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Momentous Week to Come

As I write this, my sister Linda has arrived from Virginia, Mary from Switzerland this morning, my nephew, Dirk, flies in from San Francisco tomorrow morning, Eric, Mike/Jess and the grandkids drive in from Elmhurst, Il. on Friday afternoon and Scott flies in from Salt Lake City on Friday night.

So what's the big deal? My mother celebrates her 98th birthday on Friday! This is a woman who has published her memoirs, fought colon and uterine cancers, heart disease, Paget's bone disease and crippling arthritis. She is truly amazing! I cannot believe her tenacity and her engagement with Life. One rarely hears complaints or criticisms from her - she just can't be bothered.

Last Sunday I joined her for Sunday dinner at Millstream Commons, her assisted living facility. Afterwards I gave her a manicure, while she watched the Twins and took an afternoon nap. Bored with the Twins (they were losing), she consented to a ride down to her townhome at Pheasantwood (we still hold out hope that she can return there with a full-time caregiver, to spend her last months (years?). I bundled her up in her wheelchair and then pushed, pulled and bumped over the wood chipped trails of her garden so that she could once again enjoy the lush promise of Spring. We sat together near her small pond (yes, it was full of recent rainwater) as she marvelled at the peonies, lilacs, hosta, May flowers and glorious tulips - what had come up, what hadn't survived the winter -and wondering if the family of ducks would return this year.

So, Friday, April 30th, we will invite her friends in for cake and ice cream at 2:30 and Saturday we will be all together for a large family dinner at my sister Sue's - roast leg of lamb, Mom's favorite. She is so excited and can't quite believe this is happening.

I cherish these special times, alone with my Mom. There are changes in her every time I visit...but why not? The gnarly fingers, the bent over walk, and the struggles to get up from her chair - she doesn't give up. She reminds us kids - what do I owe you, as we pick up toiletries for her. She will ask how did Eric's interview go, how is Scott doing at Questar, and loves the tales of Mike representing a multi-millionaire at a big auction of Florida condos.

Can one imagine the changes that she has witnessed over her 98 years? I remember as a kid sitting next to her as we picked feathers off of scalding hot chicken carcasses - she was so fast - OR washing chicken poop off of eggs, one by one, getting them ready for a grocer in St. Paul. I remember washing four loads of clothes with her (whites first, Dad's patched striped overalls last) in the Maytag wringer washer and hanging them in long, swaying lines of laundry outside by the crabapple tree. The cistern by the back door (if you shouted down it, you could hear an echo, but watch out for any snakes!), the Watkins salesman with the big jolly belly (Mr. Koester), the wonderful kettle closet that was such a jumbled mess and her frustration with me doing projects at the last minute (I haven't changed a bit, ask Bob). I remember when it was too cold to move the baby chickens into the brooder house and we had to place the crate of these cheeping little yellow fuzz balls into our oven on low heat! Oh, Mom, can't we hold them?

She has given me more that I can ever give back to her - happy birthday, Mom!

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