My mother turned 93 or so, Monday, or so. We’re not really sure about any of it, but that’s what her US passport says. Of course, I had to work yesterday, so I brought her to my house on Sunday. We didn’t really do anything special to celebrate per se. We just hung out for a while in the late morning, had some vasilopita (Greek new year’s bread) and Greek coffee. We talked about the same things over and over; I told her it was her birthday and how old she is, how old I am. I tried to clarify again how long I’ve been married, how old her grandson is, and so on. Then, after a while, the familiar cadence of alertness and fatigue progressed and she was ready to go home to the facility.
There was never much emphasis on anyone’s birthday in my family. I suppose this is because Greeks celebrate name days more so than birthdays, but in America that seemed only to happen as a brief mention during or after church. Consequently, I never had a real sense of either of my parents as celebrated or as celebratory. They just plugged away, day after day. (I, of course, had birthday parties, but they were typically muted affairs. Three or four friends would come over for cake and we’d run around in the back yard for a couple of hours.) Once I was older, I tried to celebrate both of my parents birthdays. I wanted to show my love for them, but in my American grown-up way. Neither ever seemed very comfortable with it. Maybe it was because they were already quite old and didn’t really want to be reminded, I don’t know.
Anyway, she seemed pretty sturdy and in good shape, all things considered–especially in the flannel shirt. I’d never seen it before, so I suspect it was a holiday gift to one of the other residents. They don’t seem to worry much about whose article of clothing is whose at her place. The glasses aren’t hers either. That’s probably just as well; hers have the thickest lenses I’ve ever seen and resulted from, I think, communication problems and confusion at her last eye exam a couple of years ago. She can’t tell how far away anything, like the next step or the handrail, is when she wears them.
But she did pretty good on this day.
So, happy birthday, ma. Here’s to another year.