My brother texted me three times this morning before I even got out of bed. He wanted me to think of silly things that our mother said to us. Today would have been my mother’s 81st birthday, and it’s okay to celebrate, remember, mourn and think about Mom.
What my brother came up with (that make sense to a reader) was “Get a wiggle on” (meaning get ready NOW) and “You be frank and I’ll be earnest” which she always said when wanting to talk about something serious.
Both of those made me laugh, and remember.
The mother I miss died a long time before her actual death from dementia. While her sweet touch and presence was there until the very end, the striking parts of her personality eroded over time lapping slowly away like the outgoing tide on the Gulf of Mexico.
Because my adult son has a birthday soon and because my mom came to care for us, I chose to celebrate that memory today.
Our son arrived late. Since I was an infertility patient, we had a pretty good idea of when he came to be. I was scheduled to get a “pit” drip on a Monday morning; my parents would make the six-hour trip and be there by the time baby arrived. The pitocin (a synthetic version of oxytocin) didn’t work and the doctor scheduled me to come back the following Wednesday.
Tuesday was a fun day. I played H-O-R-S-E- on the basketball court in our backyard, looking much like a horse. We went to The Olive Garden for dinner and I availed myself of the “All You Can Eat” fettucini alfredo, breadsticks and salad. Oh, and did I mention we went to “White Castle” for lunch. Anyone who has ever worked in an ob unit may understand the rockin’ the boat with a slider may be one of the easiest ways to bring on labor.
Wednesday 6 p.m. the baby was born. My husband held him first because I was shaking so much. My husband ran out to the waiting room to tell my parents who were over the moon, especially my mother who couldn’t wait to be a grandmother. Her dream finally came true at age 58.
She had eyes only for the baby. I, on the other hand, didn’t have a clue. I never babysat and when the nurse brought the little glass-bed into my room after baby was all cleaned up, I had no idea what I was supposed to do with him. Seriously. No clue. My sister-in-law gave me breastfeeding instructions long distance over the phone.
While I was still in the hospital, my husband went back to work. No sense in losing two days of pay when my parents were here and I was just sitting in the hospital. The hospital photographer came to take the baby’s pictures and we three hopeless adults were unable to dress him correctly. All his second day pictures show a red-faced, big-lipped baby in an ill-fitting Winnie-the-Pooh Snuggly suit because the responsible adults (two of whom were already parents) had no clue that his sleeves needed to be pulled down.
We went home and baby screamed most of the first night. Breastfeeding wasn’t going well, so we tried formula and things went better. We were still in the era when formula was perfectly acceptable. After the first night home, Dad couldn’t take all the chaos and went home sans Mom.
Several days after we got home, husband went back to work and my mom was in charge of both of us. I feel certain had she not been there that baby might have died. She taught this new mother lots of things, how to hold him, how to feed him, how to bathe him. Although mostly she held him and worshipped him.
Dad came back ten days later, bringing Grandmother # 2 with him for a visit. Grandmother # 2, although already having four other grandchildren and a great-grandchild, still had stars in her eyes about this child, and couldn’t take her eyes off of him either.
Mom and Dad left the next day, and I cried and sobbed when Mom left. My mom had suffered from depression from the time I was a freshman in high school on, and I failed to understand that it was an illness. Our relationship wasn’t wonderful from my teen years on, but that two weeks of being together and caring for my new son healed all the pain and anger of another time.
As I remember her on her birthday, I think so fondly of our special time together during those two weeks after my son was born.
Being a grandmother was so important to her, she got her only other grandchild just five months later, another boy, and cherished him just as much. You wouldn’t want to be behind her in line in the grocery store; she was likely to whip out pictures of the boys and show them to the clerks, whether she knew them or not.
I love you, Mom. I’m getting a wiggle on.