Today we reached milestone #1. That awful first week in the hospital, the first time that Mom became disoriented, she started worrying that she wouldn't make it to celebrate with her "birthday sister" ( a dear friend who also celebrated her birthday today-Happy happy birthday RRG!!). My dad strongly told her that she wouldn't miss it, and Mom snapped back to reality and focus, but it shook us. It terrified my dad. But she made it to today. She's beginning her 57th year on earth and we're very glad to have her.
Gary's and my wedding is milestone #2. It's very difficult for me to broach the subject of our wedding because I know it's something that she's shooting for and working hard to be at. But neither Gary nor I want the wedding we were (ok, she was) planning. But I don't want to take away a milestone for her. Especially after seeing her today.
This morning Mom had physical therapy; it was a session like no other. Usually she does some leg exercises while sitting at the edge of the bed, then walks with her walker for a bit, then sits upright for an hour. Today she did the leg exercises, then walked down the hall into the "gym" and got on the recumbent bike for 13 minutes. 13 minutes! I have some clients who are healthy who would struggle with that! But she did it. Once she got back to her room, she napped until it was time to get ready for her birthday dinner. We had about 50(!) of her closest friends and family come over for pizza, salad and cake; we knew she was going to be sitting upright for at least an hour and it would be chaotic, so we wanted to make sure she got rest while she could. She slept most of the afternoon and woke up an hour before the "party" to wash up, get dressed and get ready to go.
Everyone kept saying how good see looked, how rosy her cheeks were and how happy she seemed. And it's true; she was decked out in a brand new Lululemon outfit and a gorgeous cashmere hat (all gifts-what amazing friends she has!) and she was thrilled to have so many people there. After we sang Happy Birthday, she gave a little speech, thanking everyone for being there. She said, "the best part of this whole thing is getting to spend so much time with all of you. All of my life I've been go go go, and now I really have the time to spend with the people I love. This has been a very special time in my life." It gave me pause. I also am go go go. I moved to New York because the Seattle pace was too slow for me. I thrive on being busy, on racing from one appointment to the next, on working six days in a row and waking up early to get a run in before the work. Mom has been robbed of her eyesight and strength and she appreciates it. She recognizes that all of our time together is precious and has truly enjoyed the knowledge that this situation has knitted our family closer together. Saying that this is a special time...who would ever think such a thing? This is one of the most frightening diagnoses to get, this is the most helpless she's been in her life since infancy, this is a time of such uncertainty and helplessness...and yet. She says it's special. And it is. I watched other families sitting in the waiting room at the hospital fall apart. I watched a son and mother engage in a screaming match. I watched siblings sit in stony silence. And I watched our family (and I include our friends in this group) knit, fold cranes, cry together, hug each other, feed each other and just rally. I mean, we planned a little birthday dinner and had 50 people come. There was no way to cut it down-every single one of those guests have been instrumental to getting Mom to this day. To milestone #1.
Before getting dressed for the party, Mom and I did some bed yoga and massage. She told me that she always trusts that I'm going to help her get in exactly the right position and apply exactly the right amount of pressure. Then she started to cry. "I want you to know how very proud I am of you. No matter what happens, please know that. And that I love you. I love you more than love." I didn't cry then. I just thanked her. I told her that it was her birthday and she shouldn't be giving me the gifts. Because what could be a better gift than going through life knowing you're loved more than love?