Monday, May 18, 2009
Growing a bit older doesn't seem quite so tragic when extra bits of love seem to sweeten and balance the tartness of another year. It was a sweet one this year.
After just exclaiming to my sister (who has older children) how wonderful it would be to have older children who were able to take the initiative to create handmade gifts and do thoughtful things for birthdays and Mother's Days like bake cakes or cookies, or make sachets or organize photos in frames (etc. etc).... I woke up on my birthday to my eldest (all five years of her) handing me a card with a little something wrapped in a Kleenex. I thought it might be coal. After all, it's happened before.
But shiny black didn't return my peek, but bright fuschia pink! I thought it was some pretty beads she had gathered for me but turns out~ it was a bracelet! One that she had holed herself up in her bedroom to do. One that attached the elastic string together with about 12 inches of wrapped scotch tape, but one that had love written all over it! And look! It's even in a pattern! I love it so much (I took the tape off and knotted the ends, BTW) and wear it all the time.
She also made me breakfast in bed, with a garnish of chocolate chips. A true girl, she is.
The icing on the cake, though, was the visit from the "extra special person": my Opa. My Aunt drove him all the way out here, not for my birthday-it was just a happy circumstance- and so on my birthday I got to host my Aunt, my cousin, my mom, my sister and my Opa (and all the accompanying children.)
My Opa has not been to my home since Matt and I were newlyweds. It was a joy to have him here.
His memory gets worse by the day, sometimes repeating himself just as soon as the sentence has been completed. There was one point though, when he said "Congratulations Rebecca, on your birthday!"
I know that he had been prompted and reminded who I was, where he was, and why he was here (probably several times) but to hear my name on his lips stopped me in my tracks. I didn't realize it, but somewhere along the line, he had stopped calling me by my name. In an effort, no doubt, to mask the fact that he didn't know who I (or anybody) was, he had begun to use generic names like "you" or to avoid using them at all. Hearing my name on his lips was as sweet a sound as I can recall, and made me realize how much you don't realize you miss something until the moment you get it back.
Mom brought a cake with her and everyone serenaded me the traditional birthday song but standing out was the only male voice~Opa, singing to me. It struck me that likely, it will be for the last time. His memory of me has already been stolen from him and someday his memory will be robbed of the familiar song or just the interest in the singing of it.
I tried to soak it in, and HIM in.
Handed to me was a birthday card and inscribed within were the words "From Opa, who loves you".
Alzheimers is a gift and a burden, a blessing and a curse. The Opa of long ago never would have made silly sounds at the babies or written such a loving inscription. I don't remember Oma or Opa ever saying directly "We love you". The only thing that stands out is the place where those words ought to have been. So that inscription and those coddles and coos meant for the babies are all greatly prized.
I also don't recall Opa ever kissing me. I do recall many many a time when I would stand tiptoed up to his tall frame and kiss his soft, wrinkled cheeks. Perhaps he would kiss mine as well, or the top of my head when I was a child and perhaps I never noticed it then, because children have so much more important things to do, ya know...but for him to kiss MY cheek was quite a turned table. A new phenomenon.
Without a doubt, he was the best present of all.