Tag Archives: birthday

A Birthday Name Game

2014-06-13 20.48.51A guest blog post by my wife, Melissa.

One afternoon this week after work, I walk over to visit Helen.

Just before I slide open the glass door on the back porch, I take a long, deep breath.

It’s not that I am apprehensive or feel uncomfortable … I’ve been observing caregiving situations for as long as I can remember.  My parents and grandparents have instilled in me from a very young age a sense of respect and responsibility for elders.

It’s that I need all the energy that I can muster when I’m with Helen.  At 94 (weeks away from 95), I’ve learned that, although at times she thinks that she is 6 and wants to marry my husband (her son), she has the fiercest instincts of anyone I’ve ever met.

She will shut you out or allow you in or lash out at you (accompanied by an occasional bite) in a matter of seconds.  I’m mindful of the energy I bring into most situations, but I am acutely aware of how critical the energy factor is when I’m with Helen. So, as I’m inhaling at the door, I assume the “me” that I have found to be most effective with Helen … it’s the positive (but not perky), the strong (but not threatening), the kind (but not weak), the cautious (but not afraid) and always respectful me that my mother-in-law needs to feel safe.  So, I take a deep breath and I assume that role … for her.

Helen is sitting in her kitchen at a beautiful pine table made by her husband, Fred (that if you don’t put a tablecloth over, she scratches obsessively and there are the indentations to prove it).  The kitchen looks all at once familiar, yet very different, as all around us are the new caregiver’s belongings and ways of organizing … essential and most appreciated, but seemingly out of place at Cheswick, Helen’s historic (circa 1796) home.

I never know when I start a conversation with Helen, whether I’ll encounter the quick witted and all-knowing Helen or the Helen that asks when someone is going to take her home.  But, thanks to a lot of practice, I’ve learned to be quick on my feet and meet her wherever she is.

Me:  Hi, Helen!

Helen:  Hi, girl!

Me (while hugging Helen):  Hi, Helen … it’s Melissa … I’ve dropped by to see you.

Helen:  I love you.  Your hands are cold.  Give me those.  (She proceeds to blow and kiss them until she deems them warm enough to let go of.)

Me:  Well, I have exciting news.

Helen:  What is it? (Helen loves excitement and has more energy at 5:30 p.m. after a full day at the adult day center than I did at 10 a.m. after my second cup of coffee)

Me:

It is officially the Laughon birthday season.  Are you ready for all the birthday celebrations?

Helen:   I am always ready!

Me:  Well, let’s play a game.

Helen:  Ok, I’m ready (she sits up straighter in her chair).

Me: I’m going to give you hints and you’re going to guess who is having a birthday on Sunday.

Helen:  This Sunday? Ok, I’m ready.

Me:  The first is on November 16thand it’s a boy’s birthday.  He’s funny, he’s handsome and he belongs to you.

Helen:  He belongs to me!?!

Me:  Yes, ma’am.  And, he’s a great singer.

Helen:  (says nothing, but closes her eyes in concentration and nods her head slowly)

Me: And his name starts with a “T”.

Helen:  A “T” …  hmmm … (more concentration and I think I see a little smile)

Me:  Do you know who it is or do you want me to tell you? (giving her this option balances out the fun of this game that she consistently finds engaging but gives her an easy out that she will often take if she’s not sure of the answer)

Helen:  I know who it is … can you guess?

Me:  I think it’s Tom.

Helen:  How’d you know! Tom Laughon, my boy!

Me:  Yes, Helen, Tom’s birthday is Sunday.  We should practice singing Happy Birthday!

I start singing “Happy birthday to you” at the exact time that Helen sings “Jesus loves me this I know” and I smile, give her a squeeze and join in “for the Bible tells me so.”  When we finish, I tell her after Tom’s birthday is Lissi’s (her granddaughter).

Helen:  Claps her hands together and says, “I know that girl!”

Me:  And, Ty and Patrick have birthdays in November.  And, after that … the next birthday is on December 25 … who might that be?

Helen:  Hmmm (closes her eyes again in concentration)

Me:  December 25 … Christmas Day

Helen:  Me … Helen Douglas Martin Laughon … my birthday is Christmas Day.

 

May 10 … This Little Light of Mine

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It is May 10th … again.

It is my sister, Nel’s, birthday, the fourth one since her death, March 28, 2011.

She would be 67.

There is no cake.

There are no candles.

But, there are the bright lights of memories only Nel could have created that still shine in the hearts and minds of those who knew her.

On the darkest of nights, Nel was my beacon, my inspiration, my sister, my mentor and my friend.

Her legacy is as bright as the sun.

On this day, I celebrate Nel’s gift … the light that shines in me … it continues to bring me warmth, comfort and joy … let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

On this day, two years ago, I posted May 10th, Another Would-Be-Age Day.

I invite you to go and watch the video of my mom, sister and me singing The Gift to be Simple.

You will experience Nel’s gift to all of us first hand.

I love you, Nel.

May 10th, Another Would-Be-Age Day

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It is May 10th.

It is my sister, Nel’s, birthday, the second one since her death, March 28, 2011.

She would be 65.

Birthdays followed by would-be-ages are bitter sweet.

My dad’s birthday was in April, and it was a heck of a day to get through for me, even though he passed away in 2002.

Today, I searched my blog posts for the following video. It was taken on Thanksgiving Day, 2008.

My sister was showing signs of what would later be diagnosed as early onset Alzheimer’s, but you sure can’t tell it here.  As you can see, her joy was still as contagious as her voice was strong.

I have clicked on this video again and again, today.

I sing along. I laugh. I cry. I whisper how much I love her and how much I miss her.

The words and the simple melody of the song give me the strength and courage to continue down this crooked path of life.

Our harmonies are as familiar as they are comforting.

There we are, Nel, mom and me and somehow it seems like only yesterday, although I am fully aware that it is today.

Nel is dedicating the song to my daughters, Tovi and Lissi. My sister adored “her girls”. And, “her girls” adored their Nel.

It is May 10th.

I love you, Nel.

Click to learn more about my extraordinary sister on the Alzheimer’s Association’s website.

My Mom is 92!

As of Christmas Day, my 91 year old mom is 92!

My wife (Melissa), daughters (Tovi and Lissi), son-in-laws (Chris & Ty), grandkids (Thomas, Patrick, Fisher, Livi, Kenzie and Tyli), and I all celebrated her birthday in grand style.

Five of the grand kids each stuck 15 candles into a homemade chocolate cake (mom’s favorite) and one got to finish it off with 17.

When we lit the cake to present it to mom, not only did the room light up like a fireworks finale on the Fourth of July, the temperature in the entire house heated up at least ten degrees! I thought Smokey the Bear would appear any minute and say, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”

And, let me tell you, mom blew those candles out like nobody’s business. After 91 years of blowing out an ever increasing number of candles, today would be a piece of cake. This lady was on a mission! Practice made perfect.

Those 92 candles made quite an impression on all of us, especially the kids. They now know what 92 looks and feels like. It looks like a humongous bright, shining light, and makes you feel warm all over. It is so very special.

And, the taste? Delicious as a homemade chocolate cake! A taste none of us will ever forget.

We asked mom how old she was and she said, “I don’t know, how old am I?”

When we shouted 92 in unison, she shot back, “I am not. I am no such thing.”

And … one thing we all knew, no matter what age we were … never challenge a lady about her age … especially this one!

With all the commotion going on, we didn’t have time to ask mom what her wish was when she blew out the candles. Besides, her wish was already coming true right before our eyes.

Both of her little hands were grabbing hold of that chocolate cake before we could even take what was left of the smoking candles from the forest fire out, cut and serve it. Chocolate was all over her mouth, but it didn’t stop her from asking for more! All she could say between bites was, ” This is the best cake I have ever tasted in the whole wide world … and that’s it.”

As for our blog being called My 91 Year Old Mom,  it will remain the same until I can figure out how to change the domain name (which was my original idea) and not confuse mom’s ever growing universe of followers.

Just know my mom is now officially 92, no matter what she or the blog title says.

And, I for one will never challenge what she says except in the safe place this blog has become … and that’s  it!

Stay connected, there is sure to be a whole lot more I’ll share with you on my mom’s and my ever unfolding journey of a lifetime.

It’s My Party …

A Special Visitor on Mom's Birthday

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to

Cry if I want to, cry if I want to

You would cry too, if it happened to you

Me: Mom, you are 92 years old, today! What does it feel like to be born on Christmas Day?

Mom:  I cried. Every Christmas I cried.

Me: Why mom?
Mom: Because everybody got presents on my birthday, and I never got presents on theirs.
PostScript: Well, our family can’t wipe away 91 years worth of tears, but we sure do know how to throw a party-without-tears.
Join the fun at My Mom is 92!


Born Christmas Day. First Name Starts with J.

Scene: 

My mom, Helen, is going to have a birthday this month! She will be 92!

Although her birthday is Christmas day, I thought it would be fun to start getting her excited about it now.

The following conversation occurred this morning in the car on the way to Circle Center, mom’s adult daycare provider.  

Tom: Mom, there are two people who were born on Christmas Day that you have known your whole life. Who are they?

Mom: I don’t know. Who are they?

Tom: Mom, one of them was born in a manger and has a first name that starts with a J.

Mom: Jim!

Tom: Nope.

Mom: Joe!

Tom: Nope. It was Jesus, mom. Jesus was born on Christmas day!

Mom: Oh. I was going to guess Jane.

Tom: And, who was the other person who was born on Christmas Day that you have known your whole life?

Mom: I don’t know. Does it start with a J?

Tom: It starts with an H.

Mom: Well, I don’t know anybody who has a birthday on Christmas with a name that starts with H, but I know plenty who have one that begin with J.

Tom: Who, mom?

Mom: Jim, Joe, Jane and what’s-his-name.

Tom: No, mom. It’s you.

Mom: Nope. It’s Jesus! My name starts with an H.

Tom: Mom, you and Jesus have a birthday on the very same day … Christmas Day!

Mom: I don’t know about that, but I sure do know who Jesus is.

(Mom starts singing and clapping her hands)

Jesus loves the little children,

All the children of the world,

Red and yellow, black and white,

They are precious in his sight,

Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Happy Birthday! By the Way, How Old Are You?

 

Age does not make us childish, as some say; it finds us true children. – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Tom: Mom, tomorrow is my birthday!

Mom: That’s thrilling!

Tom: Guess how old I will be.

Mom: Two years old!

Tom: That is exactly right! I will be two years old tomorrow.

Mom: I know that. I have been with you all of my life and I just love you! I love you. I just really love you!

Tom: I love you, too! By the way … how old are you, mom?

Mom: Two. I’m two, too! Two, two, two.

PS – My birthday is November 16th. Mom’s is December 25th.

I can’t wait for mom to be three. Being the same age is  just way too hard to explain.

And … I love it!

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