We've had a week of birthdays.Last weekend was Missy's Terrible Two, of course. And this weekend was the "official" Big Five for Mister Pea. Mind you, he was very clear on the actual timing of the Event: before he blew out his candles he was still four. After the Cake, he was five...kind of like thoroughbreds all getting a year older at the stroke of New Year's.
For Big Boy Peeper, his birthday got a real jump start at my fave breakfast spot, the Beaterville Cafe, when the lovely waitstaff, hearing that it was his big day, came up with a treat to tempt any preschooler: strawberries and whipped cream!The Peep barely waited to blow out his candles before digging in, his pancake forgotten...While we were heading back out to Bob the Subaru who should we encounter but our co-adoptive-parent Kelli (with a charmin' Aussie bloke - Kelli, you minx!). We talked of this and that but mostly about new mommy H, whose little man I mentioned just the other day - we are all very excited for her! But also frustrated at the slow pace of referrals and other body blows such as the closing of Vietnam's US-IA program. So nice to see Kelli - I know that it can't be possible, but it seems like she never has an unhappy day. Every time we see her her smile lights up her face like a good deed in a tawdry world. You're gonna be such a great mommy, Kelli...
There was more Peeperness after that - Mojo stayed home to try and nap Missy while Peep and I went to little Columbia Park Annex to play on the slide. After the crush got too much - there was a softball game in progress nearby with attendant kids on the playset - we went across Lombard to Columbia Park where we played until we couldn't play any more. Then it was Arby's for lunch and Peep's favorite curly fries and then home to play some more. By three everyone was napped (OK, Missy was, anyway...) and ready for birthday fun.We tried to keep things relatively sane. No clowns, no games, no bouncy houses (the kids across the back alley had one for what must have been someone's birthday last week and I swear, it looked like someone was cooking JiffyKidPop in a giant purple plastic pan. Every five seconds a kid would fly up in the air...). We had stuff to eat and drink, lots of trucks and other toys to play with, a yard to run in and a sandbox to dig in.
[Shite. As I type this I recall that I didn't check to see if we put the covers back on the sandbox. Dammit. OH well, the sandbox may have become the catbox. Wretched cats.]
The big moment arrived; Peep blew out the twelve (?) candles and is officially five.And, of course, there were presents.
When the last sugar-activated little guest pogoed down the front steps we slumped amid the wreckage secure that most everyone had had a good time.Of course, the evening ended with a hyper Missy spilling her water all over her crib, crying herself to sleep and a gooned-out Peeper having a huge meltdown and fight with his mom over a video. But, hey, it's one, two, three strikes you're out at the ol' childrearing game, right?
So - that was that - a very Happy Birthday, indeed. If you want to stop at the happy children stories you should stop here.
Because there is one more thing I need to talk about. Although the very thought and mention of it is cruelly hard for me.
My parents were here to enjoy their grandchildren's birthdays (and to meet their little granddaughter for the first time). They seemed to enjoy Missy's happy laughter and the Peeper's liveliness, although I have to say that he was pretty grumpy and unpromising about interacting with Pop-pop and Gramma. But that's five - at least he didn't tell me, as I once told MY father, that he didn't want to kiss his grandma because she made him think of Death...!
(In my defense, my paternal Grandma WAS a fairly dessicated old bombazine vulture at that point. Still, I was a wretched child...)
So I think they enjoyed their trip. But for me it was...I'm not sure what it was. Painful? Saddening? Enraging? It was not all that enjoyable and in many ways disturbing.
The thing is...I think we all have in our heads an image of our parents as they were when we first recognized them as people and not just food-dispensers and bottom-washers. I would guess for most of us - for me, at least - it comes somewhere between first speech and puberty. So I suspect that most of us mentally see our parents as the young adults they were when we were little. Strong. Big. The living embodiment of why growing up was something to be desired. Powerful.
But here was my mother, hunched in the glider, a weak, hesitant, infirm old lady. There's more that I don't want to speak of - age is indignity enough without public exposure, and her story is not mine to tell. But in the two years since we last saw her she seems to have dwindled a decade's worth of age. She is visibly uncomfortable at best, in pain at worst, and in the cold ashes of her disability I watched my memory of the tall, buxom redhead with the loud confidence char down to clinker. That woman is gone, gone as if she had never been. I feel like someone crept into my head and stole my mother, my memory of the straight young woman who almost sparked with energy, who comforted me when I was scared and hugged me when I was sad and gave me her strength and love so I could love and be strong.
At least her mind is still clear. Thank God.
But for the first time I looked at my parents and can picture myself standing before their graves. And not far in the future. Perhaps not tomorrow, or next week. But soon, soon enough.
I know that it is the way of the world for sons to bury their parents. I know that we are born into the world owing life a death. But right now I feel like I'm grieving twice: once for the loss of the mother I knew, and once for the sorrow to come.