Today is my mother and her twin’s birthday. 85 years old. My mother has had Parkinson’s for some time now. She has lost her independence in the world. Now she is confined, for the most part, to a wheel chair, needs help getting dressed, going to the bathroom, having her food prepared for her. Her mind is clear as a bell, still sharp. Her twin is still mobile, but just lost her driver’s license because she can’t see out of one of her eyes. Her legs hurt her but she can still hobble around.
We had a picnic for the two of them last Sunday. Lots of family and friends showed up and wished them well. We ate their favorite Roumanian hot dogs from Chicago cooked on the grill. A neighbor in a jazz band was invited to come over with her band and play for an hour — all the old standards from the thirties and forties. At one point my brother and sister and I pushed Mom onto the dance floor (grass) and danced, swinging her arms and rocking her chair to the music. We tried to get her twin to the dance floor as well but she flatly refused even with all of our insistent urging.
There was cake and lots of cards and presents (mostly gift cards to Bob Evans, the Olive Garden, and Meiers grocery store). Attached to each of their seats was a helium balloon that their granddaughter purchased–“Birthday Princess” each said.
I truly believe my mother has let go. I believe she has found some measure of peace. Her spirit has never been more generous and gracious. Her compassion for others has never been more uncluttered and simple. She has never been more flexible, gentle, and tolerant. She seems to have forgiven herself for missteps and has unburdened herself of guilt and guile. She hasn’t reached sainthood. There are still traces of her previous self, but she has truly transformed. Her twin is still bitter and angry, filled with blame and shame, filled with fear. The contrast is stark (see Egyptian Eyes).
Once upon a time Mom seemed to be a very different person, but she has gone through a remarkable metamorphosis. Like most of the princess stories we grew up with, she has created her own “happy ending.” There is hope for us all.