“Hey, Mama! Happy Birthday!” That’s how I started every conversation with Cleal on December 16th.
In the years before dementia took hold of her mind, her responses ranged from, “Oh, thank you, thank you!” to her breaking into the Happy Birthday Song for herself.
When the ugliness of the condition showed it’s strength, her responses ranged from, “Today is my birthday?” to “Oh, how old am I?” Last year when she asked how old she was and I told her she was 85, she turned to me and said, “You ain’t doin’ nothing but sittin’ yo lil behind over there lyin’!” I ain’t no 85.” I asked her how old she was and she said she was “about 70”. We all howled with laughter, but she was a little salty about the whole thing. As a matter-of-fact, she refused to share her cake with us. We had taken it to her so that she could blow out the candles and cut the first slice. Hmpf, she showed us! She took the fork we had brought in for her and started eating the cake without cutting it. When we tried to take it so that we could slice it, she did the most! She had been sitting on her bed so she turned around and put the entire cake out of our reach. We weren’t able to get the cake back until later that evening when she fell asleep.
The Unspoken Sorrow
Very little leaves me at a total loss for words or with limited ones. My mother’s passing is one of the few things that has. My siblings and I talk about her all the time amongst ourselves. There are no tears or breakdowns. None of us suffer from the guilt of not having done all we could for her while she was alive.
My son is still extremely hurt over losing her, as are my nephews. My soulmate is the one person who has just let me “feel” what I need to feel. In that I mean, he has never told me that he is concerned that I haven’t broken down as many others have. He lost his father in May 2014 and I have done the same for him. It’s important to have someone by your side who just lets you feel what you feel.
In a little bit, I’ll head to the cemetery to sing to her. I’ve only missed three days going to the cemetery since we laid her to rest and I certainly won’t miss today. Happy Birthday, Mama! My heart, even though it’s been shattered into a million pieces because of your death, will forever be wherever you are.