67th Birthday

Monday, December 3, 2012, 9:13 p.m.

If my mother was still alive she would have celebrated her 67th birthday today.

Even though she wasn’t around, I celebrated the day for her without even knowing it.

You see, I’m not good with dates.  Pretty much every night before I go to bed I have a mini-panic attack.

“Wait!  Was today my anniversary?  How do I get out of this one?  Oh, it’s still six months away.  Close one.”

On my mom’s first birthday after her death a lot of people seemed really concerned for me.  They asked me how I was doing and told me to hang in there.  But it wasn’t a hard day for me.  As much as I love my mother, to this day, I couldn’t tell you the date that she died or even how long she’s been gone.  This isn’t some form of suppression.  I still have no problem with grieving.  I’m just not good with remembering dates.

Just like every other year, my mom’s birthday snuck up on me today.  It didn’t even register that today was the day until I saw my aunt, my mom’s sister, post something about it on Facebook.

The response blew me away.

People I haven’t seen or heard from in years left comments talking about how much they loved my mom.  We joked about her love of Clint Eastwood and his movies.  Some people mentioned her quirks, like her disdain for shrimp.  She thought that shrimp tasted like rubber bands.  I agree.  Others mentioned her sweet spirit and how much they enjoyed spending time with her while others wished that they could talk to her today.  One friend said that she really could’ve used my mother over the past few years.

Sometimes I think that the sign of a great person is not so much what they do while they’re alive but how they’re remembered when they’re gone.  My mother was a great person.

I planned on going to the nursing home today to visit a few of my church members.  I didn’t purposefully plan my trip to fall on my mother’s 67th birthday.  But as I walked down those hallways I couldn’t help but think about her.  Her last breath was in a nursing home.  She took that last breath before she ever got to know what it was like to be a grandmother.  Today, I walked around our local nursing home with two of her grandsons holding on to each of my hands.  They drew pictures for the people we visited.  Mom would have been real proud.

One summer when I was home from college I was complaining a lot about there being nothing to do.  My mom had heard enough of it.  She demanded that I visit a nursing home before I came home from work the next day.  For both good and bad, it’s impossible for me to drive by a nursing home without thinking of my mother.

My wife is out of town for a few days so late last week she planned out and precooked a few meals for me and our sons.

“What do you want for dinner on Monday night?”

I answered like 98% of all men would who were presented with this question under these circumstances.

“Chili.”

On the evening of my mom’s 67th birthday I ate chili with my two sons.  My mom’s chili was famous.  Friends would come home with me from college and ask for it.  A few months ago a friend called to get my mom’s old recipe.  Ours has changed over the years but I couldn’t help but smile with each bite.  An unplanned chili dinner for my mom’s birthday.

One of my favorite authors, Lewis Grizzard, wrote a book called Don’t Forget to Call Your Mama I Wish I Could Call Mine.

As much as I love Lewis, I can’t agree with him on this one.  I don’t wish that I could call my mother.  For the last several years of her life my mom would mask her suffering during our phone conversations.  Now, she’s free of that pain in the presence of her Lord as she awaits her glorified body.  I miss my mom but I’m glad I can’t call her.

Happy birthday, mom.

Now, before the day’s over, I’m going to watch a good Clint Eastwood movie.

Just for you.

Don’t know how else to say it, don’t want to see my parents go
One generation’s length away from fighting life out on my own
Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t but honestly won’t someone stop this train

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