photo of the day (happy birthday, muriel!)
The kids and I drove down to New Jersey to be with my mom on her birthday. She is 82 years old and far from the same person she was in this picture and that makes me very sad. My mom has Parkinson’s Disease and that is stealing her away from all of us in a way that simply aging never could. Life can sometimes be awfully cruel. Much of the time, whether it’s due to the disease itself or the medication she takes to control her symptoms, my mom lives in a reality other than the ones the rest of us inhabit. In her world, there are people in her house other than my dad and the woman who cares for her. They seem to be rather mischievous, taking things and moving things, sometimes breaking things or even fixing them at times. Talking to her about the place she lives in makes me wonder how we know that the things we are certain are real, truly are.
I can see her trying very hard to hold on to the part of her that’s left. It must be agonizing to watch the person you are slowly slip away and not be able to do anything about it. It is my greatest fear.
I have to tell you that even as I’m writing this, I don’t want to be. It’s hard to write about my mother without slipping down the slippery slope towards pity and self pity. I’d rather tell you about the lovely evening we had together with my mother’s sister, my uncle and cousin, who joined us at a local restaurant to celebrate. And I guess since I got the tough part out of the way, I can tell you that we did have a pleasant evening. We went to a favorite and frequent destination of both my parents and my aunt and uncle, Our House. The place is aptly named. By the end of the evening, I felt more as if I had spent the evening in someone’s home than in a restaurant. The waitress was a woman my family knew. The maitre d,’ who also served us (and turned out to be the pastry chef as well,) was welcoming and attentive. The place was hopping as it was both Saturday and the night before Valentine’s Day so the cosy room we were seated in filled up quickly.
As my family and I were all chatting away, working our way through reading our menus and ordering our meals, a couple walked in and were seated at the table across from us. There was something about the woman that caught my attention. She was definitely dressed for a date. She was not a thin woman, but curvy and she filled her outfit well. There was something about the way she held herself that made me look at her and tell her how beautiful her dress was and how lovely she looked in it. The rest of the women sitting at my end of the table joined in. The woman thanked us for our compliments. Her date thanked us and said he tells her she’s beautiful all the time but she never believes him. They sat down to have their meal and we went back to ordering ours and really, I didn’t think much of it after that.
When we we were almost finished with dinner, the maitre d’ came over and told us that the couple at the next table wanted to buy us either a couple of bottles of wine or dessert. It seems our kind words came just at the right time and were just what the lovely lady needed to hear. Lots of thanks yous followed back and forth. I ordered the Key Lime pie I didn’t need and it was yummy.
I thought about all sorts of things like how sometimes you just know that there aren’t any coincidences. You are just in the right place and the right time for somebody, even if it isn’t you. You say something that someone else needs to hear and then you learn a lesson about people — how we are all so much the same when it comes right down to it. You see, I could have been that woman in the lovely dress, feeling a bit self conscious for not being model thin and wondering if my dress was too tight or too revealing. I wanted to thank her for wearing that dress and looking the way she did because seeing her gave me the confidence to wear a dress like that and feel beautiful in it instead of old and fat and self-conscious.
Now I’m wondering if I was there for the lady in the lovely dress or she was there for me. You never know what’s in store for you if you leave yourself open to the possibilities. What started out as an occasion tinged with a little sadness turned out much sweeter in the end. I think all of us needed that.