“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.”
Happy Birthday, Dorothy!
Today my mother is (not) celebrating her 93rd birthday. This is how she wants it and my sister and I figure that at this point in her life that is her prerogative. In fact, the last time we did much of anything in the way of celebration was for her 90th. I still cannot escape the vision of rivers of colored wax running all over the cake as the candles burned down.
One of the important things I am taking away from my mother’s last years is that I want to do it a different way. This is not to say, as my mother continues to iterate, that she hasn’t had a pretty wonderful life. I just don’t want to ever say, as she has, “I am done.” It is my opinion that this is not ours to decide.
In thinking on her approaching birthday this year, I found myself looking back over all that she had experienced in one way or another. Just the changes in technology and the way the world works have been pretty phenomenal. It must at times be overwhelming. So I try to understand.
Mother was born during World War I — the war that was to end all wars. What must she think about all that has transpired in this area alone? Are we any closer to that end?
Composer and conductor Ray Conniff was born the same day as her. Others born on her birthday who have gained some fame are writer James Jones, director Mike Nichols, actress Sally Field, singer Glenn Frey, actor Ethan Hawke, Laker Lamar Odom, and journalist and wife of our current governor Maria Shriver.
Because it is early November and we have national elections this month, many noteworthy presidents have been elected to office on her birthday. Always politically involved, my mother has run the full gamut, though mostly supporting the Republican Party through the years. I often wonder how she went from Communist leanings in her younger years to the John Birch Society. Never did get an adequate answer.
When plutonium was first produced in 1944 at Hartford Atomic Facility was she even aware of this or too busy with her young burgeoning family to notice? And what of the debut of “Meet the Press” in 1947?
When in 1962 the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution condemning apartheid on her birthday did she celebrate this too? And what of the 1971 UA Atomic Energy Commission’s underground tests of the largest hydrogen bomb that took place on her birthday in the Aleutian Islands?
Today what does my mother think of the revelation on her birthday in 1985 that her much-loved President Reagan had authorized shipments of arms to Iran in the Iran-Contra affair?
Whatever happened to the mother I grew up with who was so very involved in life? I miss her. It is her right to sit it out now if she chooses, but it saddens me. As I look back over the events that occurred over the years on her birthday I wonder if it is merely that these and other things have taken their toll.
When she chose to “sit it out” nearly 15 years ago, I know that she could not imagine she would live this long. She is in perfect health though, taking no medications and having no illness. She has simply slowed, like a car running out of gas.
Her prerogative, yes, but I regret her choice for her. Still, it is her party. And who knows what I will do when my turn comes? None of this means that I cannot celebrate for her. And so I am.
I celebrate the birth of my mother and all the myriad things that took place on the anniversaries of that date. Because I can. This is life and I definitely celebrate that!
Happy Birthday, Mother. I love you.
CHERRIL DOTY is an award-winning writer, artist, and creative coach exploring and enjoying the many mysteries of life and celebrating them in the moment. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (714) 745-9973.