Submitted by: Patricia Bubash, M.Ed., LPC
As another year comes round to put another number on my escalating senior years, my concern for my “senior numbers” is nothing in comparison to the concern for my mother’s health. In the past few weeks, complications involving heart issues are taking their toll on her 89 year old body. Our family is quick to acknowledge how fortunate we have been that our parents have been on this earth for decades. My dad is approaching a 92nd birthday in April. Amazing, considering he was orphaned by the age of 11. Looking at the genetic make up for each one of them, such longevity would not have been expected. Children, grandchildren, we have all discussed how different, difficult it would be when “Grandpa and Grandma” are no longer with us. We think that we are prepared to accept their demise, but friends have cautioned me, “You are never ready”!
Most of my friends have been “orphans” for years. I had never thought of that description fitting an adult, but now, I see that no matter your age when both parents are dead, you are an orphan. Frequently, I am told how lucky I am to still have living parents. How well I know that! And, how well I know that as much as I think I am ready for the inevitable I am not. So, as another birthday is rolling my way, I am very aware of my vulnerable state and how much closer I am to joining the ranks of my friends who are “orphans”.
For as many years as I can remember, on my birthday, a cold January day, the 30th of the month, my mother would call and reiterate the sequence of my birth. My dad was a young sailor out at sea, leaving his young bride of just ten months with her parents. My mother a mere teenager, only two months shy of her 19th birthday. Concerned for her welfare, and her pregnancy, my dad left her in the safety of her parents’ home while he was away at sea. So on this freezing, snowy, miserable day, my young uncles, with only months as licensed drivers, drove out onto the icy country road, slipping, sliding to bring the doctor. According to “the” story they were so anxious to be of help, to bring the doctor to the aid of their big sister.
Later, after I had made my entrance, they rushed over to neighbors for safety pins, the one item no one had remembered when preparing for the new arrival. It seems they were in awe of this whole event, willing to be of service as needed in this “baby” happening. My mother, still today, relays her frustration – even anger – as she lay in her bed with labor pains, listening to the laughter and conversation of my grandparents and the doctor. They were enjoying breakfast, catching up on neighborhood gossip, and in her words, “not too concerned about her discomfort”. All in all, it was an uneventful birth other than the fact that I was the second grandchild, but held first granddaughter status! In a house of seven uncles, no aunts, my birth was eventful. For more birthdays than I can remember, my mother has retold this story.
Of the excitement of my teen age uncles, delight of my grandparents, and the adoration of my mom. She never had a doll of her own, had always wanted a baby sister, but received only brothers. Finally, in a house full of males, she had her girl. I was treasured, spoiled, loved, and enjoying all the status of my gender to the age of four when we joined my dad in California. Even when I became a grandmother, I anticipated, reveled in my mother’s phone call to repeat my birthday story. It was my story, my special place in time, and I felt cherished, as we all desire; to know our entrance into this earth had special significance, joy to someone.
This year my mother had a bout of pneumonia, a hospital stay, then a nursing home to help build back her strength. We were concerned for her long term prognosis, even doubtful of her surviving her illness. She rallied, but was still in the nursing home on my birthday. I knew she would not be in a position to call me, so I made the call, to once again, after decades (yes, I am decades old) hear the telling of the specialness of January 30th, one more time.