On the Occasion of What Would Have Been Her Seventy-Eighth Birthday

Dear Mom,

I haven’t written a birthday letter to you before. Last year, I reflected on your birthday, and I’m glad I did. It was the last we spent with you. I didn’t know it then, of course, but with dementia (as with so many things in life), anything could happen at any time.

This year, maybe as a way to help process the feelings I’ve been stuffing down since you passed, I decided to put my fingers to the keyboard the way I have for my kids. I’m writing a letter.

We’ll see how it goes.

I’m not confident my words will be meaningful or coherent because you’ve been gone 114 days, a little over three months, and I see you everywhere. In my kitchen, in nature, in my car, in the grocery store. You name it, something will remind me of you. And the fact that we didn’t have enough time.

Enough time to laugh or read or travel or garden or write. Enough time to build forts and bake cakes with the kids. Enough time to just talk. That’s what I miss the most, Mom. Being able to pick up the phone and just tell you about my day.

So here are a few things that I’ve been thinking about lately. Nothing special, really, but if I could still pick up the phone and call you, I’d tell you every one of these.

The Revere Ware cookpot you bought for me sometime in the mid-1990s is still going strong. We use it most often for rice, which we eat often. So I think of you often too.

The staff members at the Carlyle House still talk about you. 

I made a cake yesterday to celebrate your birthday—Golden Yellow Duncan Hines, your favorite.

The cake reminded me of all the years we made that same one and how appreciative you were.

I now realize that it wasn’t necessarily the cake that made you smile but the gesture behind it.

Dad and I talk about you in the afternoons sometimes, usually around the time we’d head up to visit you.

Mom, on her birthday in February 2018.

A picture of you sits on Dad’s nightstand; he looks at you first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

My kitchen has been a disaster lately, thanks to Aaron, really. He eats a ton of food but isn’t so great about cleaning up. It took that child to teach me to appreciate all the hours you spent in the kitchen.

Gina, Tara, and I each have a pair of butterfly socks. When I wear them, I feel especially close to you. My guess is they feel the same.

I’m still writing, and if 2023 works out the way it’s supposed to—which, let’s be honest, none of the years work out the say they’re supposed to—I will have three books launch this year!

I would never have had the courage to write spicy romance had it not been for your influence.

Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” came out in 2008, and I wish had played it for you. It’s a super song (it’s on right now!) and right up your alley.

Button-down shirts with flowers, polka dots, or plaid can bring tears to my eyes. 

We have a few of your forks—we must have stolen them years ago. Melina loves to still eat with the little one. 

The girls turned 21 this year! Can you believe that? I still remember when I called you up to tell you I was having twins. You and your sisters screamed so loud, I had to hold the receiver away from my ear.

Little red (remember when we called Aaron that?) is going to be a Buckeye. Yes, indeed, this Wolverine will have to deal with the scarlet and gray of The Ohio State University. I doubt I’ll wear a T-shirt or sweatshirt with the emblem, but I might be able to handle a pair of socks.

My treadmill might be out of commission, and that worries me more than you can know.

I’m learning Spanish on a language app and brushing up on my French. I think you would have appreciated apps, and I’m sorry you never had the chance to use them.

I miss you, and I likely always will.

Last year, I wrote: “We don’t know how much longer Mom will be with us . . . but just like I’d do for anyone else’s birthday, I wish for a better year than the one before for her. And I hope she had some inkling that it was her special day.”

I don’t know where you are or what you’re doing. You and Dad believe in heaven, so I’m going to assume you’re there with a cup of coffee and a good book, maybe some flowers on the table and a bowl of popcorn or vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup. I’m going to believe that you recognized your special day last year, this year, and the years to come.

¡Feliz cumpleaños!
Joyeux anniversaire!
Happy Birthday!

I love you.

Until we meet again.


Image of birthday cake and candles by mehmet lafdinleten from Pixabay.com.

Leave a Comment