Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Happy Birthday

Dear Mom,

Hopefully by now you'll have gotten the flowers I sent. I like to imagine you get them first thing in the morning, so that you'll have them to look at the rest of the day. This year, I chose roses, two dozen and different kinds, in a green porcelain vase with a card that simply said 'Happy Birthday'. Last year, it was gerbera daisies and the year before that, wildflowers in an antique jar. It occurs to me just now that I've never thought to ask you what your favorite flower is. This seems like something I should know.

Today is your 47th birthday. It's been two years since I've seen you and I wonder how much you've aged since then. The last time I saw you, there were new lines around your eyes and a few strands of silver in your hair. It was your birthday then too, and I wanted to take you out to dinner. You called me into the bedroom, asked me to help you find something to wear. When you took off your shirt, I was shocked to see how much your body had changed, how much older you seemed. It was unexpected, this discovery that you weren't as young as I'd remembered. I'm almost afraid to see you now, afraid that the truth of your getting older will be more than I can take.

Forty-seven. Not far from fifty, but you claim not to feel it. You work three jobs and only sleep two or three hours a night, and you tell me this doesn't bother you, that you can handle it. You're no stranger to hard work but it's taken its toll on you. There's the scar on your right hand where the doctors had to reattach your finger after it was accidentally severed. The hard knot of scar tissue in your left arm, where a horse broke loose and tried to crush you. The crisscross pattern of thin blue and purple veins snaking their way down your legs, brought on by years of standing on your feet. I think of these wounds and I wonder how much more your body can stand.

Will you tell people it's your birthday or will you pretend it's just another day? You always say that birthdays don't matter but I know this is a lie. I wonder if you'll have a cake, if someone will do something special for you. I imagine you, your eyes closed, face lit up by the glow of candles, making your wish. Maybe you'll wish to win the lottery or find a better job. Maybe you'll just wish for something different, something better. My wish for you is always the same: that you'll finally get whatever it is you want from this life.

The last time we spoke, you told me how you felt like you'd failed me as a mother, how you'd made so many mistakes. You said it over and over, choking on tears. I could have stopped you. I could have said no, you're wrong, you were a good mother. But I didn't. I didn't because it would have been a lie, one that we would have both had to own. You're afraid that I hate you; this weighs on you, I know. It would be easy to do but I don't. I'd rather do the hard thing and love you anyway, despite how much it hurts sometimes.

When I call you later, we won't talk about what we said last time. I'll tell you Happy Birthday, ask you if you got the flowers, if you like them. You'll ask me about work, about Jason and the dogs, and I'll repeat the same answers as always. We'll hang up and I'll regret all the things I didn't say, all the ways I can't make things better for you. Maybe one day I'll let you read this and you'll understand. For now though,

Happy Birthday

I love you

~ R.


Anonymous fringes said...

I'm trying to comment, but I can only think of platitudes completely inappropriate for the moment you've created here. Your emotion silenced me.

6/13/2006 11:26 AM  
Blogger Writing Blind said...

Thanks. I worry that I put too much of myself into this thing. I think it puts people off.

6/13/2006 8:57 PM  

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