Happy Birthday Mom

On August 28th my mother will turn 96 years old.  An amazing age when you think about where she came from and what she has gone through to get here.  Still, I have very mixed emotions about celebrating her birthday.
Severe dementia has robbed my mother of most of her ability to enjoy her years.  The beautiful smile of hers, the one she used to give so freely, is now a happy memory of mine.  That sweet voice that could calm my fears and give me hope, make me laugh and fill me with wonder, is never heard.  Our long talks that could some times last until the middle of the night have been replaced by holding hands and watching the world go by until it is time for mom to go to bed, often way before the sun has gone down.  Still, I hold on to the memories of the mother she once was, the person that is still inside the small, frail shell that she has become.
Mom was born in 1918 to a poor family in southern Minnesota.  When she was nine years old she was put up for adoption from an orphanage in St Paul.  She was almost immediately adopted by an elderly woman who treated mom as a slave.  Mom was there to take care of this woman, wash, clean and make meals.  Because of the conditions of her treatment, mom was returned to the orphanage and was then adopted again, this time to a wonderful couple who gave mom a happy childhood and taught her many valuable lessons in life and helped her to become a beautiful and well rounded woman.
In 1939, my parents were married.  Mom always said that dad was the love of her life.  She said that from the very first time she met him she knew that he would be the man she would marry.  They had five children, I was the last.  They lived through many tough times and still they remained happy and they kept an optimistic view.  Even when finances were tight and things didn't go as planned, mom kept the house going and kept food on the table.  When my father died in 1995, mom did her best to remain strong and positive.  She had lost the love of her life but still she kept going.
As the years passed, the robust flame that was the strength of her personality began to flicker.  On her 90th birthday, that flame had become a bit dimmer and her age definitely showed.  Still, she carried on and kept that sweet smile.  Today that flicker has grown dim but still something of a flame remains.
On my last visit with mom I was able to make her smile a couple of times and she even answered a question with a quiet "no".  I know my time with her is coming to an end and even a flicker of a smile can now make my day.  And I know that we can hold hands and watch the world go by until it is time for mom to go to bed.
So, to my mother, Happy 96th Birthday!!!
I hope I am able to live as you have, with strength, love, determination and that sweet smile.      


  1. Pam Donahue PersonsAugust 24, 2014 at 7:43 PM

    My oldest brother, Bill is 20 yrs older than me. My parents were 46 when I came along. And they were born in 1917. You and Jim's first date was on my 23rd birthday. And we have been friends forever and I pray for you also!!! :)


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