My step father passed away, quite suddenly, two years ago. It was a shock to all of us, left us all grieving in our own ways, but my mother, of course, was hit the hardest of all. Recently retired, poised to carry out a long list of post-retirement travel plans together, she suddenly had to envision an entirely different kind of life for herself.
Holidays haven’t been quite the same without my step-dad, who was one of those bigger-than-life joke-teller types. Always the loudest one in the room, holding court with a funny story, as well as one of the best cooks I’ve known. There’s a whole list of things my mother gave up doing after losing her husband, and one of them was celebrating her birthday. Each year I’ve offered to head up to see her, or have her come down to visit, for a little gathering, and each year she’s begged off, not wanting a fuss, not feeling up to doing much. Until this year.
Today is my mother’s birthday, and this time, when I asked if she wanted to get together to celebrate, she surprised me by saying what a great idea that sounded like. So, with less than 24 hours notice, I planned a menu, ordered a cake, invited some family and friends to join us for a celebration, and hosted my first real dinner party. Not a barbecue where hubby does most of the cooking, not a potluck where I only have to worry about a few dishes, but my first time preparing all of the food by myself. And it was a success.
It was great to see my mom, who is such a social person by design, back in her element, holding her newest granddaughter while catching up with friends, relaxing and enjoying an evening that was all about her, instead of working in the kitchen the whole time like she does for holiday gatherings. I’ve also noticed that she keeps talking about moving back to the Bay Area, to be near her grandchildren, into a smaller place that requires less maintenance, maybe into a retirement community where she’ll have a wider social circle. In short, I’ve noticed that she’s making plans for the future. I know that she still misses my step-father, and that she always will, but it makes me happy to see her moving through the grieving phase, and forward to a new, happier, phase in her life.
Happy birthday, Mom.