I held onto my sixties with all the energy that I had, but Sunday, December 2nd, arrived in spite of my white knuckles holding on with zeal and determination. Don't ask me why, but this birthday was the first to bother me as birthdays have always been fun and exciting for everyone in my life. During my teaching years, children walked around the ellipse of the "earth" in celebration as many times as they were years-old while the rest of the class sang a special song while lighting the "sun candle." Wow, that would take me an hour to walk around the red line 70 times, so forget that ritual, Dorothy.
The phone call came at 8:45 AM from my nearly 90-year-old mother who was remembering that time was my arrival 70 years ago and who wanted to spend the day together, just the two of us. That sounds like a good idea. My husband Don, in his good wisdom, passed on the idea of joining us as this was a special day for mother and daughter and he wasn't up to the challenge due to his recovery. My 94-year-old aunt Dorothy wanted to come, but Mom said, "No, this is just a day for us." Aunt Dot turned with disappointment and mentioned the cemetery as a new tradition, but it didn't dawn on me that it was my mother's plan to visit our dead relatives for my 70th special day.
I went to church at my usual 12:00 mass to visit my favorite priest, Father Al, who has become a friend and support for our family. What a disappointment to learn he wasn't the clergy this Sunday and couldn't comfort me on this turn of the decade for me. After struggling through that hour that seemed like six, I headed for my mother's house in my white chariot. She suggested that we eat lunch after visiting the cemetery. It was raining, so I suggested that we eat first as I had a "free" breakfast offer from Denny's that must be used on one's birthday and not a day before or after. She also admitted she had not had breakfast yet. The hostess informed us that there were several other strangers celebrating their birthdays also. Wow, that promotion really works.
After breakfast and many cups of coffee, I asked, "Where to now, Mom?" She proudly held up her plastic bag with a roll of paper towels, Windex, and American flags. You see, my mother has a habit of washing the tombstones when visiting graves of family members. She finds the bird droppings on the granite upsetting, si she travels with her "cleaning kit" and washes from Pittsburgh to Wilkes-Barre.
As she struggles to place a flag on my father's grave, I realize how this strong woman of yesterday has become small, frail and weak. I jump out of the car and help her with the project at hand and make sure my Dad's golf ball is properly placed behind the plastic flowers left over from the last visit by my mother probably on their anniversary in August. That is how I visit my father—with a golf ball and tee, comemorating all the rounds of golf we played in happier times and always on his birthday on June 18th. We never played on his 85th as he passed away on June 5th.
Back to my 70th birthday. Now onto my grandmother's grave site, which is only a small walk away from Dad's at the Little Deer Creek Cemetery location. A plastic rose was placed in a vase left over from the last visit, which I suspect was at the same time as my father's visit from Mom. I probably would have shed a tear, but this seemed like a humorous sitcom in my mind. It seems like my sense of humor reacts to serious moments this way to avoid the uncomfortable feelings that lay just below the surface rearing their emotions. Now for the discussion of cake for the occasion.
It occurred to me that my favorite bakery was just a few miles away in Oakmont. I headed over at 2:59 PM only to find the owner locking the door as they close at 3:00 PM. After the disappointment on my face, he directed me over to another door for "employees only" and asked one of the cashiers to help me after I threatened to tell his mother if he locked the door on my birthday. The young lady sold me a beautifully decorated cake with poinsettias, pine cones, and symbols of Christmas on it. She offered to put a greeting on the cake, but I assured her that I knew it was closing time and that wouldn't be necessary.
We headed home to find that Mom and Aunt Dot would be getting surprise company from my cousin and his wife, so I cut the cake in half so they could celebrate without me as I headed home with the other half to share with my husband and watch the Steeler game. That is one of my favorite things to do, and it was my plan to watch it with my friend in the DC area but canceled due to our travel plans being altered. As I climbed into my recliner with snacks galore, I wished with all my might that they would win this game that was predicted to be a big loss. With knitting in my lap (that's how I get through these close games), I watched with pure delight as they won with a field goal kick with only one second on the clock. My birthday turned out well after the rough beginning of the day, so there's always light at the end of the tunnel if you wait long enough.