My mom’s 70th party was a total success. Out of the 35 ladies we invited, 33 came. I am not surprised, because once again this event confirmed that my mother has a very closely knitted group of friends that not only admire her and find true inspiration in life through her, but also follow her, look for her, NEED HER and truly cherish every minute they spend with her.
For this small party I did not write her a letter. People often tell me that when they read my letters or my blog they cry, they get emotional and reflect upon life in ways that make them shed tears. I always feel flattered when I hear this, because it means that my words are not only understood, but felt deep down other people’s hearts; however, I was determined not to make a single person cry that evening.
And I didn’t. But her own friends did.
After clinging a wine glass with a spoon (it works wonders) and getting everyone’s attention, I said some brief words to acknowledge and praise some of my mother’s best life lessons. After some severe thought and selection, I chose 2
- She taught me to be extremely practical and an absolute multi-tasker, because as a result of her own upbringing and her condition, it made her be practical, efficient and confident about her own capabilities- her wheelchair doesn’t even figure in all this. So she taught me just that. Without total conscience about it, I have tried to pass that on to my own kids, and the only reason I notice I am doing it, is because every now and then they will say to me “Mom, I am not an octopus! I can’t do so many things at once!” So I try to wind down and restart.
- By example, she taught me to love books, to love reading, to develop the habit and find its beauty, its many benefits. To be disciplined with it. To be curious and, just as she grabbed the Britannica Encyclopedia in the 70s and 80s when in doubt, I now google every word, event, masterpiece, city that I read about so that I get deeply immersed in my story. Fiction or not, it doesn’t matter.
After my words, my sister followed with other life lessons, mostly related to self-confidence and being independent as a woman, as an individual. I encouraged her friends to say some words to my mother, comical events they treasure, lessons learned, inspiration, anything. I honestly think this is more precious than all the Hallmark Cards in the world.
My mom’s only sister followed. It is just the 2 of them. Hers is one of the most pure, unconditional and just absolutely beautiful forms of love and admiration for a sibling I have EVER seen. So when she spoke about my mom, her voice broke, as she ended her brief speech saying “You are my strength”. That is when the teary eyes began. I knew for a fact that a dozen or more of her best friends had prepared things to share, I was surprised to see that almost none spoke because of the same reason: they couldn’t. They were all choked up already, wiping tears from their eyes, because, not only they love her and where happy to be there celebrating my mom’s 70 years of life, but also their friendship of 50+ years.
I saw them all, observed them, and remembered the many parties (50, 60 and many more) they had all attended, and I breathed love, loyalty and true admiration in that room. I felt so proud not only of my mom, but of all of them.
The support, understanding and sincere friendship that exists between women that have known each other for decades is something priceless, unbreakable. They have gone through pain, loss, joys and accomplishments together. It is a true roller coaster and they all go on it, together.
I felt jealous in a good way to see this beautiful group of women and prayed to God that night that if he gives me enough years to turn 70 or 80 or 90, I have this in my life too, with the many friends I have today that I truly love and admire.
The group was seated in 4 round tables, and I thought it was adorable that 2 of my mom’s best friends dumped the table they were seated at, and went to find seats in the table where my mother was. They asked the waiters to squeeze in chairs, had their salads and drinks moved and felt truly happy to share the rest of the afternoon seating just feet away from her. I thought to myself: that is lovelier than have a guy following you around when you are dating!
The fact that my mother is relocating to another city in 2 months has made her friends more desperate to spend time with her too. They want to see each other as often as they can. Yesterday one of them said, “Let’s meet every Friday!” another said… “What? NO! What about Wednesday and Thursday?”
I loved every minute of it. I think I enjoyed the party more than my mom.
After we got home, my mom told me that a good number of her friends approached her separately throughout the party to say their own speech, personally, because they just couldn’t speak in front of all. One of my favorite lines was the one from my brothers Mother in Law. She said to my Mom “The moment I met your son, I knew what type of mother he had.” WOW! My throat knotted.
One of my sister’s best friends was also there and she said “Your sister is my hero, I might as well have a poster of her in my home. I just love her, but until I met your Mom I knew why”. So then, I was the one crying a bit.
Well, I have to say these past 4 days were a mixed bag of feelings. The day before the party, my parents’ house sale was finalized and all contracts were signed. My mom is now on a rent-back lease until she leaves for good, the 1st week of May.
A subject that has been talked about even before my Dad passed is now a done deal. The packing and cleaning out and sorting of items has started and I was a bit surprised to find the house full of packed and labeled boxes and mostly empty furniture -all over.
The beds in both guest bedrooms were literally surrounded by boxes, the smell of dust and old paper was lingering in the air all the time. I peeked into several of them and saw old pictures, kitchen utensils that I had used hundreds of times when I baked cakes in my teens, old coins, key chains, little note pads and all the usual trinkets found in junk drawers and forgotten dusty shelves. I tried to remove pictures from old frames and couldn’t because they were glued and stuck to the glass; old wallets with passport photos from the 80s. I found books that were read a decade or two ago and have probably been ornaments since then. All of them memories, sweet memories- in a box.
I slept well those nights, maybe it was all the nice memories that made my Dads presence felt in a warm way.
This morning, my sister woke me at 5am before leaving for the airport. That left me with a good 30 minutes of snuggling time with my warm sweet smelling mom that was next to me. So we laid there in silence half asleep. I positioned a small pillow just next to her belly and put my head on it, so she could stroke my tangled mess of curly unruly hair, ever so gently and softly. After a while I kissed her hand and reluctantly got out of bed to shower.
I already had a headache by then, because the tears refused to come, I didn’t stop them but I guess they went to my head instead. After showering and getting ready and packed, I took a last look at the almost bare bathroom and sink counter top and realized there are not going to be many more showers in this bathroom, in the only house I ever knew growing up, the bathroom where I got potty trained when I was a toddler, where I started using make up, where I saw the first pimples ever on my face. The bathroom where I got sick so many times after partying hard when I lost control and track of my drinks. The bathroom and the bedroom I shared with my sister for over 20 years.
My headache got worse and the clock was ticking. I was avoiding one more good-bye and the sound I HATE of the rolling suitcase on the wood planks of the floor.
I quickly kissed and hugged my mom good bye and left feeling 50 pounds heavier. The Uber was waiting for me with Alicia Keys screaming “New Yoooooooork” on the radio. I don’t know why I didn’t ask the driver to turn it down because 10 minutes later I was nauseous.
Once I boarded the plane the tears came -just a few- and I took aspirin a little bit ago. So both things combined made the headache disappear.
I wish with all my heart that I had the power to give my mom the freedom she needs to stay in the city she loves, because I know the move will be hard- for all of us. But I also know that she is so emotionally intelligent and so wise, that she will find a way to find happiness wherever she is.
The love and support from all of us – family and friends- will follow her.
I LOVE YOU MOM!!! Happy Birthday.
Gracias por darme la vida!