Today is my mother’s 90th birthday. It is hard for me to envision the passage of time, the passing of her life from child to youth to young woman to mother to grandmother to great-grandmother. To me, she has always been just “mom”. Until recently, she was ageless in my eyes – the same age when we immigrated to Canada in 1956 as she was when I graduated from high school in 1968 as she was when she started travelling the world after my dad’s death in 1977. The same age as she was when she was still hiking the BC mountains with her friends in the 1980s and early 90s. I remember a newspaper article about this group of five women, all in their 70s, still hiking Mt Frosty and Garibaldi and Baker - my mom and her four friends who all met through their volunteer work with the Girl Guides decades before – still together, still hiking, still laughing and singing in their senior years.
And suddenly it all started to come unraveled as first one friend died, then another; as arthritis and broken hips and polymyalgia and countless other ailments took their toll. Now Mom’s sight is almost gone due to macular degeneration, her hearing is weak, her mobility very severely limited, and her zest for life, that incredible energy and love of the outdoors and passion to be out and about and enjoying the world and all its inhabitants, has waned.
Loving senior dogs is, in many ways, so much easier than loving senior humans. My dogs don’t lament their fate, missing what they once had and no longer do; they live in the “now” and enjoy each day to the fullest. And when their suffering becomes too much, and they are ready to go, I can help them to gently leave this earth.
I wish, for her birthday, I could give my mom just one moment of the life that she so enjoyed, one ounce of that vitality, one day of restored vision and mobility. But these gifts are not mine to give.
And so instead, my family will do what little we are able. On Saturday, we will get together for one of her favourite activities – a picnic in a beautiful park – and we will gather her into our embrace, and we will love her.
Happy 90th Birthday, Mom. I love you.