Well, they’re here. The three kings of Orient have reached the stable. The shepherds have finally found their way in from the fields, and the little drummer boy is doing his thing for the baby Jesus. Tonight is the real party. This is the day of gift-giving, the final day of Christmas. Tonight, everyone gets it. Tonight, we have an Epiphany.
And it’s also my mom and dad’s birthday. Though seven years apart, they both were born on January 6th. Imagine that! Dad was born in Passaic, New Jersey in 1928 (to a 45 year old mother who had been told she would never conceive a child) and mom was born in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1935. She would grow up in a household divided (uncharacteristically of the times) by divorce – seeing her father move out at just about the same age as Elihu did.
My dad is going through a process of dementia these days. For the most part he is still very recognizable as himself; he is present, there is a twinkle in his eye and he knows what’s going on around him. What he’s not always clear on, however, is when he is. He often slips back into his years as a boy in Passiac, and will reference his old house, his old neighborhood, tell us that mother is coming by soon… This all somehow blends in very naturally and seamlessly with his present, and when you tell him that it’s 2013, and we’re now in upstate New York, he agrees, he gets it… he adjusts. Nevertheless, he does seem to slip a little further into the great sea of his past just a bit more with each passing month… Not always noticeable to me, but old friends who come to visit will often be a little taken aback. Good thing that it doesn’t happen all at once, I guess. Kinda like being pregnant. Got some time to prepare, get used to the new way of being…
My mother has not enjoyed being referred to as my ‘aging parent’ in my ‘about’ page on this blog. Many times, in what I still cannot quite ascertain as either a passive-aggressive or merely humorous remark, she has described herself as my ‘aging parent’ when speaking about herself in a conversation while I was present (I recently re-wrote the page. I may offer her that tonite as a gift!) Well, I cannot believe any more than she can that she is 78 today. I am not good with change. I can’t seem to fully grasp it. In my mind she is a perennial forty-something (I am a perennial thirty-something, go figure) and dad is just a bit older than that… When I was growing up, I can’t ever remember being too terribly aware of just how old my folks were… that is, until they became ‘old’. !
In a few minutes I’ll go over to their house for supper. Seems like it really should be me making dinner, or at least taking them out. But in reality, feeding people is my mother’s creative expression in the world, and she just doesn’t delegate that role. Besides, just getting dad in and out of a car or a restaurant – much less in snowy weather – is not a simple task these days. Dad himself, while summoning the focus to find his next step forward across the floor, will often remark that as a boy he used to look at old men like him and think that he’d never be one himself. Don’t we all. Dad didn’t really begin aging so dramatically until he stopped driving, about two years ago now. I understand. He doesn’t go out, except to doctor’s appointments. His world has contracted, and these days he really hasn’t much to live for. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but it really feels it. He doesn’t even play music anymore. Getting through a simple Scarlatti sonata isn’t possible for him now. This Christmas was his first visit to our house when he didn’t even venture to the piano. I try not to notice, but it makes me sad. Dad always played the piano while mom got dinner ready, and the house lacks a certain livelihood without it. Tonite I’ll take up his chair for a bit, just to keep the place a bit more spirited for their birthday.
It seems like a good year. Their age matches their street address, and I myself was born in ’63. So I like the look of the number. Mom heard somewhere that good things happen in odd years, so maybe 2013 will be a good one. I hope. We Conants have humor on our side, if nothing else. And it seems to me, that humor might make it a little easier to be an ‘aging parent’ (sorry, mom). So here I go, off into the wintry night to mark a 163rd birthday. That is certainly something to celebrate!