"I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances."
This is my mother's 79th birthday. I have thought long and hard about her situation today. She is mostly deaf, severely demented, although she recognizes people and loves the clouds and the sky. She has her lucid moments when she knows her brain has failed her, and sometimes that makes her laugh, and sometimes that makes her angry.
She is my mother. She taught me to sew and to cook. She taught me to put my back into everything that needed doing. She made my first wedding dress. She treated me like a wicked stepchild for much of my young life. My mother is a mix of failure and humanity.
I try to remember that she has an infirmity, that she is not crazy. I try to honor her and treat her with the respect I would want to be treated. I'm glad I'm sober and can be present with her today. Sobriety is the finest gift I can give her.
For the most part she seems content to clip out newspaper bits and write the remains of her signature on scraps of paper, as if she knows she is fading. I find those slips of paper and they make my heart hurt.
We had ten good years together out of 55. We laughed, we talked, we worked side by side. She saved the life of my firstborn child. I have forgiven her everything except her failure to love me when I was a girl and needed the love of my mother. In time I will have mercy on that too.
She is a triumphant, angry, God-loving woman who lost her husband at the age of 53. She taught me to work hard, pay attention to the details, and to drive. She loves her sons, her sister, her long-dead parents, and the memory of the smell of rain in the desert.
I deeply love my mother, and I want her back. I don't want to shepherd her as a four-year-old child. She doesn't know I have become a poet, but she always knew I was gifted and willful.
The greatest joy I can give her are these photos of the red sky this morning. She will be in awe of them. Life is reduced to its most basic level. The heavens call her. Farewell, my dear mother. May you go homeward soon, as you pray you will. God grant you the desires of your heart, my sweet, childlike mother.