Next week is my birthday. I will be 53.
Fifty-three years ago, this woman–Marion Kathleen–let some doctor slice her open and pluck me out. As the story goes, seven weeks before her due date something critical happened and the professionals were certain my mother was carrying around a dead fetus. They rushed her on a stretcher through emergency.
At the last minute, according to my father, the doctor shouted: “Oh my god! This baby is still alive!”
Nice drama to begin a life. No wonder I’m a writer. But enough about me, let’s talk about Marion.
She looked so healthy, so vibrant and beautiful yesterday when I visited that I immediately snapped her picture then emailed it to my seven siblings. Oh Marion–seven live births and three miscarriages? How could you do it? You, who weighs less than 90 pounds and reached 82 on your last birthday.
I had to see my mother yesterday, because I love her so much, and because a friend wrote to me early in the morning to say that her mother had passed away during the night. This woman was also a much-loved mother and news of her death startled me awake; I quickly shifted my day’s priorities.
“Mom,” I said on the phone a few minutes later, “Can I come visit you today?”
It’s rough being 82, I’m sure it’s rough, but so too is being 53 and knowing what’s up ahead: a forced and absolute execution of childhood.
I’ve been steadily growing, slips and slides, agonies and ecstasies, since that July morning in 1959 but when I lose my mother, and my father (he’s 84 and still a mighty force; the two of them drive back and forth from Florida each year), I will truly be all grown up.
My mother was my first love and she has remained my steady love.
Today, I’m wearing this button on my t-shirt as a reminder to pay attention…shift, shift, shift away those damned imponderable priorities that mock us.