Thursday, September 30, 2010

the birthday card

It's WB's birthday, my niece, Mom's granddaughter.

I started a few weeks ago, when we were out shopping, asking her if she'd like to pick up a birthday card for WB. She stares at me, stares at the grocery cart, then wanders away from the greeting card section. The next time we went shopping, I'd ask again. I'd talk about WB, how's she's grown into such a smart young woman, that she's made the varsity team this fall, how much she likes hearing from you.... no response from Mom.

Mom collects a lot of things, and one of them is cards. She is always picking up an extra greeting card. "For a friend." she'd say. Her stash of birthday cards is huge.

So at her house one day this week, I bring it up again.
It's WB's birthday this week, why don't you send her a card.
Mom finds a birthday card in her stash, one that you might send to a five year old.
"It's so cute." she says.
Yes it is Mom, but WB is a young woman now, she's not a little baby, that card is for a little girl.

My brother has said that for the past few years, Mom has been sending very juvenile cards and gifts to the girls, things that were not really age appropriate, and sending the same gift multiple times. These signs of her dementia that we did not recognize.
"Oh the girls would like these, the girls would like these, the girls would like these, the girls would like these..." They probably would if they were four or five years old.

Mom goes to look for other birthday cards. She brings back some that are definitely for her peers, jokes about saggy skin and too many candles. She finds one that is just a basic birthday card. She starts writing, thinking, and writing. It's painful to watch her at this task. Then she abruptly rips the card in half and grabs another from the table. She's writing and thinking, then I see her slip that card under her thigh, she takes another from the table.
Oh, that's a pretty card, I think WB will like it. I say, trying to put a positive light on her frustration. She writes in the card, closes it, and then asks for her address book. She copies WB's address successfully onto the envelope. I peek inside the card, she has not signed it.
Mom, why don't you write "Love Grammy" on the card too. She writes some more and then seals the card in the envelope.
"I want to put some money in the birthday card, do you think WB would like that?"
Yes, Mom, I'm sure she would like that, that would be very nice.
I take the card into the kitchen and try to peel open the envelope while the glue is still damp.
I don't know what Mom puts in the card, it could be two $1's or two $20's. She's being secretive, she doesn't want me to see what she's doing. That's fine, as long as the address is correct.

Happy Birthday WB - this woman, your grandmother, once loved you very, very much, I know she did. This woman, your grandmother, is now lost and confused. However, I know she knows you, and loves you still, because she has proudly showed me your varsity team photo 50 times in the past month!

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