Friday, February 22, 2008

Happy Birthday Anna

I know my daughter's birthday is her special day, but as her mother,
it's pretty special to me as well. I've spent much of today remembering back to Anna's birth 14 years ago. What a staggering thought to realize it's been that long since I first held my little girl, admired her dainty features and marveled at the tiny bow the nurse had placed in her hair.
Today, I've thought back to the little details of the day: how incredibly thirsty I was during labor; how ridiculous I thought it was for my doctor to suggest I'd deliver quicker if I just didn't have an epidural; how the nurses looked after my queasy husband; how different it was to deliver naturally rather than by C-section; how eager Anna was to nurse just minutes after her birth; how excited her big brother Robert was to find his mama and little sister later that day.
I also remember Mama. In the last weeks of my pregnancy, I had told Mama that the most important thing she could do for me during labor was to make sure 3-year-old Robert was OK. I told her I'd rather she stay with him than to sit in the hospital waiting room. We dropped Robert off at her house the morning I went into labor. She walked out to the car to talk to me, looked into my eyes, and I'm sure she saw the pain and fear I was experiencing. I can only imagine what happened next, but before long, Robert was in the safe care of my aunt and cousins, and Mama was in the hospital to make sure her own little girl was OK and to await the arrival of her granddaughter.
Anna has turned out to be such a joy to my mother. Just like her brother, Anna stayed with my parents while I worked. She and Mama developed a close bond as they spent their days together enjoying the world around them: walking through yard looking at the flowers, collecting pretty pebbles from the gravel driveway, looking at birds hunting for sunflower seeds at the feeders or worms in the front yard.
Now, as Mama struggles with the trials of Alzheimer's, Anna continues to be a joy to her. It's now Anna who takes her grandmother for walks around the yard, looking for the first signs of spring flowers or perhaps picking a camellia blooming in the back yard.
When I stopped by Mama and Daddy's at lunch, I told them Anna's birthday was today. Mama was thrilled. She asked me if I'd write it all down on a piece of paper. I wrote: "Anna is 14 today." She held the piece of paper in her hands, looking at it every few minutes as if she were memorizing the words. I promised that Anna and I would drop by her house after school so she could tell her happy birthday.
Three hours later, we did just that. Mama smiled when she saw Anna, stood up and gave her a birthday hug. Clutched in her left hand was the paper from the notepad. It was folded up three or four times. "I've held it so I wouldn't forget," she said.
It's another birthday memory I hope I never forget.


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