When we were kids my mother always asked in a sing-song voice, “What day is Mommy’s birthday?”…and we would sing, “One, two, three.”  Her birthday is January twenty-third.  One, two, three.  Yesterday.

My brother and I drove to bring her a cake.  He fretted over not having a card.  I promised him we could sign the card our older sister, Vickie, had sent.  We laughed.  We’ve always liked being a tiny bit dishonest…and one of the few perks of having a mom who remembers nothing any longer is that you can get away with things like signing a card your sister sent.  It will mean nothing to her, but it will get the brownie points needed from the vigalantly judgemental staff.

Ed laughs more because it is a sort of prank…he is blissfully unaware of the need to impress staff for he has staff of his own.  He’s fifty-three and wheelchair bound and terribly head-injured from an accident that  occcured when he was twenty-eight.

So there is something hilarious and tragic about bringing my head-injured brother into the Alzheimer’s unit to celebrate my mother’s birthday.  I don’t need to go into the tragic aspect, I’m sure you are already there, but there is humor as my brother, who is really pretty much the same guy he was before his accident except for his messed-up body, tries to get my mom to engage in normal conversation.  The humor…ish…comes when she says something inaccurate about our history and he debates her memory.  I usually kick him, because I have been reminding him the entire trip over about how bad our mother’s memory is.  He simply laughs (and one blog in the future I will honor through detailed desciption his amazing laugh)…he cannot help himself…our family’s history is his passion and inaccuracy, even from our Azheimered mother, cannot be allowed.

Anyway, Eddie’s memory is begining it’s slow decent.  Alzheimers?  God, I hope not, but declining it is. 

So as we are eating cake with our somewhat bewildered, but still gracious-as-the-Southern-Belle-she-always-wished-she-had-been mother I make small talk about her age today…just turned 79.  Both Eddie and my mother are astonished as if I were off by decades, their cloistered lives moving in different time than we who go to work each day and take the trash out on Tuesdays.

From that moment until I drop him off at his well-staffed apartment he says over and over, “I can’t believe she’s seventy-nine.”  On the drive home he adds, “I need to remember that.”  Then he asks the name of the place she lives.  I answer, “Family Health West.”  “I need to remember that, too.” 

He says this with such sincerity I say, somewhat joking, “Eddie, I will call you every day until she turns eighty and remind you.”  He laughs because he knows I am joking.  He knows I would never call him daily.  I spend a good deal of time avoiding his calls.  I spend a good deal of time feeling guilty about the lack of time I spend with him and our mother.  They could both use me twenty-four seven, and in protest to this silent demand of my time, I give them very little…and I suffer for it.

As I drop him off with the latest thing his client manager has requested, an electric razor, I ask him.  “How old is Mom?”  He slowly brings his clumsy hands to his forehead and rubs it, his dramatic motion to let you know he is thinking hard.  “Seventy-nine.”  “Yep, and where does she live?”  Again his face contorts and he rubs his forehead, “Family Health West.” 

I decide right then, I am committing to this.  I am going to call him every single day for a year and remind him of our mother’s age and remind him of the name of the facility our mother resides in…and maybe, just maybe I can free myself of this guilt…and find the humanity I’ve lost along the way as I discount he and my mother for people who locomote and remember and eat fine food.

As I leave his room he puts his hands up for a hug which he seldom does.  I go to hug him and he pulls my head to his and we stare into each other’s eyes, forehead to forehead.  “You got a lot of brownie points today.”

I will make the call today…and start to fulfill this vow.

“When’s Mommy’s birthday?”

“One, two, three.”