meandma2I turned 51 today.

Last year was the milestone year. The big 50. I felt OK about it. 50 is the new 40, my older friends told me. I celebrated with a big party. My brother came from Canada, my cousin from New York. My sisters-in-law traveled great distances, too. Then everyone went home and life resumed, no different, really, than before.

Today is different.

Not that suddenly, I feel old. Or that there is no hoopla this year.

Today is different for one very important reason.

My mother suffered a massive stroke in 1982. On my birthday. She was 51.

That day changed our lives in so many ways. You can imagine all the obvious ways: my mother was in a coma for days in the Intensive Care Unit at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and when she regained her senses, the left side of her body no longer worked. There were months and months of physical therapy for my mother. And even more months of adjustment for me and my family while we learned how to take care of an invalid, infirm woman.

She’d also lost a lot of her cognitive abilities and the mother I adored was suddenly gone. She was there in person, physically. But the woman I knew died on that day.

Over the next 19 years that she lived, I learned to relate to my mother on a whole new level. In the end, when my father also cruelly lost his cognitive abilities to Alzheimer’s, my mother became like my daughter. She’d ask me what she should wear, what she could eat. If anyone asked her a difficult question, she’d consult me before answering publicly. We exchanged roles.

My mother died in May 2001. I had to deal with her dying all over again. Except this time, there was nothing left of her at all. She was gone.

I’ve always feared turning 51. I feared it even more after I learned I was prone to hypertension — my mother’s blood pressure had soared to obscene levels before the stroke.

So on this day, I contemplate my mortality. And want desperately to make time stop so that I can have the opportunities to accomplish all that is left on my long, long list of things to do, places to see. It’s not that I want to be young again — I greatly value the wisdom time and experience have given me. Just that I feel the days whizzing past like speeding bullets.

Like everyone else, I want to feel that I did something good for this world. Now there are fewer days left for me to achieve that.

6 Replies to “Fifty-one”

  1. This is so beautiful, Moni … wishing you days filled with love, joy, fabulous health and all the discovery your heart can wish for. Happy, happy birthday.


  2. It is so brave of you to write these thoughts and be openly aware of them. And I thank you for your willingness to share these thoughts with all of us. I’ve lived in this naive romanticized mentality of living for the day and expecting a short life… perhaps even using as an excuse to for poor planning… you have experience with the reality of what a shortened life can mean for yourself and your family, the worry and fear of it, the heavy memories… thank you for making that reality part of my reality as well… I hope the light of new minutes and urgency of action somehow add some happiness to your life, and that urgency is supported with peace and comfort and freedom. I’m sending you metta and love:)


  3. Thank you for sharing your life with us…, on so many levels. Know you have done so much already for so many…you’ve taking me physically and mentally to places I was afraid to go. You are a uniquely intelligent beautiful journalist and friend. May you live to see many many more Fabulous Birthdays… and please share them all with us! 😉 xoxoxo


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