Cousin Carol turned 50 last weekend.
She had mixed emotions about the entire affair and wanted to silently glide through the day with a small luncheon. Things haven’t been going well in other areas of her life and she had decided that this inevitable bend in the road should be met with grace. Cousin Carol and my sister Lisa have taken on the management of my Aunt Lucy’s care. It has not been easy, as Aunt Lucy’s depression and OCD have sent her down a rabbit hole that we do not think she will ever get out of. Cousin Carol and Lisa fought hard to keep her from going down it but her age (85); the healthcare system for aged mentally ill patients and Aunt Lucy herself conspired against the efforts. Aunt Lucy sits now in a psyche ward tied to an oxygen tank as I write, unable to get the shock treatments that will help her because of a strange spec doctors can’t seem to identify on her lung. I can only describe the situation as a tangled ball of knots with Aunt Lucy sitting squarely in the middle of it.
If that weren’t enough, Cousin Carol’s mother, Aunt D., has dementia. Her father, Aunt Lucy’s and my late mother’s brother, has had a hard time accepting this. Aunt D. no longer knows her own children and thinks her husband is her aide. It is all very disheartening. I never would have imagined this future for such vibrant individuals. I have said this before that the generation preceding mine is just falling apart and we have all to do to keep up with the various doctors and follow-up appointments. I shudder to think what will happen when my generation tops the pack. We didn’t procreate in abundance in my family and I fear there are not many to do our bidding for us.
You can imagine my surprise then when Uncle P. called all excited a few weeks ago.
“We’re giving Carol a surprise 50th birthday party. Will you come?”
There was levity in his voice. A happy lightness I haven’t heard for years. My answer was a cheerful, “Of course!” I secretly knew this was the last thing Cousin Carol would want. It just made Uncle P. so happy to plan a party that none of us dared to stop him. He picked the restaurant, a dark little place with paneled walls. Sunflower bouquets were put on every table. No one mentioned that the location is also the “usual” restaurant the family goes to after funeral services commence at the nearby cemetery. It somehow seemed appropriate in an odd twist of humor.
Yes, Cousin Carol was surprised and she laughed throughout the party. No, the choice of restaurant wasn’t lost on her either. “My first lesson at 50 is that I need to plan my own parties. My second thought is that we need to find a new restaurant to go to after funerals.” She said this all in a hushed whisper laced with laughter as we stood in the parking lot. She knew how much it meant to her Dad to plan it and wouldn’t have wanted to offend him. Still, we’ve all learned life is just speeding by and time waits for no one. Any party is a good party as long as you’re celebrating life and the where and when are just details.