Yesterday I mentioned that May is a busy month for our family due to several birthdays and an anniversary. One of those birthdays belongs to my mother-in-law, Vivian. She turned ninety-one on May 5.
Vivian is more than a mother-in-law to me–she’s been like a second mother to me. I met Ed at the ripe old age of fifteen, and not long after, I met his mom. While Ed was serving in the army and I was still living at home finishing high school, I spent many weekends with his parents at their house. They felt like family to me long before we actually became family. Their home was like a second home to me, and we’ve celebrated some great times in that house– holidays, birthdays, showers, even a family wedding!
Ed and I debated about how to celebrate his mom’s birthday. She’s been living in an assisted living facility for almost three years. We’ve noticed that she seems to have gotten more fragile during this past year. I would have liked to have thrown a party in her honor, but wasn’t sure it would be in her best interest. Crowds seem to confuse her somewhat. Ed and I decided to take Vivian out to eat–and to take her to see her house. It had been quite a long time since Vivian had been inside of her house, and Ed recently had a new roof put on it, which she hadn’t seen.
We decided to celebrate Vivian’s birthday one day early, so she would be available at the living facility, for visitors, on her actual birthday. We also knew the local restaurants wouldn’t be as crowded on Saturday. I knew we’d made a good decision to go on Saturday, when we arrived at the restaurant and Vivian commented about how noisy it was! The Saturday crowd was tiny compared to what Sunday’s would be.
The highlight of the day came when we drove up to Vivian’s house and helped her go inside. It was like watching a child on Christmas morning! Although she had to pause and rest in between, she went into every room in her house! She opened closets, cabinets, drawers, and the refrigerator. She inspected pictures on the walls. She tried to play her piano. It was a sight to behold! She didn’t seem to notice that the house has become a bit run-down or that Brad and Jennifer still have several boxes of their junk on the kitchen table waiting to be moved. She only saw home!
We sat and talked, and yes, we even cried a bit. We talked about the good times we’ve had in that old house, and we talked about how sad it is that she’s no longer able to live there. Growing old is tough, and there aren’t always easy answers. We just try to do the best that we can in our given situation. Although it was bittersweet when we had to leave the house, at the end of the day, Ed and I knew we’d given Vivian the best birthday gift we could possibly have given her–a trip back home, even if it was only for a while.