Today is my mother-in-law’s 89th birthday. She still lives alone in the house she and her husband built in the mid 70’s. She is becoming increasingly frail, having had two bouts with cancer and the residual effects of radiation. Her heart is weak and she doesn’t have much strength due to a childhood illness. Her mind however is sharp. She knows every household bill, when it’s due and how much it will be. Not that she needs to remember, she pays each bill the moment the mail is delivered. She can recall telephone numbers with total accuracy.
She has three children, the oldest, is a retired teacher living in suburbs of Philadelphia. Her second child is a critical care nurse and lives about a half hour away. My husband, the youngest child and I live about 8 minutes away from the farm.
My husband’s sister has to work today. Her twelve hour shift ends at 7, far later than the usually 4:30 dinner time of Mom. She suggested we celebrate the big day tomorrow. I want to have a family celebration but I don’t want to ignore the actual day either. Not celebrating today seems sad to me. I’ve insisted we need to do something to acknowledge the day. My husband doesn’t understand, he is her son after all, but I really think a big day needs to be celebrated with more than a “see you tomorrow.” This however presents a problem.
Did I mention she’s frugal? Not just cheap, this woman reuses plastic bags, tin foil, and wrapping paper. When asked what meal she’d like for her birthday, she said she did not want to go to a local restaurant; we were surprised because she always enjoys their food. When asked why she said “they want $8.00 for a hamburger. “ Our son says, “Tell her the 1940’s are over.”
We’ve decided to take her to another chain restaurant for dinner today. We’ll pick her up at 5:00 and go to a place that makes amazing frozen custard. She loves ice cream, and the family friendly prices will make her happy. We’ve ignored her insistence that we shouldn’t spend money on two birthday celebrations. Tomorrow we’ll gather again at our house for her requested pizza and lemon pie.
She still loves to quilt and sew. Her gift to celebrate 89 years of life is a pair of new dressmaker’s sheers. I’ll make sure the price tag is removed. If she knew how much they cost she’d be horrified and refuse to order ice cream for dessert.