Today is my 58th birthday. Hard to believe I’ ve been on this earth all those years, and yet, through the magic of memory, I can instantly be back to my eight year-old self, sitting with my mother at the kitchen table in our house on Gettysburg Street. Mom was telling me about how I was born.
It was a cinematic story. I can picture it all in my mind’s eye, even if I don’ t actually remember the event itself.
I was born in the evening, I assume, since when my mother went into labor, it was afternoon. How do I know that? I know that because when I was ready to be born, my mother’ s ob-gyn, Dr. Cohen, was on the golf course. Mom had been taken to the Magee Hospital for Women, and apparently, it was going to be a very short labor. Literally, the nurse had to keep pushing me back to keep me from being born before the good doctor got there. “Wow, Mom!” I heard myself exclaim, “Why did they do that? Couldn’t someone else have delivered me?” Mom’ s reply shocked me: “No, honey. I had signed an agreement stating that only Dr. Cohen could deliver you, and he was off on the golf course somewhere and couldn’ t be found”. For years, I ruminated on this story, thinking I must have imagined it. I must have dreamt that Mom told me that. It’s too unbelievable.
So when I was already quite grown up, I asked my mother once again, “Mom? Did you really tell me that?” and she said, “I sure did!”. And still not believing it, thinking Mom must have been hallucinating, I asked my own ob-gyn, “Could this be true?” and he immediately said, “Sure. It happens all the time.” So, apart from thinking to myself, “How barbaric!” and “No wonder I’m such a neurotic woman”, I also thought, “Poor Mom!”. Imagine going through all the travails of labor, and then having the nurse keep literally pushing the baby back, over and over, until the doctor arrives! I think of the pain, the fear, the frustration – especially since my mother’s comment was, “Really, all anyone had to do was ‘catch’! You should have been a very easy birth! You were practically here when they admitted me to the hospital”.
So, this is the first birthday of my life when Mom is no longer with me, at least, physically. Every year on my birthday it has been my tradition to call her and to thank her from the bottom of my heart for giving birth to me, and then, for putting up with me – especially during my teenage years – and beyond. For raising me to be a decent human being, For her wisdom, For her humor. For her love. I woke up this morning wishing she were still here. But then I remembered her “visiting” me in a dream about a month after she passed away. She looked beautiful, strong, and whole. When I said, “Mom! You’re alive”, she threw her head back and laughed heartily, “Of course, I am, baby. I’m alive every time you think of me!”.
Well, I am certainly thinking of you today, Mom. And you’re as alive as I am! And thank you, for all of it.