Twenty five years ago this week my mother, quite ill in the hospital, had her 54th birthday. She’d had surgery to install a port for some kind of chemotherapy, but she never fully woke up, though she did say “balloons” sometime after she came back from surgery. We had, in fact, filled the room with balloons. It was one of the last things she said, and two days later she died.

I was twenty five, so this was roughly half my life ago.

It’s hard to know exactly what to say about this. Today I don’t think they’d be operating on someone so ill and clearly at the end of her life, so her death might have been more peaceful. Today the treatments for breast cancer are so much better that she quite possibly would have lived. Neither of these thoughts seem particularly useful.

I’ve had so many thoughts and feelings about losing mom, but with this distance they all have a slight air of unreality about them, even as many of my memories of mom are so vivid. She was an incredibly lively, joyful person. Funny, a bit silly. Solid.

Now that I have my own kids, there’s so much I’d like to ask her about. The other day I found Jaden hiding behind the shade of a window, clearly pooping in his diaper. I had a distinct memory of myself at his (or maybe younger) age, hiding behind the curtains in the dining room. She’d love the story. I wonder if she’d remember the incident.

Another: our dog is an increasingly unruly beast, and while we make noises as if to train him, Jay and I have clearly decided there’s no point. I’ll come to finish clearing the dishes and he’s standing on the dining room table, licking a plate. Something about the way we barely notice this reminds me of mom and our childhood dog, who got away with murder. I remember mom laughing when I taught the dog to take little candies, ever so gently, from between my teeth.

This week mom would have been 79, and next week dad’s turning 80. He’s been married to my stepmom for over 20 years. It just doesn’t seem possible.

Here’s a picture I love, of mom in bathrobe, our dog Fireman, my brother Scott, and me. I have no idea what’s going on, but the feeling in the photo is just right.


Happy birthday mom. I know you’d get a kick out of your zany grandchildren, and how they’re putting me through some of what you went through. I want to think you’re seeing some of this from wherever you are, and having a chuckle.