A Birthday


A Birthday

candle-322510_640I recently celebrated a birthday.

Friends ask, What did you do on your birthday?

I answer, I cared for my parents.

Their response is akin to, "Oh, no!"

I, instead, consider it to be one of my best birthdays ever.

I didn't dread my birthday as I have for so many years. My parents' care became top of mind.

I didn't worry about my birthday and what would happen and would I be happy like I used to. My parents' well-being became the priority.

On my birthday, I changed my dad's ostomy bag, I applied Desitin® to the rash around his stoma and Athlete's Foot cream to the yeast infection below the stoma. I applied moisturizer to his legs. I simply listened as he vented his frustration about his ostomy, his change in life style, his decline.

After his ostomy care, we ate lunch with in the retirement community dining room. During our meal, I asked my parents about their funeral plans. I explained I had delegated tasks -- that one sibling would help them buy iPhones, another would help my dad with legal paperwork and I had assigned myself funeral planning. My mom was open to the conversation. My 84-year-old dad first wondered if the conversation wasn't just a bit premature. My mom and I laughed, telling him I had first talked to my mom about it a few years ago. At the time, her response was, "I don't care what you do because I'm not going to be there." This time, my mom shared more details so now I know which cemetery, which pall bearers and which funeral home. I have more to learn but that conversation was a good start.

We each enjoyed a glass of wine during lunch and laughed about the unusual elements of my birthday--a retirement community dining room, funeral planning, ostomy care.

After we finished eating but before we left the dining room, my mom began to throw up. So, I hustled for napkins, quickly emptied a coffee cup and rubbed her back as I did my best to catch the vomit. Once we were sure the vomiting ended, we made our way back to the apartment.

Back in the apartment, my parents regularly repeated, "Oh, we're so sorry you have to spend your birthday doing these things for  us!" I regularly said, "I'm happy to do it."

And, so on paper, it appears to be an odd birthday. In my heart, though, it's my best one ever.

Because on that birthday, I realized that the focus on what I will get is only cured when I see the blessings of what I can give.

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Happy Birthday, Denise, and really, what a heartfelt way to celebrate it.


A lovely post, Denise, and a happy (belated) b-day from me to you!


Oh Denise, I'm so happy to hear that you realized what a blessing you had right in front of you on your birthday! Witnessing the circle of life come full circle is an eye-opening experience, full of wonder and joy, as well as heartbreak and sadness. It's easy to focus on the latter...good for you for realizing you were where you needed to be, for being there, and for finding joy in the moment.