Hard to believe that my grandmother reached 99 today. Every year I wonder if will this be her last. In fact, I know that no day or tomorrow is a given. She will decide when it is her time. Today is what matters and it was such a joy…mother sent some extra money and yesterday said, do something nice for her – take the family out please. I said okay, I will try but it is so last minute. So I sent a few texts and two aunties, an uncle, a dear family friend and one of my second cousins were able to make the date with too little notice – their responses came within the half hour. I called the restaurant and asked if they could accommodate us including a wheel chair – no problem they said. John said he would meet me at the nursing home and since Bachan can no longer get in and out of our cars, we would push her the 10 minutes to our favorite Japanese restaurant down the street. Everything aligned.
This afternoon, I was running late to get to the nursing home but got a call from my aunt Irene – she was already there and had Bachan all bundled up for our walk. Not only that but she had home-made decorated cookies (about 40!), writing “Thank you” on each one then individually wrapping them so we could give them out to the staff at the home AND at the restaurant. Amazing! She and my uncle handed some out to the folks in Activities and in the lobby and the station that over saw my grandmother. I would pass some out to the other stations later. They left to meet us at the restaurant.
With John pushing grandma in her wheel chair and me chatting it up, I led us down the path. Up ahead, we saw 3 police officers blocking the sidewalk. We couldn’t tell what was going on. I was in front and a little nervous; If it was just us, we could take another path but with the wheel chair we had no other way. As we got closer, one officer seemed to smile and move into the grass. I smiled back and said, “we are taking my grandmother to celebrate her 99th birthday!” They were all smiling now and wished bachan a Happy birthday. John thanked them for their work. They seemed surprised and said, “Thank you very much!”
My grandmother asked again smiling, where are we going? She can’t quite hold on to the fact that it is her birthday but she knew we were all together happy. Dinner was lovely – all of us enjoying each other and somehow my grandmother knew we were all there for her. At the end, She brought her hands together and slowly bowed to honor us all – saying “thank you very much for doing this for me.” And she did it again saying in Japanese, “arigato gozaimasu” (thank you). It was really beautiful. To recognize our good intentions even if her mind does not hold all the specifics, to honor us like that –moved me so much. She often takes me by surprise – lights are still on in her mind, they just turn on and off at whim.
Of course, back at the nursing home, she didn’t remember anything that happened before. Still, her body remembered – she had a happy energy, an excitement. And when I went to get her Japanese flash cards, she took them herself and started going through them naming each one. Usually, I hold the cards up for her but it was like she had a new confidence. She read her Japanese book to me after that and made all the sounds big and strong. And, after our solitaire game she offered an enthusiastic BONZAI as she used to do but hasn’t done for awhile. I thought for a moment that it was my birthday not hers – so many gifts.
After finishing our routine of play, I had her give a cookie to her neighbor’s husband Mark who comes every day rain or shine to sit with his wife who does not speak or see really. Bachan gave him one and asked for his hand. She shook it and remarked on his warmth. She held his hand for a long time – somehow knowing that maybe he needed a little extra kindness tonight.
I gave two cookies to a new neighbor down the hall, Donna and her sister, Carmen who was visiting. Donna is only 50 but looks like 80; she had had a stroke, her eyes were very red – both looked like they had been crying. I offered the cookies and explain that my aunt had made them for my grandmother’s birthday and wanted us to share. Donna couldn’t stop looking at the flower shaped cookie with the hand-written thank you. She thanked me and held my hand. They were both smiling, forgetting for a moment that they had been sad.
Later, after putting my grandmother to bed, I made rounds with the rest of the cookies – I saw that the office of the doctor who oversees my grandmother’s treatment was open. He was doing some paperwork. He has always been pretty aloof. When I came to the door, I think he thought I was going to complain or ask for something because after I said Hello he said “what is your name?” in a stern way that sounded like “what do you want?” (there are two doctors only that oversee everything so I imagine they are pulled in many directions) I said my name and my grandmother’s and before he could object, pulled out a cookie for him and said, “this is for you – my aunt made them to celebrate my grandmother turning 99 and we wanted to thank you.” His face suddenly changed and a big smile took over as he said thank you back. Your welcome I said and waved goodbye as I let him have his privacy again.
So many simple sweet kind shifted moments….I could go on and on but it is late and there is much to dream on. May we all be gifted with moments of love and kindness and may we always feel loved and valued. Thank you for your friendship. Arigato Gozaimasu xoxo Happy Birthday, Obaachan!