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Once again, it is that time of year, when my birthday, my sister’s birthday and my mother’s, as well as Thanksgiving, all converge to make me pause and think about what I am feeling.
About my own birthday, I feel surprised. How did I get to be this old? When did my body decide to catch up to my age and start betraying me? Every day I notice things that make me realize that I knew my mother when she was this age. I am not that old.
My sister’s birthday always makes me recall November 21, 1963, the day she was born, and the days after it. It makes me think about our family’s special loss, while the rest of the country mourned the loss of a president. My sister’s twin brother died shortly after his birth, and I remember standing at his gravesite. In my mind, my sister was, and still is, a troubled spirit because of that loss, and her life has reflected a search, a longing to replace that elemental connection.
My mother shares Mark Twain’s birthday, November 30. I have always had a special closeness with my mother. I can’t explain it. We understood each other. She talked to me about things I am sure she did not share with her other children. I spent my life trying to please her and make her proud of me in ways that most people outgrow as they become adults. I judged myself through her eyes, by what I assumed she expected of me. Maybe we felt closer because I was born with some birth defects, and she thought she must look after me more than the others. Maybe it was because she knew I was different, long before I knew it myself.
One of the things my mother and I shared was a great enjoyment of the Thanksgiving holiday, the cooking and gathering together of everyone. It was my favorite holiday, and our birthdays landing in the same week made it more special and fun.
My mother is gone now. I have lost touch with my sister lately. Thanksgiving now is a time for me to remember happy visits and the fun we had.
I try not to dwell on the losses, because it includes much more than the death of my mother. I also lost my connection to the rest of my family, and I would rather not dwell on that. I miss them all, our big, loud, boisterous and contentious group. I would rather salute the memories.
Thanksgiving, 2007, the last one.
The two birthday girls, Angie and Mama.