Yesterday was Cecilia’s birthday. She was a St. Patrick’s Day baby, and one of the things that she seems partial to is her birthday. Usually when I go to get her up in the morning, I sing the old, “Get up, get out of bed, c’mon you sleepy head” song (my version) but on her birthday, for pretty much the last 17 years, I sing a loud and happy rendition of “Happy Birthday to YOU! Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday, dear Cecilia! Happy Birthday to you!”
Yesterday morning she rolled out of bed with a happy, happy smile and she stayed happy until she realized that we had yet another doctor appointment in the early afternoon. Then she was grumpy. I decided to get her a haircut before bringing her home since it was about time. Also, with her surgery coming up, I wanted to get it done ahead of time. So I called the hair salon and they said they did have space for her.
Usually (as in “always”) when I get Cecilia a haircut, I take Hettie, too. For some reason, getting a haircut is not something that Hettie can just say she wants and does it. There is always this sort of conversation.
“Hey, Hettie. I’m taking Cecilia for a haircut.” You would think I had just told her that bananas were not being grown any more.
“Oh, no!” Crestfallen look, great sighs. (This is all part of a very predictable exchange.)
“Yep, I’m going to take her. Do you want to come, too?
“I ‘on’ know.” Shrug.
“Well, you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but do you or don’t you?”
“I on’ care.” Owlish eyes looking at me, more shrugs.
“You really don’t care?”
“No. I ‘on’ care.”
So I will turn to just go back to what I was doing until she says, “Wha’ you fink I shoul’ do?”
“Hettie, it’s whatever you want to do. I need to take Cecilia and if you want to go, I will take you, too, but it’s entirely up to you.”
The burden of decision is so hard for her, but eventually she usually says that she will go if I want her to.
“Hettie” I will say, “it’s not whether I want you to or not, it’s whether YOU want to or not, and if you don’t want to, that is fine. But I need you to say that you want to go or that you don’t want to go.”
“Alright ‘en,” she will say with the air of a great martyr,” “I’ll go!” She almost never gets herself around to saying that she wants to, but she is greatly aggrieved it she thinks I’m not going to take her.
Yesterday, after finding out that there was a spot for her with her favorite hairdresser, I called First State Senior Center and let them ask her if she wanted to go. They may have been smoothing things over for me, but they said that she said “That would be okay,” when they told her and so I picked her up from Center and took both her and Cecilia for haircuts. When we were done there, I stopped at Walmart and bought a chocolate birthday cake for Cecilia to have with our supper. It was deliciously chocolate, exactly what I had gotten for Hettie on her birthday two months ago. She had told me precisely what she wanted, and it had been good, so I decided to get exactly the same one and Hettie could enjoy it, too.
We had a special dinner. I had planned it with Cecilia in mind because she likes food to be separated out — meat, veggie and potato. If it were up to her, nothing would ever be served in a soup or a casserole. I noticed that Hettie was rather quiet during supper, and she looked at Cecilia’s birthday cake when we were getting ready to serve it and pointed at the white flower that was on it.
“Wha’s ‘at???” She demanded querulously.
“That’s a flower,” I said. “Remember? There was one on your cake just like it.” She looked at me dumbfounded, and shook her head. “You remember,” I said, “you had a cake just like this for your birthday.”
“I don’ ‘memmer,” she said.
“Sure you do,” I said, convinced that she had to remember. “I bought you a cake just like this for your birthday, and we sang ‘Happy Birthday’and you blew out the candles.”
“I don’ ‘memmer.” she said again.
“Hettie! You have to remember! You asked for a chocolate cake, and I bought you one and brought it home! We sang ‘Happy birthday for you –” He face was closed, and she had that empty look. “– Wait a minute!” I said, “I took a picture!” I fished in my pocket for my phone and pulled it out. “I even took a video!”
I brought up the picture first because I couldn’t find the video. She looked at it without much interest, but then I found the video and she actually could see the cake and she could see that it was in fact, her very own self and she saw herself blowing out the candles.
“Huh!” she said in disbelief. “I don’ ‘memmer nuffin’ ’bout it.!”
This morning has been a tough morning. There have been so many things chasing themselves around in my heart that all I want to do is find a quiet place to cry and to really cry hard. It was bed changing morning, and I needed to take Cecilia for pre-op lab work, EKG and Chest X-ray. My pharmacy didn’t deliver Hettie’s and BL’s meds that I had ordered twice, left messages about twice and even asked that if they weren’t going to be delivered last night, would someone let me know so I could come and get the ones that I so desperately needed this morning. Certain Man was busy in his chicken house with a situation that was less than encouraging. Hettie was upset that I was going to go out with BL, even though it was for needles and such. She was planning to clean her room and told me close to five times that she needed a new can of furniture polish (when she really didn’t) but time is hard for her to internalize, and she didn’t know that I would be back before evening. And of course, she didn’t want to run out.
It’s just more of the same behaviors with her that have been going on with Hettie ever since Cecilia was diagnosed. She is so jealous of the attention that she feels she is missing out on, so determined to have something seriously wrong with her, and so demanding that it gets more than a little wearing at times. I am reminded that it is Hettie’s “pain speaking” every bit as much as Cecilia’s behaviors are her pain speaking – it’s just that Hettie’s pain is springing from a heart that has never felt like anyone really loved her or thought she could do better.
This morning, though, I finally sat down to write my lament to my Father, and I spilled the words onto the page of my prayer journal as the tears spilled down and down and would not stop. I put numbers to the things that were troubling me, and then –
4. “. . . I wish that Cecilia didn’t have cancer. I wish she wouldn’t need surgery . . . “
5. “I wish Hettie would remember the good things that people do for her. I wish she wasn’t so paranoid. I wish she wasn’t so demanding. I wish she wasn’t so jealous. I wish she wasn’t so selfish. I wish that I could make her love me.”
And then I was struck by this “Holy Ton of Bricks” as I suddenly thought about The One to whom I was complaining. I looked at that last paragraph and I wondered if God ever said that about me. Oh, I know, He wouldn’t complain, and He wouldn’t say it like that if He did think it, but would He have reason to say it about me?
Yes. Yes, He would!
And while I don’t believe that Our Father caters to our wily ways, I wonder if it hurts His Father Heart when we don’t love Him when He has shown us His love in so many ways?
And someday, when the story of my life is played before my disbelieving eyes, There won’t be any excuse for me to say, “Huh! I don’t remember anything about it!”
Oh, Lord Jesus! Do serious work in this self centered heart, and may I love you, not for what you do for me, but because you love me, you chose me, and you have my good at the very center of your plan for me. Let the sadness of this day, the things that make me cry, the things that weigh me down — let these be the very things that turn my thoughts and heart towards You with Grateful Praise.
3 responses to “Birthdays with Cecilia & Hettie”
I am so sorry that you have some much on your plate right now. But you are in my prayers. Love ya, Lena
Recently my mother in law, who has short term memory problems, had a morning bout of the stomach bug. I had to hold her up while she threw up and clean up the bottom end, which I don’t normally have to do. Also wash the sheets, covers, and clothes. She felt fine by noon and by 2pm had totally forgotten about being sick. Which I was a little put out about since she had also forgotten everything I had done for her. Of course, the Lord couldn’t that lesson go by and I was reminded of how many times I so soon forget what He has done for me.
That is hard, Sally! Even with the best relationships with the people we care for, it’s HARD to have to clean up after them. And when they don’t remember (or know enough to realize what has been done for them)??? That’s doubly hard. May the sweet, sweet prescence of the Holy Spirit comfort you and give you strength and courage and peace. It’s a lot harder all the way around when a person is a caregiver for a loved one who is not the person they always knew, and roles are reversed and nothing is ever going fix that change. Thank you for your comment. I not only appreciate it, but I understand!