(Her birthday is actually tomorrow, but I will probably be too out of it to write anything of substance. As it is, this entry barely conveys what I want to say. -K.)
Another year, another birthday.
When I look at you, I can't believe that you're 58. Maybe it's your smile, the way your eyes crinkle when you're pleased, or the dye job-- whatever it is, you look younger everyday.
I don't think I've ever told you how proud of you I am. You would probably blush and wave your hands at me in a dismissive manner if I said it to your face. To be honest, it would embarrass us both, so this letter will have to do.
I'm proud of your calm demeanor through Gramma's battle with Alzheimers. You didn't cry when she called me by your name, though you must have had some primal feelings of betrayal. When I refused to visit my only remaining grandparent during her slow descent, you didn't guilt me into repeating the tortuous experience again. You simply understood.
I'm proud of your resilience during those several months of hell three years ago. You put aside your own anguish over the loss of a dear sister-in-law and your ailing mother to comfort two children and a husband. I know the experience eventually drove you on to anti-depressants, but you recovered marvelously. Tragedies like yours have been known to scar lesser people.
I'm proud of your conversion to Judaism. Did you ever dream during your Protestant childhood that you would immerse yourself in a mikveh and read from the Torah during your very own bat mizvah? Did you ever think that you would be able to pass a tallit on to your daughter on her own passage into Jewish adulthood? I bet these experiences were totally beyond your ken fifty years ago. Your dedication to a religion and people who have been scarred into cynicism is admirable.
I'm proud of your ability to deal with a daughter so unlike yourself. I know I'm a hassle. I can't be in a living space for more than a week without trashing it, my grades were never valedictorian-level (You know what it's like being raised by a valedictorian mother? Lots of pressure.), and I'm insistent about joining the IDF. I'm your antithesis, but you love me anyway.
Mom, you know how I always tell you, jokingly, that you had better be nice to me because I will be the one choosing your nursing home? When I can no longer take care of you on my own, you will get the best assisted living service money can buy. You deserve it.
But don't worry, 58 is the new 40. You have plenty of time. :)
Your loving daughter,
(PS. Happy birthday, Billy Joel. My mother would like to state that though you are a year younger than she is, she still has more hair.)