Today I turned sixty.
Yes, sometimes my writing reads like a stream of consciousness. More recently, maybe less so. Today, I am certain, probably more so. Sixty. Sixty years ago, as Mom’s nurse or doctor at Portland’s Good Samaritan Hospital told her “not yet,” she and Dad crossed Northwest 23rd Avenue to Quality Pie Shop. Yes, for a piece of pie. Not long after she returned to Labor and Delivery in time to welcome me into the world, her first, and only, daughter (see: On the day you were born).
Though I prefer ice cream, today I do think of pie, although I’ll eat donuts. And later probably cake. Which leads me to American Pie, the sentimental-song-to-me that weirdly contrasted with my dentist’s drill yesterday as I awaited my first filling, this a crown, stuck in a dentist chair with a plastic jaw opener jammed in my mouth. I remember Don. No, not McLean, but the Wilsonville boy I had a mad crush on back in those elementary school days, he my brother’s friend. Today Wagner Street marks the site of his house where he would get on and off the school bus, a bit like Montgomery Way marks my long ago walk to our bus stop. Don was nice to me, I was certain he liked me when he’d occasionally sit in the same seat as I on a long bus ride home. American Pie. My favorite song that I can’t hear today without going back to that late afternoon when I was ten. American Pie, the song playing on the radio the night I was crammed in the backseat next to Don, no idea how I ended up next to him, other than my own willful push. Joining Boy Scouts on their way to roller skate at Oaks Park, a fixture then and now, even making its way into a fictional Humanity’s Grace story. American Pie that takes me back to being a ten-year-old before I had any understanding of its lyrics, just singing the sweet refrain. Over and over.
The song finished, and still I sat, the drill humming in my ears. At least two hours to occupy my thoughts. Yes, next up. That 1950ish time when Mom assisted Dad that first time, he sitting in a dental chair. Lots of dental work for this guy after knocking his front teeth out playing high school football (Go Cards!), becoming a sports writer soon after before declaring journalism to be his major. Mom, a summertime dental assistant replied no to a date, but with a caveat. She had a boyfriend but to check back in a couple months. Our mom was smart.
Turning 60. This Mom of ours threw her own 60th Crone Party. 1993, just two short weeks before I learned I was pregnant with kid two. I remembered it, but after my appointment with the drill, wondered if I’d written about it. These journals I have, deep in my desk drawer. From times long ago.
” “A wonderful 60th celebration for Mom. So many wonderful women friends! Hope I have such a support network at 60. Even more clear what an incredible Mother I have. I can’t believe – 60, though. Her aging is so graceful, so strong. Yet difficult for me to accept that someday she won’t be here. Guess that’s why one is to live today….”April 2, 1993, Dede’s journal
How can I be the age of my mother in those years? Those years when I suddenly noticed she no longer had the flat stomach, just like me. She still kept walking, often enjoying solo outings. Just like me. Not long after Mom was diagnosed with her first autoimmune disease. Does that too wait to jump at it me, unexpectedly, surprising? No, not a thought for today. None of us knows what’s ahead of us tomorrow much less this afternoon.
My bosom birthday buddy, she a writer and poet, sent me a book. On Women Turning Sixty. Yes. That day is now. Although we have walked many birthdays together, today I walk alone. Adjacent to the channel at Refection Point, the cottonwood and maple leaves showing brilliance as if unburned by the scorching sun of June. The river, challenged by drought some days or contamination others, flows. In its glory. And for today. For this moment. All is well
My first birthday without mom. Normally we might go down to Cedaroak Boat Launch and peer out toward Cedar Island, share a cup of tea. Or before when she’d bring me a card and a gift, always one to celebrate birthdays. And today she sits with me deep inside, as she did on May’s Mother’s Day and July’s anniversary of Dad’s death. And whatever dates lie ahead. Soon after passing the channel I sit at the same spot I sat with her. Not all that long ago. I watch a toddler in yellow rubber boots chase after three ducks near the river shoreline. Like I did with my own daughters. Not all that long ago.
Turning 60. Hoping one day for grandchildren. Wishing I could retire. Worrying about the future. And yet. Stop. As my writer friend L reminds us. Breathe. Breathe again. The day is beautiful. I’m so lucky to be 60. To be here with those here now, and the spirits of the past. Breathe. Who knows what tomorrow may bring. Or even this afternoon. Today I am savoring the moments of my solo journey. Through the leaves. Glimpsing at the river I love. Choosing my moments as I can, knowing none of them last forever. And I should have pie, just for old time sake. Ala mode.