When Birthdays Aren’t Easy

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My grandpa’s birthday is on Sunday. I’ve been watching the calendar and watching the date come closer and have been wondering how, how we recognize this day. It is, most likely, going to be his last birthday.

I wonder how often it is that you know that everything is the “last” of something. As much as I hate it, as difficult as it is to see his health and mental facilities decline, I often feel that our family is lucky to know that this time is finite. We’re coming to an end. We need to embrace the time we have and do our best to make it special.

Some people don’t have that opportunity.

People walk out of their houses on seemingly normal days and get hit by buses and it’s over. They never see it coming. No one gets a chance to say goodbye. It’s just…over.

But we see it coming and I guess there’s something to be said for that, having the opportunity to brace ourselves.

The other day, my dad was telling me about his mother’s death. She had lived in Florida and so I wasn’t close to her. My dad tells me that he’d read articles about hospice and the last days of the dying, and was grateful for how it prepared him to deal with things in my grandmother’s final days, things he’d have never expected and wouldn’t have known how to handle. He tells me we should read these articles.
Maybe we should.

My grandmother is acting out, being quite awful to people. She’s scared and you can tell. I could see that fear when my grandpa got confused and insisted I was Kathleen, the nurse. After a few minutes that felt like hours he called me by my name. Was a relief to hear “Sarah.”

My aunt says that my grandmother is already grieving him as he slips away and that’s why she’s behaving this way. It’s taken her awhile to see this, though my sister and I have been telling our mom this for awhile. She’s SCARED. He’s NOT who he was. So, in a sense, she’s already grieving in anticipation, but she’s also grieving the parts of him that are gone already. He’s not the man she’s spent over sixty years of her life married to.

On Sunday we will gather for my grandpa’s birthday in a two hour celebration on the patio of his nursing home. We will likely be eating Costco cake and I can’t imagine what the mood will be like. His nurse has said that he’s getting weaker, that he may not be able to sit through the entire two hours. I’m pretty sure they’re underestimating his determination – but we’ll see.

I don’t know what the day will be like, only that I hope if anything, he realizes just how loved he is. That we’re all grateful for all of his years with us and that his birthday, even in this sadness, is a celebration of the day that someone we love so much was born.

About sarah

Sarah is a book nerd, a music lover, an endorphin junkie, a coffee addict. Oh, and a goof ball. She writes, she tweets, and she sings off key.


  1. You are a good granddaughter and I’m sure your grandparents would be touched to know you are thinking of them both in this way. The older I get, the harder it is to see my relatives, including my own mom, whom I remember when I was young just being so alive and vibrant, and now age is affecting them, physically and mentally. It’s such a tough, human experience.

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