Swiftly Flow The Years

mom's b-day cake


I never thought I would quote Robert Frost and Paris Hilton in the same post, but their combined words aptly summarize my mother’s 98th birthday this past week.

Robert Frost: “A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never remembers her age.” Paris Hilton: “The way I see it, you should live every day like it’s your birthday.”

My mother does not remember her age, or for the most part where she is, how old she is, or what is happening. Every day could be her birthday, and even with cake, candles, balloons and cards, she still would not realize what day it is.

But we still celebrate her birthday.  She has had a remarkable life, and we are here because of her.   We–her daughter, granddaughter and great-grandchildren–drove to Ft. Scott last weekend so we could sit together with her at night, reading aloud her favorite children’s poems and prayers, and also sing to her.  We took turns telling her short, happy stories we remember about our lives with her, and with her eyes still closed, she amazed us by smiling and nodding in agreement!  We were thrilled to have her respond.

cards on yellow board


The pictures on this week’s post are of the double chocolate cake we brought, the balloons and the yellow poster board with handwritten messages and cards from our family.   I’m not posting any of the pictures of Mom on this birthday; she is on oxygen and sleeping most of the time. So I’ll share three pictures from the past that show how swiftly the years of her beautiful life have flown.

“Sunrise, Sunset” is one of my favorite songs from FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, and it summarizes how quickly the years pass for all of us. They’re to be cherished every day, but especially on a 98th birthday, even when the birthday girl doesn’t realize what day it is.

Grandma with her first two grandchildren.  Baby Molly is the mother of my mother's two great-grandchildren.

Grandma with her first two grandchildren. Baby Molly is the mother of Grace and Gannon, my mom’s two great-grandchildren.

Mary Elizabeth, age 2 1/2, with her brother Ira on the farm in Missouri.

Mary Elizabeth, age 2 1/2,
with her brother Ira on the farm in Missouri.

My mother's college graduation picture.

My mother’s college graduation picture.



Filed under birthday celebrations, birthday traditions, Dementia/Alzheimer's, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Things to be thankful for

44 responses to “Swiftly Flow The Years

  1. If she lives until October 4, my Aunt Ruthie will also have a “98” on her birthday cake. Like your mother, Ruthie has no awareness of what day it is. Her grasp of where she is, wobbly too. Yet she had a remarkable life.

    Your mother’s smile and nod were visible reminders that the spirit doesn’t age, though the body and mind may fail.

    What a lovely tribute and how wonderful four generation could participate. This post brought tears to my eyes because I could read what you did not write.

    • It was special, Marian. This time last year, she ate cake and clapped her hands when we sang; this year, the smile and head nod at the stories was all she could manage.
      A very happy 98th birthday to your Aunt Ruthie! 🙂

  2. Tammy Heimsoth

    Your birthday wishes and time with your mom is a precious love of family. Thanks for sharing with us and know your mom is a beautiful lady. I love her so. With the loss of my own mom last year, she was my comfort as I care for her. Hope to see you, on next visit. Sorry I missed you and the party.

    • If you’d been at our little party, you could have gotten Mom to eat some cake, Tammy. I remember last year when we had Boston Cream cake and you were the one who could get her to eat.
      I know how much you miss your own mom, and your love and gentle care for mine are much appreciated. Next visit we’ll get together. ❤

  3. What a lovely tribute to your beautiful mother, Marylin. Sending her birthday wishes and hugs. I love the photo of her with her brother. xo

  4. What a sweet and lovely birthday celebration. 98 and still smiling; that’s wonderful.

  5. Happy Birthday to your mother! How wonderful that she responded to your stories. No doubt she felt the love, even if she did not understand the occasion.
    I love the photo of her and her brother on the farm, and her sweet-faced college graduation photo.

    • Thank you, Merril. I hope she did sense how much we all love her and were glad to be with her.
      I chose some of my favorite photos of her, and all of them have the same sweet smile. 😉

  6. What a beautiful birthday celebration Marylin. How precious the years and the memories. I love that you all sang, read poems, and ate double chocolate cake. Gorgeous post. xoxo

  7. How very poignant, and thanks for sparing her the dignity of a photo for your audience. Some things are not to be photographed. Your love and care and respect for your mother in all her stages is so motivating. My main “loss” regarding my mother right now is that it has become very difficult to have a meaningful conversation on the phone, but yet I know she could so easily be in your mother’s shoes. Mom is almost totally deaf now, must depend on a Captel caption device for her phone and while it’s mistakes in captioning make her laugh, it is frustrating when we can no longer have the meaningful mother-daughter chats we used to enjoy. Now I kind of listen and understand that she’s only getting half of what I say. Thankfully, it is much better in person. These losses also make us think ahead to our own, eh? I am also struggling with hearing issues as I wrote about in my Another Way newspaper column recently, and have no doubt I will be similarly frustrating to talk to on the phone when I get older. So it goes. Thanks for helping us all process our aging–and our parents’ and other loved ones.

  8. Oh, Melodie, I know how frustrating it is when you can’t talk on the phone with your mother. It’s been more than a year since my mom could understand at all what I was saying over the phone. And in the last few months, even in person there are only a few shining moments when she understands what’s happening. We lose them in increments, and though it’s discouraging, it also gives us time to process the ongoing levels of loss. Thanks for your comments about what you’re experiencing; it reminds me that we’re all processing the aging process, for our parents and ourselves.

  9. juliabarrett

    I know every birthday must be bittersweet. But as your mom lives in the moment, the moment is sweet for her. I can’t listen to Sunrise Sunset. I get too upset. There are songs like that…

    • Sunrise, Sunset has that effect on me, too, Julia, but now I find myself humming it a lot. There were only about a total of 2 minutes of awareness from my mother during this trip, but we were glad to have that much. So, yes, this trip was definitely bittersweet.

  10. I love the way you chose those two quotes as an introduction to your description of what age 98 looks like for your mother. You have a wonderfully connective imagination. And it inspires me to see how four generations can learn from your mother, and from you, what love looks like after much loss. We will all experience the same one way or another some day. Blessings in this day.

    • Thank you, Shirley. The most hopeful and happy part of the trip down to visit my mother for her 98th birthday was the kind and helpful responses of our daughter and grandchildren. Grace and Gannon reached out to their great-grandmother, singing and reading and talking to her even though she didn’t respond for more than a minute or two. They showed a gentle caring that I found most touching. It was such a gift to my mom, and I wish she could know that these are her great-grandchildren who are so much like her in the ways that count. 🙂

  11. Your mother has had a good long life filled with love and happiness. So many can not say the same. It is nice you could all be there for her on her 98th birthday. I love the pictures of when she was younger, especially the one with her brother.

    • She certainly has, Darlene, and we’re very grateful.
      My favorite picture is the same; it’s so cute of the two little ones playing out on the farm. And my mom still has that same smile! 🙂

  12. Nancy Parker Brummett

    So touching that she responded, Marylin. Makes every mile you drove worthwhile. So true…every day is a celebration!

  13. Oh a very happy belated 98th birthday to your sweet mom, Marylin. Wow! 98.
    I adored the photos you shared and how your family helped celebrate 98 years. Hugs ❤️

  14. Jessica Weissenbach

    I’m so glad I found your blog! It’s so sweet of you to share those precious memories. I’ve enjoyed learning her story.

    • I’m so glad you found it, too, Jessica. Welcome!
      Scroll back through previous blogs for the posts I did on Abilene and the Eisenhower library and museum.
      A lot of my blog pictures are from Abilene and Brown’s Park, too. 🙂

  15. Keeta

    Love the ways you find to continually show your mother her importance to you and the impact she had in your lives–she must have been very special and so are you!!

  16. Jim

    To Mary on her 98th birthday: How heartwarming that you were able to respond to the family memories about you. If I were at the party, I would have thanked you for the love, appreciation, and encouragement you frequently gave me over the years for taking good care of Marylin and Molly.

    My favorite memory of you happened not long after I joined the family and we were all relaxing in the TV room at your house. David asked for a foot rub and plopped his shoeless foot on your lap. Without hesitating a second, you gave him a foot massage. I got the feeling the foot-rub was kind of a family ritual for you two. I remember thinking, “Now there’s a mother who enjoys being a mom for all time. Never too old. Lucky David!” Turns out, you have been a caring mom/grandma for all of us, unwavering no matter what. Even now, you are doing the best you can to be a caring great-grandma for Grace and Gannon when you nodded your appreciation for their memories. It has been a privilege to have been part of your life. ❤

    • This is so sweet, honey, and even though it’s for my mother, I’ll print it out and read it to her next month when I visit. She has always appreciated and been proud of you, and this message will confirm that. Maybe we’ll get another smile! 🙂 ❤

  17. Happy birthday to your beautiful, inspiring mother. And blessings to you as you celebrate her, while, at the same time, missing how you were once able to celebrate together. XO

  18. We do the best we can, Robyn. Mom is declining quickly now, but she remains calm and content, and she doesn’t seem to be in any pain, so we’re very grateful. When we’re together around her bed telling the stories and sharing smiles, we’re giving ourselves and each other the gifts of remembering, and preparing for what comes next. ❤

  19. jakesprinter

    Great tribute to your mother Marylin ….Miss your site

  20. Jane Sturgeon

    Happy 98th birthday Mary ❤ The loving threads, memories and sharing wrap love around you all and that is timeless. ❤ Marylin. xXx

  21. Molly

    Happy Birthday to you, Happy Burthdsy to you. Happy birthday dear Grandma, happy birthday to you!

    We sure had s wonderful time decorating her apartment, sharing treats, and spending time with her! Although it is always better when she is awake more, the times that she acknowledged us was true. She knew what we were saying was about her!

    I loved hearing the stories that the kids shared. It’s always fun to experience things through their eyes!

    Hope to do same thing next year!

    • 98 is quite a birthday! Having you, Grace and Gannon along to sing, hold her hand and read her favorite children’s poems and prayers made it even more special, Molly. Even for just those few moments, she did understand the stories we told her, and seeing her nod and smile was wonderful. ❤ ❤ ❤

  22. Gannon

    Great blog Mor Mor. Glad to be able to spend time and her birthday with Grandma. Love her so much and you too! Love Gannon

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