Sunday, November 29, 2009

34 and 97

So today is my birthday.

Birthdays as an adult are far different that birthdays as a child. You'd look so forward to that day, the family and friends and cake and modest mountain of presents, and when it was over, there was a palpable sense of disappointment. You couldn't believe you'd have to wait 364 days for another.

I also used to celebrate my birthday with my grandmother, her birthday being the day before mine. So we'd sit side by side, the 28th and the 29th, 8 and 71, 13 and 76, 26 and 89. The last birthday we kind of celebrated together was her last one, when she had two candles on an ice cream cake that she couldn't even eat. A 9 and a 6, and she dozed, in and out of the dream world we start to inhabit when our bodies fail.

We had a little room in the nursing home she resided in. She had a plastic rosary around her neck. I was about to turn 33, and I knew this was it. The last one we'd be at together.

On August 30th, I was thinking of my grandmother during morning prayers, and so I opened her St. Joseph Missal to the correct day, finding that it was the feast day of the very first American saint, who happens to be St. Rose of Lima. St. Rose of Lima happened to be my grandmother's church in North Syracuse.

I probably don't need to explain that I thought that was a sign, which is hysterical, given that I used to think signs were a bunch of hopeful hogwash.

I will never stop trying to figure things out. There are things about the Catholic Church that infuriate me, that I will never agree with. There are things that have deeply disappointed me. And there are things that I love, things that make it impossible to leave, like a dysfunctional family whose great undercurrent is the most magnificent love. It's my spiritual home, as it was my grandmother's. And I wanted to write this because it was truly my grandmother's death that brought me back to faith.

I wished her a happy birthday yesterday, lit an imaginary candle that was fueled by all of our love, and watched her blow it out and laugh. There is no greater gift than belief.


Pamela said...

happy birthday, darling.

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday Kelly. Loved your last paragraph.

Hope all is well with you-

Meredith said...

that was beautiful Kel, and now I am crying!