The neighborhood women of the Church Relief Society, whom we call Sisters, invited all the women with October and November birthdays to a birthday luncheon, in true Relief Society fashion. Mom drove herself up the street to join 20 other birthday girls. She was so happy to associate with her friends, neighbors, and fellow Sisters. And she enjoyed the soups—creamy chicken noodle and spicy chicken taco—not to mention the desserts. Several Sisters stopped by with birthday gifts for Mom, including Barbara R., who brought a small loaf of banana bread (adding walnuts because Mom is “extra special”), Barbara N., who delivered a potted plant, because we all need to be near green living things, and Judy, with a fresh baguette and raspberry freezer jam, which went perfectly with our dinner of pork loin topped with a sweet deglaze of boiled dark stout Guinness and raspberry dressing. Such events and interactions greatly enrich Mom’s life.
The day began with creamy apple cinnamon oatmeal for breakfast, gourmet for Mom’s birthday. She turned 82 today. The extended family in Utah gathered for a celebratory dinner. Cards and gifts piled up on her lap. “I think about you every day as I go about my day.” Later came chocolate mousse birthday cake, and candles to blow out. “I love you with all of my heart.” So many thanked her for their happy memories: camping trips in the mountains; picking blackberries and wild asparagus; surgically pressing the “record” button on a cassette tape player to sensor the song’s profanity; playing badminton in the back yard; watching for bats at twilight; playing owl calls so the owls would come; teaching us to read; directing the church choir in which we all sang; teaching us the family songs. “I really like Grandma’s hugs.” She raised six children and suffered with us and cried and laughed with us. She served dinner promptly at 6:00 every evening, and drove us to our music lessons and sports practices. She called a soprano “Yoo-Hoo!!!” when it was time for us to come home. Her favorite flower is the yellow rose. “My love always.”
I left Mom and Dad for two days while I took my two youngest sons to visit their older brother John in Idaho for his 24th birthday. We rode the five-mile Sidewinder mountain bike trail, a fast flow trail aptly named, although Hyrum’s chain broke and he coasted and pumped the whole distance down. We explored a long cavernous lava tube in the sagebrush-covered Idaho wasteland. We ravaged the local pizza buffet. And we climbed at the gym where John works as a much-appreciated route-setter and climbing instructor. I have been watching my children climb in gyms and on real rock, and have belayed them all, for 15 years. But I myself have never climbed. Suddenly excited to conquer my fears, I pushed past the panic and scaled a 5.8 climb—my first climb ever—with my three sons cheering their old man on. We ended the trip with “Happy Birthday” and gifts and games of cards: Golf and SkyJo. On the windy drive back to Utah, a bike rack strap snapped, and the bikes hung precariously by one strap while I pulled off the highway. The getaway with my sons was delightful—I appreciated the break—and I was happy to come back to Mom’s and Dad’s house, which they insist is my house, too. “Welcome home!” Dad cheered when I walked through the door. “Tell us all about your trip!” Back to work today, I attended a law training, complete with a sandwich lunch. After stopping at REI for strong straps to re-strap my bike rack, I arrived home in time to help Dad rake deep red pear leaves out of the bushes and load them into the trash container. “I am so tired,” he lamented, “I need to sit down.” I invited him to come into the house for a lunch surprise. “OK, I am ready for lunch. Today must be Monday, because I always feel so tired after my Sunday ‘day of rest.’” Inside, I served Mom and Dad two beautiful sandwiches, one club and one turkey avocado, which they split and shared. The training organizer had invited me to take the leftover sandwiches for my parents. “We were going to drive to Arby’s,” Dad said. “But this is much better,” Mom chimed in. While they munched sandwiches and chips and sipped Coke (Diet for Dad and Zero for Mom), I re-strapped the bike rack, happy for their lunch enjoyment, and grateful I did not lose the bikes on the Idaho freeway.
The entrance to Civil Defense Caves lava tube.