A Birthday Party Is Supposed To Be A Happy Time

21 January 2014

Today my grandfather (my pop) turned 87.  87 is certainly a big number, so to celebrate such a big number, a big birthday party was thrown for him on Saturday.

And as the day approached, I was really looking forward to it.  Because birthday parties are supposed to be filled with nothing but happy times, right?  Times of celebration and lots of laughter?  With cake, presents and maybe even balloons?

My pops party had all of those things, but something was definitely missing.

Scratch that.

There was nothing missing, but something was so very much added; a sadness. In fact, it was a sadness that you couldn't miss because it seemed to engulf the entire room.

You know, about a month ago I wrote about my pop moving into a seniors home, and I believe my exact words at that time were, "I've watched him decline faster than I ever thought possible".  But I was wrong when I wrote that.  So very, very wrong.

The last time I saw my pop was around Christmas time and I noticed some changes then. But now? Well looking at my pop during his party literally broke my heart and, in fact, I tried not to even look at him most of the time because it only made me feel worse. Because again, birthday parties are supposed to be happy times.

His closest family and friends came to celebrate with him that day and there was not one person in the room he recognized. Not one. When I would glance his way I would either see him getting fed by someone or just sitting there, going in and out of sleep. And when it was time to blow out the two candles on his birthday cake, he couldn't do it.

Then, immediately after this picture was taken, his three daughters helped him get back in bed.

And you really couldn't help but notice that there was an elephant in the room; something that everyone was thinking, but no one wanted to say out loud which was, "it's probably his last birthday". I know getting older is a part of life and I know that in many ways I should be so lucky that my pop has been able to live a long and healthy life up until now. But all of that really doesn't make it hurt any less. I mean, telling myself all of that that doesn't help when you're looking at your mom who is shedding tears while she reads her father's birthday card from a six year old with the words scribbled, "I miss you" in blue crayon.  She was quickly removed from the duty of reading any more birthday cards.

You know, when I sat down to write this post tonight, I had to think long and hard about what I was actually going to say and how I was going to talk about my pops birthday. Actually, a part of me didn't really want to write anything about it at all. A part of me wanted to put it out of my mind and pretend that I went there and came home and that none of those feelings were there. That same part of me also didn't really want to use this blank, white space for a post that wasn't very light, or cheerful, or upbeat.

But a much bigger part of me wanted to write about it, and so I did.  And I wrote about it in the way that I experienced it on Saturday, and it wasn't light, or cheerful, or upbeat at all. I figured that if I can't share (some of) the bad with the good, and (some of) the sadness with the happiness, then what's the point in all of this, really?

Sure, a few months from now I might look back and read this and have feelings of sadness rush in again. And who knows, maybe during that same time I'll even regret not writing about it in a more positive way--a time when we were all together celebrating another year of my pops life because, trust me, I'm so thankful we were able to do that together. But again, that's just not how I'm feeling at this exact moment, and it definitely wasn't how I was feeling when I left his party Saturday evening.  Regardless of how I was feeling though after I left, all I could think about on the hour drive back home that night was that I hope my pop knows just how much he's loved, and that the party was just another way that everyone could show him that.