Several months ago I was cleaning out a drawer that should have been cleaned out long, long before. I found a file of greeting cards from the year my son was born. (I won’t say the year, but I will say he was born in mid-February, in the middle of a big snowstorm much like we have had in the Midwest recently.) I had forgotten all about the many cards he received from family and friends welcoming him into this world.
I had also forgotten that my mother continued to send my son—her first grandchild—cards every month throughout his first year of life. But I found them in the file. The first of her monthly missives was a St. Patrick’s Day card she sent that March, the second an Easter card in April, and so on throughout the year.
When there wasn’t a holiday for which Hallmark made greeting cards, she sent him a non-holiday Hallmark card with some cute character like Winnie the Pooh. We were big on Winnie the Pooh in our family.
She never sent anything but Hallmark cards, because I worked for Hallmark. Most of my relatives were conscientious about only sending Hallmark cards—at least to me.
As I read through my mother’s cards to her grandson, I thought of how much had changed since the cards were sent. My son, of course, has changed. He has grown from baby into adult and now towers over me.
Both my mother and I had great hopes for that small boy. Many of our dreams have been fulfilled. He is smart and independent and full of good humor. He may not call as often as I would like, but he stays in contact. When we do talk, he is as full of his work issues as I was with mine at his age—maybe more so, because he does not have a spouse or a child to distract him from work, as I did then.
But though our dreams for my son have blossomed, my mother wouldn’t remember those greeting cards she sent so long ago, nor the hopes she expressed to her eldest grandchild. She still professes to remember my son when I see her and tell her about my children. But she can no longer read and no longer even write her name. Her dementia has taken her love of reading and writing away from her.
I have thought of sending my mother greeting cards regularly, as she sent them to my son when he was a baby. I have sent her a few in the year she has been in assisted living. But I don’t know that she would understand why I was sending the cards.
Maybe it wouldn’t matter whether she understands or not, any more than it mattered to that baby boy so long ago why his grandmother sent him cards. Maybe the cards are as much for the sender as for the recipient—an expression of love and of memories.
Happy Birthday, Son, from your mother . . . and from your grandmother.