Life feels more precious every year.
Part of that feeling stems from the recognition that we have finite time on the earth, and thus every year of life completed means inevitably that we have that much less time to live.
It also comes from the understanding that the answer to many of life’s largest questions of life partners, whether to have children, and, if so, how many, and what one’s work passion to bring to the world; have been strongly, if not permanently answered.
This conversion from potential to actual, from the infinite number of people who could be one’s spouse to the one you make up next to in the morning, from the potential number of children you could have to the son you Skype with while you are both in distant lands, for me has had the effect of getting even more involved in the particulars of my life.
For me, the third part of this is what James Carroll called the sharpening sense, that gradually more acute sense that hopefully we arrive at of what matters most to us, and then, from there, to having our daily activities correspond with our most central priorities.
It is because of this feeling of heightened gratitude that I feel particularly fortunate to be able to wish Alice Adelman Elizabeth Lowenstein a glorious 76th birthday today.
In October I will turn 48 years old, the same age that Mom was when she was involved in a near-fatal auto accident in New Hampshire.
The only reason the paramedics gave Mom an even 1 percent chance of living is that they were out on the road, responded immediately and saved her life.
Mom had an arduous recovery from the broken ribs, collarbone, and other physical damage she sustained, and, in some ways, the hardest road for her has come from the massive closed head injury she sustained when the car she was in with Dad swerved over the center line on a snowy President’s Day and was slammed into by an oncoming car with a snow plough on the front.
Because of her head injury Mom lost all language.
Because of her bodily wounds, she could not walk.
This meant that, in middle age, with three adolescent and young adult sons, she had to learn again how to stand, move, and talk.
None of that was easy, and, over time, Mom has made an astounding improvement due both to her prodigious will, desire to heal and willingness to try and do anything she could find to get better, and to her access to some of the world’s finest health care.
Indeed, just as the paramedics who did not know Mom save her life, so too did a chain of strangers she did not personally know, but who did their job as doctors, as nurses, as physical and occupational therapists help her regain as much as she has.
Mom’s accident and subsequent recovery has been a defining experience in her life and for us as a family, but It’s far from the only.
She’s shown her capacity to marshal her resources and focus her will on the challenges she’s encountered in the more than quarter century since the life-altering day in February 1986.
When the house in which she had lived for 20 years had structural problems that could have caused her serious
financial problems, she rapidly made the decision to sell it and moved to another home in Brookline.
When she learned she had adult onset diabetes, she altered her diet, shed close to 100 pounds and has kept most of the weight off since.
When her heart was failing and her hip was hurting so badly she could barely walked, she had a pacemaker and a new hip installed in separate, then set about the business of accepting, yet also pushing, her new physical limits.
In short, Mom’s shown us again and again how you confront the obstacles you encounter in life and figure out how best to deal with them.
If this were all that Mom had done, it alone would be a tremendous example for us to follow.
But, along, the way, she’s also shifted to become more inclusive of all of us in her life’s activities and key decisions.
And, perhaps even more important, she has, after many years, learned how to enter each day from a place of gratitude that is enhanced by the knowledge of where she has been and how far she has ventured from those dark and difficult days at a number of different points in her life.
It’s been a joy to watch her become more and more filled with joy as she holds Mike’s son Matthew, shows off the latest addition to her hat collection, asks about the latest development in my life during our morning phone conversations and cackles as she recounts the latest compliment she received for one of her flamboyant outfits. (“You can’t get better than that,” she’ll say before erupting into body-shaking laughter.)
Mom is out in San Francisco today, marking the completion of one year of life and the beginning of another with Shan Shan, Annie’s mother.
Dunreith and I spoke with her and everyone else for a while this evening on Skype.
She told us who had been at the apartment, what she ate and how Matthew repeatedly put his finger in her mouth and looked to do the same with her fingers.
Mom’s being alive 27 years after she nearly died is a gift.
That she could be with Mike, his family and Jon is another.
And that we could connect across countries, time zones and thousands of miles is a third.
Happy Birthday, Mom.
We are grateful each day for your life and your love.